April 30, 2006

A Question ...

Knowing they both go away over time, which is easier to live with?
Free polls from Pollhost.com

And in news unrelated to the above, although everything's related if we analyze enough, lastminute.com is an enabler. Color me spontaneous and send me off on a surprise bank holiday mini-adventure.

Details from the Continent.

April 28, 2006

Farm Fresh

Maybe it's because I was reading a SCUBA magazine this afternoon, but I'm struck by how much these zucchinis (courgettes if I were to be practicing my assimilation) are the same color as a moray eel.

I'm pretty sure an eel wouldn't be as flavorful as these will, sautéed up in a bit of butter and garlic.

I was going to write about three green dildos coming in my organic box this week, but I didn't think that would be very tasteful.

April 26, 2006

Please Curb Your Child

I’m running along the north edge of Hyde Park. It’s a cool morning and my lungs are full of fresh air and the smell of cut grass. Ahead of me is a woman and a helmet-wearing toddler. There's a tiny bicycle leaning against a park bench.

The woman and her kid are standing on the grass, and as I approach, mom reaches down and pulls the kid's pants down. Aren’t baby’s butts just the cutest? I figure nature’s calling and the kid needs a quick pee on the grass. No biggie.

As soon as the pants come down, mom lifts the kid up, one arm wrapped under the kid’s arms, the other holding up both legs. Toddler is now v-shaped, with its not-as-cute-as-it-was-a-second-ago butt poised over the lawn.

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” I thought as I quickened my pace, desperately trying to envisage a scenario that didn’t involve baby scat.

I don't look back.

I realize that The Royal Parks are tagged as “London’s Personal Space”, but that’s just a little too personal.

April 25, 2006

Booking the Band

A couple weeks ago, Derek and I saw Nick Hornby read at Dingwalls. It wasn’t your typical reading, as his essays were punctuated by performances from Marah (rhymes with “hurrah”), a rock band he’s been touting for a couple years. He'd talk about a band or a genre, and they'd play a cover. The night ended with a mini-concert of their original material. I hadn't had so much fun in months, although trying to get our pints refilled was a bit of a nightmare. Seems more people were there for the music and the beer than to listen to Nick read. Not sure I understood that, but to each their own.

The reading was wonderful, a reminder of the nostalgia that music can provide and how what we listen to can shape, or at least provide context for, our past. We all have our own musical heritage, be it headbanging metal, saccharine pop or an individual playlist of everything in between. It also reminded me how good it is to get out and hear a live band in a small space without all the trappings and pyrotechnics of an arena concert.

What's the better show? Madonna at Wembley for £160 or the Pretenders at Bogarts / Tipitina's / [insert your local venue here] ?

Penguin has published a podcast which gives a taste of the evening’s fare … a gratifying mix of words and music.

If Marah comes to a venue near you, go see 'em. And tell the drummer that Derek says hey.

I’m happy to see that A Long Way Down has taken rightfully replaced the overwritten that Labyritnth schlock on the best seller list. My faith is restored in those who read.

April 23, 2006

Friendly Fire

I'm slowly working my way through Lara Croft's new Legend on the PS2. I'm not the world's best gamer, but every now and again it's a fun way to pass the time.

I fear I may never finish it though, as I find myself playing in the Jennifer Aniston mode and seeing how many ways I can kill Angelina Jolie.

April 21, 2006

Uneasy Street

The housewives on Wisteria Lane are allegedly desperate. They’ve got nothing on the denizens of The Street.


The pilot episode began with a none-too-bubbly Jane Horrocks banging her neighbor once the hubby and kids had gotten off to work and school. A few days later, neighbor guy accidentally runs over the daughter, sending her into a coma. The laughs do not ensue. There’s guilt, anger, sadness and true desperation.

I had a friend in college who, when we were talking about the humor in Beckett, said, "you have to laugh or you'd just cut out your stomach with jagged glass."

This is that kind of television. I loved it.

I didn’t understand was why they had so many amazing, well-known British actors with just bit parts (Jim Broadbent, Timothy Spall, etc.). Surely they were not all cast just to support Miss Horrocks, who was elegant in her rage.

Indeed not, I learned in last night’s 2nd episode. Jim Broadbent is the soon-to-be pensioner whose testimony last week did not help the case against Horrock’s crash test honey. This week’s show centered around him, and how he’s being forced into retirement as he approaches his 65th birthday.

It was heartbreaking to see him beg to stay at work, even volunteering because he had nowhere else to go. “Go home or I’ll call security,” his boss told him.

At least he has his pension. After 40 years of a work and modest living with his wife, they have that to pay the bills. All £37 a week of it. UK law says that the majority of your pension has to be paid out via an annuity, so the only way to get the whole pot o’ gold is to die before you hit 65.

And so he tries to kill himself. While the action bordered on a cutesy retelling of Babe in “Crimes of the Heart”, the tone of the piece, and subsequent results of his unsuccessful are infinitely darker.

Seems the missus would rather have alive in the looney bin than be a widow with a lump sum payout. The look on his face as he'd realized he'd been sectioned is Emmy material.

I laughed, I got a little choked up, and my stomach ached for the pains of these people. Even more heartbreaking to see him being driven off after being told he’d been sectioned.

The acting is amazing. The writing is stunning. The stories are woven together in time, so the series will be a web of 6 families’ interactions. Six short stories, each worthy of their own film, turned into one wrenching novel of a series.

I can't wait to see what twisted darkness is behind the next neighbor's door.

Hair Apparent

I've been thinking of coloring my hair (again).

Oh dear, I thought we'd moved on from that.

Nothing drastic, just a "give me two weeks in the sun" look. Trouble is, I've been there before and it becomes a number of things:

a) Compulsive: every six weeks I'd go in and say "shorter and blonder" and then I ended up in Greece being mistaken for a Swede. True story. It was good color, but ...

b) Expensive: Keeping your hair "natural" and manageably short (mine doesn't get longer, it gets bigger) is not for the pence-pincher. And don't come back to me with the a box of L'Oreal is only $5.00. I know better. Color correction from a bad home coloring is both costly and embarrasing. Say it with me ... "leave it to the trained professionals." And then there's ...

c) Ridiculous: My sideburns and beard are coming in sooooo gray. In fact, someone recently told me they LOVE my haircolor and wish theirs was "silver" too. Great, I now am naturally the color of a Weimaraner. Besides, sun-kissed locks and gray sideburns just don't go together, and I'm not going down the dye your sideburns path.

Perhaps a more modest change. I'm thinking about sideburns. We'll see how they grow in.

April 20, 2006

Book of the Week


I'm loving this.

April 17, 2006

Peter, Peter ... I Can See Your House From Here

We celebrated the weekend of pagan fertility rites by heading down to Brighton ... where the skies wept in sadness the whole time.

Gray, dreary Brighton during bear pride on a bank holiday weekend. No postcard can do it justice.

For as upleasant as the weather was, it was so good to be by the ocean sea.

The highlight of the trip was dinner with the luscious lesbain Mak makes out with and her lovely lover (with kicky new short hair). This event only barely outshone finding Cyber Candy ... a small hole in the wall that sold two things I thought were only found at my Grandma's in Cincinnati. Beeman's chewing gum and Barq's Root Beer.

We headed back norf early yesterday morning, and spent the afternoon with the S.L.A.G.S. at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern. Turns out the average BMI reduces as the evening wears on and boys with real haircuts show up to dance.

Have I mentioned that I think there should be a moratorium on clipper cuts and shaved head? Enough already. You look like a bunch of concentration campers, and nobody's casting for the muscial version of Schindler's List (which would, of course, be called Schindler!).

Off to the Walthamstow dogs this afternoon. I'm wearing my PETA shirt.

April 13, 2006

Careful What You Wish For

"Do you want anything from New York?" a friend emailed yesterday morning. I’ve had a hankering for Tazo Green Ginger tea. Haven’t been able to find it here in London, and it’s one of the few things I’ve been missing. So I placed an order.

Later that afternoon, Edward and I had begun an Easter holiday mid-week, mid-afternoon cocktail festival after admiring the casts at the V&A.

“So do you miss New York yet?’ he asked me.

I truthfully answered that I really don’t. I miss some of the convenience, and I miss the breadth of friends that I don’t see/talk to that much anymore. While I’m making good friends here, I miss the network of people that evolved over the dozen years we spent there.

When we’d have parties in NY, there would be 20-30 people in our place, from all different circles that we’d run with … shows I’d been in, people Larry knew when he lived there pre-Chicago, people from my work, people from his, not to mention the bloggers. They were always amazing nights, and I miss having all those people weaving in and out the fabric of my day-to-day.

Later in the afternoon, Ed takes me to an Italian coffee shop in Soho for a much needed caffeine break. Behind the parma ham and egg cream tarts, there was a box of Green Ginger tea bags. I ordered a couple to go. I’m having a cup now. It’s delicious. It reminds me of Ptown – the first place I’d found my little sachets of pear-infused green tea bliss.

When I got home last night, after several more drinks and some dinner with Ed and his ding-dong-adorable History Boys, there was an email from Steven (aka Connie). He’s one of the boys I miss most. We share a Midwest → New Orleans → New York connection. We’ve bonded with each others siblings. We’ve both done our own riff on the performer turned corporate drone motif. Oh, and he’s the one who named me “Bea Movie” and got me to do drag for a fundraiser way back when.

He’s one of the rare friends that has become family, and his mail reads ...

Big news: 
I'm in Brussels.

Bigger news: 
I spent the last two weeks traveling europe

Biggest news: 
I'm moving to Brussels to oversee design for the [fancy hotel chain] Europe, Africa and Middle Eastern division.

While Belgium isn’t just next door, it’s a lot closer than Manhattan.

Green Ginger in Soho and Connie in Belgium. Wheeeee.

Bea happy.

April 11, 2006

Say Keys

I'd give my eye teeth to be able to play piano. I think handsome Daniel De Borah* may have said the same thing at one point.

For all of the dramatic faces he pulled during this afternoon's lunchtime concert at Wigmore Hall, we never once saw his teeth. Even during the encores, his smiles (which were very cute, if not maybe a little smug) were tightlipped.

Clearly it wasn't a case of too much botox (is 25 too young for filler?), otherwise his eyebrows and forehead wouldn't have been able to take on the animatronic/Klingon quality they did. Sometimes I wondered if it was his pretty little fingers playing the Steinway or if perhaps he was willing the concert into the keys via telekinetic energy.

But other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, the concert was divine.

* Any bets on his drag name being Deborah?

April 10, 2006

I'm Not Dead Either

I'm only nine tracks into it, but I haven't been so happy with a CD purchase in I can't remember. Maybe since I told y'all to Try This. Didn't download any of it before the purchase (try before you buy) and hoo-doggie, it's a keeper. Yes, he did say hoo-doggie.

Haven't blogged in a while, which surprises me because I've been writing a lot. Trying to come up with some ideas for stories, but mostly it's journaling about life outside the 9-5 and weighing the pros and cons of alternative careers. Trying to define "success" on my own terms.

There's also been some rationalizing about getting turned down for jobs because "we're looking for someone less senior." The irony being I go into the interviews thinking I'm probably underqualified.

I pretty much fell into the industry I was in. I took the job to just do graphics production, audition, and "keep my mouth shut." Six months later I was a team leader and 7 years later I was Head of Global Branding. Who'd have thought that would ever happen?

I'm going into my 3rd month of not having to be at the office, and I find myself wondering if those 7 years weren't just a fluke. The critic in me ("You're maudlin and full of self-pity. You're magnificent.") says maybe I wasn't supposed to be in the suited-up world. He's rebutted by the inner cheerleader ("Hola Señor Bradley!") that says I really am that "senior" and have to wait for the next opportunity at the level I'm perceived and selling myself. Jobs at this level don't come a dime a dozen, says the headhunter. And then there's the rule of thumb that for every £10k you get paid, it takes a month to find the job. So I guess I've got a few months to go.

But is that level of work what I really want? I get excited about new job prospects, but maybe that's because I want the revenge of getting a better job long before the package runs out. "Ha! I'll show them."

And just what is that better job? One where I get paid more and have more perks ... and more responsibility? Or one where I'm actually really jazzed and I don't pull the pillow over my head in the morning, getting a stomach ache when I think about everything that needs to be done.

Are the money/perks an even exchange for the agita? Would I really be happy becoming a life-coaching, massage therapist who writes crappy snippets of stories in my spare time, earning just enough to pay the bills?

Ah, but I've enrolled in a creative writing course, so I'm sure my stories won't be crappy for long. Or at least they'll be more than snippets.

Argh, sometimes there are just too many options. Or maybe I just keep asking too many questions.

On the other hand, it's good to have options and if the right job comes along, I'm sure I'll jump on it. If it doesn't, The Black Cap's hiring.

:: :: ::

This all sounds more downbeat than I really feel. I am so enjoying myself ... reading, scribbling in coffee shops/pubs, planning day trips, taking spin classes with friends, getting more and more ready to run Edinburgh, going to galleries, etc. If I could just figure out how to make a living do all that, I'd be aces.

Well the CD's finished but I'm playing it again and it will be on heavy rotation. Nice job, Alecia. Very nice indeed.

April 5, 2006

Ye Olde Greene Card

One more thing ... I got my passport back today, affixed with a brand spankin' new "Residence Permit". So much more formal than that silly Work Permit thing I had last year.


Shell Shocked, or No Yolking Matter

I cracked open an egg for this morning’s breakfast. It had two yolks, seemingly conjoined, but there were definitely two separate globes of unfertilized chicken DNA in the shell.

I thought that was weird, and not because I’m so farm non-adjacent that I don’t realize chickens might have twins (how often does that happen though?). The weird factor came in because the same thing happened when I was making yesterday’s breakfast.

I’ve never seen a double yolker, let alone have the two eggs come in the same container. Did it come from the same mother, I wondered. One with a genetic propensity for 2-4-1? Makes sense … I’ve seen plenty of hens who are drawn to that, at least at their shrill fests*.

I learned somewhere that a chicken lays one egg a day. If that’s true, then did the eggs come from the same mother? I’d think that the daily collection would be just that … Tuesday’s eggs get packed and shipped with the rest, and we do it all over again on Wednesday. So maybe my eggs came from a hen house of multiple embryos. In which case they farmer should switch them from egg-producing hens to breeding hens, eh?

And then my mind boggles at how many chickens there must be to lay enough eggs (one a day) to keep the world in omelets, pastry dough, meringue and fried egg sandwiches.

Think about it … next time you go into a Waitrose, Kroger’s or Piggly Wiggly, look how many eggs are there. Then think how many supermarkets there are in your neighborhood, city, state, etc. Then start thinking chickens. That’s a lot of clucking poultry. One egg a day per hen.

I get this way about bananas, too. How many banana trees do you see in a day? Here in London I see about … um, none. Now go look at the stacks and stacks of them at your grocer. Where do they all come from?

But back to eggs. Yesterday’s twofer has re-hatched a little fear that used to bother me. What if you cracked open an egg and it had been fertilized but not quite made it. There you are, cracking open the makings of some scrambled eggs and out plops a half-formed chick … pink little eyes, spindly threads of what would be legs, the beginnings of a beak, all encased in a gelatinous goo of non-meringue. It would totally freak me out.

On the other hand, I guess if it was a boy half-chicken, it’d be no problem to prepare it sonny side up.

* Note to US readers: A “hen night” is the UK version of a bachelorette party.

Got a Tiger in Your Tank?


Thanks Derek.

April 4, 2006

A My Name is Alice, or Alaïs ...

The big mystery behind Kate Mosse’s Labyrinth is just how it became the number one bestseller in the UK.

Every now and again, I'll pick up the #1 to see what the fuss is about, even if it's not something that would normally appeal to me. This seemed to be a chick-lit reworking of the Da Vinci Code formula, jumping back and forth between the Crusades and today in order to solve the secrets of the Grail.

I haven’t read such ridiculously bad writing since The Celestine Prophecy. Throwing all conventional narrative wisdom to the wind (why waste time with strong verbs when there’s an entire thesaurus of clichéd adjectives and adverbs?), she’s managed to convince publishers and readers, not to mention Richard and Judy, that by throwing in a few (hundred) italicized French 101 words, she’s created compelling historical fiction. And there’s a glossary at the back. Quelle high brow.

The time-slip plot is tied together (by a time-slip knot?) by two central characters, 20th-century Alice and 13th-century Alaïs. They are both fiercely independent, with wills strong as steel … steel that must be magnetized because trouble sticks to them like tacky souveniers on a refridgerator. And they’re connected by a “gee, I think my dreams might be reincarnation memories” storyline. I hope Alanis gets to do the soundtrack to the film.

In another oh-so-subtle piece of parallel structure, the evil women (yes, there are heroines and high-class whores working against each other) both leave scratch marks on the back of their lovers, to "claim them."

Oh yes … it’s sexy too! “She moved closer so he could feel her breasts pressing against his chest through the thin silk. Despite his bad temper, he felt his body react.”

Yay! The passive voice for a sex scene. Hot. Hmm, didn’t she say something similar the page before? Oh yes …

“There was something deliberate about her movements, like a performance, but Will felt his body respond all the same.” Will’s willy is quite the reactor, eh? There’ll be no Viagra needed for this tool’s tool.

I don’t think bestsellers have to be rife with mastery of the language. But one would hope an editor (let alone a writer who is a co-founder of the Orange Award) could've come up with something better than she “shook her head to shake the maudlin thoughts away.”

Surely it must get better. 200 pages down, 500 to go. I can’t wait for the crusaders to arrive.

April 3, 2006

Get Outta Town

Apparently there is life outside these here city walls (or at least what’s left of them).

Rather than the weekly muddle about the house with coffee and Sunday papers, we lived on the edge yesterday. We bought lattes and broadsheets at Paddington Station, and then enjoyed them on a peaceful train journey to Oxford.

I thought it was beautiful. Larry found it "pretty cute, but there’s not enough concrete, people, buses, etc.”

I'm taking a shine to the idea of a train ride out of town, even if it’s just for a lunch. I can read and write on the train, then do some exploring. Might as well enjoy it while I have the time, eh? Maybe I'll even get all crazy and take my bike on the train. Traveling with my own transport ... madness.

The other option is to rent Season 5 of West Wing and watch it over a 2-day marathon. Not like I did that with Season 4 last week. Nope, not me. How can I get Aaron Sorken to write my day-to-day existence?

Any day trip suggestions? Heck ... I could even be tempted to do an overnighter.