Le Week-end Commémoratif Et Plus

Those that know me can imagine what kinds of bad habits I've picked up now I don't have to go to work any more. I'm enjoying this time off way too much...

Money! I've taken the company up on their offer of part-time payment, which will stretch my severance until August. Keeping me on payroll keeps me in the country. A good friend -scratch that: "a very good friend" - has offered me a loan, should I still be jobless when the money stops coming in. It'd be a shame to give up and go home for the sake of a month's rent or two. I have a U.K. tax bill to pay, and I still need to go get myself a Social Security number here before I can get the rebate Uncle Sam's holding for me.

Last week I told myself that I would complete Supply Lines before finishing my resumé. But that model bi-plane still refuses to fly where I want it to and my resumé could still be more complete... Today I found cheat codes for Faster Gameplay and Destroy All Vehicles and I'm this [expletive deleted] close to using them, and I never use cheats on a game.

Kudos to Joe for an excellent poker party on Saturday. I talked babies, played PS2, drank Black Russians... I didn't actually play any poker, but I didn't lose any money either. I got to know Abbi and Eve a whole lot better on the "smoking balcony" next to my apartment. You know when you meet people in a group, and you always see them in a group, and you never really get to talk to them one-on-one? Well, we fixed that.

I got a little down on Sunday because Memorial Weekend is when most of the bad mojo went down with my ex last year. Bad memory baggage!! If "drunk dialling" is the universally recognised term for the ill-advised use of a cellphone late at night, what's it called when you wake up in a bad mood and fire off an ill-advised text message? I'd still be in trouble now, but at least we'd know what to call that particular sin.

Monday was Mr. Management's 7th Annual Memorial Cookout, though my first time attending (thanks to that prior engagement in hell last year). Many regulars left town since the lay-offs and were dearly missed. I played Horse (which doesn't mean the same thing here as it does when Prince sings it in Sign O' The Times) and Squint, both for the first time, and the pre-school crowd kept everyone on their toes.

Tuesday we all went back to work. Just kidding!


Feeling Philosophical!

"It is better to be a human being unsatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be Socrates unsatisfied than a fool satisfied."

- John Stuart Mill in Utilitarianism (1863).


Damn Dirty Browncoats

Last night I was fortunate enough to attend one of 20 Serenity preview screenings across the country. Kudos to Evan for the heads-up and Kyle for getting tix before they sold out. It never fails to amaze me that Norfolk registers on the map for these kind of events. When the Pixies toured last Fall, they came to Norfolk too (thank Frank) and, once again, we served as an overflow venue for people whose hometown concerts had sold out. Talking in line last night, some had driven from as far as New Jersey!

The movie was awesome. It's a tribute to the production qualities on the axed Firefly TV show that this movie felt like an extended episode. The story made sense in its own right, according to a newbie in our group, and also paid off at least half a dozen questions left hanging from the TV show.

I'd assumed that there would be an element of re-telling here... how Simon and River Tam came to be aboard Serenity, for example. But the movie starts with Simon rescuing River from the government's invasive experiments then jumps forward to a few months after the events of the TV show, filling in the missing information through dialogue. This gave a good action hook at the beginning of the film and was a classy way to compliment, not contradict, everything we'd seen previously. Both movie and TV show can be considered "canonical".

But the evening wasn't without its downside. I didn't mind that this was an unfinished cut of the movie, with titles, music and (most noticably) grading still to be completed. The digital effects work looked complete, contrary to rumour. What bothered me most was the other people in the auditorium...

Joss gave an introductory speech to the fans (who call themselves "Browncoats") thanking them for their love and support, saying the movie wouldn't even have been made if it weren't for their dedication, etc. I'm tempted to call him "Brownnose" and chastise him for making those around me take the whole experience a little too religiously.

I can count on my fingers the number of times I've made a young lady scream with pleasure continuously for two hours but unfortunately I can't take any credit for the woman to my left, who shrieked and hollered at every little reference from the TV Show That Was. As a fan, you think she'd know that if you do a public impression of a wildebeest then you're likely to miss much of Joss' trademark fast-paced dialogue. Maybe she goes to every preview screening, to make sure everyone has a reason to go back and see the finished cut undisturbed in September?

And the row behind was full of smart-ass geeks. Yes, I know... I'm a smart-ass geek too and so are many of my friends. But that doesn't mean I wanna sit next to us at the movies. That was an eye-opener!


The best thing for a hang-over...

...is getting steaming drunk the night before! It was a lot of fun, but I'm paying for it now. Pictures to follow when those featured have vetoed them for the sake of their future political careers. I'm having trouble typing right now so I'll leave you with a picture of my loyal Three Musketeers. Where on earth would I be today without the support of each of them?

From left to right, we have - depending who's blog you're reading - Erika/Squarepants/Easily Distracted, Joe/Hollywood/Lies2Girls/Spaced and Brad/Kosmo/Vin Diesel/The Church Of Brad. (Their blogs are all linked on the left. I hurt too much to make any more hyperlinks today.) You rock. So hard!

This is Eagle Eye/Keith Hernandez/D'Artagnan?/Ford Prefect, going back to bed.


Open All Hours

A sample of my waking life over the last few days...

Saturday: 10am to 3.30am
Half that time spent in Wonder Bar.
Sunday: midday to 10pm
A hangover day. Bought juices and the Arcade Fire album. Back to bed.
Monday: 5.30am to 5pm, plus 8pm to 3am
Woke stupidly early and couldn't get back to sleep until the construction at the corner of City Hall and Granby was done for the day. Loyal Joe called at 8pm to tell me I was missing 24.
Tuesday: 9am to 11pm
Woken by the maintenance guy. He wanted to leave - kidding! Resented being awake all day, but I had a productive one.
Wednesday: 5am to ?
I have a lunch date with Kyle and my PS2. He always kicks my ass at Star Wars: Battlefront. Is this too early to start practising?

Total sleep: 31 out of the last 96 hours.



"As a matter of fact, I have met Saddam Hussein exactly the same number of times as Donald Rumsfeld met him. The difference is Donald Rumsfeld met him to sell him guns and to give him maps the better to target those guns. I met him to try and bring about an end to sanctions, suffering and war, and on the second of the two occasions, I met him to try and persuade him to let Dr Hans Blix and the United Nations weapons inspectors back into the country - a rather better use of two meetings with Saddam Hussein than your own Secretary of State for Defence made of his."

- George Galloway M.P. at the U.S. Senate on Tuesday.

Top Five Books

1. Catch-22: Joseph Heller
Alan Arkin gives the performance of a lifetime as Yossarian in the movie version but, like Johnny Depp in Fear And Lothing In Las Vegas, unfortunately he's the only reason worth watching. Do the books instead.
2. The Dice Man: Luke Rhinehart
What if, for every decision you make, you listed options and rolled a D6?
3. Interview With The Vampire: Anne Rice
The exchange of blood is a thinly-disguised metaphor for sexual intercourse. This book is steamy! Of course, Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt had that whole aspect of their characters' relationship excised from the screenplay to cover up their latent tendencies. The ass-hats.
4. Snowblind: Robert Sabbag
Real-life exploits of a reformed international drug dealer. Wanna get coke into the country? Infuse it in a white suit and wear it through customs!
5. Where I'm Calling From: Raymond Carver
I hope this is legal because it's an anthology of short stories, upon many of which the movie Short Cuts was based.

I don't read nearly enough.


Fuck You, George

For playing with my heart. You blow so hot and cold all the time. Whilst I think I'm getting a little old for kids' movies, I have to say how much I just enjoyed Star Wars Episode III. (I'm gonna say it with spoilers, too.)

My main objection to Episode I was that it looked and felt nothing like a Star Wars movie. Jar-Jar wasn't funny, and seeing his stupidity actually rewarded in battle was about as demoralising as it gets. Episode II had better ingredients: seedy bars, the creation of the stormtroopers, the origin of Boba Fett, two more bounty hunters, Christopher Lee and plenty of Jedi action - and let's face it, the Jedi are where a lot of Star Wars' X-factor comes from. When Jar-Jar was stupid in II, it had dire consequences, which is as it should be.

III ties in with the originals in a way the last two movies didn't. It's got Vader, the Emperor, the Imperial guards, scout troopers, Chewbacca, Luke, Leia, and James Earl Jones for chrissake! Isn't guy on the left the coolest cameo ever?

There are no cutesy CGI characters like Jar-Jar or Dex. There is still plenty of CGI but the screen is packed with cool shit like space battles, flowing lava, and laser fire. When R2 "fights" it can't help but be a little comical because he's so small and underpowered, but he never gives up and scores himself a little droid victory or two. (Thankfully we don't go to Forrest Gump Land again, because that's an awful place to learn life lessons.)

I won't harp on about the politics of the prequels. Suffice it to say that Amidala provides a couple of good lefty comments. You go, girl!

Content-wise, it's dark. Decapitations, multiple limb-itations, disfigurements, and a Jedi massacre - including children! Structurally, it's dark. It's The Empire Strikes Back all over again, from the opening big battle to the bad news ending and short transitional epilogue. Visually, it's dark. The boring pans over idyllic landscapes are downplayed, and exciting faux handheld camerawork (a la Firefly or The Return Of The King) is everywhere. Actually, mostly in the battle scenes but battle scenes are everywhere! George has also remembered that shadows exist.

The design is closer to the classic look, technologically (the proto AT-ATs and AT-STs, the imperial shuttle, the white corridors of the Alderaanian transport ship) and in fashion (both the men's and women's hairstyles, Anakin's leather look and the prevalance of browns and greys... very 70s).

There's so much story in this movie, when we intercut between scenes it's not arbitrary or just to mark time. My favourite example is Amidala's heavy breathing in childbirth juxtaposed with Vader's first breaths through That Helmet.

I heard the script was really light. The dialogue mostly supports the action. Ewan MacGregor finally gets a scene where he can emote! And Yoda gets the craziest bit of Yoda-speak I ever heard. It normally makes me cringe that - never mind his Jedi powers - this guy can speak English fine but he just doesn't put the words in the right order. But this line was so over the top, it was awesome. (You'll know it when you hear it.)

And all the wipes! They were so crazy and varied. I think 90 minutes passed before I saw one used a second time. Fun!

Don't get me wrong... this isn't the best movie ever. But it might be the best Star Wars movie ever. I shouldn't be mad at George. I just can't believe he's the one responsible for this piece of work. I swear there were really recent re-shoots because in one of the dream sequences Natalie Portman looked like she had a shaved head, just like she did at the premiere on Monday. The last time George wrote and directed on his own, we got a talking fish-monkey...

Let the conspiracy start here!


Long Life Update

Remember me ripping on horoscopes on 2005-05-11? I found the prediction below on a random site and e-mailed it to a friend. She replied the day after I got laid-off, which caused me to read it again with new eyes.

May: Change of job is possible. Weak health, worries, stomach or heart disorders are possible. Beginning of month may not be favourable. There may be opportunities for employment in the end of month. Worries may be over by the grace of God. Journey would be successful. Luck may favour.

Ha! So maybe I was wrong. I've had one of those so-called "stomach disorders" on/off for the last few months, which MJ said could be due to stress. (She could tell I was stressed by the black storm-cloud over my head between 9.30am and 6.30pm, Monday to Friday.) I called B.S. on her yet I seem be in the clear since last Thursday. Weird. And simultaneously, cool.

It's good to know there's some employment coming up in a few weeks, cos I've done sweet F.A. so far. That's not entirely true, but I have made the most of being a lady of leisure! I've dreamed of living in a bigger city: D.C, Baltimore, New York and Seattle lead the pack so far. I've thought about which of the U.S. companies that tried to head-hunt me when I worked in Europe are based in those areas. I've heard that one of them might be hiring in Sales shortly.

I've asked friends for copies of their curriculum vitaes/resumés because I haven't been unemployed since 1999. I gots to play that game again, so please help if you can.

So far so good. I'm feeling positive. I came here for a job and a girl and, now that both have metaphorically fallen over, I'm on a brand new track for the first time in years. As Brad says the Dalai Lama once said, "Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck."

The company (hereafter "Weyland Yutani") has offered legal help to manage my visa transfer and also to step my severance to a part-time basis if I need that, to allow me to stay on payroll and in the country that much longer. They've also given me a free ticket to Star Wars III: Revenge Of The Sith tomorrow so I get to see the movie knowing I'm not personally lining George Lucas' fat pockets!

I can't begin to be bitter about any of this. I've had nothing but one opportunity after another through Weyland Yutani. Of course, it's sad to see them in hard times. I went in to clear my desk yesterday. I had a last smoke on the back balcony and on my way back in I noticed a full pot of coffee in the kitchen. "So they didn't fire all the coffee-drinkers, eh? Our legacy lives on!", I thought. But the pot was cold. It had been there since last Thursday...

One bittersweet part is that I was about to help contribute something a teensy-weency bit creative to one of the company's products - the one that introduced me to the company and the gaming industry altogether. It would have been a nice piece of closure for me but, understandably, I'm off that project now!

Adverse Dates: 3,9,10,11,12,21,22,23 and 29.

The 12th was an adverse date? No shit, Sherlock. My positive streak is due to last til the 21st, according to the stars. If you don't like bears with sore heads, it's probably best to avoid me on Saturday. Or get me drunk on Friday so all's I have to grumble about is a hangover.

Whatever happens, this is gonna be an exciting few weeks for me and I'll end up in a big city one way or the other - even if it's back in ol' Blighty.

Up The Wooden Hills To Bedfordshire

Let it be known that I have finally bought something decent to sleep on. For the first ten months here I slept on a sofa bed of such stunning comfort that its owner left it when he moved out. Since February I've slept on the floor on layers of foam and blankets.

This new-fangled mattress thingy feels good. It could catch on! And they delivered it early enough that I have time to go back to bed before getting up for the day!


The Spy Who Loved Crap

Catching up on friends' blogs tonight, I found this linked from the comments section of Easily Distracted Erika's post about The Princess Bride. When we were 13 and just discovering that there were rude words that weren't considered full-on swear words, my friends and I used to substitute the word "crap" for other words. The Bond films got it bad:

From Russia With Crap
You Only Crap Twice
Diamonds Are Crap
The Man With The Golden Crap
For Crap Eyes Only
Crap Pussy
Crap Never Dies
The World Is Crap Enough

I wanted "On Her Majesty's Crappy Service" but got vetoed for form.

Geek Fantasies

It's gotta be a pretty damn special link for me to base a whole article on it. It's safe for work if girls in bikinis is safe where you work. Check out promo videos 1 and 5 and leave a comment when (or if) you (ever) stop laughing.

The Jack Bauer Power Hour

With spoilers up to S4E22.

It's been a weird season of 24. By the end of last year, everyone was either dead, on heroin, in jail or missing a limb, so it was always gonna be tricksy putting a gang of heroes back together again for our continued viewing pleasure. Guessing how they were going to crowbar another series regular back into this year's plot has been the main reason to keep tuning back in, cos the story has regressed to run-around-aimlessly-and-fail-to-catch-the-bad-guy since Marwan was introduced. And now, Mia Kirshner is back.

Hey, Mia... over here. No - here! Nuts. I think her character's name is Mandy but that's not important right now: she's the hot lesbian biker babe from Season One who tried to kill the president with a Vulcan Handshake in Season Two and now she's back and not actually a lesbian after all. Yay for me!

But I originally logged on to talk about politics on the show, so I suppose I should "go there".

24 has never preached party politics - in fact, we've never even been told to which party the three presidents we've seen so far have all belonged. But I was reassured by several speeches Palmer made during Season Two about the importance of only going to war with concrete evidence and as a last resort. (Of course, by that time in the real world, we'd already initiated conflict based upon far less.) Jack got a Middle Eastern good guy colleague for a few episodes and the Big Bad turned out to be a white guy hellbent on raising the value of his oil stock.

I guess the show doesn't have a consistent political agenda, because I'm not watching as comfortably as I once was and I ain't just worried about those mountains in Iowa. Nor am I concerned about the suburban Arab-American family that was revealed as a terrorist sleeper cell.

I'm bothered about the recent raid and kidnapping at the Chinese Embassy. The more I think about it, I'm bothered by Jack's willingness to go outside the law to get the job done. By that standard, Jack's no better than Marwan - using the law when it furthers his mission and flaunting it when it doesn't. It makes for absolutely cracking TV but it completely endorses his criminal behaviour as heroic because he does it in service to his country.

Sure, the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, but when did I start cheering for the bullies? When did I start rooting for people who would kick down the door of your home without a search warrant? When did I start condoning the circumvention of due process? Well, I don't suppose they have a local Fox affiliate down in Guantanemo anyway...

At least 24 has raised the issue. And the president is doing his best to keep it alive and in our minds on a weekly basis. President Logan in TV Land, that is!


Top Five Films

1. Memento: Christopher Nolan (2000).
"Memory can change the shape of a room; it can change the color of a car. Memories can be distorted. They're just an interpretation, they're not a record. And they're irrelevant if you have the facts."
2. Donnie Darko: Richard Kelly (2002).
"What kind of name is that? It's like some sort of superhero or something."
"What makes you think I'm not?"

3. Adaptation: Spike Jonze (2002).
"One morning, I woke up and said, 'Fuck fish. I renounce fish! I will never set foot in that ocean again.' And there hasn't been a time since where I've stuck so much as a toe back in that ocean."
"Done with fish."
4. Touch Of Evil: Orson Welles (1958/1998).
"A policeman's job is only easy in a police state."
5. Monsters Inc.: Pete Docter (2001).
"Hey! Those were alphabetized!"

All five are narrative in style and American in origin. Surprised?

Double Fired

I got an identical white envelope in the mail today, that I had to sign for. Must be a legal thing. Fire me some more, why don'tcha?!

Seriously though, I don't know who looked happier at the bar last night: those that still have jobs or those that are moving (or have moved) on.



So, this is weird. One day last summer, just hours before my last serious girlfriend broke up with me, I took her framed picture off my desk at work and put it in a drawer. I don't know why. We're in touch again, thankfully (because life here would be so much tougher without the support and advice of a handful of loyal friends, which includes her). Yesterday morning, before going to work, she and I were having a text message conversation full of questions about job security and other long-term worries. Just hours later, I got a white envelope.

Coincidences? Of course. It's not like either came out-of-the-blue. But they reinforce my fantasy life where I'm The Amazing Spider-Man.

A Shrewdness Of Apes

Collective nouns are the wisdom teeth of the English language. They all mean "a group of", so they're totally redundant to everyone except poets, people who make crossword puzzles for a living and people like me who like to show off.

The few that made it into the popular lexicon fast became cliches: "a school of fish", I'm talking to you. Neil Gaiman's Sandman series first turned me on to "a murder of crows" and my favourites today are still the really dramatic ones: "an ambush of tigers", "an obstinacy of buffalo", "a destruction of wildcats", etc.


Job Be-Gone

I got laid off this morning. Which was nice.

Actually, nine of us did. The management asked that we don't spread the news while they're still going through the process of letting people know, so I haven't been able to tell my favourite colleagues yet that I won't be around any more. Hopefully some are reading this now, so they know where the hell I've disappeared to. (It's fine to call me, by the way. I'm just not allowed to call you til the end of the day.)

I went for second breakfast with Will (another casualty). Neither of us were surprised that this happened, after the super-mega lay-offs of January 24. I have six weeks severance and the company is being very co-operative regarding my immigrant status. I've been given the number of the law firm who helped obtain my work visa in the first place and I've been told I can go ahead and utilise their services in the coming weeks.

If anyone wants to get married, now would be a safe time to propose.

In the short-term, I'm immensely fucking glad that I don't have to deal with my impossible workload anymore. It's been incredibly difficult to maintain operations since the last super-mega down-sizing and I don't envy the task ahead for my friends who are left there. New problems were cropping up daily. Just yesterday someone made a bad, uninformed decision that affected promises I made to one of my key accounts plus all the retailers and customers in their market. It was going to make me look like a idiot and make the company look totally incompetent (again) and I hadn't the slightest idea how to begin "damage control" this morning when I've done so much damage control already this year. Ta-ta to all that!

There'll be a whole lotta posting going on later - assuming I get out of bed, now that I don't have to...


Pisces = Perfectionist

Some people have noticed that I edit my posts after they've been published. If I find a better image for a story or think of a less clumsy turn of phrase after my fourth coffee of the day, you bet I'm gonna go back and fix it. It's not an Orwellian thing... it's just the Pisces in me. Think of a fresh post as the early edition of a newspaper, and anything that's been there more than an hour or two as the archival edition. Anyone comparing me to George Lucas will be shot!

Douglas Adams often talked about "writing backwards" and I do the same: I'll splooge all over the page first, then trim it down to the essence of whatever I'm trying to say. It's the same way JK Rowling writes books now, except for the editing part. (Get her!)

I always thought Pisces was represented by a fish (singular) but some maps of the constellation show two fish swimming together and others show two fish swimming away from one another - as if to prove the point that you can look at the stars and see anything you bloody well like. Pisces is Vissen in German, which is plural and swiftly ends this particular internal debate of mine.

Earlier I found one of those You-Don't-Have-To-Be-Mad-To-Work-Here-But-It-Helps signs (which will never be posted here for reasons of class) giving ten reasons you know you're a Pisces. I agree strongly with six of them but I'd probably agree with statements for Aquarius too, if I ever had the inclination to read them. I can't believe one twelfth of the world's population all share the same few traits (unless everybody has them).

Astrology still serves an important purpose or two, however: it helps people look at themselves objectively and pigeon-hole others. Next time on The Sun Sign Show: why I don't date Scorpios.

It's official!

Scientists today announced the discovery that the novelty of a new blog lasts precisely ten days. Yesterday was a rare day where life required more brain power than usual and I thought I'd spare you, gentle readers, from the mundaneness (or "mundanity" – both are legal) of my day. Aswell as building a record of my experiences overseas, I do try to entertain!

Kosmo pointed me in the direction of an article of blogging tips before I started and I took several to heart. I try to include a link and a picture with every post, even when the connection is tenuous (look no further than right here). And I do hereby pledge to post at least five days a week. Call it my New Blog Resolution. More guff later!


The Greatest Country On Earth

"There are people who have never left the country who talk about how it's the greatest country on earth. How dumb is that? There could be countries where they give shit away for free every day... Canada is one of those countries. You know what they give away free there? Health insurance."

"It's as if they believe we fell asleep with our heads on a nuclear reactor and our brains melted, and now we're just meat with eyes."

- Lewis Black in Black On Broadway (2004).


Top Five Albums

1. Bossanova: Pixies
This got stunning reviews in the NME when I was 17 and hungry for new music. I bought it and I hated it. Six months later I played it and wondered how I could have ever not loved it. Now it makes me drive too fast.
2. Scary Monsters: David Bowie
3. Geogaddi: Boards Of Canada
4. 69 Love Songs: The Magnetic Fields
I've owned this album for three years and I've still barely scratched the surface. A triple album with 23 songs per CD, this would be an essential Desert Island Disc.
5. Flood: They Might Be Giants

6. [The White Album]: The Beatles
Half the songs here could give The White Stripes a run for their money.
7. Low: David Bowie
8. No More Shall We Part: Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
9. Physical Graffiti: Led Zeppelin
10. Sound Of Water: Saint Etienne

This is, like, my favourite subject. There was no way I was going to be able to keep it to five.

Cave Time

I stayed up late Thursday night because I knew I had Friday off work. But I woke up much later than planned, I couldn't find a piece of my visa paperwork that I needed to take to the Social Security office, and it was raining cats and dogs. My umbrella, bought on vacation in Madrid in 2002, lasted about ten seconds from the door of my apartment to the trash can across the street. Wind really blows. So I shrugged off all but the local errands and settled into some quality "cave time".

Yesterday I read ten comics, finished the latest Wizard magazine, downloaded five new South Park episodes, downloaded Daily Show and Chappelle's Show clips, downloaded audio of Dave Chappelle's HBO Special and video of Lewis Black On Broadway, got to the end of my Space Ghost DVD, and in the mail I received six episodes of A Bit Of Fry & Laurie from The Paranoid Mod (who is keeping the U.K. safe while I'm gone). That's a helluva day's bounty, even glossing over the porn.

Stephen Fry (The Book in the H2G2 movie) and Hugh Laurie (currently starring as House in House M.D.) were part of the British alternative comedy scene in the late 80s and early 90s. These .avi files were made from video tape recordings of the original broadcasts in 1989. Seeing that old BBC2 logo again was a hoot!

Later in the day I checked my friends' blogs (linked on the left) and saw that Brad and Eve, who also had no work on Friday, had both taken a look at the weather and decided to have cave days too.


I was flicking through the internet (cos it's like a big magazine, innit?) while watching the election online and I came across information about two missing plays by William Shakepeare. There are apparently booksellers' bills of sale, reviews and adaptations by later playwrights that point to the existence of two more comedies: Love's Labours Won (a companion piece to Love's Labours Lost) and Cardenio (based on a side character in Don Quixote).

Through school and college I either studied or acted in over half a dozen Shakespeares, and I'd never even heard of these two. Learning is fun! I also learned that I'll click on twenty Google results about Shakespeare before getting up off the sofa to look at The Complete Works, not ten feet away on my bookshelf.


Love's Labours Won

11.29pm EST: It's almost 4.30am British Summer Time so most of my counrtymen will be waking up to confirmation of what was on the cards all along. The result for Corby - wherever that is - just came in and the score at full time is 324-149-49. Both Brighton Pavilion and Bristol North West held their Labour councils, which is handy as I'll most likely live in one of those when I eventually go back to the motherland.


Love's Labours Lost

There are 645 seats at stake in the UK elections today. There were more in 2001, but the boundaries of the constituencies in Scotland have been re-drawn to match their English counterparts in size of population. One candidate in Staffordshire died recently, so that seat will be decided later in a by-election. With 646 seats used to decide the next government, the first party to reach 324 gets to shout "bingo!"

5.42pm EST: The title of this post looks less and less appropriate as the day progresses. Labour were the favourites before the polling stations opened this morning. No results are in yet, but exit polls suggest a 66 seat lead to the Labour party. I have tomorrow off from work to run errands so I'll post a bunch of new paragraphs throughout the evening, until the result is clear.

6.03pm EST: I don't have access to BBC America to watch tonight's coverage, which is a bummer because watching an election is to me as watching the Superbowl is to many of my friends and acquaintances. At least these has-beens don't flash their nipple clamps at half time. I'm wearing an ex-girlfriend's BBC America t-shirt today to get myself in the mood, but it doesn't have my name or number on the back.

6.47pm EST: Just my luck! I missed the first results on my three-block commute home. It's 3-nil to Labour right now and a fellow Brit, The Paranoid Mod, is making good with the soccer analogies in my comments section.

7.01pm EST: There was a perfectly good padded steel-frame chair in the "oversized trash" area near the entrance to my apartment complex, so I took it. My various worn jackets and pants that aren't yet ready for the laundry now have somewhere to drape themselves. I don't consider giving an unwanted chair a good home as stealing.

8.12pm EST: The conservatives have gained a seat from Labour and held one. It was about 4-1 (Lab-Con) but now it's 50-3-3 (the Liberal Democrats have entered the race). Of course, watching like a sport it's hard to remember that all the votes were cast 3 hours ago and it's the random order they're reported that creates all the drama. I wonder if tax forms could be redesigned to make the experience of filling them in more entertaining? Or if football could be revamped to make it more like politics? Oh wait... that was Football Manager for the Commodore 64 by the famous Kevin Toms.

8.37pm EST: 94-8-7 (Lab-Con-Lib) with only the Tories gaining a seat. Who does Labour have in goal? John Prescott?

9.28pm EST: It's 215-36-22. Wow. Unlesss the results are coming in all Labour-first instead of some more transparently random order, there's no reason to think the trend will change and this is all over except for the crying.


"Human beings are weaklings at everything. They can't run, jump or swim as well as a dozen animals. So we're weak... but there's one area where we have been supreme for millions of years and that's intelligence: nothing has challenged us. Now, for the first time in the history of our race, something comes and says, 'I might be smarter than you are.' And it's a machine..."

- Professor John Searle in Game Over: Kasparov & The Machine (2003).


Top Five Places To Drink Downtown

1. Wonder Bar
2. Hell's Kitchen
3. Havana
4. er...
5. Does "at home" count?

The "Now That's What I Call A Party" Party

The U.S. has libertarian minority (one of those words was redundant) political parties too. Several oppose the government for its abuse of power and advocate a return to true constitutional democracy. Now who's being un-American?

Check out the Guns & Dope Party, with their fine Photoshop skillz. Beneath the silliness and the ostriches, they have a simple and serious message that I can't help but support: "if I'm not harming others then let me be free to live my life as I want". Statistically speaking, it's probably easier to prove you're not harming anyone else on dope than on guns...

Constitutional democracy – and how to avoid it – is also the main theme of the bestselling America: The Book from the makers of The Daily Show With Jon Stewart.

Electile Dysfunction

There are two days to go until the UK elections. Unfortunately I can't vote this time – not because I live in the States now, but because I let my address lapse with the records people.

On the flip side, I don't really know who I would vote for anyway. Many people who would traditionally vote for Labour have a problem with Blair/Bliar as leader following the fiasco of misinformation that led us to support the invasion of Iraq. Rumour has it that, if Labour win (which looks likely due to the lack of any viable alternative) Blair will step down so the party can concentrate on issues again instead of defending their leader's reputation. I'm sure he doesn't want to step down, but it will be a more graceful end to his political career than a vote of no confidence. (He famously said, regarding the unpopular decisions he's made over the last couple of years, that he will let history be his judge.)

It would be cool to see the Liberal Democrats get the second share of the vote for the first time ever. As the anti-war party this election, it could happen. Though I'm sure that the closer they get to realistically having a chance of government, the less idealistic and more realistic their policies will become.

And that's about my total understanding of this year's show. I'd love to get comments from anyone with more insight or differing opinions. It's my blog so I can always have the last word! Until then, here's a story about some of the sillier manifesto pledges made by minority candidates.


Mostly Harmless

With little to do on a Sunday evening, I just saw H2G2 again. Twice will do. I liked this adaptation more on second viewing. It may not be The Cherry Orchard but, structurally, it's the best laid-out version of the story yet.

More than before, I have no idea what the uninitiated will make of it all. It's very British and that's not for everyone. Our screening had a few walkouts by people who looked like they expected Barbershop 3.

Personally, I got a kick out of the familiar story and a warm fuzzy nostalgic feeling at seeing the English countryside (get blown up). Arthur's quest for a good cup of tea and 110 minutes of cult Oxbridge icon Stephen Fry narrating The Book mean I'll lie back and think of England tonight.


The Gilmore Girls Effect

With the passing of Lauren Graham (she's not dead - see yesterday's posts) this is probably a good time to talk about "the Gilmore Girls effect".

I turned 31 this year and still feel like I'm 25, though I need to carry I.D. with me here on nights out despite being ten plus years over the legal drinking age. I'm 6'3" tall and was the guy at school who got sent into the convenience store to buy alcohol when we were all under-age. (You can buy liquor or drink in a pub at 18 in the U.K.) Ironically, the first time I got carded was right after my 18th birthday, much to the amusement and frustration of my alcohol-needy friends at the time.

When the average age of Granby Street bar-hoppers is 25 or lower, you begin to wonder whether you should start fibbing about your age. A work colleague who has a daughter from a previous relationship told me that he tried to be up-front with his information when he started dating again but he found it was a guaranteed Heisman-winner every time.

Ultimately he met someone wonderful and it wasn't an issue. I hope that something as arbitrary as age would be less of a biggie - or at least the only people it would bother aren't the right people for me.

There are occasionally comical side effects of hanging out with a younger crowd (not to mention some hot advantages not suitable for blog-tales). Joe and I made our celebrity top ten and he listed the daughter in Gilmore Girls while I listed the mother. He thought I was joking til IMDB revealed I'm nearer Lauren Graham's age than Alexis Bledel's (Alexis plays Lauren's daughter on the show).

I ate burritos last week with my new friend The Real Eve and raved about when I saw Pixies (aka The Pixies, philistines) play in concert at her college last December. I was happy to hear she even knew my favourite band ever in the world ever. "Yeah," she said. "My parents were really into them."

P.S. This is my first drunk posting. Yay me!


The movie adaptation of Hitchhiker's was a lot of fun. (This post is super-lite on spoilers, folks.) A jumbled mess of ideas and sketches held together by a shoestring of a narrative... like just about every other incarnation of the story so far. Unfaithful this is not!

The cast looked great when it was announced and making this film didn't seem to sap their talent any. Sam Rockwell was already halfway to beatification in my house before I saw him in this. He's like all the previous Zaphods on steroids. Mos Def mumbled a lot and, since no-one except Arthur really got any lengthy speeches, it's hard to critique him. But at no time did he feel wrong for the part of Ford.

Martin Freeman is less uptight as Arthur than Simon Jones (all other Arthurs ever) was but, considering how times have changed, Freeman characterised haplessness and hopelessness for the modern age without resorting to a Pyhton-esquye caricature of a repressed colonial. He's really just like his Tim from The Office if Tim's planet was destroyed before he could have his morning cereal. Bill Nighy's Slartibartfast was like Bill Nighy doing a Bill Nighy impression but I'm not sick of him yet so he gets Marcus points too.

The only real disappointments were John Malkovich (he's hardly there) and Alan Rickman (his is a voice-only role and it's not very metallic-sounding for a robot). That bloody dolphin song. Douglas Adams' face at the end. Small critcisms.

A lot of the wordplay from the original scripts has been substituted for sight gags, but the experience is none the worse for it. If you want witticisms, read the book or listen to the original radio shows - they haven't gone anywhere and they're chock full of them:

"It's at times like this, when your planet's been blown up and you're about to get sucked out of a Vogon airlock into the vacuum of space, that I really wish I'd listened to what my mother told me when I was young."
"Why? What did she say?"
"I don't know! I didn't listen!!"

If you want new-but-totally-in-the-spirit jokes that make the most of this foray into a new medium, such as the helmet with a built-in lemon squeezer to give your brain a little extra zest or the planetary defences that do nothing until you have an idea how to get around them at which point over-sized fly-swatters spring up out of the ground and slap you in the face so you can't concentrate, then see this.

Finally, thanks to all the H2G2 reviewers who were so attached to the source material that they gave several stinking reviews at RottenTomatoes.com. My expectations were so low that I had the best time. Now who wants to see it again?!


I saw the movie version of H2G2 last night and I come bearing grave news... if your name's Lauren Graham, that is! You're out of my fantasy top ten to make room for the delectable Zooey Deschanel.

She made it a short leap for me to suspend my disbelief and fall in love with her after only knowing her a short time. Like Arthur Dent did, I mean. Ahem. Where can I get me one of those?