Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Sky TV

I broke down and got Sky. I have a satellite dish AND DVR technology. I love it.

Not only do I get a bunch more weird British TV, but I get my favourite US stuff, too. OH! And I can pause live TV and tape things, basically making my TV do my bidding.

Hallmark happens to be starting The Gilmore Girls right where I left off last season, and the final series of Six Feet Under just started on E4!

Jon Stewart does a World Edition of The Daily Show and it airs on CNN. It is basically highlights from the week in the US, plus commentary added to help an international audience understand. This week he covered the whole Pat Robertson as hit man thing. Man, have I missed Jon.

I must say that this little touch of contact with my homeland has made me quite happy. I feel like I'm a little more connected to the pulse of the US. Oh. And I get to see that dreamy Anderson Cooper on CNN once in awhile, as well. Why do they make him cover all the hurricanes?

This weekend at the car boot sale

I bought a 3 foot tall artificial Christmas tree and a silk pillow cover for £3.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

What I did last night

Due to my busy schedule, this is actually more accurately titled "What I did 24 August." Sorry for the delay.

My company has a new product. We're affiliated with Ticketmaster, and we sell a high-satisfaction/relatively low cost enhancement to a corporate benefit package, wherein your company pays for a membership to the Ticketmaster Priority Club. You join, you get discounts and they help you find things you might want to attend, etc. It's actually pretty great and, being a loyal employee, of course I joined when they sent the email to us.

When I signed on I was cruising through the genres that I usually like...theatre, jazz, opera, alternative music...and I saw that Beulah was playing at Bush Hall in London on the 24th. Well, you know that I love my Beulah, and tickets were only £12.50, so I convinced my friends Katrina and Anna to join me for a night out in London to see one of my favourite bands.

Note to self...next time, before you buy tickets, check to be sure it's the right Beulah.

Turns out MY Beulah is taking time off (Beulites refuse to say they've "broken up",) and so they are, needless to say, not doing any gigs these days. There is, however, a singer here in the UK named Beulah, and SHE was releasing a new album. I'd heard her on BBC Radio 2 and though I couldn't say I loved her, I would say she didn't bug me that much. Plus, the tickets were purchased and any night in London is better than sitting in MK, so we went anyway.

Workload had blown up, and I was having a bad week. We got out a bit late, and so we were running to the train when we got to the station. Went to platform 4, realised it was a Virgin train and we could only take Silverlink, so we ran back up the steps and over to platform 2. Made it in time to catch the train, but were seated on loose seats so when the train lurched we did, too. It was pissing down with rain, but we decided that the best train to catch to Shepard's Bush was the Hammersmith and City so we walked the 100 yards to Euston Square. Got damp, but we weren't on the pull so who really cares about the hair, you know? Unfortunately, we got wet for nothing, as the H&C was stopped for signal failure so we had to take a different train anyway and then connect to the one that left from Euston Station(where we would have stayed dry.)

Shepard's Bush is one of those "transitional" neighbourhoods on the west side. One of the bombs on the 21st went off there and several of the bombers were from nearby. It's not actually that bad an area really, but I will also say that it wasn't the most comfortable place to be walking around, either. And, inconveniently, it is one of the only places in London with two tube lines that have separate stations with the same name.

Note for future Bush Hall evenings: the Central line station is NOT the one you want.

Our directions were from the H&C station, so we followed the map until we were well lost. Stopped to ask for directions, and the bloke sent us to the wrong theatre. It was still pdwr, so slightly damp turned into drowned rat. After wandering around for about 45 minutes, we got back on track by finding the other tube stop. Turns out the original station was only about 100 yards from the theatre.

Bush Hall is an old dancehall, and it's really cool. Kind of reminded me of The Backstage in Seattle. You could almost hear the echoes of the GIs looking for love before shipping out. I was hopeful...cool setting, alternative vibe, great people watching. There was a woman behind us who brought a massage table, set it up, and then reclined on it to listen to the concert. Figure she had back trouble or something, though it seemed she could cure it by stopping with the hauling of the massage table. But I'm not a doctor.

We were really hungry, but the show was supposed to start. Normally, I'd not worry and just go get some dinner, but for some reason we all decided that we'd stay for the start to decide and then head out if it sucked. We decided to make due with some Maynards fruit pastilles and a couple of beers instead.

An hour and fifteen minutes later, we were famished, slightly drunk, and the opening act came on.

Nice kid. Twenty-something, fresh out of the closet, and OH MY did he need a hug. Poor thing opened with a song about how we think we're shepherds but we're really all just sheep, (someone's been reading The Alchemist,) and moved on to telling us he was a one man army fighting mediocrity as established by his father who waited for the world to come to him and never lived his dreams. All songs were in that Joni Mitchell tempo, and he accompanied himself with flowery chords on the electric piano. He even added a cello to the "sad" songs, just in case you could still see a glimmer of hope in this world. Forty five minutes later, he said his tearful thank you. We applauded, perhaps a bit too loudly.

During the break, I took an immediate dislike to a new arrival. Bald guy with black eyebrows wearing pointy, shiny, white shoes and acting cool.

Fifteen minutes later, my nemesis got onstage to introduce Beulah. Bad sign. Follow up note...watched "Love Actually" over the weekend, and he's an extra in that movie...when they tell the washed up singer that he won the number one slot on Christmas Eve, he's with a group of people and there is a bald guy standing next to him. I couldn't see the shoes, but I guarantee it was the same dude. Check him out. He'll bug you, too.

So out comes Beulah. She's about 25, wearing a cheap black cocktail dress, and giggling into the microphone. Kept playing with her earrings. Told us she didn't like to talk on stage, then proceeded to babble about things like her earring falling out. Giggled some more. Sang. Nice voice, I guess, but nothing notable. Definitely C list at best. Her music was all about lost love, finding your identity, missed opportunities, etc. Four songs in we decided that dinner was in order, so we waited for clapping and started to get up to leave.

But we didn't move quickly enough, the next song started, and my bag was caught under the chair in front of me. Had to sit through another one. The absurdity of our evening had officially sunken in, so we shook with silent laughter for the duration.

I didn't want to seem rude for leaving early, so on our way past the album stand I said something about how it was too bad we had to catch a train. (Can we pick out the midwesterner in the crowd?) My friend Kat is Northern Irish, and she called me a bloody liar in the lobby, so I think they knew.

Walked to the H&C line, waited 45 minutes for a train. The signal was still out, so the trains were moving at half speed. Took us an hour to get to Picadilly. Walked into Chinatown, had a nice meal, then went to catch the train. Home around 1 AM. Laughed pretty hard at our misery.

See, it's possible to have a bad night out in England, too.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Readers

The Brits are readers. They all read, every last one of them. Okay, maybe there are a couple of 20 year old YOBs that don't crack books, but the rest of them...they like their books.

This is great. Bookstores have interesting suggestions and authors who come to speak and are crowded with people. People quote favourite authors and they talk about things they've read in the past few weeks and they often make reading recommendations as part of casual small talk.

They like non-fiction, they like mysteries, they like a good novel know and again. It's part of their culture, and they laugh at people who don't read.

Mind you, some of them read crap...Barbara Cartland is a Brit, and we've been invaded by Dan Brown mania just like everyone else.

But I like living in a nation of readers. Readers rule! (Except, of course, for the US president...he doesn't have to read. Dick Cheney does that for him.)

Monday, August 22, 2005

Cyber Playgroup

I love the internet. It's filled a hole in my life. I have my Playgroup back.

When I lived in Seattle, it took me a long time to find my people. Don't get me wrong...I had Soni, and Ben, and Bethany and we spent many a night lounging on the leopard pillows, drinking Henry Weinhard's (or Hank, as we called it,) and walking to QFC dressed as the Gorton's Fisherman at 2 AM to buy fishsticks. But B, B, and S were people I knew before I got there, so they are different.

In order to really feel at home somewhere, to really be comfortable living there, you have to make friends unique to that place. I'd been there almost two years before I found the people I'd retain from the PNW.

I met them when my housemate, Gavin, moved out and we had to get a new housemate. We advertised on coffee shop walls and in weekly papers, and we found Knox. Knox is funny and smart. He is a poet. He is adventurous and interesting and a collector of people...some really good, some not exactly to my taste, but all worth talking to for awhile. And Knox is full of life and is a true connector/maven in this world, so he immediately started the alchemy of mixing his people together to make gold.

Within months we had a Playgroup. There were six of us...Knox, Pam, Larry, Christopher, Vaughn, and me. We knew each other's lives, we had dinner every Sunday night at our house, we dragged each other to things when we needed company, we watched The Tick on Saturday's at LarryandPam's. We had a group crush on Pam's really hot neighbors. We threw a party where we invited people from the personals just because we liked their ads. We spent Christmas together. (I believe that we had Chinese food for three meals that day.) We had our own little family, sometimes dysfunctional, but we became an integral part of each other's lives for three years.

First I lost touch with Knox over something stupid. Then I moved to DC and Minnesota, and since I'm not much at emailing or phoning I lost touch with P, L, C, and V. When I'd go to Seattle I'd see them and I met Larry in Chicago one February, but none of us were very good at the distance thing. Vaughn left Seattle and lived in two cities before I even knew it, and I still can't tell you where Christopher went.

But then we started blogging. Pam is the pioneer there...she started living in Austria part of the year with her husband and she needed to keep in touch with folks. Then I moved here and started this so that I wouldn't do the same dumb thing and lose my Midwest people, too.

In a lonely mood one night, I started googling people I used to know and love, just to see who I could find. I found a pal from high school that kept me out past curfew pretty much every night for two years. I found Gavin, the former housemate, just in time to congratulate him on the birth of his first child. And luckily there aren't that many Vaughns from Odessa, TX, so a class reunion site helped me find him. Now Vaughn blogs, too.

And that brings me to my point. Somehow, 6000 miles apart, my Playgroup is managing to resurrect our friendship. It's pretty cool. Pam and I will be getting together on weekends once she's back in Austria for the winter. V and P and I start comment conversations on our blogs, we send emails, and we are aware of each other's lives again. Larry's not a blogger, but I got an email with pictures of his garden a month or so ago. Who would have imagined it?

These are good people. I'm really glad they're back.

Now if only I could get them here for Sunday Dinner.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Picture Gallery

Sorry for the long absence.

I've been quite busy in the past few weeks, hence the lack of posting. Tonight I'm getting caught up on things like paperwork and bills and bank statement balancing and email and all the things I can't do if I don't sit still. I've unloaded my camera, as well, and put a few pictures in from my visit with Tim in May and my weekends with friends in the past two weeks. There are captions for now, and I'll be back through the week with all sorts of updates.

Car boot sale on Sunday - this goes on for rows and rows...there were probably 300 vendors.

Patricia, Siri, and Anne in front of Fifteen, Jamie Oliver's restaurant

View from Patricia's front window

Ties on the wall at a pub in Oxford Posted by Picasa

Marzipan army of frogs and bears

Woman making marzipan scholar in Oxford. Marzipan is like edible clay. It is unbelievable what people can do with this. We found a store in the Covered Market and watched this woman making figures. Very cool.

Tim and I are crap with chopsticks. Posted by Picasa

Flowers at Woburn Abbey

I live a little over an hour from this. Posted by Picasa

A marketing connection we've missed out on in the US. Posted by Picasa

Unnecessary caption - Don't lean on the doors when you're in a glass pod 30 stories above London.


Necessary Caption - Don't lean your greasy head on the window.


Monday, August 08, 2005

Recruiting

I've got a total crush on this guy.

I've signed up to be a citizen. Mostly that means you get access to the chat rooms. And while I'm not an active poster in any chat room, it's good to know there are lots of smartypants weirdos out there. Makes one feel a bit less lonely, you know?

It's too bad you don't live here. This is a very funny thing.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

I'm thinking like a Republican

I watched an hour of debate on whether it was undemocratic/tyrannical for George Bush to appoint John Bolton in the congressional recess. Mind you, no panelists could actually say, "NO! It's perfectly fair, normal, and even-handed." They just said, "Well, technically, it's legal." They also said it's an abuse of the spirit of the law, and the world should question America's commitment to improving international relations because they let this bozo become their Ambassador to the UN.

I guess I'm lucky...at least I got to watch someone debate this on ethical issues and not partisan politics.

But I realized a dark, evil secret about myself. Five years of Bush/Cheney leadership have corroded my heart.

There was a time when I would have fought this on principle. I would have thrown my heart and soul into objecting to this, and would have vehemently stood up for what I believe in.

Now I see it strategically. I'm thinking, "This is GREAT! We objected, he got in anyway, and now when John Bolton takes a giant dump in the middle of the UN floor we can blame the Republicans and prove our point. They won't be able to cry "OBSTRUCTIONISTS!" anymore...they'll show that it was a bad choice, that THEY actually obstructed the TRUTH by preventing a thorough review of his candidacy!" I'm plotting how we can exploit this in the midterm elections. I'm seeing this as Republicans taking enough rope to hang themselves, and I'm putting on my dancing shoes getting ready to bossa nova on their grave.

I can't help it. But I'm thoroughly disgusted with myself.

Deep down, I believe that politics should not be an us/them proposition. If you want a pennant race, follow the Twins. Politics should be about making people's lives better, about balancing the rules necessary for a civilized society without limiting the liberties of its members.

I don't want to be cynical. I want to be a proud, bleeding-hearted liberal again. I want to hug a tree and write things like this. I want to have principles and live in a country that faces its challenges head on, and has difficult discussions about issues that are dragging us down.

I want my country back.

And ironically, all the patriotic optimism, all the passion for a better world that I'm missing in my life? I learned it from my Republican father. Go figure.

Questionable choices in fashion

There are two sorts of trousers taking UK men by storm. Neither is a particularly good decision.

1) Men's Cropped Pants - If you're out hiking for the day, MAYBE I'll give you a break and say they are a good compromise between full trousers and shorts. But if you're just out doing the shopping or you're picking someone up at the airport or you are going to lunch at a nice pub, these are STUPID looking on men. They make your calves look fat. Especially with trainers.



2) French tab waistbands - Although they were made famous in menswear by the fine folks at Sansabelt, the French Tab waistband should be limited to women, polyester coaches' shorts, and men who've retired. You will ALWAYS look like you take fashion advice from Paulie Walnuts, regardless of how much you paid your tailor, Plus, frankly, only skinny guys can pull it off without looking like they have child-bearing hips. Add some belt loops, mate.

3) I know I said I had TWO things, but I thought of a third, non-trouserly fashion problem. Men here don't wear undershirts. They wear dress shirts, often expensive ones with french cuffs and funky cufflinks, but they don't wear an undershirt. I may have mentioned this before, but it bears mentioning again because it's still bugging me. If you are going to pitch for a £1M piece of business, put on a dang t-shirt. No one wants to see your nipples and matted chesthair through your shirt.