February 27, 2006

And Now We Are Three

With all the excitement of Joyce being in town, I didn't even realize I'd miss bobyzyeruncle's third bloggiversary.

Traditionally, third anniverary gifts are leather. Thanks in advance and many happy returns of the page.

Mom's had a great visit, she leaves tomorrow and he arrives Thursday.

Fun for the whole leather-clad family.

February 24, 2006

Rainbow Tour

On The Original Tour today …

“The Royal Academy of Music has been home to many great musicians, as well as Andrew Lloyd Webber. His all-too-recognizable tunes bring tears to the eyes of many a Londoner.”

I laughed out loud while the Italians started humming ditties from Cats.

February 23, 2006

You'll Love My Mother

My dearest darling mother’s Christmas gift comes to fruition tomorrow morning.

In a spasm of holiday generosity, I stuffed her Christmas card with a plane ticket to London. I had no idea I'd be unemployed and actually have to entertain her when I conjured up the idea. Nor did I think through the fact she'd want me to meet her at Gatwick when her 7:55am flight arrives. Rapture.

To all of Great Britain: I apologize in advance. It's only for a few days and I'll try to keep her as quiet as possible.

To all of Ohio: Enjoy your reprieve. You owe me.

By all accounts she's as giddy as Halle Berry winning the Oscar. And just about as sane. It's her first trip to England. Actually, it's her first trip out of the country. She's going to have a blast, and I'm truly glad to have her coming over.

We'll play tourist, hang out at home, and listen to her tell me all the family gossip (which she's most likely already told me 3 or 4 times on the phone). She does like to chat, my mom.

I guess I owe one more apology. To the person who ends up sitting next to her on the plane ... I hope you brought some earplugs.

February 22, 2006

Secretary of State

in which I ramble through my day, which makes for boring blogging, but I think there's a point here somewhere ...

It was one of those low-key days where I didn’t ever quite do what I was meaning to, but most of it got done in spite of itself. Funny how that works.

Got up and instead of writing my morning pages, I re-worked my CV for a job opportunity that came up last night that I have mixed emotions about.

9:30 rolled around and it was time to go see Clayton. It looked miserable outside and I had no motivation at all. A different Bob (one I’m all too familiar with) would have blown it off, but I bundled up and walked to the gym where the punishment ensued.

Decided a relaxing steam would help me recover from the workout (he gave me my money’s worth), but the steamroom was very noisy with two old men blathering away in less-than soothing Arabic tongues. Rather than get really steamed by their annoying chatter, I opted for a long hot shower.

I knew if I went home, I’d probably just nap, so I wandered to a coffee shop. Opened my bag to get my morning pages notebook out (it was still morning, after all), but I’d apparently left on the nightstand so I ended up writing in my new “creative writing” only notebook. Oh well, writing is writing.

Read from a new book on creativity. Wondered why other people think I’m creative and I think I’ve got as much creativity as a popsicle stick. Turns out it's all about state and flow.

Chatted up a colleague about the new job opportunity and he confirmed the misgivings I was having about the position. Decided not to write it off, but to tread forward carefully.

Read more of the creativity book and it talked about how creative people instinctively know when ideas are good or not. Wondered if I was not loving the new job prospect because I was being instinctive/creative, or if I was just being afraid of the work. Hmmm..

Got blown off by my lunch date (that work thing does get in the way, doesn’t it?) so I wandered up the high street in search of spaghetti and meatballs. Don’t know why, it just sounded good.

My first-choice restaurant seemed too crowded, so I walked back down the high street in search of other options It was really cold and damp and gray. The creativity book had talked about state affecting creativity and you really couldn’t be creative unless you were in the proper state.

Spaghetti and meatballs would put me in a good state, I thought. So would a day at the beach … a nice warm, sunny beach. Out of the blue, well, the gray, had a thought that I haven’t had a good cry for awhile. Where’d that come from?

Ended up in a pub eating toad in hole, with the biggest Yorkshire pudding I’d ever seen. Realized it was the second day in a row I’ve had sausage for lunch. Assimilation or just unhealthy eating?

Finished reading The History of Love, and choked back tears for the last 15 pages. Fortunately I was sitting in the corner and I don’t think anybody realized. It was tender and sweet and heartbreaking and oh-so sad. I loved it.

Had this thought for the third time this week: It’s not so much that I want to write great things that make the reader laugh and cry at the same time … it’s that I want to have already written them.

Walked home in the chill, feeling a little tired and a little old, thinking about poor Leopold and his sad, lonely life, cried a little for him, and wondered if it’s normal for allegedly grown men to be weepy while quietly walking down the pavement on a wintry afternoon. I know I’d avert my eyes if I saw me coming. I wasn’t hysterical or anything, but still … I probably looked like a crazy person.

Got home, took that nap I’d been putting off for the past several hours, and then picked out the next books from the to-be-read shelf. I’ve got two: Fingersmith and The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone. It looks like I’ll be spending my upcoming afternoons with Victorian lesbians and Italian gigolos.


Now there’s a chicken roasting in the oven with, some could unsuccessfully argue, too much garlic.

It was a quiet, simple day. Maybe tomorrow I’ll have spaghetti and meatballs … with Mrs. Stone.

:: :: ::

So where's that point you mentioned at the beginning?

I guess it's that during most of my day, I thought I was having a really boring, uneventful, unproductive day. In a few months when I'm back in the swing of the work world, I'll look back and probably offer to pay big bucks to be able to just enjoy a day of doing (ostensibly) nothing. Oh, and it's good to have a plan, but you don't always have to do it in the order you thought you would. It all gets done when it's ready.

February 20, 2006

Building a Better Mousetrap

mtrapold.jpgYou never know when something from your childhood will unexpectedly creep up on your.

I was having a birthday lunch with Marcelo last Friday at a Putney pub. When I went to the bar to order the food, I noticed Mousetrap sitting behind the bar. I’m a firm believer that all decent pubs should have board games to accompany one’s drinking/dining, especially those designed for ages 6 and up.

I haven’t played this game for years. Actually, I wonder if I ever played it … opting instead to set up the trap and then set it off, watching the little metal ball rolling down the drain pipe, causing the man to dive into the bucket, which somehow led a ball in the bathtub which caused something else to be set into motion. All this led to a plastic cage clickety-clacking down a plastic pole onto the cheese where your particular mouse may or may not be waiting to be trapped.

I had just come back from an interview in Chiswick, so I was wearing a suit … which is, I reckon, the perfect attire for putting together a children’s game. In a pub. In the middle of the afternoon.

So there we sat, trying to put it together. Yes, we had to put it together, as we were apparently the first to play the game in the pub. All the pieces were still in plastic the whole thing needed to be assembled.

“You gonna be all day with that?” laughed some guys sitting a table over. I asked if they wanted to join in, but they declined, not-so-secretly eyeing the game with the envy of their own lost childhoods. “Where’s the guy who dives into the bathtub?”

See, they too noticed this was not the game we’d played with way back when. The new Mousetrap is a modern reinvention, I guess it’s for the more complicated (ADD-riddled) youth of today. It has 3, count ‘em, three traps, and you never know which one is going to be set off when you flush the toilet. The old standby cage on the pole was still there. But now there’s also a kitchen sink that leads to a boot and a giant broom that sweeps you off the board (and actually onto the floor if you’re not paying attention) as well as a toy box that will toss you off in another directions. Mice are now being tossed about like midgets at a proper carnival.

There’s a “Waking Sr. Gomez” space. Señor G is a cat and when you wake him up, all players have to move their mice to the closest mousetrap space and then you flush the toilet 3 times (one for each ball in the john), and let the mayhem ensue. One trap could go, or all three. Madness!

There's also now a spanner (that's a wrench for all y'all back in the States), which is the equivalent of a "get out of jail free" card. Keep the spanner and next time you're about to get caught in the trap, you can toss a wrench into the works and not lose your piece of cheese. Very handy.


So we had a good laugh. I let the birthday boy win (beginner’s luck) and we packed up the game and handed it over to the guys who’d been mocking us a half-hour earlier. I’m sure they played it right into happy hour.

Now I need to go find KerPlunk and Hands Down and Tip It. And, yes, Mystery Date.

What games are you missing?

February 18, 2006

Abner! Come Quick, Look!

There’s an old man pacing up and down the sidewalk across the street from our flat. He’s wearing a black overcoat, and smoking a cigarette. He takes a drag, shuffles along about 6 or 7 paces, and then takes another, turns around and does the same thing.

I just went back to the window to channel Gladys Kravitz check on him, and now he’s gone, along with the car that was sandwiched in between the black Hummer and the silver 2-seater Smart Car with a ragtop roof. Hey, now there’s a deathtrap on 4 tiny wheels.

At first I thought he was just a kindly old gent whose wife wouldn’t let him smoke in the house and he couldn’t be bothered to take a full-on walk around the block. And to his credit, it's too cold to go inside the gated square, sit on one of the benches and enjoy a fag in the midst of urban nature.

But now I wonder … maybe he was just pretending to enjoy a casual smoke while actually casing the parked cars for the quickest heist. Yes, that must be it. In as much time as it took me to write a paragraph, Sir Smokey Irollmeown hot-wired a sedan and drove off, scott free, leaving nothing but a boot-squished end of a hand-rolled cigarette as evidence. CSI Westminster will surely have him in the stockades by tea.

It does make perfect sense for this neighborhood. On the other side of the square, there’s a house where I swear something sinister is going on. I haven’t decided if it’s an underground CIA safe-house, or perhaps a Marylebone annex of Scotland Yard’s inquisition center.

Or maybe it's where Sydney's giving birth to Spy Fetus. How cool would that be, living up the road from Madonna (or maybe just Guy; I wonder who'll get the flat if they split?) AND on the same block as Sydney Bristow.

I’ll let you know after I’ve completed a little more of the investigation. Or maybe I'll know and won't be allowed to tell. Hmm...

February 16, 2006

Brain Dump

In no particular order ...

  • It’s not really schadenfreude, but I love it when some rude twat runs past me in a tube station, pushing me out of the way in their all-fire hurry to not miss the train and then I saunter on behind them before the doors close. I just smile and nod, wishing I had the balls to whisper “Aren’t you glad you rushed? Asshole.”

  • Saw the Gothic Nightmares exhibit at the Tate this afternoon. Discovered that Blake was the inspiration for the Tom of Finland art, only William left the clothes off. Fuseli’s work was pretty amazing, and just a little twisted. It made me realize I need to have some smallish magical creatures living in the flat. Where’s my Dobby?

  • Fuseli said, "Reality teems with disappointment for him whose sources of enjoyment spring in the elysium of fancy."

  • Bob said, "I'm pretty much doomed."

  • Only thing missing at the Tate was a pasta bar. It would have been nice to enjoy some fusilli after Fuseli.

  • Getting my face shaved by the barber is one of the best half-hours a guy can spend. There’s something exhilarating about sitting in Amir’s (the handsome Arabian) chair, having him rub thick, warm lather into my beard and then scrape away with a fresh straight-edge razor. It’s only a little disconcerting when I realize the tv is blaring Al-Jazeera’s coverage of the Hussein trial. He giggles at the angry-sounding rants I can’t begin to understand. “I can’t wait till they hang him,” he says, drawing the blade across my Adam’s apple.

  • Finally saw Pride and Prejudice the other day. Keira’s performance was vile. Jane Austen rolled *and* puked in her grave.

  • Watched Garden State last night and fell pretty much in love with the film. Good on Zach. Good luck exploring the infinite abyss.

  • A couple new job opportunities in the works. I’m having a “briefing” tomorrow with an HR guy in Chiswick. I’m not quite sure what the difference between a briefing and an interview is. Any ideas?

  • There’s also an amazing new London-based international role at one of BrandThis!’s key competitors that I’d be very happy to land. Headhunter sent the application in yesterday, and my pals who work for said firm stateside have started the ball rolling on their end. Cross your fingers.

Back to web research on tomorrow’s prospect.

February 15, 2006

Making the President Look Smarter

Anybody else think Cheney is doing a Henny Youngman impersonation?


February 13, 2006

Annoying Actresses for $400

You know how I just love the Gwynneth?

I'm thinking she might be being replaced very soon.

"But Bob," you ask, "who could be so painstakingly vile as to knock Apple's mum off your list of those-I-just-can't-watch?"

Her name is Keira. I watched Bend it like Beckham the other night and she annoyed me to the point of uncontrolled twitching. I didn't mind her in Love, Actually way back when, but on repeated viewings, she is rather weak.

In an uncharacteristic spasm of Christian generousity, I'm reserving judgement until end-of-day tomorrow. I've rented Pride and Prejudice, and am using that to see if she has any redeeming qualities. I think I can leave Domino safely off the list of is-she-talent-free viewings.

I really want her to be good, 'cause I'm trying not to actively dislike people I've never met. But you know, sometimes you just can't help it.

February 8, 2006

Working the Network

I am shocked, shocked I tell you, that there are gay men who don't know about Once on this Island. The Last Five Years is understandable, as it's a trifle obscure. But still. Maybe I've found my purpose: interoducing lesser-known musical theater to the heretofore unenlightened.

:: :: ::

I think I might be doing this networking thing backwards. I'm meeting some lovely people, but I end up trying to help them out instead of me getting a job lead. But karma is a boomerang, so if anybody has leads on the following, give a shout ...

  1. A French tutor* (one who just doesn't "show up to take the money") for the most lovely 12-year old girl. She is the sweetest thing, and mama's pushing her very hard.

  2. Any contacts for a charming soon-to-be MBA who's looking to meet people who might be able to become a London-based equity analyst (preferably buy-side, but he wouldn't turn his nose up at sell-side).

  3. An affordable double bedroom for let, somewhere within Zones 1-3, with quiet and reasonably stable flatmates. And by affordable this prospective tenant mean cheap. A house-sit would be better (you know, mind the dogs and plants for free room), but beggars can't be choosers.

Oh yeah, and let's not forget I'm still in the market for a branding/marketing comms gig. HSMP application and back-up documentation went off to the lawyers yesterday. Hopefully I'll be legal for new work soon.

In the meantime, back to our regularly scheduled network programming.

* One who tutors French classes, not necessarily hailing from across the Chunnel.

February 6, 2006

Kiss Kiss?

"Blame it on Eurotrash and The Gays, but suddenly it seems that everyone doing the double kiss - even in the most boring of business meetings. With middle-aged men. Named Nigel." So says this morning's Urban Junkies mailout.

Hmm, this dilemma never made it to any many of the board room meetings I attended in recent years; where, truth be told, the Eurotrash outnumbered the gays.

I think I'll stick with handshakes, at least on the first interview.

February 5, 2006

Looney Toons

The news today is full of people fighting. Some over a cartoon. Some over a sunken ferry. Oh yeah, there’s still that falderahl in Iraq as well.

I don’t understand the ruckus about the political cartoon. It’s just a fucking picture … is it worth having a riot over? Yes, they’re angry, perhaps justifiably so. And, quel surprise, it’s over religion. Well, allegedly it’s over religion, but it’s quickly morphing into politics.

Again, not surprising. People are mad and now there are riots and there must be retribution. Against the oh-so-evil Danish people. Bloody Vikings.

An eye for an eye. Come on kids, have we learned nothing from Munich, besides that Eric Bana is yummy? The only benefit from an eye for an eye is that the Braille Institute gets more work. Is this really worth a riot? What’s the harm in letting it go, drawing an equally offensive cartoon about God or George Bush (oh wait, that’s been done, and there are no riots … it’s called freedom of speech) and being done with it.

Speaking of freedom of speech, it’s not as tolerated over here in the UK as we’ve learned to take for granted in the States. Watching the news this morning, 97% of voters (well, Sky News viewers, which are really just Fox News viewers who drink bitter ale and tea instead of Pabst Blue Ribbon and instant Maxwell House) think that the government should arrest “threatening protesters.” A quick check on the at the site reveals that number’s decreased to about 79%.

I guess the bigger question is what constitutes threat? And who decides that? Is carrying a sign that says “Death to the Capitalist Pigs” an indictable offense? Probably not. But “Slay those who insult Islam” – well I’m no expert, but I’d say that’s not very tolerant. Nor do I think it’s very Islamic.

Would the US arrest and deport people carrying signs? Or would they just send them to Guantánamo Bay?

I understand belief. I understand passion. I understand the need to be right, and can almost empathize with those who think “my beliefs are better than yours.” After all, to admit someone else’s beliefs are equal to or better than yours (as opposed to just different) might be misconstrued as saying, “gosh, if their beliefs are as good as mine, how good could mine possibly be in the first place?”

I do not understand the “I’m insulted so I will kill you and all your people, even if they had nothing to do with it.”

Maybe Paul McKenna needs to do a new tv show: Paul McKenna Can Make You Tolerant. This would certainly be very different from the bespoke course he’s doing for Geri Halliwell: Paul McKenna Can Make you Tolerable.

February 3, 2006

Bungle in the Jungle (of my mind)

Couldn't sleep at all last night as I found myself overthinking everything. So I watched bad tv, journaled a little, wrote adolescent angst-ridden poetry (which should no doubt be burned in some sort of emotional cleansing ritual), and finally fell asleep on the sofa sometime after 4am.

Funny how just a little bit of rejection can open up every wound you've ever suffered; even the ones you'd forgotten about.

Woke up on the sofa in a bad mood, with a stiff neck and back and a sinus headache.

A pot of coffee later, several pages of journal therapy (which should also be burned), a mini abs workout, and I'm rip roaring to go.

The Rousseau exhibit ends tomorrow, so I've just taken advantage of my Tate membership, reserved tickets for 2pm and am having myself a little Artist's Date.

Go send him some good thoughts. He's gonna be all whacked out on pain killers this afternoon. Good times. Pity all I have is coffee.

February 2, 2006

Hunting Heads

See, the thing about London is that street names change every block or so. And a street can be very different from a road or a lane or a square.

I had a headhunter interview this morning at 33 Sloane Square. Woke up pretty early this morning and went for a nice run through Hyde and Green Parks. Came back home, double-checked my directions on the Journey Planner to see what was the fastest easiest route. Gave myself an extra 20 minutes, because the only thing that irks me more than people being late is being late myself.

Get to Sloane Square, and can't find 33 anywhere. Asked directions, nobody could help. It's now 5 till 11 and I'm a little panicky. Just as I'm getting ready to call the office, my phone rings and it's the headhunter.

I tell him I'm on the square and can't seem to find #33. "What's the closest landmark?"

"Oh, well we're on Sloane Street, so you're about a 10-minute walk towards Knightsbridge."

"I'm so sorry," I say, knowing he's already rescheduled me because he needs to be in the soulless Canary Wharf in less than 2 hours.

He assures me it's no problem, but still ...

One of my branding facts is that 90% of first impressions are made in the first 10 seconds. My first impression is that I'm a dolt who can't get proper directions and arrive on time to an interview. Surely I'm qualified to be a senior executive. Well, on the other hand,considering some of the senior execs I've worked with the past couple years, I'm right on par.

Memo to self: double check addresses (and what kind of road/lane/mews it is) and get exact directions.

So the meeting went well. It's like meeting a casting director for the first time ... you know nothing's gonna come of it, but they might send you out for an audition in a month or so. They might not. You go, have a chat, do a little dance, and let it go.

Kate my psyhcic job search buddy tells me that there are four basic ways that people get jobs:

1. advertisements
2. headhunters / recruiters
3. personal contacts
4. speculative

Of all jobs placed in recent years, how do you think the percentages break down based on the above categories?

70% of jobs placed come from below the line.

I don't have my notes from her handy, but I think it breaks down like this

1. advertisements = 15
2. headhunters / recruiters = 5
3. personal contacts = 60
4. speculative = 10

So as good as it is to have the headhunters in your court, one really shouldn't be investing more than 5 (no more than 15, according to Kate) percent of one's time with them.

So really a job search is all about personal contacts. 75% of those placements don't come from your immediate network, but from a friend of a friend.

Who do you know someone who knows of someone who might be looking for a branding / marketing comms guru?

It's all about the networking.

February 1, 2006

And no one's getting fat except Mama Cass

Clayton hasn't quite killed me yet. We did a one-month evaluation today and I've lost a few kilos and, based on the total of 5 skinfold measurements he does, I'm down 10cm of body fat. Woot. I can't quite figure out how to turn that into a percentage, but the point is I'm trending down.

The first day of freedom was an enjoyable one. Got a couple items ticked off my "get that HSMP visa" list, had a good workout, and bought all kinds of cute things for my new job search oasis*.

Off to a repeat visit with Jamie and Ste tonight. Yeah, I saw it last week, but good theater bears repeated viewings. The performances (especially Sophie Stanton as the mom) are really astounding.

Hmm, did I not write about Beautiful Thing last week? Must have been in the emails. It really does live up to its title.

* Yeah yeah, I could call it a home office, but where's the fun in that?