Category Archives: Pointlessness

Tom Cruise is Always Getting Older

In 2012, Tom Cruise, Johnny Depp, and Brad Pitt all turned 50. As is usual in Hollywood, when leading men age their on-screen romantic interests become relatively younger and younger. Here’s Mr Cruise’s age over his 30-year career plotted against that of each leading lady, from 24-year-old Rebecca De Mornay to 34-year-old Malin Åckerman.

  1. The last time it was deemed acceptable for Mr Cruise to be seen with a woman his own age was in 1992; he was 30. (Demi Moore, A Few Good Men.)
  2. Trivia: Tom Cruise has co-starred with Nicole Kidman three times: Days of Thunder (1990), when she was 23; Far and Away (1992), 25; and Eyes Wide Shut (1999), 32.
  3. The data suggest Mr Cruise’s female leads age only 10 years to his 30: when he’s 80, his co-star will be 44. If you find this creepy, you are not habituated to Hollywood movies.
  4. Although, since each of Tom Cruise’s three marriages ended when his wife hit 34, this graph may be expressing some sort of physical constant—τo (Oldest Woman Touchable By Tom) = 34. If this is correct, either his co-stars’ ages will level off, or Mr Cruise will be forced to stop acting.

NZ–US Political Spectrometer

When I was living in the US, around the time of George W. Bush, I had a hard time explaining New Zealand politics to Americans. We meant completely different things by “left-wing” or “conservative”, and the red/blue colour coding seemed backwards. To help them understand where I was coming from, I created this handy diagram. And discovered the colour-coding was about right.

Ten Facts About Werner Herzog

Auteurs are not like you and me. For example, the German director Werner Herzog is at first glance something of an eccentric. When you learn more about him, however, you realise he is not simply an eccentric, but an ECCENTRIC, written in foot-high capitals carved into an enormous granite boulder that has crushed our will to live.

Recently there was a fad for listing fake facts about actor Chuck Norris: “When Chuck Norris does a pushup, he isn’t lifting himself up, he’s pushing the Earth down.” These even have their own website, novelty book, and amusing t-shirt.

After reading a recent interview, I realised that one could compile a similar list of Facts About Werner Herzog.

It would be just like chucknorrisfacts.com, except everything would be true.


  1. Werner Herzog was invited to guest star on The Simpsons, but asked for a DVD because he had never seen an episode.
  2. Werner Herzog saw Avatar, but didn’t care what happened in it.
  3. Herzog was once shot during an interview but rather than stop, tell the police, or get first aid, he kept speaking dourly.
  4. Herzog hates introspection so much he won’t look in a mirror and so doesn’t know the colour of his own eyes.
  5. To propose to his wife, Werner Herzog walked a thousand miles across the Alps, because that is what a manly man does.
  6. Herzog (unlike Oliver Stone) read the Warren Commission Report into the JFK Assassination. He quite enjoyed it.
  7. Werner Herzog only respects people who know how to milk a cow, and he can tell who knows how just by looking at them.
  8. Klaus Kinski and Herzog simultaneously plotted to kill each other; Herzog was about to firebomb Kinski’s house, but was too scared of his big dog.
  9. More people die in Werner Herzog’s movies than Chuck Norris’s if you count his crew.
  10. Herzog thinks of himself as a little girl in a fairy tale who steps out at night and holds open her apron and stars rain into it.

If you were to put these on a t-shirt, I think Herzog himself would hunt you down, fix you with his pitiless gaze, and anatomise your sad buttonless-shirt-wearing hipsterness until you cried. This is, after all, a man who really believes the twentieth century was a mistake; the entire twentieth century. You wouldn’t like him when he’s angry.

The Toothbrush Fence of Te Pahu

It all started, so they say, when Graeme Cairns (of the Big Muffin Serious Band) acquired, in the course of having numerous flatmates, a bucket of toothbrushes.

Te Pahu is half an hour from Hamilton, in the heart of Waikato cow country. The landscape is rolling green, dotted with trees and streams and small farms. It’s beautiful but rather samey, without much in the way of landmarks, until you turn a corner and see toothbrushes strung the length of a paddock.

At first the fence grew slowly, as friends and visitors added their own brushes. But its fame spread. Backpackers began making a pilgrimage just so they too could contribute to the Toothbrush Fence. Its GPS coordinates became well known amongst rally-car orienteers, who would use it as an eye-catching waypoint. People overseas even sent brushes to be added (c/ “The bucket on the toothbrush fence, 294 Limeworks Loop Rd, RD5, Te Pahu, NZ”). Celebrities added brushes, including Prime Minister Helen Clark, who hails from Te Pahu.

But surely the fence’s finest hour was its mention in Season 1 of Flight of the Conchords (Bret Gives Up the Dream) when Murray, responding to the taunts of the Australian consul, points out that while Australia might have Ayer’s Rock, we have “a fence made of toothbrushes.” New Zealand hearts swelled with pride upon hearing those words, for we know the Toothbush Fence epitomises all that is great about this fair land of ours.

Graeme Cairns is a member of the McGillicuddy Serious Party from way back, and the fence began as an absurdist art project, a satire on more earnest and legitimate tourist attractions. Its becoming a tourist attraction in its own right, despite being of no historical or political significance whatsoever, proves that people appreciate a little absurdism in their lives.

The fence is a success because it’s a participatory artwork. Nina Simon, in her book The Participatory Museum, describes a new generation of exhibits to which visitors can actively contribute; to work, the visitor interaction needs to be structured in some way, not forbiddingly freeform, and have a low bar for entry. Adding a toothbrush to a fence fits the bill, whereas painting part of a mural or carving a comment into stone is too demanding. (Perhaps vandalism at historic sites is just a frustrated way of taking part in the experience. There’s no vandalism at the Toothbrush Fence, though perhaps some locals view the whole thing as vandalism).

The other secret of the fence’s success is that it’s a work in progress. Visitors or donors feel like they’re adding to a project rather than observing a finished work, and they can point to their one small contribution. It started with just 50 toothbrushes; if Cairns had solicited a thousand toothbrushes in advance and created a finished artwork, it would have less appeal and fewer visitors.

In a country where tourist attractions are becoming increasingly marketed and packaged, it’s refreshing to come across one without its own brochure, or even a little plaque explaining what it is. The Toothbrush Fence exists happily without an AA signpost; it does not have its own domain name; it has no plans to tweet.

Want to visit the Toothbrush Fence?

View the Toothbrush fence in a larger map.

Better Band Names

  • Rage Against Florence and the Machine
  • Everything Including the Girl
  • Mended Social Scene
  • Delicious Moist Cake
  • Steel & Brandy
  • Modest Mighty Mouse
  • The International
  • Très Bon Iver
  • Holy-Trinity Jones
  • …And You Will Know Us By the Trail Of Delicious Moist Cake
  • Duran Duran Duran
  • Blur More

(Tip of the hat to @shirleymullet and @danielhunt79)

The Biebignorance Project

Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita
Mi ritrovai per una selva Biebera,
Ché la diritta via era smarrita.

Mr Bieber a la FacebookBack in the 1990s I tried, as an experiment, to not know anything about the Spice Girls (those of you around at that time will remember why). This was unsuccessful: I can rattle off each pseudonym. It just wasn’t possible to remain ignorant when their names were on everyone’s lips.

Nevertheless, I’m currently attempting to know nothing about Mr Bieber. That doesn’t mean sticking my fingers in my ears going “la la la la” when his name comes up; just not actually seeking out news or gossip about the man. Is it possible, in the 21st century, to live in a bubble of Biebignorance?

Currently I know precisely four things about Justin Bieber.

  1. His name. (When I first blogged, I didn’t even know that—it was spelled Beiber throughout, hence the URL, and I wasn’t sure if it was Jason or Justin.)
  2. He’s 16.
  3. He’s Canadian. (This is like that scene from Pulp Fiction, wherein facts about Marcellus Wallace were elicited, isn’t it? Except nobody gets shot.)
  4. He prefers older women, but “nothing over 40.” Since the age of consent in Canada is 16, gangs of slavering 40-year-old women are, I presume, lining up for this brief window of opportunity. Be gentle with him, ladies.

For some reason, whenever I talk about this project, people see it as an invitation to email me Bieberfacts—that is, deliberately sabotage the experiment. Perverting the course of science. Dear reader: if you feel so inclined, could I ask you before you hit Send to examine your motives? Could you, perhaps, be just a little ashamed of how much you know about Bieber-san? Will sharing your knowledge truly lessen your burden, or will it simply make the world a little sadder, a little more tawdry, a little less like it was in the golden years, when nobody had heard of a teenaged Canadian MILFer? Those innocent times, when all we spoke of were Posh, Scary, Sporty, Ginger. And Baby.

Things I Haven’t Said for Eight Years

(I quickly stopped using New Zealand vocabulary and learned to speak American. Because folks laugh at you when you say…)

  • Get off the grass
  • Turned to custard
  • Skiting
  • Ute
  • Lollies
  • Gummies
  • Sweet as
  • Jandals
  • The too-hard basket
  • My oath
  • Spat the dummy
  • Sook
  • Fizzy drink
  • Packed a sad
  • Too right
  • Choice!

The Sudoku Song

Someone I know was trying to work on her sudoku, so I came up with a little song to cheer her on, until she threatened to throw something at me. Here it is (revealing just how much Japanese my 14-year-old self managed to absorb).

Kore-wa, watashi-wa, sudoku, sudoku
Kumamoto, Yatsushiro, sudoku-san
Hajimemashita Fujiyama moshi-moshi
Boku-wa, watashi-wa, sudoku-san

The trick is to sing like you’re an eight-year-old Japanese girl wearing a sailor suit in a TV commercial for dried shrimp.

This Boy Is Not Just Running But Literally Jumping Through the Air

A proofreading job I did a while ago was an article on masculinity and femininity in advertising. The photo captions were, strangely, in Title Case, which made them resemble the names of slightly pretentious pop songs. So:

Artist: Death Cab for Cutie
Album: This Boy Is Not Just Running But Literally Jumping Through the Air
Release: August 15, 2006
Label: Atlantic

  1. The Eyes Tell the Story Here
  2. This Boy Is Not Just Running But Literally Jumping Through the Air
  3. Promoting Athleticism for Males
  4. A Well-Developed Body Is Covered by Trendy Clothes
  5. This Older Woman is a Comic Figure
  6. (Have You Been Taking) Someone Else’s Vitamins?
  7. Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Is Intensely Involved with His Car
  8. Hurdling Through the Air But Wrapped in Ribbons
  9. This Man Drinks Expensive Liquor
  10. I Want to Own My Own Business
  11. Take Me Fishing
  12. Both Father and Son Seem Bored with the Homework
  13. Make Your Own Daylight
  14. This Man Travels Abroad [live]

Things I Used To Think Were The Same

  • Lily Allen and Katy Perry
  • Dick Frizzell and Bill Frisell
  • Benicio del Toro and Guillermo del Toro
  • Greensboro and Greenville
  • The Counting Crows and the Black Crowes
  • Ryan Adams and Bryan Adams
  • Henry Adams and Henry James
  • Henri Rousseau and Jean-Jacques Rousseau
  • John Hughes and John Waters
  • John Belushi and Jim Belushi
  • John Hurt and William Hurt
  • Jeff Bridges and Jeff Daniels
  • Larry McMurtry and Cormac McCarthy
  • Joseph McCarthy and Eugene McCarthy
  • Roddy McDowell and Malcolm McDowell
  • David Carradine and Keith Carradine
  • Zach Braff and Zac Efron
  • The Thin Red Line and The Thin Blue Line
  • Gates of Heaven and Days of Heaven
  • tombolo and tombola
  • Wes Anderson and P.T. Anderson
  • Saul Steinberg and Shel Silverstein
  • Flann O’Brian and Flannery O’Connor
  • Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs

103-Word Joke with Duck

In 2002, a British psychology professor asked people to rate thousands of jokes, in an experiment called LaughLab. The optimum length for jokes was found to be 103 words. And jokes containing ducks were found to be funnier than jokes about other animals. Logically, therefore, a 103-word joke featuring a duck would be funniest of all. Let’s find out.


Duck walks into a bar and asks the bartender, “Got any grapes?” The bartender says, “No. This is a bar. We don’t sell grapes.” The duck leaves.

The next day, the duck’s back. “Got any grapes?” The bartender says, “I told you yesterday. We don’t sell grapes.”

The next day: “Got any grapes?” The bartender loses it, grabs the duck, and yells, “I already told you twice! Ask me again and I’ll nail your beak to the floor!”

The next day, the duck returns. “Got any nails?” The bartender sighs. “No, we don’t have any nails.” The duck says, “Good. Got any grapes?”