Sunday, March 11, 2007

Back in the land of 220 volt wall outlets

How I spent 11 hours

There are no insects on Ross Island, the location of the United States' premier space station on Antartika. So when I left the ice last month and got to my hotel in New Zealand I totally freaked out when I saw a mosquito fly across the check-in counter. This loss of familiarity with all things alive happens to me when I come back from the ice. Last year I was tripped out when I saw people walking their dogs in the park after spending six months at McMurdo. I cannot explain how odd a tree or grass or a monkey looks after those things have been removed from the context of one's daily life. So when I saw the mosquito fly over the counter I stopped talking to the check-in girl and I shouted, "WHOA! It's a winged insectoid creature!" It was so long since I'd seen one that I forgot what the word was for "mosquito". Luckily the staff at New Zealand hotels are used to Antarctica people acting weird after they get back from the ice. Or at least that's what I tell myself as I am "representing America", which is really what I'm doing when I'm acting stupid all over the world. This is why the rest of the earth laughs at (and hates) us.

My Antarctica friends have one local bar they like congregating at while in Christchurch. It's called Bailey's and they love the local flavor of it. I have a place in Christchurch I like going to, too. It's called McDonald's. I love the local flavor of the McFish sandwiches there.

I spent my day and a half in Christchurch eating McDonald's, hanging out at my favorite New Zealand music store and visiting the International Antarctic Center. Antarctica people who are more cultured and adventurous than I would consider this a waste of time because a) visiting the Antarctic center after living on the ice is like Mickey Mouse buying a shirt of himself at Disneyland and b) you can buy CDs and eat McDonald's anywhere. But a) the selection of clothes at the Antarctic center is wider than that of any store in Antarctica and b) New Zealand already has DVDs of the vehicle team Voltron series. They're so far ahead of us on Voltron DVDs that the vehicle team DVD box I saw was used. It's been out so long that some New Zealand guy bought it, watched it, got tired of it and sold it back to the store. Here in the backwards United States we barely have the second volume of lion team. Plus where the hell else would you shop if you were Mickey Mouse.

real groovy

Although I was in Air Force for seven years once I still don't know how to tell military time. That's partly why I am not in Air Force anymore I guess. While I was in the New Zealand airports, my inability to decode the miliraty time on my tickets almost made me late. There's this one CD store at the Auckland airport that I love because they sell CD singles really cheap and I can load up on stuff to listen to for the plane ride back to the states. They were playing the new Fall Out Boy over the store speakers and I thought it was pretty good. So I was there listening to that arms race song and I thought everything was cool because my plane was scheduled to leave at 19:30 and according to my iPod it was barely 7 pm. I thought there was at least 12 between when I was checking the time (7) and when my plane left (19) but apparently 7 equals 19 in New Zealand. Also, Air Force.

But it's not all flowers and sausages in New Zealand. One big reason why I never buy DVDs or most other electronic media there is because every CD and DVD package is opened and the contents removed before I, the consumer, purchase it. Even if the stuff is brand new you still have to take the empty package to the check out register and the employee gets the actual discs from behind the counter. It's that way in every New Zealand retail store and record shop. From KMart to Farmer's to Real Groovy, they all devirginize your music and movies before you get to watch it. Since the stores open everything before selling it, the disctinction between new and used is blurry to me. They should call it Used Zealand. I like to be the first to open my stuff, especially since in New Zealand it costs so much. Speaking of which, there's a tremendous markup on CDs there. It's not uncommon for me to have to pay $25 US for a single cd, which is why I don't. So although I saw vehicle team Voltron box there I didn't get it. If I wanted used and overpriced I would get your mom.

Although I purposely missed out on the once in a lifetime chance to do New Zealand specific things like petting lambs, I am not a totally uncultured bourgwa dweeb. I did make sure to check out the foreign movies on the plane ride back to the states. Although the flight was long enough to watch all three Lord of the Rings movies in a row (which they had available on the little monitors) I instead watched three movies from other countries. Whenever I fly the international carriers my first priority is to look for asian movies on the programming. One of the best movies I've ever seen I saw on a Singapore Airlines flight in 2005. It was called "About Love". This time I didn't watch anything that really connected with me like that. I saw a really stupid chinese movie called "Men Suddenly in Black II" and a decent spanish movie called "Volver". I also watched the Jet Li movie "Fearless", which was really good.

Next time on PSMR: Various Wastes of Time and Friendship


Smurfwreck said...

Yeah, I think that'd be a hard choice for me. I know for awhile there the UK had a bunch of 80's cartoons that we didn't have yet and I was sorely tempted to pick 'em up, but then I'd have to get an all regions player, and between the shipping and stuff that's just not int he budget.

But man-o-man do I want those Denver the Last Dinosaur and M.A.S.K. DVDs available in Europe. The Mysterious Cities of Gold boxset would be sweet too...

Evil King Macrocranios said...

Oftentimes normal DVD players can be made all regions through a series of keypresses on their remotes. Googling for 'DVD region hacks' pulls up sites devoted to these key codes. It's only useful for standalone DVD players connected to NTSC televisions, meaning European DVDs encoded in PAL can be played but aren't compatible with our North American televisions. [You probably already know this stuff but it's worth repeating for others.]

I've found that portable DVD players can display both PAL and NTSC signals. I got one that was region hackable. Now I can watch PAL DVDs on the go but of course the video out signals aren't playable on my bigger NTSC set. So while I have the capability to see DVDs from Europe and other PAL countries, it's on a small screen.

I try not to make any serious PAL DVD purchases because I know it'll bother me that I can't watch them on a normal TV like I should be able to. I did make a DVD rip of some torrents I found for the Euro MASK DVDs, but when I played them on my portable DVD player I found they were dubbed in German!

Multiple regions TV sets exist but I wonder if the new HD televisions are capable of playing both types of signals since line resolutions and refresh rates were the only things different between PAL and NTSC. I see no reason why 720i/p sets couldn't handle the ancient technology that is PAL and NTSC. I never thought to ask someone that has an HD set about this. It may be worth lurking on consumer electronics forums to find out.

I loved MCoG because the little boy was named Esteban. When you're a little boy with any sort of ethnic name you kind of give up hope that any english dub cartoon heroes will have anything in common with you. So MCoG was awesome to me in that respect.


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Evil King Macrocranios was voted king by the evil peoples of the Kingdom of Macrocrania. They listen to Iron Maiden all day and try to take pictures of ghosts with their webcams.