Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Animal Planet

Why aren't all nature programs like this?


Hey, Baby


I'm making a watermelon feta salad to go with the tofu burgers tonight, and I needed to pick up a few things. I had a nice stroll into town, drank a coffee and restocked my book options, then went to Sainsburys.

Keiren was picking me up, so I stood in front of the store to wait for his arrival. I'm wearing knee length jean shorts and a baggy mens-ish shirt and sandals. And holding a watermelon. Which made me think, "Hey! I'm just like Baby! You can't put me in the corner!" And I did a little merengue in my head.

If I'd been standing next to a ginger, I'm sure people would have noticed the similarity, and probably pointed. I just hope my hair wasn't as puffy.

I really need to start working again.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Make these

Seriously, they're delicious.

If I were a cat

The other day I saw the dorkiest, clumsiest cat ever.

It was a bit fat, and it wanted to get to a shed roof to sun itself. So it struggled to claw it's way up the side of the fence. It finally made it. "It's smooth sailing now, my friend," or so I thought.

After a few seconds' pause to steady itself, it did this awkward claw/crawl along the top of the fence and the rail just below the edge that keeps the fence slats upright. It had to stop mid-way, seemingly to catch its breath and balance. Eventually, Lard Kitty made it to the side of the shed, and did a gingerly side step and crawl maneuver that moved it up on its destination, and then it collapsed in a heap, its chest heaving while it relaxed in the sun.

I think I'm going to go for a run tomorrow. Could probably do with a little exercise

Against the tide

I know this is going to make me very unpopular in blogland, but I'm here to tell you that, while bacon is delicious and chocolate is might-ee-fine, combining bacon and chocolate is just asking for trouble. In fact, bacon and chocolate sounds nasty. Especially bacon and white chocolate, which has no bite at all and would simply dilute the smoky goodness. No, I'm even willing to go out on a ledge and say that putting bacon and chocolate together is a downright bad idea.

I also think bacon martinis make no sense and that a bacon trifle would also be disgusting. Bacon and jello might work, but only if there were carrots and celery in the mix, too, and probably only with the lighter, more refreshing jellos of the orange/lime/lemon variety as they would give a better balance.

I know. I'm a rebel. But I will not stand by and allow this rampant bacon lust to continue without a sanity check.

Getting down to business

1. So today, I have to get a little more serious. I've been revising my resume to get rid of the UK spellings and to have a US address. In a bit I'm also going to make a marketing manager version of it to use for comms jobs, all ready for sending out tomorrow. Wouldn't want to do too much in one day.
2. I have developed a serious love of the show Flight of the Conchords. K&C have the first season on DVD, and we started watching it for kicks this weekend. Good lord, that's funny.

3. My youngest nephew's little league team just won the Minnesota championships. They're on to Indianapolis next weekend to play in the Midwest Regionals, next stop the Little League World Series. He's pitching this year, and I see by the game summaries his hitting doesn't suck, either. I wonder if he's watching The Bad News Bears to prepare? Or maybe that lame movie about an angel in the outfield. (Duh. Everyone knows angels don't play baseball.) I just hope he's doing something. I mean, training is important. The team from his town did well last year, but ended their run is dishonor with the whole spit-shake scandal of aught seven. Let's hope the lecture his auntie gave him about unsportsmanlike behavior making him look like a doorknob sunk in.
4. Yesterday was a picture perfect day. We had a relaxing morning, then took a picnic to the park to sit in the shade and read papers. Horsham's city park is huge and really pretty. We found a nice spot by the duck pond and went through the FT, The Times, The Independent and the Observer. There was a geezer brass band playing in the band shell, and occasionally the wind would catch the music and we'd hear wafts of a Jesus Christ Superstar medley. It's just too bad there weren't dancing zealots and lepers. Now THAT would have been a Sunday in the park.
5. Upon contemplation, I've realized there are two songs that have contributed to my decision to leave the UK and return to home shores. And it's pretty embarrassing, really. One is that Kid Rock song about teenage summers by the lake in northern Michigan, and the other is Dolly Parton's new single about getting (or should that be gettin') to livin'/g. I'm obviously very impressionable right now. Best keep Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses far far away.
6. Every time I make or hear mention of cults, it always brings to mind one of my favorite memories of childhood. We were with my grandmother in Waterloo, it was night, and we were waiting in the car while my mom ran into a store. And for some reason we were afraid that Moonies might come and knock on the window. I don't know, maybe there were some milling around or something, but I vividly remember keeping an eye out for brainwashed zombies, and worrying that someone would tie me to a chair and try to make me give up Jesus.
7. This is not a favorite memory because it's a happy one that I cherish. I have those, too, but this particular one is a favorite because it's so random.
8. For what it's worth, I remember learning about the Jonestown massacre while I was flipping through a Time magazine at piano lessons waiting for my brother to finish his turn. There were pictures of all these dead bodies laying around the compound with kool aid stains on their shirts. I believe it must have been either grape or possibly one of the reds, such as cherry, because the stains looked like blood splattered everywhere. I remember being much more shocked at the thought of these hideous kool aid stains than at the mass death of the scene. I mean, that grape kool aid is a bitch to get out of whites. Every time someone uses the "clever" drink-the-kool aid analogy I conjure this little gem up, as well, and then wonder if I have enough Spray and Wash at home. The subconscious mind is a wacky, wacky thing.
9. How can it be a quarter to four? That's nuts.
10. I'm only here for three more weeks. Weird.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Adventures of the unemployed

1. While I'm waiting for the movers to arrive in MK, I have been killing time at Gloria Jean's coffee in the Hub:mk. I wouldn't be one to go to a Gloria Jean's in the US. I associate them with those naff flavored coffees like hazelnut and amaretto creme. (I hate flavored coffees. A lot.) But here they have a nice atmosphere, free wifi, they play decent music and the coffee is excellent. They do a proper leaf pattern on the top, always the hallmark of a barista that knows what they're doing. They also make iced tea, which you can't find ANYWHERE in the UK, and which is one of my favorite things to drink on a hot day. I give a big thumbs up to Gloria Jean's in MK.
2. My friends Justin and Alexa have the best dog. Her name is Camilla, or Millie for short, and she is a Yorkshire Terrier. Now, I am not a fan of the tiny yippy dog. But this dog is sweet and funny and very smart. She has the most expressive face and she has a big personality and when she climbs all over you you hardly even notice it because she weighs practically nothing. She has this green stuffed animal that is bigger than she is. She carries/rolls it around the room and loves it when you try to grab it away from her. She'll grab on and growl and let you toss her around, and then lets go and insists that you throw it so she can fetch. It's great fun. She also has a tendency to hump the thing now and again, which is puzzling but there you have it.
3. She also moves very fast, and will crawl up you and start licking your face so fast that you get a tongue in your nose or mouth before your reflexes can reach up and pull her off.
4. Here in the Hub there is a fountain in the middle, surrounded by six or so restaurants with outdoor seating. It's a great place to be when the sun is out, and excellent people watching. Above the restaurants there are about eight floors of apartments. I think they should have taken a bit more time vetting the people who moved in to these, as they seem to have allowed some pretty raunchy folks in. There is one guy that I refer to as pathetic-drunken-stroke-guy, as he always has that out-of-it look that only alcoholics who never sober up have, and he walks with a cane as though he's recovering from a stroke. When he walks into the Brazilian restaurant they don't even ask - they just pour him a huge glass of red wine. You often see him step outside for a cigarette, but then he's back drinking another. He has this vaguely creepy/vapid perma-grin, and no matter what time of the day or night you are here you'll see him with a glass of wine. He depresses me.
5. Since I've been homeless, I've spent quite a bit of time here at the Hub. Cafe Rouge, a chain French restaurant, has great outside seating and makes a mean breakfast so I come here to read the paper and fortify. I am particularly fond of their Crouque Madame, which is basically a ham and Gruyere sandwich with a bit of bechamel and an egg. Mmm. Perfect with a glass of tomato juice.
6. I'm having a lot of trouble getting rid of my UK spellings. I've been trying, but those extra u's and replacement s's have become commonplace. Now when I write "favor" or "color" or "alphabetize" it looks wrong. I never did really cotton to the whole "re" versus "er" thing, though, so that one is not a problem. I also realise (I mean realize) that I'm going to have to stop saying things like, "I quite like..." and using proper as substitution for real/good/actual/authentic.
7. I wonder why there aren't any Taco Bells in the UK.
8. I'm trying to read a Terry Pratchett book. Everyone raves about Terry Pratchett. Oh, he's so funny. Oh, he's so clever. Oh, he's just great. Oh, he's my guilty pleasure. Thus far, I don't really see the appeal. I mean, it's not horrible. It's just not wowing me. (Imagine a squinty shrug and a "meh")
9. I could really use some new summer clothes.
10. It's a lot easier to eat healthily and get exercise when you don't work. And don't mean kind of easier. I mean a LOT easier. You can make it the focus of your existence instead of something you fit in between meetings.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Relaxing in the English sun

1. I spent my birthday relaxing in the garden. Read papers, drank coffee, soaked up some sun. It was lovely. When they were done working for the day, Kieren and Corrie and I split a bottle of champagne. Or rather Corrie and I did. Then they took me to dinner at a lovely Italian restaurant. came home, had more champagne and sat in the garden chatting. It was a lovely day.
2. They have one of those strange wand things in the shower, much like the enema looking thing at the Royalton. This morning, I learned that if you accidentally turn it on when you're just trying to turn on the rain shower it will spray you in the face. It is surprising.
3. I burned my forearm on a wok, but didn't realise it until today when the blister popped.
4. Took the train to London and then on to Milton Keynes. I'm staying here tonight and tomorrow, having dinner with friends and meeting the movers when they come pick up my stuff. I have one last chance to rescue some favourite things from the two month exile. Thinking I may need to grab the first few seasons of Curb Your Enthusiasm as K&C have not seen it.
5. How's this for odd...I often call Kieren "KB", his initials. And I call my friend Karen "KB", too - HER initials. And now I typed K&C for Kieren and Corrie, their initials. And I have a very close friend named KC - HER initials. Talk about a plate o' shrimp.
6. I just finished a book called The Post Birthday World by Lionel Shriver. Don't read it. It sucked. The only things to like about it were the really bad approximation of a cockney accent, which was laughable, and the fact that eventually it ended. It was one of those books that you read and you are on page 200 and you can basically predict the remainder of the plot. Which is compounded by the fact that it uses this parallel universe plot device wherein about chapter two she decides to kiss/not to kiss a man who is not her partner, and so the rest of the book has two of each chapter so you can see the two paths side by side and compare how her decision impacted her life. I liked Sliding Doors so I figured this might be okay. It was not. I found the characters flat, the writing stilted and obvious, and at times I felt like some metaphorical hammer was slamming me in the temple to make sure I got her point.
7. It was lovely and warm today. Really just a perfect summer day.

8. I forgot that I needed to add Adrian Brody to the sexy man list. Which means I should probably remove someone. So I'm taking off Clooney. He'd frighten me in real life anyway. Smooth men intimidate me.

9. There is a great program called 10 Years Younger, where they do massive makeovers of people who look much older than they actually are. They gauge their age by having them stand in the street before and after the makeover and let 100 people guess their age. Often there are women who are younger than me who look like they're 60. It's shocking. You get fashion, makeup and hair tips AND you get to see the plastic surgery. It's awesome. As you might guess, many of them have very bad teeth.
10. It's supposed to be sunny tomorrow, too. Perhaps I'll relax and sit in the sun while I read the newspaper. That would be delightful.

Now THAT'S some foreign policy

Nothing says, "I'm a seasoned diplomat who will raise our standing in the world and gain global consensus for the war on terror," like a grotesque stereotype of a European power used to taunt your press entourage into hating the other guy.

Seriously, who in the McCain campaign is that stupid? The joke might actually be funny if it appeared as an op ed cartoon from a neutral source. Because it IS kind of funny that normal journalists with months on the Obama campaign have been kicked off so Katie Couric and that annoying Charlie Gibson can get a holiday abroad. And who doesn't find a Frenchie in an ill-fitting beret and a neckerchief amusing? About the only thing that would make that funnier is if he talked like Kevin Kline when he's pretending to be French. Or maybe a talking frog wearing an ill-fitting beret and neckerchief and speaking with a fake French accent. Now THAT'S comedy.

Unfortunately, coming from inside the McCain camp, this is not funny -it's worrying. My guess is that some staffer who watches a lot of late night TV comedy came up with a joke, and the entire campaign is so out of touch with the real world that they thought they could go for the laugh and be as popular with the kids these days as that whipper snapper Stephen Colbert. (Message = See, John McCain isn't that old...he's down with the satire, yo. Word.)

Yes, these sorts of diplomatic skills will work wonders with our foreign colleagues. Glad to know all that experience is giving us dividends, Gramps. And nice touch telling the few remaining press that might still be sympathetic to you that they're a bunch of no-account losers. I'm sure that will endear you to them, as it illustrates that you're on their side. Perhaps for your next press conference you can make a pass with a picture of some redneck in front of his foreclosed house drinking a Coors (not a Bud now that them Belgians bought it,) and he can be whining about the price of gas. That's a really funny way to remind people that Barack Obama doesn't like them and is responsible for the oil crisis. (Which is all in their mind, according to Phil Gramm. I mean, seriously, people. Buck up.)

Just tell us you're running with Tim Pawlenty to get a few minutes of coverage and then ride this thing out. He'll be back from his trip next week and things will go back to normal.

Oh. And no, it doesn't make you look at all bitter that the other guy is getting more attention. Nope. Not even a little. Seriously. Why would I lie?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Sexy Men

Occasionally I see tags out there wherein people denote the 10 sexiest actors/singers/etc. I don't usually do these. But today I feel like blogging but I haven't had enough coffee, so here I go. Giving you a window to my soul. In no particular order we have:


1. Ryan Gosling - both handsome AND a Mormon (though perhaps lapsed, therefore no funny underpants.)

2. Jack Black - hubba hubba.

3. Brad Garrett - My he's tall. And dark.










4. Chow Yun Fat - Because I've always wanted a boyfriend who could fly.

5. George Clooney - Don't hate him because he's beautiful. He didn't ask to be born that way.

6. Johnny Depp - I mean, come on. Does he EVER not make one of these lists?









7. Mark Ruffalo - whiny, gruff, a little slurred, scruffy, sweet and sorta brainy all in one.




8. Peter Krause - I know, I know. He's totally off type. Blond, from Minnesota, Scandinavian. Alas, I can't help myself. He's divine.







9. Sacha Baron Cohen - not only is he handsome, but he is quite simply the most daring person in modern times. Question that? Watch that naked fight scene from Borat one more time.


10. Steve Carrell - I mean, look at that. He's posing with garden gnomes. Swoon.


And honorable mention goes to #11 Robert Redford - because old habits die hard.

New Tools

From the Washington Post on May 21, 2008:


Dear Miss Manners:

How does one go about introducing a new eating utensil?

I have great problems eating pizza, onion soup and spaghetti neatly. What I need is a delicate pair of scissors, which would be called "cheese scissors." They could resemble the small scissors that hairdressers use. On the place setting, they could be placed to the right of the knife.

How can I go about making these scissors acceptable? Shall I just buy a pair and start using them?

It seems to me that discreetly cutting the cheese string would be much more ladylike than pulling a long string of cheese or wrapping it around my finger until it finally breaks. What do you think?

Obviously, the gentle reader is a certified genius. I mean, a fish knife looks nice but doesn't necessarily assist in eating. But a cheese scissors...now THAT is a useful table implement. Nothing burns like a string of hot cheese slapping an unsuspecting chin. And all that flinging of sauce as the string flies from plate to mouth. One dare not wear white on such occasions. I'm going to Boots to buy a full set, and will be using them every chance I get.

Miss Manners came out in favor, with a bit of snark, of course.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Unemployment

NOW NEW AND IMPROVED THROUGH THE MAGIC OF PROOFREADING!

1. After a mad scramble, I FINALLY got my belongings narrowed to shippable plus three suitcases and a carry on. You have no idea how hard it is to narrow all of your belongings to three suitcases of things for the foreseeable future. It's safe to say that these are the only things I will have access to for the next six weeks, possibly even the next two to three months - all depending upon how quickly they fill the rest of my shipping container. Work clothes, winter clothes and things I don't wear more than once a month went in the ship section. Summer clothes, interview clothes and things I would hate to have lost at sea went in the suitcases. I have a really good red and off white zipper cardigan that I've had for over 10 years. We had a soulful moment, even shed a tear as we were saying goodbye.
2. The people on Location, Location tonight are lottery winners who want to buy a house with their winnings. The woman in the couple has bought an obscene number of ridiculously expensive handbags and is burning through the money like it's kindling. I'm judging her. Judgity, judge, judge judge. Not that I have anything against obscene numbers of expensive handbags. I have something against someone else buying them AND having a spare million ££ for buying a fancy house.
3. I am rethinking all the blond highlight/halo lights that I had put in my hair last month. I think I'm too blond now. I want my chestnutty dark hair back. I like my chestnutty dark hair. In fact, damn my head for going totally grey and denying me my lovely chestnutty dark hair. Dare me to say chestnutty again? Chestnutty. HA!
4. On Sunday, I moved to Horsham with my friends Kieren and Corrie, and will remain here for the remainder of my time in the UK. I'll be travelling around a bit because there are lots of folks I need to see before I leave, but this is now my base. Therefore they inherited the spices and groceries and other things from the kitchen that I've been carrying around since I left Nadine's. We have the makings of a good hot and sour soup, various Penzey's spice blends and a box of Old Bay, and the makings of delicious pasta and chili and even a good chicken mole. I'm thanking them for their hospitality by helping with the cooking. Today I made a fish pate to have in the fridge for snacking and I whipped up a nice supper 0f caramelized salmon with stir fried greens on the side.
5. I brought an embarrassingly large amount of alcohol with me. I haven't been drinking much of late, and so I have three years of various accumulated whiskeys and vodkas and liqueurs that needed a new home. Last night I made delicious cranberry appletinis. Tonight I made manhattans with a hint of peach. I wonder if I can make a different cocktail every night I'm here?
6. Tomorrow is my birthday. I have no plans. Not sure what I'm going to do, but I'm sure it will be lovely.
7. I spent today reading newspapers in the sun while I sipped a couple cups of coffee, then I showered and strolled the 20 minutes to town for a little look around and another cup of coffee in the sun. People here obviously haven't had an American in these parts for awhile. They were quite curious about what brought me to their little town and what I think of England. I got big laughs when they'd ask me where I was from and I'd say Milton Keynes (it's renowned as an "American" style city, except with chavs. I was even wearing a hoodie.)
8. What since big sunglasses are all the fashion these days, I bought me some monsters at TK Maxx the other day. (Yes, it's like TJ Maxx except here.) They're Marc Jacobs. They're silver with purple gradient lenses. Depending upon my mood, I either feel extremely glamorous or like a giant bug. And the giant case takes up too much space in my purse. But MY am I the height of cool.
9. I don't really care for the v-neck sweater on men. It's the new hip thing to wear a v-neck sweater over a v-neck t-shirt, which gives us all a nice little glance at the chest hair and a figure hugging look at the pecks and abs of the wearer, as well. It seems very International Male to me. I will say, though, it's worse when they don't wear the t-shirt. I'm not a fan of the look. Don't get me wrong, I've got nothing against a bit of chest hair. But this particular look annoys me.
10. I'm glad I don't have a perm.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

A Saturday night in Milton Keynes smells like Lynx and meadow fresh feminine hygiene products


Oh my. Even on a windy evening with hundreds of people smoking in the night air, the five minute walk from a restaurant to my hotel gave me a headache from the cheap cologne. I have never, ever smelled such a melange of buck-two-eighty pheromone scents in my life.

I wonder if they actually work? You'd think they'd eventually cancel each other out and everyone would just end up confused. Not to mention nauseated.

Or perhaps this explains the nonsensical fighting in the streets.

Profanity

I apologize if you haven't seen my little UK visit in your site meter lately. For the last few weeks my primary (and only) blog access has been at work.

And let's face it. Some of you people swear an awful lot. Which is fine, unless the internet police are looking for dodgy sites accessed during working hours. In fact, one of you got me a little warning on my second to last day.

Thanks, Chris.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Snobs

A liberal "think tank" here in the UK has asked for the banning of the word "chav" from pop parlance. They say it shows extreme loathing for the working class.

Personally, I think their recommendation shows extreme loathing for the working class. Certainly they are correct that being called a chav is seldom seen or meant as a compliment. But not all working class people are chavs. Chavs are showy, loud and drunk, and they are proud of their ignorance and readily display their bad manners and lack of common sense to anyone in their immediate vicinity. They are the English equivalent of trailer trash. And like trailer trash, they are a unique breed - not a complete representation of those from blue collar backgrounds.

By suggesting that chav is equivalent to working class, the think tank seems to be saying that they think anyone without money, education or position is a loud, obnoxious boor in track bottoms and too-tight-trousers covered cheap cologne and lots of fake jewelry. Talk about an insult.

Oh, how the mighty







VS.



How sad to go from beloved wacky sidekick to creepy boob-staring candidate for Bub's Weenie-Waver Wedensday?

I guess with a name like Andy Dick he never really had a chance.

Personally, I never did like the cut of his jib.

He and Molly Shannon should never be allowed near each other for the good of humanity.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Inner conflict, vol. 2

Point: I will not miss, not even a little bit, the toilets in restaurants in the UK. In the winter they are not heated, and you risk freezing your butt to the toilet. They are often up stairs or in far off areas of the building, and it can be a major effort to hike to the loo. I once went to a little french place with my friends Susan and Patricia that required you go up stairs, down a hallway, across a catwalk and then up a few more steps to get to the ladies. And while the trek certainly works off calories, woe be to anyone who drinks a bit to much wine and needs to take a wee. Especially if they've worn taller shoes than usual.

Counterpoint: I love gastropubs. They're often in picturesque settings and they have delightfully varied menus and often have nibbles and bits that can make for a perfect convivial evening of grazing and sipping wine and talking smart. They serve you reasonable servings of food (not gargantuan ones that could feed a family of four) and the food is delicious. There is a comfortable ease to gastropubs that you don't find as easily in the US.

They stole my line

My family has a tendency to absent-mindedly eat, or to eat with reckless abandon and passionate fervor - be it out of stress, joy, pain, nervousness, celebration or even boredom, when you're hanging with my family, at some point a little snack like a snitched pickle or olive turns into a strap-on-the-feedbag gnoshfest that will make outsiders fear for their lives (or at least limbs.) And it isn't just a genetic trait. We seem to gravitate towards like-minded ubersnackers - my sister-in-law is like this, Tom is like this, and virtually all friends close enough to attend a function in the inner sanctum exhibit this trait. (And don't you all get pious on me. Take a look at the size of your asses and then tell me you don't mindlessly snack on occasion.)

When my dad was in hospice last year, Tom was making margaritas and we were eating a perfectly healthy meal. And then about an hour after dinner I decided that I wanted a nibble. Which turned into cheese and crackers. Which turned into two boxes of triscuits and two blocks of cheese, plus some garlic stuffed olives and dill pickles being inhaled by my brother/sister-in-law/nephews/mother/Tom/the Poodle/me. The next day, when dad had had a fitful night and we were all a bit panicked, the food came out again and I proclaimed, "Let the horking begin!" Horking was a made up word. Something that just came out of my mouth. It's become a family joke, and I made t-shirts for my nephews last Christmas that have the family phrase across the chest. We thought it was an inside joke. And the people at Neighborhoodies hadn't heard of it. Two people asked me what it meant.

And now it's in the Wiktionary. And they use the word in Ratatouille. And in the Urban Dictionary they claim it means to snort a lot of cocaine, which is so not correct.

I should have gotten a copyright on it. The rat bastards.

Inner conflict, vol. 1

Point: I will not miss the stuff that passes for pizza in the UK. The crust is often the correct combo of chewy crispness, but the sauce they use is miserable. It's like they open a can of chopped tomatoes or tomato sauce and use it with no seasoning, not even salt and pepper. I like me a zesty, herby kick. It ruins the whole thing for me. It is also traditional to eat the pizza with a knife and fork. No slices. Everyone orders their own 9" pizza, and you cut it like a steak. At the very least, I like to eat a triangular slice with my hands. Even better if it's tiny little squares, allowing one to hoover vast quantities of pizza without the guilt of knowing how much you've eaten. (That is obviously a deep-rooted value established through constant exposure to Mabe's as a child.) Nope. Pizza in the UK is just so so. And I'm moving to CHICAGO, where they have a whole style of pizza named after them. Rock on.

Counterpoint: I will miss the chocolates. Even cheap chocolate is good here. Don't get me wrong. I know there are exceptional chocolates available in the US. Certainly there is merit in a dark chocolate bar spiced with bits of cayenne made by a small local chocalatier. But sometimes you want mass produced deliciousness in quantity, and Cadbury makes Russell Stover and Whitman's look like by-products from a child's plastic kitchen set.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

In defense of Mamma Mia

Many critics in the UK are panning Mamma Mia. They are saying that it's over the top and silly and completely falls flat.

I disagree. Whole-heartedly, by the way.

Let's get one thing straight. The musical was never about good dialogue and strong acting. It was a story of stilted dialogue and silliness intended to help move from one Abba song to another. It never had the complexity of Wicked or the subversiveness of Avenue Q or the social commentary of Rent. It didn't even have the depth you find in an Oscar and Hammerstein or Lerner/Lowe classic. It was, is, and always will be High School Musical with middle aged protagonists. While we have all seen more intense, nuanced and dramatic performances from the actors involved, this is not Sophie's Choice or Pride and Prejudice. Or even Cybil. This is an all singing, all dancing tribute to one of the best pop bands ever, and I think they all delivered a funny, sing-along performance that deserves commendation. In fact, I think Meryl Streep is amazing. Talk about range....she can go from dingoes eating her baby and holocaust horror to being a fiendish fashion editor and a hippie mom who makes vibrator jokes and a voice that can even tackle The Winner Takes It All. Now THAT is talent.

So quit your high-brow griping and let it be exactly what it is. A great way to wile away some time on a summer's evening.

The week in review

1. Have consolidated all belongings into shippable and packed for carrying. My return ticket is booked for August 19th, and on the 31st they pick up my belongings.
2. I am vagabonding from place to place, never staying anyplace more than three or four nights so as not to outstay my welcome. This is a pain in the ass, FYI.
3. On Friday, 1330 kids under my direction broke the world record for the Longest Game of Chinese Whispers. We go in the book, unless someone else does it before publication.
4. We've also raised £120,000 for charity, which is not the official total since we're still raising money.
5. Next Friday, I become an unemployed slacker for the foreseeable future. Haven't done that since February 1998. It is both terrifying and exciting.
6. Big moves make me wish I wasn't such a people person. Once I make the decision to move on, the regrets always revolve around missing people, and they have kicked in once again. I'm still moving to Chicago, but now that the wheels are in motion I am both excited to get home to my friends and family in the US and weepy at the thought of leaving the ones here.
7. I never thought I'd get to the stage where I craved settling down so much. Not the whole spouse/kids kind of settling down. I just want to sit on my sofa again, which is exceptionally comfortable and currently being wasted in a storage crate in Eden Prairie. And I want to unpack my stuff and not go anywhere for awhile. I long to be comfortable. Adventure and seeking one's fortune is great, but it is never "comfortable". And that's never bugged me before, but it is now.
8. One of the things I am most looking forward to is going out to dinner with my brother and my youngest nephew the night after I get back to the states. By sheer coincidence, Bob and Nick are in Chicago on a baseball pilgrimage at the same time I'm arriving, and so I step right in to one of the perks of moving to the midwest. Proximity to family. I always enjoy spending time with my brother and his family, and it will be especially fun to see Nick in the midst of a baseball tour - he is a complete geek for all things baseball, and he's on the local Little League all-star team this summer so I'm sure he will have many extremely dramatic tales to tell of saves at the plate and strike outs. Nick is a spinner of tall tales, bless him. He's also the nephew most fascinated by the travelling I do and the urban life I have in contrast to his family's suburban one...he's been fascinated by cities for as long as I can remember, and unless his teenage years are squeezing all the enthusiasm out of him, he will think it's pretty awesome to be visiting me in my new home. Which will make him spazzy and animated even if he IS trying to be cool, which always makes me laugh hard.
9. I'm at a little coffee shop, and a girl just walked past wearing shorts that were so short they looked like denim underpants, or maybe those little denim diaper covers that moms buy their babies to make it look like they're wearing designer jeans. To her credit, though, they did not have a cheek hanging out of the bottom like many of the hotpants wearers do these days.
10. The first thing I'm buying when I get my first paycheck in the US is a Wii system with Wii Fit, Rock Band and Guitar Hero.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Sheesh, you people sure ask a lot of questions

11. There's NOTHING wrong with the Twin Cities. They're great. And I love you people who live there. The thing is, in theory living in the Twin Cities is a good idea. For me, though, in practice it isn't a good thing. I'm not happy there, even though there are many things I like about the place. So I'm electing to live within striking distance of regular weekend visits.
12. Yes, more fat people is definitely one of the pluses of moving to the Midwest.
13. No, I haven't considered moving back to Decorah. Whilst it is a pretty town with an excellent natural food coop, a thriving farmer's market and numerous high-calibre restaurants, I prefer to live in places with international airports, less parking and more crime. Even the Culver's won't sway me.
14. Of COURSE I'll come to Minneapolis to see the Little House on the Prairie musical. What kind of stupid question is that?
15. I appreciate the offer, but I'm not leaving the UK because I'm not married so it isn't really a solution to anything. Or perhaps you're asking me so you can get a green card and move stateside as well? Which is illegal, so the answer is still no. But I appreciate the gesture.
16. I suppose that, if I got the best job offer ever someplace else, I might consider someplace other than Chicago. But for now the mind is firmly made up.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Answers to questions from Wednesday's #10

1. No, I have not gotten a job in Chicago. I just decided that while I'm looking, I might as well use this opportunity to settle somewhere for awhile. And Chicago seems like a good place. I hear they have hot dogs AND pizza.
2. Yes, I do love London, and would have been very happy staying here. But ultimately, getting a fancy job in the UK and making a bunch of money and living in London isn't really moving forward, it's extending this period of my life. If I wanted to live here forever I'd do it, but since I want to come back to the US eventually it just seems like postponing to wait a year or two. So here I go. Keeping on the edge so I don't take up too much room.
3. Yes, I WILL miss the UK. A lot. I have made some phenomenal friends here. Really fine people. You'll like them. But there are lots of flights to and from Chicago. Like 20 non-stops from LHR a day or something. So I'll still see them. I mean, I've managed four years away from all of you. Now it's their turn.
4. Other than the people, I think I'll miss walking along South Bank. It has great views of landmarks, an excellent book market under Waterloo Bridge, lot of great people watching and some fine cafes. I'll miss Robinson's Fruit & Barley with no sugar added. I'll miss PG Tips, and I'll miss the BBC. Marmite, not so much.
5. I won't miss the weird electricity, driving on the left side of the road or YOBs.
6. I'll visit you in MSP but for me it's not really a good place, so, no, I'm not moving to the Twin Cities. And you can quote me on that.
7. You're totally welcome to visit as soon as I'm settled, but that will probably be at least this fall. I'm going to sleep on my friend Bethany's couch until I find a job, and then we'll be getting a place with plenty of space for guests. Once we're there, you're more than welcome.
8. I think I'm most looking forward to having a big midwestern apartment with good closet space, spending time with my family and just relaxing with all of you. And getting to know a new city. I like exploring and finding cool things about new places that I'm calling home. And I've been hoping to meet the Bubses for years now, so once I'm settled I'm asking them out.
9. Yes, The Special People Club will remain - though this started as a way to keep friends and family posted about things in my life when I moved to the UK, it has become something else now. Plus there are still friends and family to keep updated who live far away.
10. No, I haven't considered taking The Club to the next level and becoming a professional blogger, but it's nice of you to ask. The Special People Club is exclusive. We wouldn't want to let in the riff raff.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Fast 10 on Wednesday

1. I've moved. My things are in storage. My back is sore.
2. Last weekend in London I saw a family of gingers that justified the prejudice often shown them in the UK. Oh my, were they pale. And such vibrant orange hair. It was like looking at the Weasley's.
3. I think that advertising a care home for people with Alzheimer's and dementia with the slogan "Simply Unforgettable" is tacky.
4. I had a lovely Sunday evening with Timmy in the Big Smoke. We had a few cocktails before dinner, namely "White Ladies", which are a delicious nectar of gin, cointreau and lemon juice with a cherry in the bottom. They are shaken until frothy - I think there was a little egg white in there, too, because they practically have a meringue on the top. Beautiful and very tasty. But when you order them, it sounds better if you say "white LAdy" as opposed to "WHITE lady." The latter sounds like an order at the Chicken Ranch, not a swank bar in London.
5. There's a McVitties cake and biscuit factory near the tracks right as the train gets into Euston. On Sunday they were baking something that smelled like raspberry tartlets. It was divine, and made me crave a crumble.
6. Note to Grumpy McCain - the election is not, in fact, about trust. The election is about the economy, and the war, and the balance of the court and about 100 other really pressing issues. Trust is something entirely different. Trustworthiness is a quality one would like to have in a president, as are good judgement, intelligence, courage, kindness and sincerity. And I, for one, TRUST Barack Obama to do things the way I would like them done. You, on the other hand, will call me friend through that cheshire cat smile and don't know how to use the internet, which scares me.
7. No matter how many times McCain's people claim Gen. Wesley Clark was bad-mouthing or discrediting McCain's service, it doesn't make it so. If you actually READ what Clark said, he praised the Senator's service and personal sacrifice. He praised his character. What he questioned was whether valiant service equates to good judgement and wise foreign policy. And I agree with Gen. Clark...in Mr. McCain's case, I'm not so sure I've seen evidence that it does. Therefore running around claiming that your military service qualifies you to be Commander in Chief does not compute. I went to high school with a nice guy named Bill who joined the military, and I hear he did pretty well there. But he failed American Studies. Twice. I don't really think he's qualified to be president. (And don't sic your Truth Squad on me. I'm not claiming YOU failed American Studies. B*****man did.)
8. I also find it funny that Mr. McCain's "Truth Squad " (which sounds very Pol Pot to me, but never mind,) expressed their outrage at Gen. Clark's supposed discounting of McCain's service by immediately bad-mouthing Gen. Clark's. (And there's a few John Kerry swift boaters amongst them, as well.) So it seems that the rule is that military service means jack. You just can't say bad things about John McCain's.
9. FYI, if you don't have noodles on hand you can use pad thai seasoning/sauce to make a passable risotto, ,especially if you have shrimp and spring onions and some sprouts and a lime.
10. I have it on good authority that sometime in August there's going to be a new Chicago-land blogger in the family.