Monday, 21 January 2008

Get a little resolve

Early on in our marriage, a feline member of the household had just deposited its stomach contents on our nice new carpet, and I was walking around a bit dumbfounded as to how to clean it up.

"Sarah," I shouted across the hall, "the cat's puked on the carpet."

"Well," she replied, "just get a little resolve, why don't you?"

Hurt, I shouted back a gruff "Fine!" and prepared to sulk. Geez, I muttered to myself, if I wanted that kind of abuse... As I proceeded down this line of self-pitying inquiry, she went on:

"It's in the laundry cabinet, I think."

She meant this, of course:

Resolve brand carpet cleaner

To this day I can't use the word resolve in conversation without remembering my needlessly wounded pride.

That's a roundabout, anecdotal way of coming to my (short) list of New Year's Resolutions. I'm not usually too strict about these things (nor, as you can tell, punctual about recording them) but you know, it might, like, make me a better person and all that. So here's my triple-action Resolve spray for 2008:

1. Less whinging. Man, I'm sick of hearing me complaining — I can only think what you must be thinking. I mean, it's well and good to discuss the difficulties one faces in this modern world, but I resolve to do so a bit more constructively.

2. Get out more. Socially, I mean. I'm not a natural social butterfly; not even really a moth. I tend to fly away from, not toward, the bright lights. So I resolve to spend time with someone I call a friend at least once every week, if possible, even if it's just to get a couple of pints down the pub. In fact, especially if it's to get a couple of pints down the pub. So far so good.

3. Don't waste a chance to just be kind. No, I'm not moving to Darfur to tend orphans any time soon (not that there's anything wrong with that). I mean simpler things, like helping someone get their luggage down the stairs, even if I've had a long day. The opportunity may not come up every day, but when it does, I'd like to take it. I think I'll know when I have.

That all seems pretty doable. I can think of quite a few more, but on the advice of the Tesco pamphlet I found inserted in a recent purchase, I think I'll keep focused on that for now. And maybe I'll get a little resolve while I'm at it.

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Saturday, 19 January 2008

Nine years of ballet, asshole!

I'm not sure if Outrageous Fortune is truly and actually a film of utter comic genius, but with enough Guinness (Alec or otherwise) I'd have to go with to be.

As always, your opinions are welcome.

Credits watchers out there: note second unit director Michael Moore.

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Thursday, 17 January 2008

Free energy, the bureaucratic way

For a while last year I was psyched about Steorn's claims of an energy generating magnetic device. Not to say I ever believed them, but there's nothing cooler than trying to break the laws of physics. And they even had investors.

But anyway, I discovered today upon opening my gas bill that the conservation of energy law has indeed been broken, and in my very own flat. I have used exactly -199.69 cubic meters of gas in the last 3 months (that's more -- or less -- than negative 2 cubic meters per day!). If only the entire complex could be as energy efficient as me, we'd be feeding power back into the grid night and day.

Even more brilliantly, because my total bill is negative 38.85 pounds, I was "charged" VAT of negative 1.95.

OK, so the previous reading was an estimate. It's still nice to get a negative bill.

The moral of the story is, even though it's pulling teeth to get basic services set up in the UK (I've been trying for a couple of weeks to set up a savings account, and despite the slew of documents I've sent theme, they refuse to accept the fact that I am who I say I am, and live where I and my bank statement says I live) -- despite the trouble, once you are set up, it's just as likely they can't figure out how to accurately charge you for the services you've received.


Monday, 14 January 2008

Across the Thames at midnight

Sunday, 13 January 2008

On the American moral standard

What's the difference between British Airways and American Airlines?

1. On American, the drinks cost $5 or £3, and they look at you a little funny when you ask for the wine. On British, they're free, and they look at you a little funny when you decline the wine.

2. On American, even the Simpsons Movie is censored, Bart's humorously revealed squiggle covered by a "European Version Only" rectangle (presumably the context-aware American cut of the film, not exclusively American Airlines' decision, but still). On British, you'd best stick to the kids section if you want to avoid nudity.

Until having more of the outsider's perspective, the American moral (double) standard was just a fact of life. Nowadays it's starting to get to me. I must be Europeanising: I live in a country where handgun ownership is illegal, smoking in bars is banned, and the government knows every underground station I pass through, but I feel oppressed by American Airlines. These are strange times we live in, indeed.

Thursday, 10 January 2008


Cows come home / you blew you horn
The suit and tie smiles
with his noise-suppression goggles -- Make a plastic
demonstration / you want it you got it,
Hollywood style

Oh the nose!
Oh the lips!
Don't your momma kiss like this?
You never did believe --

But what's a lost cause
You cause me to
Simmer not boil / It's not over, you know,
It's only begun: BETTER TO BE A CANDLE

and all the rest
and all the best is parody,
parade the
brush on the tears;
You can act but can you act now?

High school musical
You know that the blues'll go
if you colour them in shades of "no"
And no / And know this,
If you blow this,
This mission, derision,
ebb and flow of indecision:
like the bob on a fishing line, you're going down
but never under / the weather.

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

Truth in advertising, or at least customer service

My voice message on the hotel phone here tonight literally says, "This is ____ from guest services. We just wanted to make sure your experience here is as comfortable as possible. If there's anything you need, we would be unhappy to help you."

I thought at first it was just an "um" pause before the "happy", but after replaying a couple of times, she is definitely saying "unhappy".

Hey, lady, at least you're giving it to me straight.

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

Pun topic of the day: musical notation

So this hemisemidemiquaver walks into a bar...

"We could make beautiful music together," he says, "but first I'll need your signature."

"Oh, give it a rest," she retorts.

"You make me whole," said the quarter note to the dotted half.

"Stop," she replied, "you're making me treble."

Two chords are playing strip poker in the corner. "You lose," says one, "now you have to baritone."

A minor suddenly runs in from the street. "Can somebody help, I've got a flat!"

(your turn?)

Saturday, 5 January 2008

I require fashionable headwear

This is the winter, and though I'm reasonably content, I am troubled by my lack of options when it comes to functional and fashionable headwear. My major problem is in the ear department, where I have been blessed with a surplus of surface area, a trait which, despite its positive contributions to my particular physiognomy, has certain drawbacks. One is that, for some reason, gay men find my ears my most striking feature -- which, while somewhat flattering, is not all that flattering, but that's not really here nor there. What I mean to say is that on a cold day with insufficient headwear, my ears are apt to resemble nothing as much as a pair of blue-gray icicles clinging to the side of my egg-like noggin.

My approach to addressing this issue has been your classic knitted hat, which, when worn low-slung enough over the ears, does the job. But it's an effect best termed practical, not fashionable.

Now, one of the advantages of living in a large metropolitan area (with a vast pedestrian population) is that one has the opportunity to observe the fashion brilliance and mistakes of one's neighbours in large volumes. This, as much as anything, I credit for certain sartorial improvements I like to think I have achieved during my time in London. But even given this large and potentially useful sort of laboratory within which to observe, I am at a loss to find a headwear option that fulfils my two basic requirements, viz:

1. Keep my ears covered and warm.
2. Not look like an idiot.

Number two, perhaps, should be further expanded, because in truth I'm not always that concerned about my own apparent mental defects:
2. a. Meet with the approval of my wife.

This last can be tricky, for she is lately my Jeeves, at least in the sense of being the conscience of my wardrobe. Often have I started a conversation along the lines of, "You know, I saw this guy wearing this sort of Russian fur hat that looked really good..." only to be met with a look of pitying disapproval that, had it been flashed at Genghis Khan, would have made that worthy stop his horde a'pillaging, cease his conquest and return home until he could get a much sharper sweater vest.

So, dear reader, I ask for your help. Describe an article of headwear that can solve my dilemma. Please share your photos, descriptions, drawings, schematics, whatever it may require. Somewhere out there is the proper kind of hat* for a head like mine on a day like this.

* Are men allowed to wear earmuffs? Because that might just work, too.

Thursday, 3 January 2008

If you really love me, come on and let it snow

Christmas is over, the fattened goose consumed, though not before laying the golden egg, and even the new year has been rung in, auldly langed by us truly from the bow of a ship permanently moored on the Thames; the fireworks briefly igniting the night sky, until the low cloud cover caused the smoke to subside all over the river, obscuring the rest of the festivities in a haze of boozy revelry.

The train companies celebrated the new year in their usual manner, by not running properly for the crowds of dazed returning worker. That is, those of us who bothered to come in; it was a new record sick day, the papers said -- which may indeed be the case, with scores of hospitals now closed due to some highly contagious flu. You know it's nasty when instead of calling it the flu, the call it a vomiting sickness. But actually my train was running on time, and my only consolation prize was another increase in ticket price. In the past two years my usual fare has gone up 18%, which I suppose is my hard-earned reward for my dedication to avoiding climate change by using mass transportation. Thank you, Southwest Trains, may I please have another?

But enough about trains, let's talk about snow (the right kind of snow), which is rumoured to maybe, just possibly, fall in London, but probably won't. Which, in an odd and thoroughly roundabout way reminds me of the film Love Actually, which I actually love. I don't think I saw any Christmas films this year -- we were going to record Elf, which despite its cornball surface has a strangely compelling, Zooey Deschanel-inspired heart -- but LA is definitely near the top of my list, up there with that Jimmy Stewart one where the angels get their wings, despite the bad part with Keira Knightley (in order, the best stories are Bill Nighy's, Emma Thompson's, and Colin Firth's).

So there's really no point to this post at all, but I thought it was high time I wrote something. So, um, happy new year.