Sunday, October 17, 2010


And may the scwartz be with you, Mr. Jackson. Wellington is nicknamed "Windy Welly" for obvious reasons. I'm sure this moniker was established a long time ago. In recent times the city has picked up a new title: "Wellywood". I don't have all the facts but the story goes something like this. Peter Jackson is from Wellington and shot the Lord of the Rings Trilogy throughout the whole of New Zealand. In the process he also created Weta Labs (or Workshop?), the high tech cinematic operation responsible for the fancy CGI's and costumes used in the films. The Weta Lab is here in Wellington and I have heard that this is where the stars of the movie based themselves throughout shooting. It is rumoured that sitings of Viggo Mortensen and Ian Mckellan drinking coffee in the local cafes were commonplace during that time period. The raging success of the movies put an international spotlight on New Zealand, and Wellington specifically, as an ideal location for shooting. Some other activity has taken place here since then(District 9/King Kong?), and it has now been dubbed "Wellywood".

So obviously, there has to be some way for the general public to enjoy Wellington's new found popularity in the film industry. Enter the Weta Cave. The Weta Cave is listed on as one of the top ten things to do in Wellington.  From their website:

Screen clipping taken: 10/16/2010, 11:31 PM

 It's listed as number 7. So according to this site there are only 6 other activities to participate in that are more enjoyable than visiting the Weta Cave. And if I had wheels I'd be a wagon.

The Cave has been on my Wellington activities list for several weeks now and as a mildly enthusiastic LOTR fan, I set high expectations for it. I arrived to find that it is nothing more than a gift shop. The entire facility is about 800 square feet. It boasts a "mini-museum" that is actually nothing more than a walk in closet sized cubby with a some replica swords and a bunch of figurines from the movie. There's a room that you can view a 20 minute featurette in, which I didn't even bother to stay for as I assume it doesn't show anything not released in the special edition DVD's (which I've owned since they came out). Everything else in the Weta Cave is for sale. To be fair I probably set my expectations too high. A couple of years ago I experienced the LOTR exibit at the Houston museum. Due to my consistent bashing of Houston, I feel obligated to take a moment here to recognize one of its finer assets. Houston does have a great set of museums not far from Rice University and the Medical Center that I frequented while living there. Anyway, the LOTR museum exhibit was phenomenal. It was absolutley massive and contained a smorgasboard of highly sought after paraphanaelia that was actually used in the movies. I half expected for most of this exhibit to now be housed permanently at the Weta Cave. I was way off, and more than a little disappointed. If this is the best "showcase" of Weta that Peter Jackson can offer to the public, then it is pretty damn weak. It's also preposterous for to list this place as a destination. To walk every inch of the Cave takes all of three minutes. Even if I had viewed and appreciated every item in there I still would have been done in under an hour. It's a decent place to stop by if you are in that part of town, but surely not a somewhere that you need to plan a visit to.

A couple years back a fellow music lover, whose opinion I value and trust, suggested I try listening to the Brian Jonestown Massacre. He also asked if I had seen the movie Dig. I told him that I had heard of BJM, but not Dig. He gave me a brief rundown of the movie and told me I should watch it and get the music. I proceeded to acquire the BJM album but didn't get around to watching the movie. Sometime after that I read a Rolling Stone article that listed the top rock doc dvd's of all time. The list was mostly standards that I would expect to see: Stop Making Sense, The Last Waltz, Woodstock, Festival Express; but the big surprise for me was seeing Dig listed in the top 5. Once again my interest was sparked but I still didn't run out and get the movie.
I finally rented the double disc DVD this weekend. Dig tells the story of the tumultuous relationship between two rock bands: The Dandy Warhols, and the Brian Jonestown Massacre. But more importantly, it introduces the viewer to Anton Newcombe, frontman and co-creator of the BJM. I imagine that Anton Newcombe is what John Lennon would have been like if he hadn't been born in England and hadn't been in the biggest pop band of all time. He's an explosive egocentric character that keeps the viewer glued to his every move on screen. But's Anton is only half of the recipe that makes this a highly entertaining film. The rest comes from the sheer volume of raw footage that the movie is comprised of. Most rock docs are a series of live performances spliced together with recent interviews of various players associated with the subject. Dig was pieced together from over 1500 hours of amateur footage shot from the mid-nineties all the way through around 2002, I think. It's got all the good rock star scenes in it as well: the arrests, the fist-fights, the shouting matches, the road. And it's all pretty raw and uncut as well.  Dig easily lived up to all the hype that surrounds it and the beauty of it is that you don't need to really be a fan of either band to enjoy the movie.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

"And if we wake up in the morning,

.....then we'll know we're not dead." - Stan Marsch

It's a bleeding sin how much I love South Park.

Everyone has a little topic that can set them off. For some people it revolves around sports. For others it might be a politician or a celebrity. But I've noticed that in general if you hang around someone long enough, you can learn of one or two things to say to them that will send them into a frenzy. I'm no different than anyone else and have quite a few of these pressure points; and I got one of mine pounded a few weeks ago.

I was at a cook out, which they call bar-bees here, and having a conversation with what I thought was a very intelligent guy. We had already talked about the standard subjects mostly involving differences in our cultures: sports preferences, culinary contrasts, traffic laws. When he learned that I was from Louisiana he decided to start a conversation about Hurricane Katrina. He started to ask me some leading questions and I answered them neutrally as I usually do in these situations until I determine where the person is going with it. As I was answering one of his questions he abruptly interrupted me with this statement (word for word): "Oh no, that's not true, you see I watched this documentary, it was by Spike Lee, called When the Levees Broke and (interjects his "correct" statement that directly contradicts what I've been telling him). My jaw dropped. If I had been amongst close friends I would have immediately assumed that this was a prank. Kind of like "hey little sister go ask grandpa about the war and watch him get all fired up." I could easily envision a situation where a friend tells an innocent bystander "hey you see that guy Robert, go make some ridiculous claim to him and tell him your only source is a documentary by SPIKE FRIGGING LEE and watch him go through the roof." A small film of my own played in my mind in which I slapped the daylights out of this guy....But I quickly shoved my hand in my pocket, politely ended the conversation and walked away.

I got to thinking. I read every article that was printed about the hurricane before, during and after it occurred. I had friends who fled New Orleans sleeping on my couch in Houston. I bumped into the refugees at the Target by the Astrodome. I saw the pictures of the destroyed houses that belong to my Aunts. I took this in for months and a guy 6,000 miles away watches a 4 hour dvd by a director whose shining achievement is The Original Kings of Comedy and he has the brass to interject the answer to a question that he asked me? And let me be clear here. I have no problems with the documentary. I've never seen it, nor will I ever watch it. I don't think Spike Lee is a credible source to make a documentary about hurricanes or New Orleans. But I've gathered enough information from other credible sources that I don't need to watch this movie to speak on the subject. What really grinds my gears, is that this guy watched one documentary and accepted every single claim it made, as the gospel. Without question. Without reserve. It is downright scary to me to think about what people will believe if you put it in a movie. Gutted.

I was in the grocery store the day of the Tennessee game. I turned down the bread aisle and spotted the familiar burnt orange lone capital T on a grey hooded sweatshirt. I recognized it immediately and got excited. I've never seen an SEC supporter in New Zealand. I quickly walked up to the guy wearing the sweatshirt and asked him if it was for Tennessee. He seemed to get excited too and said yes. I slowly unzipped my jacket to reveal the purple jersey with LSU in big bright gold across the chest. He looked about as puzzled as a 5 year old with a child proof lighter. His words stung me "L (pause) S (hesitantly) U...what's that?". I didn't really know how to explain myself. I wanted to be like "What do you mean what's that? You don't know what LSU is, give me that sweatshirt! you don't deserve to wear it." I said "You know we played you guys today in football?" And of course he replied "Oh I lived in Tennessee for like six months and just bought a sweatshirt." Gutted.

On Saturday night I was in the Mighty Mighty bar and spotted a guy wearing the Hi How are you? t-shirt. It's a well known piece of graffiti art in Austin. Once again, i got really excited as a friend of mine had JUST sent me the excite same t-shirt in the mail a few weeks before. I briskly left the conversation I was in and marched up to the t-shirt guy. "Hey you from Austin?". Once again, completely puzzled. "Your shirt, it's an Austin, Texas t-shirt?" Spark of recognition (maybe). "Ugh, Oh yeah, I think I nicked this off a friend, I just thought it was a cool shirt." Mini-movie of me slapping him. Gutted.

And finally.....REDEMPTION. I went to Bunnings (NZ anemic version of Home Depot) to buy a shop vac. I asked one of the employees where I could find a shop vac, he helped me pick one out, we headed back to the cash register to complete the transaction. He commented about my accent and asked where I was from and to my surprise HIS eyes lit up with excitement when I said Louisiana.

Really?! What part? (he's excited and I'm intrigued as no one other than Americans ask what part of LA i'm from)
Baton Rouge
Really???!!! Did you go to school there? (now he's visibly excited, to the point that the other girl at the counter has started to eves drop)
Yeah, I went to and at this point he speaks the letters LSU in unison with me and pretty much goes through the roof.
"Aw man!! Were you there at the same time as Big Baby?"
Yeah I was, I actually have a picture of Big Baby standing outside of Walk On's with Shaq. I've also got a picture of me and Shaq together.
(the kid is practically turning cart wheels now) "Holy Shit!! Big Baby is my favorite basketball player in the NBA, he's pretty much my favorite player of all time, I freaking love that guy."
At this point I started to laugh. Here's a kiwi guy who's clearly a rabid NBA fan and his favorite player in the league is Glen "Big Baby" Davis. Not only is this his favorite player, but he knows where he went to college and what city it's in. This is truly commendable considering how difficult it is to be a fan of ANY American sport over here. This guy made my day. He didn't want me to leave the damn store. He was rattling off facts of Glen Davis, asking me questions about him. I've never seen anyone more excited to find out that I was from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. I was laughing for the rest of the day about that conversation.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Blues for Breakfast, Gators for lunch

I like to listen to John Lee Hooker on Sunday mornings while cooking a monumental breakfast. This morning it was scrambled eggs with onions, spinach and cheese on toast. I got all of this down in time to watch the LSU-Florida game on my computer through the slingbox at my parents house. I'm more than grateful to view the game in any capacity. Seeing it live is far better than not seeing it at all. But it's difficult to watch LSU football on a computer, alone, on a Sunday afternoon. It just doesn't feel right. I need to find some college football fans in Wellington to share my pain. There are few things in life that give me more pleasure than seeing LSU beat Florida. Florida's players are classless assholes (holier than though Tim Tebow being the glaring exception) and Urban Meyer is a wormy little shell of a man. Florida fans - even worse. I relished every minute of the Tigers 33-29 victory. I guess Tiger fans back home can afford to bitch and moan about Les Miles, Gary Crowton and Jordan Jefferson. From my perspective, they don't know just how damn lucky they are.

Mighty Mighty.
My tantalizing live music drought finally came to an end last night. I accompanied my room mate, Luke, who plays in a local band, to The Mighty Mighty. Located on the ever popular Cuba Street in downtown Wellington, Mighty Mighty is a quirky small sized live music venue that showcases mostly national and local acts. The two bands that played probably won't find their way onto my ipod anytime soon. Both had a garage rock sound with clear punk and grunge influences. But it was so very invigorating to hear original music again. Where I lacked enthusiasm in the actual music itself I found great enjoyment in the atmosphere of the venue.

Picture here we see a Vanilla Ice EP vinyl record sleeve. Opening it reveals the beer, wine and cocktails menu appended to the inside of the album cover. I would have photographed this, as well as the replica of the genie machine from Big, the fake palm trees sprinkled throughout the dancefloor area and the giant four foot disco ball, had my stupid iphone's camera feature stopped working.

As expected, a joint this peculiar is bound to attract some rogue patrons, creating quite possibly the most humorous people watching situation I've ever encountered. I was literally giggling out loud every time I turned my head in this bar at the ridiculous clothes, hairstyles and antics that I saw. But the patrons of Mighty Mighty were not pretentious or snobby. They didn't appear to desire attention, but were generally just having fun doing what they were doing. I left feeling sure that this would be a place I'd return to frequently.

It's better Live.

While I got a small dose of live music to reintroduce it to my system last night, the super sized value meals are now close on the 2011 horizon. Big Day Out will be a nice return to an outdoor music festival in Auckland in January.
I'm thrilled to see long time favorites John Butler and the Black Keys, who both have new albums to perform for me. And I'll get to see Edward Sharpe, Grinderman, Wolfmother, CSS, and Ratatat for the first time. Hopefully Andrew WK's plane will crash on the way to the event.

But the real prize, the one that makes the hairs on my neck stand up and that I'm absolutely salivating for is the Byron Bay Blues Festival in April.
This is a five day festival where most artists PLAY TWICE. I've never heard of any festivals in the states adopting this policy, although the ticket prices certainly warrant more than two shows from some of these so-called headliners. A quick look at the previous lineups has me buzzing at the possibilities for this festival.

My big bad Byron Bay wish list:

Personal favorites that I'm pining for:
Grace Potter. Gov't Mule. Levon Helm. Delta Spirit. Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers. The Band of Heathens. Leftover Salmon. Yeasayer. Robert Randolph. Shooter Jennings. Porter Batiste Stolz. Dumpstaphunk. The New Mastersounds. My Morning Jacket. Railroad Earth. The Felice Brothers.

I've never seen them live so it would be really special:
Nick Lowe. The Derek Trucks Band. Phil Lesh in some form (The Dead, Further, etc). Joe Cocker. The Cave Singers. Stringcheese. Kenny Wayne Shepard. Joe Bonamassa. Cat Power. Lou Reed. Hot Tuna. Arcade Fire. Black Mountain. Steve Winwood. Mark Knopfler. Neil Young. Papa Mali.

I'll go ape shit:
John Hiatt. JJ Cale.


A coffee shop on Smith Street in Melbourne
Speaking of Australia, I got to visit the land down under a few weeks ago for the first time. Leaving New Zealand made me realize that the year 2010 is going to completely pass without me ever setting foot on American soil. This is a weird thought to get my arms around. Anyway, I spent about 6 days in Melbourne, Australia but really only had about a day and half to myself in the city. Melbourne is a true big city and I've not visited one since Auckland, which really doesn't count. So for all intensive purposes this was my first venture into a metropolis since the last time I was in the armpit of Texas, otherwise known as Houston in the common tongue. The size was overwhelming at first but I quickly got over this as I became re associated with A DEVELOPED NATION!!! High Speed Internet, reasonably priced food, IMAX theaters, four lane highways, stadium sized shopping malls, skyscrapers. Being in Melbourne was seriously like being back in the states and I tried to overdose on it while I was there.

From the Lonely Planet:
"Sophisticated and slick, edgy and rough, Melbourne’s physical and cultural landscape is shaped by a dynamic population, ever-ravenous for a bite of global culture. The result is Australia’s most accessible multiculturalism. Ornate Victorian-era architecture and leafy, established boulevards reflect the city’s history, and cutting-edge developments such as Federation Sq exemplify its enigmatic contemporary style. But, Melburnians still keep their urban frenzy to a deliciously sedate pace. Trams lumber back and forth on routes radiating out like spokes from central Melbourne, and cycling is a common way to get from.
Character-filled neighbourhoods, such as Fitzroy, St Kilda and Carlton, hum with life and the city produces some of the best art, music, cuisine, fashion, performance, design and ideas in the world. Melburnians are also devoted to their sport and they go ballistic around the Australian Football League (AFL; ‘footy’ to the locals) finals and during Spring Racing Carnival. They love to shop, eat and attend the myriad festivals that the city offers. You’ll even find them defending the city’s temperamental weather, and if you’ve ever experienced Melbourne’s inclination to plummet from searing heat to drizzling rain in the space of an hour, you’ll understand that this must be the true definition of unconditional love."

The AFL championship match was being played the Saturday that I was in town but I could not be bothered with this as I spent the entire day at Melbourne Central attempting to transform my wardrobe from Patagonia-sporting-backpacker to young semi-professional. I heard that the game actually ended in some kind of draw and would have to be replayed the following weekend, adding firmly to my ongoing case that international sports suck. I spent most of my free time in the Fitzroy area which is way to hip for me. I'm actually able to get away with walking through these places because the hipsters see my disheveled hair and an old sweatshirt and think that maybe I'm a little edgy. They don't realize that I'm too lazy to do anything with my hair and I wear the sweatshirt because I really am that cold. I liked the Fitzroy neighborhood because it was peppered with great record shops, book stores, and coffee bars.

Ya Heard.

Having relocated to Wellington, and recently visited Australia; I've observed some new slang that I hadn't noticed before. I strive on a daily basis to not change the way that I speak, but it is infectiously interesting to study different people's speech patterns.

"Aw True." This appears to be a unique kiwi phrase and it is used as a verbal confirmation of having received a particular message during a conversation. For example:

             Denise: "What did you guys get up to last night?"
             Me: "We went to Mighty Mighty and saw some bands."
             Denise: "Aw True"

I can't think of an American equivalent other than just saying "yeah".

"Gutted". I think this might be English in origin. It's hard to tell where the different catch phrases come from because english travellers tend to adopt kiwi slang and vise versa. They essentially use it to express (or over express) devastation.

             Luke: "They revoked my visa. I was gutted."

Once again, no obvious American equivalent other than maybe to say "I was devastated or I was pissed". And with that I should note that when they say "I was pissed" over here, it means "I was drunk" and not "I was very angry."

"Easy Peezy." This is a strange one indeed. It's used to express that some act is easy to accomplish. I would think it would only be used by middle aged kiwi moms or cheesy kiwi dads.......BUT......One of my new work tasks is to get the phone and internet situated at our new facility. When I asked a sales rep how difficult it would be to upgrade the proposed digital phone system to a full blown voice over IP system he replied:

                 Sales Rep: "Oh that would be easy. Easy Peezy."

Here's a funny video of guy doing a bunch of different accents. I've heard all of the british accents and he is spot on with each one.

Here's a link to a god awful New Zealand bank commercial that seriously has me considering a career change to a television writer.'llgo(banner2)

Rock on Mike.
 Date: Fri, 8 Oct 2010 23:18:35 -0500

We left dad on night duty last night. And since he has a snoring problem, the poor nurse had two patients. Michael was waving his arms - as much as you can when they are tied to the bed - like he was trying to tell dad to shut the hell up. Needless to say, dads job on night duty has been terminated. Effective IMMEDIATELY.
While chatting with Mike this morning, I asked if he remembered dad's snoring and he shook his head no. You know why? Because he wants to keep his position as the favorite in the family. I am pretty sure he will forever hold that title. But I am coming to terms with it today. I think he has earned it.
The ventilator settings are now reduced to where he is initiating the breathing on his own with the support from the ventilator. The doctors only intended to try this out for a couple of hours but Mike had other plans. He passed their test and we are leaving the settings the way they are! His blood gases are great which has allowed them to go from doing a blood test every 6 hours to once a day. They are slowly decreasing the sedation medicine which is allowing him to open his eyes - and to do a some grooving. I have a little Buddy Guy on for him right now - one of our favorites. Since his liver enzymes were elevated this morning, they did an ultrasound - we will receive the results tomorrow. He has been holding a normal temp for the past 15 hours. We are trucking right along.
Today I had happy tears for the first time since I have been here. Happy tears because I know there are people that love Michael as much as I do, happy because he tried to dance with me, happy because he has the most amazing nurse anyone could ask for and happy because today, I FINALLY feel with all of my being that he is going to make it.
I am eternally indebted to all of you for the prayers. It is because of ya'll that I will be allowed to spend more time on this earth with Michael.
More good news to come tomorrow.
Love to everyone,

Thanks to everyone for thinking about Michael.

Geaux Tigers!!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Mr. October

I was hit with a sharp pang of guilt and disgust on the first of October. At some point during the day, I realized that October had in fact officially arrived; and I did not have the slightest clue as to which teams were in the MLB playoffs. Such a shame. A lifetime spent as a baseball fan, only to completely lose touch due to something as simple as a proximity challenge.

I've been told that this time of year brings the strongest winds to Wellington and I don't have any problems buying that. It is generally agreed upon that the south island is colder than the north. Queenstown has a reputation for being exceptionally cold. However, I've been more uncomfortably cold in Wellington than I ever was in Queenstown.....due to the wind. In Queenstown, the temperature determined how many layers of clothing I would put on. If I gauged this figure correctly, then I would be fine. Once I got outside and started walking, I'd warm up, my clothing would retain the heat and if I didn't stop moving for too long, I could stay outside for as long as I liked. In Wellington, I can put on every piece of clothing that I own, step outside and sprint up the hill until I'm sweating bullets, and a big fat gust of wind will cut right through all of that and chill me to the bone. Instantly. This can occur 24 hours a day. It is deceptive as well. Sometimes I look outside and see a beautiful blue sunny sky and think "hell yeah, t-shirts and shorts" only to walk outside and have a hurricane force gale bitch slap me in the face. All of this wind is balanced out on a truly sunny, still, clear day in Wellington, which is absolutely stunning. I enjoy these about twice a week and when those days come I try to stretch them out like an ice cream sundae, savoring every minute.

5 Things I really miss about the Fall back home:

5. Skirts on gameday
4. The perfectly executed tailgating operation
3. Spending hours creating the perfect ACL schedule, only to completely abandon it the next day and make it up as i go along
2. frozen margaritas with salt chunks the size of diamonds on outdoor patio at sunset
1. Cursing the yankees (and joe buck)

5 Things I love about Wellington in the spring

5. Mistakingly thinking that I'll be able to swim in the vast amount of water that surrounds me
4. Taking a stroll along the southern walkway and rock hopping within 10 feet of a fat sunbathing seal
3. Drinking coffee or beer on the harbour watching the runners go by
2. Running through the harbor watching people drink coffee and beer
1. the elusive perfect day

The Face of a Fighter
Some people pray. Some people meditate. Some people light candles in churches. Some people hope. And some people simply strive for positive intentions. Whatever it is that you do, please do it for my friend Michael.

"It is 10:30 on Wednesday night and Michael and I are having a slumber party. He is sleeping like a baby while I am sitting here watching the monitors like a hawk. Blood pressure looks great, heart rate is good and the paralytic medicine is a thing of the past.
Last week Mike was not feeling good so he went to the doctor and was sent home with a shot. His fever never broke so he headed to the hospital Sunday night hoping to get a drip and be on his way. God had another plan. He was admitted to the ICU around 6 Monday morning with pneumonia in all four quadrants of his lungs and was immediately set up with an oxygen mask. I had a really good feeling when I left the hospital that night that things were going to be ok. Unfortunately, his breathing quickly deteriorated around 4:00 Tuesday morning which only meant one thing. A ventilator.
By 7:30 it was in place and he was on a paralytic drug - meaning he had no control of anything. Not even his breathing. Scary? Words can't describe. The best thing for him? Absolutely. The first ventilator that he had was doing the maximum work it could and his breathing spiraled out of control. It is never good when a nurse tells you she is scared. But she had to be honest. The doctor was called in immediately to put in a more effecient ventilator - why wasn't this done in the first place? Because they had no idea he was THIS SICK. He took to the new ventilator very well and his levels began to even out. When it was first in place, it was at 100% capacity with 24 breaths per minute. Right now we are at 50% capacity with only 10 breaths per minute. We are taking PO2 levels every 6 hours to see what needs to be adjusted. The past several tests have come back great but they do not want to be too aggressive and adjust things too fast for fear of shocking his body. Our ultimate goal is to let him help the ventilator breathe - starting with him taking one breath per minute while the ventilator takes 9 for him.
During all of this, he has also developed ARDS or Adult Respiratoy Distress Syndrome which is a very serious condition that complicates the pneumonia. He is on 3 of the strongest antibiotics made and the doctors are still growing cultures to pinpoint exactly what is going on so we can become more focused on what we need to treat. These cultures are taking a bit longer to grow because doctors believe the shot he received on Saturday is masking the real cause of the pneumonia.
His condition improved significantly today. He was weened from the paralytic drug - he fought it at first but seems to be responding very well. He opened his eyes for me earlier and squeezed my hand. We have received good reports from a very reserved doctor. However, he tells us that Michael will have a long road to a full recovery.
Both his nurse and doctor have provided extraordinary care and concern. He has a nurse dedicated to his care alone. Sitting in here day and night.
Words cannot describe the love and support we feel. I sit by the bed and tell him who all has called, emailed, send text messages. Every one of your names has been mentioned. I promise. And he can hear me. I just know it. He is fighting like hell for all of you and i KNOW he will not disappoint.
Please continue to pray for this battle Michael is fighting and for his strength. Please also keep our family in your prayers. We have been on an emotional roller coaster this week searching for answers.
I know i don't have everyone's email address, so please pass along to others.

Love to everyone.

Jennifer and Lacy"

Jennifer is Michael's sister and Lacy his girlfriend.