I’d absolutely watch that: A quick thought on M*A*S*H

So I’m at the bar and staring at a few gin bottles and for some reason my mind wandered across to the show M*A*S*H (possibly because of all the recent talk about North Korea and Kim Jong-Un’s continued testing of bigger and better missiles and talk of a possible US military response, possibly because we’ve got a Korean bartender and two Korean cooks who are just awesome, and make the best fucking fried chicken you’ll ever taste). My mind goes to weird places sometimes. Anyway, I’ve had to explain to someone recently about how gin is grain alcohol that’s had juniper berries added somehow (generally infused). That without juniper berries it’s just not gin, it’s vodka. At this point I remembered Hawkeye and Trapper (later B.J Hunnicut) had a love of dry gin martinis, going so far as to keep a gin still in their tent, and a question occurred to me: where were they getting their juniper berries?

Seriously, where were they getting their juniper berries from? They’re in an army hospital a few miles from the frontlines of what was a massive fucking war, often struggling to get supplies and equipment even through the black market (in fact that was the theme of a couple of episodes if I remember correctly), and juniper berries are not native to the Korean peninsula. But they clearly say they are drinking gin martinis and, as I’ve already mentioned, without juniper it’s just not gin. It’s vodka.

What I’m getting to is that I would totally watch a show about a Korean black market juniper dealer braving snipers and shelling to ensure that US army doctors can enjoy their dry martinis without having to resort to using vodka (like peasants). We can call it SM*A*S*Hed, or something less stupid and copyright-infringing, and it can be about more than just juniper. Maybe he also smuggles peat to a Scottish tank crew? Maybe he’s struggling to fill and then transport a big order of sugarcane to an Australian warship with a monopoly over the supply of rum to the rest of the allied fleets. There’s a lot you could do with this. Give him a dark yet hilarious past and a sassy cockney lesbian business partner and I reckon you’ve got television gold.

There you go Alan Alda, I’ve done the hard work for you. Now make it happen. ‘Cause I’d watch the hell out of that.

Irrational irritations and other Unnecessary Issues (29/3/16)

So, Canadian coins are a little stupid. So are American coins, since they’re basically the same (aside from the fact that the Yanks haven’t gotten around to getting rid of the penny or the dollar bill like normal countries), but I live in Canada and use Canadian coin to give Canadian change to Canadians so this is going to be a more specific rant about Canadian currency (Canada!).

I don’t have a problem with the one and two dollar coin. Those are fine, and I’ve even gotten used to calling them loonies and toonies. They’re a good size and feel pretty substantial. Good shit. No, I’m talking about the silver. Well, technically I’m talking about the nickel-plated steel, but silver sounds so much cooler. Anyway, there are two things that piss me off in particular: size discrepancies and making change.

Size-wise I am of course talking about the nickel and dime. Why the bloody fuck is the Canadian ten cent piece so much smaller than the five cent piece? Why is the more useful, more numerous larger denomination the more inconsequential of the two? I don’t know why and, quite frankly, I don’t want to know. What I do want to know is why you haven’t changed this Canada? Is it because they’re basically the same size as the American nickel and dimes and you’re worried that it might hurt tourism if you got your own currency Canada? Is that it? You don’t want to confuse poor American tourists? Well guess what, Americans don’t fucking care. The smart ones expect foreign-looking coinage in foreign lands and the stupid ones are too mesmerised by the fact that you have your own currency at all to care. Make your ten cent pieces bigger!

As for the second item on the list, making change, you need to ditch this whole ‘quarter’ nonsense and pick up on the Australian and New Zealand system of having a twenty and fifty cent system. Yes, I know it means printing a whole new coin (is it still printing if it’s not a note or bill, or is it called, like, stamping? Stamping new coins? Forging new coins? Can someone google this for me?) but guess what, you’ll need fewer coins in the system because shops, restaurants banks will need fewer coins in the till. Let me explain. Let’s say you need to give someone seventy cents change. Now to do that in Canada you need a minimum of four coins, two quarters and two dimes. In Australia on the other hand (with a fifty, twenty, ten and five cent piece available) you need a minimum of just two coins, a fifty and a twenty. And Australia beats or breaks even with Canadian on all but two occasions, twenty-five cents (a single quarter in Canada, a twenty and a five cent in Australia) and thirty-five cents (a quarter and a dime in Canada, a twenty, a ten and five cent in Australia). All the others are either ties or Australia wins. Need to give someone ninety cents? In Canada you need a minimum five coins, in Australia you need a minimum of three. Forty cents? Three in Canada, two in Australia. Fifty cents? Two and one. Less coin, more easily broken. Ipso facto, quarters are stupid as well.

Now, do I believe that Canada should change its money on my say-so alone? Of course I do. I’m fucking brilliant. But do your projections, work out your costs, mine your data. You’ll see I’m right, and you’ll regret not listening to me sooner. Because I’ll already be gone, back to the sunburnt land and our superior, grown-up currency!

Seriously though, loonies and toonies? Perfectly acceptable currency, very functional and I like the fact that you’ve given them nicknames. Also, thank God you got rid of the penny. Man, fuck the penny.

Irrational irritations and other unnecessary issues (15/3/16)

Yesterday was the fourteenth of March, 14.3 for most of the world but 3.14 for these arrogant North American wankers. Now I can complain long and hard about the American system of dating things, and I will at some point in the not too distant future, but this time I want to talk about something else. Y’see, thanks to the entirely irrational dating system used in North America yesterday was Pi day. Y’know, π. That number that ‘geniuses’ on TV use to prove that they’re geniuses by quoting it to the sixty-third decimal or some such bullshit, but us mere mortals usually round up to 3.14 (but never to exactly 3).

So yesterday was Pi day and that seems as good as any reason to complain about the lack of pies in Canada. The edible kind, not the numerical kind.

Well, there are pies up here in the northern hemisphere I suppose. I had pumpkin pie for the first time last Thanksgiving. It was alright, tasty enough, though it still doesn’t quite feel like it should be a dessert if you get my meaning. And other dessert pies aren’t unusual. It’s possible to get the occasional shepard’s pie floating around, made with mince that might even have come from a cow and reconstituted potato.

But I’m not talking about any of that, I’m talking about the proper Aussie meat pie. The kind that comes in a foil tin, fits in your hand and available from anywhere with a power outlet to plug in one of those mini-ovens (for keeping things warm and on display). Fuck 420, I wanna fuckin’ Four’N Twenty meat pie at that perfect temperature where the heat brings out the flavour of the beef and gravy but doesn’t burn the roof of your mouth. Mrs Mac or Sargents, drenched in tomato sauce (not ketchup, bloody tomato sauce) I wanna walk into a Vietnamese bakery (they don’t seem to have those here either, damnit) and a grab a steak and pepper pie on my way home from work, or suddenly realise that since I’m in Newtown I can sneak into a gourmet bakery and switch things up with a curry chicken or lamb and rosemary pie. I wanna goddamn meat pie. And a lamington. But mostly a goddamn meat pie.

There are a few places around that cater to the Aussie palate, but the only one that’s worth getting from a pie from is all the way up in Whistler (Peaked Pies, give it a go if you’re up there). Not surprising given the concentration of Australians up in Whistralia, but not a practical option down here in Vancouver. The other places just tasted… not good… enough? Yeah, not good enough. Like the meat was worse than the lowest grade horsemeat put into a service station pastry or the gravy tasted chalky and had the consistency of flubber or the pastry lacked the structural integrity to hold everything together or some combination of things. Just, not good enough. And still difficult to get to.

But good god I miss pies.

Irrational irritations and other unnecessary issues (2/2/16)

Jumping right into it this today, I’d like to say that one of my biggest pet peeves when I’m serving/waitering/bartending is customers who leave their shit in the way when I’m trying to put a plate down in front of them. It drives me absolutely (but still politely) mental. I’ll be approaching with three or more plates spread across my two hands, the customer will see the approach and put their phone or drink or faberge egg down in front of them, exactly where I intended to put the plate down. Then there’ll be this awkward moment where they just stare at me vacantly, waiting for me to place the food or whatever in front of them while I desperately (but still politely) try to indicate through limited body language that they need to move their phone, drink or faberge egg out of the fucking way.

Yeah, I know it would be faster if I simply asked them to move the obstacle away from the drop zone, but people always look really embarrassed when they need to actually be told they’re inconsiderate morons and that might affect my tip (not to mention there’s no challenge in just saying it out loud). More than likely though it’ll be whoever they’re dining with will notice the obstruction and be like, “Mom, move your phone,” or “For fuck’s sake dad! Put the goddamn egg away! I know you like to show it off but it’s very fragile and I doubt anyone here actually appreciates the exquisite Russian craftsmanship.” There’s an awkward laugh, maybe an apology and I thank them and (much more quietly) God because that one plate resting on the bare skin of my forearm had been sitting under the heat lamps for fucking ages and I could feel my flesh cooking and I’m extremely grateful to be able to put the bastard down and fang it back to the kitchen to run my arm under some mercifully cold water.

Thing you have to remember is that tables at most restaurants where you’re paying less than a hundred dollars a head for a main and single drink (another thirty for desert) is that they’re trying to maximise seating, so tables tend to be small. And small tables very quickly become cluttered. We do our best to keep clearing things up, and generally uncluttering, but we’re not about to start grabbing personal possessions and moving them without your permission and we’d like to minimise our contact with whatever you’re drinking out of (for your sake, as much as ours). We also don’t always have an arm free to move obstructions out of the way. So, when you see your server/waiter/foodrunner/bartender striding over with arms full of succulent morsels, do not just drop whatever you’d been distracting your hunger-ravaged mind with in the space in front of you. We need that space. Put it in your fucking pocket or handbag or whatever.

You shouldn’t have your phone out at the dinner table anyway. That’s fucking rude.

Irrational irritations and other unnecessary issues (5/1/2016)

Happy New Year everyone! And welcome to 2016. Hopefully it’ll be better than 2015. Well, I had a decent year last year (the excitement of moving to another country and all that) but it seems that much of the world seemed to have a pretty shitty time of it, with the terrorist attacks and police shootings and Donald Trump and more than a couple of natural disasters and endless civil war and all the places failing to handle the refugee crisis (Australia included, but I’m looking at you large swathes of Europe. Germany’s cool though). Others had a decent year as well. Change of leadership in Canada seems to spelling good things, everyone around here seems pretty excited. Change of leadership back in Oz as well (the lion got the boot and the tin man took over). Change of leadership in Myanmar. But regardless we should always hope that tomorrow is an improvement over today. ‘Cause that is progress and we don’t want to stop progressing no matter how great things are.

Anyway, NYE has come and gone and there’s plenty to get irritated and outraged about (unnecessarily of course). Like all the end of year “best of…” lists. And “worst of…” lists. And “I think I’m creative so I’m still gonna make a list but I’m gonna give it a stupid theme, ‘cause that’ll be hil-ar-i-ous!” lists. Or people talking up their New Years Resolutions. Or other people talking down New Years Resolutions in general ‘cause they aren’t into that conformist bullshit, man. What’s really getting to me this year has been the number of Facebook and Instagram posts talking about how this year is going to be all about themselves.

It’s the weirdest fucking thing. Like, they’re posting these pseudo-profound sounding statements and e-cards with “I am going to invest in myself” and “It will all be about improving myself” with the odd hint of “in loving myself more I will be able to love others better” on a few rare occasions. That last one’s got the air of “so I’m not going to be a completely selfish bastard.” Because that’s what a lot of these posts seem to be implying. That they’re going to be selfish bastards this year who only give a fuck about their own improvement and well-being.

Here’s the thing though, I know these people aren’t. I wouldn’t be friends with them if they were. Christ, who would? I mean, it’s something I saw a lot of in the tail end of 2015, posts on Facebook and Tumblr telling people to worry about themselves first and other people second. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing considering the number of anxious and generally-in-a-bad-situation people there are who need the boost to their confidence and self-esteem. Funny thing is a lot of those people making those posts are the types who very obviously care about the confidence, self-esteem and mental well-being of others. Certain irony to that, yeah? What’s more, saying that you’re going to take the time to work on your own physical and mental health is great, people need to do that regardless of what time of the year it is.

But please, for the love of all that’s holy, don’t do this by bragging about what a self-centred arse you’re planning on being. ‘Cause I know you’re not a self-centred arse, but others might not.

Irrational irritations and other unnecessary issues (8/12/2015)

So it’s December in Vancouver (and the rest of the world that uses the Gregorian Calendar for that matter) and apparently that means rain. Quite a bit of it in fact. Funnily enough I’d be willing to make the claim that it’s a bit similar in Australia, except the rain would be part of a tropical storm in the worst cases and a spectacular thunderstorm after a scorcher of a day in the best. Vancouver doesn’t seem to get thunderstorms. I miss them quite a lot. Ah well, not here to talk about thunderstorms. No, umbrellas are the topic today.

More accurately people who use umbrellas but have the spacial awareness of a three year old driving a ute (pick-up truck for my non-Aussie readers). Y’know, the kind of people who just don’t seem to give a shit exactly where they’re swinging their temporary shelters, and the potentially eye-taking spikes that hold the whole thing together, making you wish they handed out goggles (“they do nothing”) whenever you left cover and turning a walk down the street into a Matrix scene where you’re performing amazing contortions in order to avoid these people’s twirling hexagons of doom. In slow motion of course.

And getting past these people is no easy feat. Unsurprisingly the kind people who have no idea where their umbrellas are swinging are also the kind of people who have two speeds: so slow they couldn’t even get next door in any time-frame that could be referred to as “soon”; and stationary. So staying behind them is never an option for us busy, go-getting millennials. But try and overtake them at your peril, because they always seem to choose the moment you’re right beside them to suddenly veer towards you while laughing raucously, sending the sharpest point of the six or seven they’re carrying into your unprotected ear. Your poor, soft, fragile ear. The bastards.

And don’t expect it to be any safer when their umbrellas are down. No, that simply means there’s more power behind their thrust and swing. If it’s a long umbrella, probably gives them more reach as well. And since they’re not limited by the need to keep the thin synthetic membrane stretched across four to nine spears between them and the rain, they have much more freedom to include their umbrella in grand expressive movements that are a danger to everyone within two metres. No, you’re never safe from these people, not as long as they’re permitted to carry such deadly instruments.

Now, I know these aren’t bad people. Simply unaware. And some people have a valid excuse, they’re tired or sick or thought they were in fact carrying rather large novelty candy canes. But please, when you’ve got your umbrella up this season try and be a bit more aware of the people around you. Try not to stab anyone in their poor, fragile ears.

Irrational irritations and other unnecessary issues (13/10/15)

Hey guys, welcome back for another week of Irrational Irritations, the first on our new fortnightly timetable. Did you miss them? Of course you did. Let’s begin with a quick shoutout to my Canadian homies who’ve just had their Thanksgiving long weekend. It was fun and I’ve learnt that pumpkin pie does in fact hold its own as a legitimate dessert option. Then we’ll follow that up with today’s topic: recommending bars and restaurants to people who turn out to be tight-arses.

It comes with the territory of working in the hospitality industry. People are out and about, putting the present in the past and planning for the future (paying their bill and deciding where to go next). Often enough they’ll turn to me and ask without any of Nicki Minaj’s righteous (and justified) fury, “What’s good?”

Well I’m half a hipster, young, charming and lightly bearded, so I tend to get out and about to some pretty decent watering holes. And I’ll tell people where my favourite places to go are and what you’ll get there (best cocktails are at… if you just want a beer… for more of a clubbing scene…) while I’m clearing their plates and glasses, dropping off their bill or collecting their payment. Not surprising since those are the times when I have longest to answer their questions.

Now, more often than not I feel pretty good about the whole situation. I’m sending customers towards people I like and who appreciate that I’ll recommend someone their way when asked. That’s great. Every so often, however, every so often when I look at the size of the tip left by these customers, well I regret it. Because I’ve sent someone who thinks that a zero to five percent tip is appropriate at a North American bar or restaurant towards people I like who also rely upon the generosity of customers to, y’know, pay their rent.

And that leaves me feeling guilty for recommending so many places. So, if you’re not gonna tip properly, don’t ask the bartender or server for recommendations. Because you’re making us feel like arseholes as well.