Doing battle with daily dragons

Monday, October 31, 2005

Life is Good

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Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Taking Flight

The phrase “going away for the weekend” generally conjures up images of cosy bed and breakfasts and leisurely walks in picturesque countryside not too terribly far from home. I however, am adding a new definition of “going away for the weekend” which includes spending more time getting to and from my destination than actually being there. I’m going to The Midwest for the weekend.
One of my friends from college is tying the knot up in Michigan, so I’m going to head on over for two days of celebrations, staying with another friend in the town I went to college in. I’m hugely excited about going back, as I haven’t been for nearly six years; I imagine the nostalgia will be quite overwhelming. So too, I imagine, the actual getting there part.

I’m not exactly a reluctant flier. Given the choice between getting on an airplane and arriving sooner or getting on a bus and arriving later, I’m probably going to choose the airplane. My main problem with airplanes, as with all forms of public transportation, is that they’re public. I’m hoping that, in secret labs somewhere, there are scientists working on technology that allows us to get from place to place, completely insulated from our fellow travellers, because, as everyone knows, all of them are assholes but you.

People seldom believe my worst transport horror story, because it doesn’t sound real. Like millions of other airline travellers, I’ve endured delays, cancellations and luggage loss, which are all pretty much par for the course. Unfortunately, my tale involves one of the aforementioned assholes.

A few years ago, I was sitting on an Iceland Air flight to Washington, nursing hopes that the empty seat next to me would remain empty when, at the last minute, a large, Icelandic businessman staggered onto the plane and dropped his enormous ass squarely in the middle of it. He smelled strongly of spirits.

As soon as we were airborne, he began pounding Screwdrivers. I’m not entirely sure if the stewardess was a complete brain donor or just looking for a quiet life, but she served him nonetheless. For the first 40 minutes of the flight to Keflavik, he was fairly innocuous, but then decided the mandatory non-annoyance period was over and turned his attentions to me.

First he asked me what I was reading. Politely, I showed him the cover of my book. I went back to reading.

Then he started patting my hand. I smiled politely again.

Then he wanted to hold my hand, which I politely but firmly declined.

Then he decided to forcibly hold my hand. At this point, I went into panic mode and just kept reading and hoping that we were fairly close to our destination. The kindly gentleman on the other side of my inebriated friend, who had just noticed what was transpiring, attempted to engage him in conversation, but unfortunately, an obviously petrified 20 something female was far more interesting than a fellow countryman.

Then he started kissing my hand at which point I told him to knock it off, which he did, for almost 5 seconds.

Then he took my book. I asked for it back and he insisted on holding my hand again.

Then he put one of my fingers in his mouth.

At this point, I screamed and burst into tears. Another kindly fellow passenger sitting behind me offered me his seat, which I took, and shook all the way into Keflavik. My unpleasant seatmate had to be restrained by three other passengers during landing as he refused to stay in his seat. The police were waiting for him at the end of the jetway.

Granted, this is a fairly advanced case of Travelling Assholeism. Normally, the worst I can expect is a fat, German lady trying out her Duty Free perfume Ode de "Dear Merciful God in a Bottle" in close proximity or someone’s bastard kid kicking me in the back for 7 hours straight.

I shall pray to be delivered from these scourges and more as I wing my way west this weekend.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Crafty Pride

I suppose it’s time to come out from behind the shadow of my pincushion. To put down the glue and sequins, stand up and say,

Yes, world, I am a crafter! Look not on me with scorn and derision! Do not try to discourage me from taking an ordinary sweatshirt and turning it into something fun and cute with a picture of a cat and maybe a few feathers here and there! Know that I love brightly coloured pieces of paper, beads, ribbon and coloured pencils. With these instruments of creation, I shall unleash my vision, which is mediocre at best, but unleash it I shall! And I shall put so much love into my efforts that it is impossible for the recipient to throw it away. Even if they hate it. Even years later.


Okay, to be fair, I’ve never created a sweatshirt with a cat on it. Not even in my weakest moments, but other than that, it’s all pretty much true.

This is a little photo of my latest crafty endeavour. It’s a bit of freeform embroidery on a pair of my old jeans. I gave the little store-bought kits a try, but even when I finished them successfully, I couldn’t help but feel that I had just coloured in someone else’s picture. I was telling The Rock Star this morning that I got seriously frustrated with colouring books as a child; I never liked filling in pre-made lines; I was only really happy when I was drawing my own. My parents finally got me the “The Anti-Coloring Book" which was a great solution. (Anyone out there who owns children should seriously have a look at these; they’re brilliant) The gist of it is, I’ve never minded staying within the lines, as long as they were MY lines.

I’ve also developed, fairly recently, a taste for scrapbooking, hobby of housewives everywhere. Not that there is anything wrong with having a hobby or being a housewife, but when you’ve got a load of pictures of your kid, you’re probably going to be more inclined toward this particular fetish. I got caught out by digital cameras and now find myself in the unenviable position of having 6 years of photos stored on disc, moving from one computer to another with no possibility of release. So, to save myself time and energy, I’m doing one scrap book for this year and one scrapbook for the last 5. It’s cheating, I know, but there’s just no way I can remember whether I’m looking at a photo from 2000 or 2003, (other than to check my waistline) so they’re all going to have to co-exist together.

If anyone is in need of a macaroni collage at any time, I’m a pretty dab hand at those too.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Word Association

Hitman J had an interesting word association game that I gaked from his blog. Copy these words into a text program and then type the first thing that comes to mind.

  1. Infiltration::
  2. Nice person::
  3. Debt::
  4. Settle down::
  5. Thomas::
  6. Unforgivable::
  7. Medicine::
  8. A year from now::
  9. Neighbors::
  10. Dripping::

And now? Here are my answers. Not sure what they mean, but they disturb me slightly.

  1. Infiltration:: money
  2. Nice person:: suspicious
  3. Debt:: green
  4. Settle down:: reprimand
  5. Thomas:: muffins
  6. Unforgivable:: grey area
  7. Medicine:: trust breach
  8. A year from now:: house
  9. Neighbors:: isolated
  10. Dripping:: insomnia

Especially the thing about muffins.


Further proof that time is cruel.

I come from a family where wearing glasses is an inevitability. My mother was bespectacled before she was a teenager, my father needed them from about 40 and just about every other member of my extended tribe finds it necessary to stick some piece of prescription material directly on or in front of their eyeballs in order not to bump into things.

At the moment, I can convince myself that I only need them to work at the computer. Nothing else seems to be fuzzy save for these little pixelated meanderings on my screen. I don’t accidentally find myself talking to tall potted plants a-la Mr. Magoo, so I’ll just have to suck it up, do my best Ms. Moneypenny impression and hope it’s not too bad a look.

I’ll admit to this now as it’s been probably 10 years since I did this, but I actually used to be enough of an image spanner to wear frames with plain glass lenses because I thought they made me look “WAY more mature!” (Back in the day when I actually had to worry about looking more mature. Mostly to buy beer. I can’t tell you the last time I got carded. I also can’t tell you how depressing that is.) People used to try them on and go, “Wow, light prescription” and I’d go, “Yeah” because I knew that I was an optical fraud.

I’ve actually owned about 3 pairs of genuine glasses before now, but I’m fairly convinced that I was sold them on false pretences. The Rock Star pointed out that it seemed like a genuine conflict of interest for the places that sell you these vastly inflated snippets of wire and glass to also be the ones that carry out exams to tell you if you actually NEED them. Hmmmmm.

So, at any rate, I joined the four eyes brigade today. I’ve already almost scratched them, stepped on them and lost them on the top of my head.

Looking forward for the adjustment period to be over.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Freedoms With Fences

Right. I really wanted to post a response on this site, but was afraid of extreme flamage, so I thought I’d venture off on my own little tangent in safe territory. (If I get flamed on my own site, there are measures I can use to take revenge upon flamers.) Not that I don’t welcome intelligent conversation and respectful disagreement but I’m not keen on being bombarded with profanity.

This isn't a new story. There’s this guy. And he’s walking down the high street on a Saturday morning, minding his own business, wearing a truly foul piece of clothing advertising the band “Cradle of Filth”. It features, on the front, a graphic picture of a masturbating nun and the slogan, “Jesus is a C***” on the back. Thoroughly charming. An offended woman sees this gentleman and approaches the police, who promptly arrest the guy under new anti-religious hate laws.

As an American, I believe 100% in freedom of speech. It is the best thing our Constitution affords us. (Having the right to vote is pretty cool too.) Britain has no such document guaranteeing this freedom, although, from what I gather, it IS guaranteed. Having said that (and here comes my controversial bit) it seems to me that an individual’s right to free expression ends where someone else’s begins. However, this should be no barrier to free expression if people would use an ounce of the common sense the universe bestowed on us at birth.

Should the guy wearing the filthy t-shirt have been arrested? Of course not. It was a staggering over-reaction by the police that sets a dangerous precedent. (As a matter of fact an actual MEMBER of the band was ALSO arrested for wearing the shirt in a separate incident) But here, nailed to my virtual door at Wittenberg, is my argument:

I have a television set. I watch what I want, when I want. If something offends me, I turn it off. If I thought something was inappropriate for any theoretical children I might have, I wouldn’t let them watch. Should I feel that masturbating nuns are educational or informative for me and my theoretical children, we’ll watch ‘em all day long, but if I think they’re not, I have the option to switch off the telly.

However, it is not within my power to simply switch off some guy in the high street who chooses to wear an image that is inappropriate for public display. The profanity is secondary. The religious reference is secondary. The fact is, we don’t leave copies of “Razzle” lying open in the streets for a reason. (The 1839 Profane Representation Act, specifically)

I can choose to view obscene images or not. I can choose to let my children view obscene images or not. That’s my right. But, having said that, I don’t feel that the guy wearing the t-shirt was committing an arrestable offence. If a student at my high school had turned up to class in the shirt, he’d have been asked to turn it inside out, which is EXACTLY what the officer in this case should have done, rather than making a pointless arrest on some bullshit religious hate charge.

Feel free to agree or disagree, to catch me out, to trip me up. It's your right, 100%.

An Evening of Introductions

The act of shaking hands has always struck me as being rather odd. Some sources claim that it might have evolved from an Egyptian tradition of “passing on authority”, although the common consensus was that it was a gesture of suspicion: a way to check your opponent for a weapon. It’s strange that today we are still so hung up on the handshake as a method of introduction: a way to say, “Hello” or “Let’s do business.” Or possibly “Please allow me to pass on my impressive collection of contagious diseases.” Sometimes I think the Japanese have the right idea; a slight bow to say; “I acknowledge you but cannot help but notice you didn’t wash your hands when you came out of the men’s room.”

I spend rather a lot of times shaking hands yesterday. Through a complicated series of events ( most of which have to do with PPD) we all found ourselves at the AGM of the Royal Institute of Navigation, which seems to me to mostly consist of a) navigation b) drinking and c) eyebrows.

Among the people that I met were this guy…

And this guy.

To be fair, I didn’t actually MEET the first guy as I hadn’t circumnavigated the globe solo or climbed every mountain on the planet over 8,000 metres. But I got to see the Queen’s better half at close quarters which was mildly exciting, although the sniffer-dog search before he arrived was slightly more exciting. The Rock Star and I remarked at the fact that, although we have seemingly unlimited technology, the best way to find bombs is still a small, highly strung dog.

The Rock Star was just about widdling his pants with glee to meet the second guy. Not being a native, I couldn’t possibly comprehend the joy inherent in shaking hands with the amazing, shrinking Professor David Bellamy, who apparently had his own children’s nature television show back in the 80’s. He does indeed have a mighty beard, though, which was impressive indeed. The Rock Star and I have done a website for the Conservation Foundation, a charity that he co-founded. (Note: the link is NOT to the website I designed, but rather the one it's going to replace!)

And then there was drinking. Following the AGM, there was a reception in the main hall of the beautiful old building that the Royal Institute inhabits. (The Rock Star and I crept off to look at the map room where all of the great explorers like Cook, Shackleton and Livingstone sat, poring over charts and planning their voyages) A really rather good catering company was around every few minutes with top-ups for our wine glass and tasty tidbits.

Catering Gnome 1: Wine, madam?

Me: Thank you.

Catering Gnome 2: Sweet potato fratatta, madam?

Me: Thank you.

Catering Gnome 1: Wine madam?

Me: Um..Thank you.

Catering Gnome 4: Duck spring roll, madam?

Me: S’hanks.

Catering Gnome 1: Wine, madam?

Me: S’hank you. (Hic) S’cuse me.

Catering Gnome 5: Cocktail sausage?

Me: (hic) Are you my mother?

After that, there was little I could do but try to stand up straight and admire the impressive eyebrow collection the RIN boasted.

I’m not sure what it is about men and hair when they get older. While it tends to recede from the scalp, it seems to go into overdrive just about everywhere else. What possible use is abundant ear hair? Or nasal hair so thick it actually impedes breathing? I mean, evolutionarily speaking? What use is it? At any rate, since most of the RIN fellows are 50+, there were bound to be some real facial fly-impalers about. Both The Rock Star and PPD inherited the “family eyebrows” which, when left unchecked, can make a break for freedom. Moot says she’s thinking about shaving PPD while he’s asleep. Thankfully, I don’t have to take such drastic action as The Rock Star is all too aware of the consequences and is conscientious about eyebrow maintenance.

As the reception ended early, the whole clan piled into a cab and made a beeline for the Hard Rock Café, which is an excellent place to continue drinking and, should you so wish, eating. This turned out to be the site of a much stranger meeting.

I met this guy again.

Okay, again, saying that I MET him would be charitable. But I was completely gobsmacked to run into him again in the space of a month considering that I don’t live, work or hang out in London. Wearing the same Clockwork Orange homage outfit and everything. (I certainly wouldn’t have recognized him otherwise.) Fate moves in mysterious ways.

I briefly considered going in for a handshake, but I was fortunately distracted by a large alcoholic beverage.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Fiscally Furious

This morning, on the BBC website, they posed the question, “Is 1 million too little now to make you happy?” This is, claims Coutts & Co, now well below the amount necessary to live a luxurious life style. (This is due to a explosive 575% jump in property prices since the was last assessment of this kind.)

There are many things in the news that make me want to squeeze the screen on my laptop until it bursts and laugh mirthlessly as the black sludge within oozes all over my desktop. This is definitely one of them. Is the media so out of touch that anyone can believe that a struggling middle class family gives a rat’s ass about living a luxurious lifestyle? Does someone out there REALLY believe that the majority of us wouldn’t be over the moon with a million quid? It may not buy us that 170 ft Sun Seeker in the Caribbean we’ve always wanted, but is it not enough to pay off our debts? Is it not enough to put a down payment on a house for us and our families? Is it not enough to put money aside for retirement?

Almost to a man, this is how the comments go:

“With that I could pay off my mortgage.”

“It’s all about being able to provide.”

“I would like enough money to get on the property ladder please, about £20,000 would do it.”

“I’ve always maintained that money is a great servant, but a lousy master.”

“I could take a part-time job, spend more quality time with family and friends and actually enjoy life a tad more.”

OK! Magazine, with it's 10 page spreads of disgusting weddings and celebrity homes has a HELL of a lot to answer for.

Panda Cam

This morning, while wading through files, I've been watching pandas.

The National Zoo in Washington has been trying for a baby panda for yonks. The two ancients Ling Ling and Tsing Tsing never had a cub that survived for more than a few days, so when the two new recruits, Mei Xiang and Tian Tian had one earlier this year, no one got terribly excited. However, as the cub, Tai Shan, has just passed his first 100 days, (A Chinese milestone in panda development, apparently, after which they can be named) everyone is pretty darned pleased about it.

The National Zoo has set up a fab webcam that lets you peek into the panda den to get a glimpse of mother and baby. I've tried having a look at this camera at various points in the week, but the bandwidth is usually pretty heavy. However, since most of the US isn't awake yet, the camera is streaming well and the pandas seem to be engaging in a bit of gentle smack-down wrestling.

A nice diversion if you have a few minutes! I am overcome with cute.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Purposeful Pain

There is purpose in pain, Otherwise it were devilish.
- Lord Edward Robert Bulwer Lytton

Pain is rather like the teacher you always hated in junior high who would keep EVERYBODY after class just because one dumb ass couldn’t keep his trap shut.

“Alright,” your body says sternly, “since SOME white blood cells haven’t been doing their job properly, I’m afraid everyone is going to have to experience the agony of a tremendous neck cyst.”

“Aww, MAN!” cries the rest of the body, “nice going WHITEYS!”

However, when the injury is self-inflicted, it’s more like getting caught making crude carvings of genitalia on your desk. You just know you’re in for lunch detention.

So, on Saturday, at 12, I turned up here for my appointment with the ink and needle.

It wasn’t my first inking, but there’s always a certain amount of trepidation when you willingly let someone hurt you. Like at the dentist while you’re in the waiting room and can hear the mosquito whine of the drill in the distance, mocking you…telling you that you’ll be next into the plastic coated chair, wearing a demeaning paper bib and giant goggles and HAVING THAT SOUND BOUNCING AROUND YOUR SKULL LIKE A SWARM OF BRAIN GNATS. AAARG!

My artist was a girl called Hayley. My first thought was that she looked remarkably NORMAL for someone who did what she did. No visible tats, no un-common piercings. (Most of my previous artists have been vying for the Scary Bastard award. I would have given it to the bald guy with a yin yang on one side of his head, a large, white tiger on the other and a big spike through his nose.) At any rate, her photo CV was pretty impressive and my design (a pair of Chinese characters) wasn’t all that taxing, even for someone with a couple of straight pins and a bottle of India ink, so I figured my flesh was in good hands.

The last time I had any ink on my back, I distinctly remember spending some time lying on the scunty bathroom floor feeling rather ill and hoping that Mr. Yin-Yang, Tigerhead Pointy Guy wouldn’t knock on the door. I learned the hard way that the little nerve bundles in your spine (of which there are roughly 73 sqillion) don’t take kindly to having needles jabbed at them. When The Idiot had a back tat done January in Banff, he was fine throughout the fairly long process. However, after the artist was finished, he noticed a tiny detail and fixed it, causing The Idiot to pass out completely. Lesson: total pansies should not have ink on or near their spines.

I had had enough time to forget about the bathroom floor, however, so while leaning over a stool onto The Rock Star’s lap, it all came rushing back.

Haley: So, (bzzzzzzzzzzzz) what brought you over to the UK? (bzzzzzzzzzzz)

Me: ...............

Haley: (bzzzzzzzzzzz) You okay?

Me: .............

The Rock Star: You have to breathe to answer, honey.


It went okay. No blacking out like a big girl, no being ill. But now I’ve got pain. And it is indeed devilish.

Just for the masses…here it is. (the red one)

Thursday, October 13, 2005


My heartfelt plea to fans of "Firefly" and anyone else who has ever held any affection in their hearts for good science fiction; make this movie part of your weekend and help Joss Weedon make more like it, thank you.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Psychic Connections

According to a letter that I received in the post this morning, I have a new friend.

Her name is Karina Natalia and she’s a psychic. The World’s Greatest, at that. As you can imagine, I read with utmost precipitance that this world famous clairvoyant felt that she and I had a “special bond” and that we could communicate on a “higher level than the physical”. My god, I thought to myself, why has she waited until now to reveal this highly pertinent information? Is there no privacy inside the confines of one’s own head? I certainly would have tried to curtail my fantasies involving bananas and wildebeest had I known that somewhere (Apartment 66, 405 Kings Road, Chelsea, according to the return envelope) there was someone twitching the curtains of my soul.

However, Ms. Natalia got quickly to the point. A mutual friend suggested to her that I was in need of her help. Fair enough, I reasoned, as I have a huge friend base within UK psychic circles, we were bound to run into eachother at some point.

It turns out that within the next few weeks, Ms. Natalia is travelling to Lourdes and in return for some recent good fortune that has recently befallen her, she wants “pay the miracle forward” and “do something wonderful for someone else in return.” How immensely lucky I am that my preternatural advocate immediately thought of me!

In return for this gesture of immense goodwill, Ms. Natalia seeks no recompense. Dear me, no. To ask for money in exchange for prayer and best wishes would be SO 14th century. Not only that, but she’s willing to send me a framable certificate just to prove that my prayer has been said at the holy shrine of Lourdes. To help me decide what is in the forefront of my heart, she has included a sheet with common causes for prayer; simply tick the box that applies to me personally. Do I:

-need money? (if so, please check the amount: 5,000, 15,000, 25,000, 50,000, 75,000. Apparently 100k is taking the piss as far as Our Lady is concerned.)

-need a protective prayer for my pet?

-need a prayer for love and romance?

-need a prayer to improve my health?

-need a prayer for luck at (tick one) playing the lottery, betting on horses, cards, gambling in casinos or bingo?

To solidify the “special bond” between us she’s been thoughtful enough to include a “wish card” that I’m to keep in my pillow until the moment of her prayer, when I’m to hold it tightly and concentrate with all of my might so that my energy and hers might be joined in order to bring my request to pick the right Thunderball numbers closer to the ears of Our Lady.

As Ms. Natalia’s beautifully computer written letter (very nice, hardly any spaces between the instances of my name and the rest of the text.) gently flutters into the recycle bin I contemplate how nice it would be to receive a genuine offer of good wishes from a stranger.

Perhaps Ms. Natalia will think so to when I use her signature and her pre-pay envelope to send a sizable donation where it's needed most.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005


My skin is a map. Troubled elbows, knees, fingers atest to childhood misadventure. Feet and lower back to cartographers who added landmarks to remind me where it was that I’d been. Not that I’d be back; but it doesn’t help to forget where you’re coming from.

I’m having a new landmark fixed fast to the map. It’s going to say “hope” which I need to be reminded of daily. I’ll have to look in the mirror to see it, but there’s something to be said for stopping daily to survey what’s behind you, albeit without fanatical scrutiny. That leads nowhere. Hindsight often leads to nothing more than a crick in the neck.

Hope is going to be my watchword for the moment. I’m putting it on the map.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Regretable Shopping

Over the weekend, LawGirl sent me a link to this highly amusing eBay item. (My apologies if this is one of those things that has made its way around the world and back 16 times. Since my junk mail filter got massively sensitised, I’ve managed to stave off more and more attempts to rape my inbox with advertisement for Cialis and pleas from Angolan businessmen, so some genuinely fun stuff sometimes gets sacrificed on the Altar of Annoyance.) Judging from the number of viewings, a lot of people were able to appreciate and sympathize with the plight of the seller; namely, the act of having bought something that “seemed like a good idea at the time”, especially when impressing the opposite sex seemed to be a factor in the decision.

I was once almost convinced by two men to buy a PVC bustier. The store I tried it on in was also the mecca for tacky upper-middle class ladies-who-lunch and the local drag queen population, (Being rural Indiana, you’d be forgiven for thinking that it would be a fairly small population, but then you’d be wrong. It’s a big flat place. You gotta make your own fun.) if that gives you any idea of the sort of clothes they carried. Sequins were not spared in the manufacture of the shop’s stock. At any rate, a joke became serious consideration (You tend to see your friends differently when they don a PVC bustier.) but I really couldn’t justify spending $60 dollars and then having to explain to my parents why I had no cash with which to eat at the end of the month due to the purchase of said item. (I bet most people who own PVC underwear don’t exactly love the idea of their parents being privy to that information.)

So, question of the day: What was your most inappropriate and regrettable purchase?

Friday, October 07, 2005

Rolling the Dice

Right, so I've talked before about how I'm a geek. So much so that I've found a site (again, through castironskillet) that will give you your real life AD&D stats.

As I imagined, I'm not going to be first into the battle with the cave trolls, but it's possible I might be able to oursmart or charm them.

Utterly Monsterous

A little thing I gaked off of castironskillet. Everybody need a monster name. I like to maim cows, apparently.
Malevolent Evil Livestock-Injuring Nightmare from the Dreaded Abbey

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Mmmmmm, Breakfast.

I was reminded this morning by spag, through the Rock Star, of the most amazing breakfast that it was ever my privilege to consume. The reason I thought so fondly of it was because this morning for breakfast, I had a banana.

Many people were hooked by David Lynch’s creepy, comedy drama Twin Peaks back in the 90’s. There were probably fewer people who actually PROFITED from it more (excluding David Lynch, all the actors and producers) than retailers in the town of Snoqualmie in Washington State, where many interior and exterior shots were filmed. The building that doubled for the “Great Northern Hotel” in the series and who’s back facing waterfall vista featured in the opening credits is in fact The Salish Lodge.

My dad and I were both Peak fans, so on our 1991 Northwest vacation, we drove through Snoqualmie on a quick pilgrimage and decided to stop at the Salish for the best and most pricey morning meal on the planet. On the menu: Alder smoked chicken, wild rice, eggs, hot fruit muffins, coffee, tea and mimosas. (However, being only 16, I ended up with orange juice and Sprite, which was slightly less satisfying.)

Man, do Americans ever know how to do breakfast. Should we ever re-locate across the pond for any amount of time, I reserve the right to reject any property that is not within 15 square miles of a Perkins or Denny’s, where, by the grace of some kindly god, will serve you breakfast at 3 in the morning. With those yummy, crispy hash browns and fluffy pancakes. Mmmmm, pancakes. (Homer Simpson dribbling noice)

And now, for your entertainment, some wisdom on the brilliance of brekkie.

Percy: I must say, Edmund, it was jolly nice of you to ask me to share your breakfast before the rigours of the day begin.

Edmund: Well, it is said, Percy, that civilised man seeks out good and intelligent company, so that, through learned discourse, he may rise above the savage and closer to God.

Percy: Yes, I've heard that.

Edmund: Personally, however, I like to start the day with a total dickhead to remind me I'm best.
Blackadder II, “Beer”

"Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast."
Oscar Wilde

"Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."
Lewis Carroll

“We plan, we toil, we suffer -- in the hope of what? A camel-load of idol's eyes? The title deeds of Radio City? The empire of Asia? A trip to the moon? No, no, no, no. Simply to wake up just in time to smell coffee and bacon and eggs. And, again I cry, how rarely it happens! But when it does happen -- then what a moment, what a morning, what a delight!”
J. B. Priestley

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Review: A Few Good Men

I don’t usually do reviews. Mostly, because if I’ve been immersed in a good story, I can’t find a whole lot more critical to say other than, “Man, that a good story.” But I thought I’d give it a shot.

A couple of little facts I was surprised to learn from the usually vacuous and rather expensive theatre program: Aaron Sorkin,, although he’s written a play, 2 movies and a television series focusing on law and the government, has absolutely no background in either. The idea for “A Few Good Men” came from his sister, who became a naval lawyer and was sent down to Guantanamo Bay to investigate a “hazing” incident in which a Marine Private almost lost his life. She wrote in a letter to her brother (who was selling Malteasers at a New York theatre at the time) that the soldiers who carried out the hazing swore that they’d been ordered to perform this “Code Red” by a superior officer. And so the play began to take shape.

I have to admit my motivation for going to see this show were pretty much getting to see a theatrical work by Sorkin starring an actor who worked closely with him. Had it been someone else in the lead role, it’s quite possible the production wouldn’t have registered on my radar, so in that respect, I’m guilty of supporting big money theatre. Mea culpa. My sins are multitude and I’m a sad fangirl.

As a quick preface, I was interested to see that theatre audiences are becoming less and less aware that they’re not at the movies. Two women behind me seemed determined to sort out which character was which in the middle of the first act and did so with very little awareness of their surroundings; namely, in the middle of the third row, completely visible and audible from the stage. Two girls beside me also felt the need to titter and giggle incessantly throughout the entire performance as well as laughing at bits of dialogue that were obviously not meant to be funny. I can only be thankful that I didn’t hear the fucking Crazy Frog shouting from the balcony at any point during the evening. Do we have such short attention spans that we can’t sit down and shut holes for 2 hours? Is it really so hard to sit still and be entertained?

So, the play. It was.....pretty much exactly word- for- word like the film. This isn’t easy for actors, I can imagine, to perform a piece that just about everyone who was watching films in the early 90’s is familiar with and might, if you’re unlucky, pull a Rock Horror Picture Show and recite the most famous lines along with you. How do you bring newness to a well known work?

The answer is…you don’t so much.

Rob Lowe did alright as Daniel Kaffee, (the Tom Cruise role) although, among a few other things, I felt he was slightly too old for the part. Kaffee’s flippant dialogue and attitude towards his job made sense in a younger, untested man who’s going on the kind of journey Kaffee is on, (Cruise was 29 when he did the film although he looked younger.) whereas in an older one, it comes across as arrogant laziness, which I don’t think is at the heart of the character. Lowe will be 40 this year, and in the age stakes, he’s supposed to have just graduated from law school and be biding his time in the Navy until he can get a “real job.”

Lowe is not a full body actor, nor is he a natural on the stage. Obviously used to “close up” moments, there were times his voice dropped so low that I’m sure that even people 5 or 6 rows back would have struggled to hear. (We were in the second row.) His arms, for the most part, stayed stapled to his sides. The animation of his co-stars made him look all the more static. Lowe’s strength lay in the dryness of the script’s wit, which he excelled in delivering. The character he created was a slightly more arrogant version of Sam Seaborne from The West Wing, which, while not original, worked okay.

My biggest disappointments were in the actors playing Cnl. Jessop (The Jack Nicholson role) and Joanne Galloway. (The Demi Moore role) From the moment the guy playing Jessop opened his mouth, it was clear we were in for a Jack Nicholson impression, which made me cringe. The guy had a difficult task, I’ll admit, trying to get past the most iconic role of the film, but a direct re-hashing was definitely not the answer. Thankfully, once the dénouement approached, he seemed to find his own way a little bit more. The woman playing Galloway was undeniably the weak link. A dyed in the wool soap actress, (Suranne Jones from Coronation Street) she spent the entire production so worried about her accent that little to nothing she said could be easily understood. Not only that, but she played an ENTIRELY contradicting role; her actions; brave, bold and slightly misguided. Her demeanour: a small rabbit beset by foxes looking as though she could, at any moment, burst into tears.

The actual staging was hugely polished with giant sections of chain-link fence and one way screens effectively separating the action in Cuba, the court room and other venues. It was minimal, versatile and made effective use of the relatively small stage. (Let’s face it, the whole theatre is pretty small, having been built in 1720 or so. The light booth is in the upper Stage right box.) Scene changes were covered nicely by Marines doing Marine type activities like dropping in from a “helicopter” or doing a rather impressive bit of rope strength training in the background.

All in all, a good show. I have to admit to not being particularly stirred by it, but it’s hard to say whether or not that comes from 10 or so viewings of the film since 1992. There were no surprises for me; I knew what was coming next. I must admit that my biggest thrill was being 2 feet away from a guy who worked closely with Alison Janney, who almost pips Judy Dench to the post as my utter and total performance heroine ever. Again, mea culpa. For someone who’s NOT familiar with the story, I recommend it. See it with my blessings.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

The Naked Stage

The Rock Star and I are getting a dose of culture this evening. We try to do this every so often to keep our grey matter from withering due to overexposure to The Simpsons.

We’re heading to the Theatre Royal Haymarket this evening to take in “A Few Good Men.” (Yeah, the one with I want the truth, you can’t handle the truth, you navy boys in your faggoty white uniforms etc.) I am ashamed to admit that I was not aware this piece of work was a play BEFORE it was a film with the plucky, quirky, scary, shorty Tom Cruise and the self-parodying, crabby Jack Nicholson. Nor did I realize until recently that it was written by Aaron Sorkin, whom, being an extreme West Wing fangirl, I worship as a minor writing deity. So, The Rock Star and I splashed out on some pretty good tickets (close enough to see whether or not Rob Lowe has trimmed his nasal hair recently) and will enjoy an evening out.

As a rule, I’m not crazy about West End shows that try to hock a celebrity to get ticket sales. (Having said that, I’ve gone out of my way to get tickets to shows starring Judi Dench, Maggie Smith and Vanessa Redgrave, but therein lies the difference between actors who happen to be celebrities and celebrities who happen to be actors.) I’m of the opinion that celebrity is actually a detriment to the ability to engage with the story. You just keep thinking, “Oh my god, I’m sitting five feet away from that guy from “Heathers” and completely forget what it is they’re doing. But I feel for the modern theatre. It’s harder and harder to compete in an entertainment world that allows the common consumer to have a cinema-quality home system that allows them to immerse themselves in a story without leaving their comfy sofa and the privacy that allows them to indulge in personal movie-watching habits. Let’s face it; you can’t go to the theatre in your underwear wielding a popcorn bowl and a pair of toenail clippers. (Note: This is NOT a movie watching ritual for me. I’m just saying, that’s all.)

As a side-line to the celebrity incursion, I would also like to address random and pointless nakedness. A few years ago, The Rock Star and I went to see “Lenny”, a play written about the life of subversive American comedian, Lenny Bruce. Bruce was played by Eddie Izzard, who did a brilliant job of being himself, but not such a good job of being Bruce. One scene in the play opened with a completely naked sex scene between Izzard and the abhorrent star of the hysterically awful “Showgirls”, Elizabeth Berkley. In the middle of this amorous encounter, Izzard got off of the naked, writhing Berkley and delivered a 10 minute monologue, standing "tackle out". It should come as a surprise to no one that neither I, nor, I imagine, anyone else in the audience, can remember what the monologue was about.

My beef: theatre needs to be above titillation; you shouldn’t be able to turn on Channel 5 at 11pm and have a similar experience. Drama shouldn’t need to whore itself to “Loaded” readers. (I don’t suppose that most of the audience of “The Graduate” crowded into the theatre every night to witness Jerry Hall’s stunning performance, if you catch my drift.) Of COURSE there are going to be some instances where nudity is going to be justified, but if it’s the main draw of a performance then something has gone dreadfully wrong.

The mainstream theatre is in crisis. You can’t turn an utter piece of theatrical tripe into a brilliant masterpiece just by adding that guy who played Ross in “Friends” no matter HOW many years he spent at the Steppenwolf. Famous faces boost ticket sales, but the damaging reviews jade the potential audience still further, strengthening their assumption that an expensive trip to the theatre just isn’t worth the bother if they can watch quality entertainment in their living rooms.

Theatre, at its best is immediate, hard hitting, electric and visceral. Theatre, at its absolute worst, is un-inspiring. Even BAD theatre is thought provoking, (Why was it bad? Was it the script? The acting? What could I have done differently?) but mediocrity is the highest theatrical sin and there seems to be an over-abundance of it. Lots lights and colours, but little to no substance…rather like television. Real inspiration is coming out of the holes in the walls; the ones who advertise with paper fliers on lampposts rather than in 12 foot neon above the theatre door. The theatre made by people who have everything to lose.

That said, I’m hoping for a little inspiration this evening, even from the theatre of Big Money. We shall see.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Rocker Monday

This is for Clive and all the other rock boys out there.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Visitor 10,000

In the spirit of one good turn deserves another, Alkelda is the 10,000th visitor to this site. As her reward, she is entitled to a batch of my DeskMates. What are these, you ask? They are little cartoon cut-outs that can hang freely from vertical flat surfaces (like computer monitors) and make your desk look slightly more cheerful than before. I've been using artwork from them for my Creature Fridays, to give some idea of the subject matter. The choices are: Faeries, Tinker Gnomes, Demons or Rock Gods.

Choose wisely, Alkelda!