September 29, 2007

Saturday Matinée

We saw Erin Brockovich on testosterone Michael Clayton today.

Apparently Saturday afternoon is "pretend it's your living room day" at the cinema. The people sitting next to us chatted all through the ads and trailers (which I don't mind too much, but really ... ) and then, when the film started, continued their conversation.

And it wasn't really in a whisper, it was just a regular chat in normal (albeit not shouting) tones. But, bless them, they were speaking Polish or some other Eastern European language and since we couldn't understand them, evidently they thought we couldn't hear them either.

I find this happens a lot on public transportation as well. And in the staff room at work. But I digress.

Larry shhh-ed our neighbors and told them, with a very non-Canadian directness, to "be quiet, eh."

They giggled, opened another bottle of beer and a Tupperware container of food (which all came from plastic bags on the specially-priced "premium" seat between them and us), and continued to talk.

"Excuse me," I said, incorporating a teacherly hand gesture ... something akin to dunking an invisible swimmer's head in front of me with a downturned palm. "Do you mind?"

"Oh, sorry," the woman said. Apparently she could speak English, even if she hadn't quite mastered the intonation of a believable apology.

They quieted down for about twenty minutes, but then the film (which was slow-paced at best) must have started boring her. I guess she was trying to be polite and not speak anymore because she dug another beer (clink, clink, clink) out of her bag and then popped open her mobile and started texting.

I swear, you try to enjoy a nice matinée in W2 and it's like going to the friggin' trailer park. Last time we were in W2 we saw a woman peeing in the street. Right in front of Tony Blair's house-to-be. I don't think it was a political statement or a marking of her territory (she didn't look a thing like Cherie from behind). From now on in, we stay east of Edgeware Road.

But other than that, Mary Todd, how did you enjoy the show?

Spoilers ahead ...

It was all right, if not perhaps a little drawn out and mildly predictable. If I'd been home watching it on TV I probably would have zoned out, gone to the fridge for a beer and texted people.


Ahem. Right. Anyway.

It had a very convoluted beginning, trying to cram all of Michael Clayton's very complicated life (a high-flying fixer who lives amidst many broken relationships) into ten minutes of jump-cut exposition.

IMDB later informed me that the writer/director (never let first-time directors loose on their own scripts) was from the Bourne family ... which explained a lot.

The main problem with the film is that, ten minutes into it, there's a big explosion which was meant to kill our hero, but he inexplicably parked on the side of the road to channel a horse whisperer and was saved. And then flash back to "Four Days Earlier."

I'm all for a flashback ... but this one too the entire film. And then when we get to where we left off (including an unnecessary -- except for the elderly couple in front of us who thought they were very clever by discussing the deja vu effect -- recapsulation of the events we'd already seen), we have a clever denoument and a "oh lookie, he's going to get his life on track now" moment.

Sadly, we never understand why he got out of the car to look at the horsies, so his entire salvation is based on a HUGE hole in the plot.

George Clooney delivers a strong and subtle performance (not one Tom Cruise jaw clench or unnecessary "look-I'm-shouting-because-I'm-ACTING" moment to be had) and Tilda Swinton was excellent as the corporate shark in way over her head. Tom Wilkinson treads the line between crazy and disenchanted with remarkable effect -- he really is a fine actor. Makes me want to watch In the Bedroom again.

Also remarkable is how good Tilda and Tom's American accents were. There are some London stage actors who should take note.

Julie White had nothing more than a cameo, and I was so hoping she'd actually get to do something besides mutter and throw a glass against a wall.

All in, Michael Clayton is worth a go, if for nothing else than to confirm George Clooney as a solid actor when he's not taking the piss out of himself in films like the Ocean's 11-13 series.

No Malaise in Millais

I went to the Millais exhibit at the Tate Britain yesterday and I haven't been so inspired by a collection of paintings in I don't know when.

I guess the most common is his depiction of Ophelia.


What can never been realized in any reproduction (online or on paper) is how vibrant this painting is. Her right hand very nearly comes right off of the canvas. The verdant lushness of the painting, the photo-realism of her face and eyes. It's just so much more lovely than I'd ever realized.

And oh my, the colors. The deep, velvety blue of Mariana's dress (and the cute little rat in the lower right corner of this magnificent character study). The bright autumnal orangey bronze of the lover's skirt in The Proscribed Royalist. The Hugeonot's violet jacket, popping off the canvas in contrast to his lover's black dress.

The other thing that struck me was the drama of the situations in so many of the paintings. Not only were they taken from works of written art (Shakespeare, Keats, Tennyson), but they sparked story ideas within me. What was she waiting for? What's in the letter she just read (and shouldn't Cherry Jones deliver the speech)? Just how happy is she that her husband's been released from jail? And just what's going through St. Agnes' mind?

I suppose I could read some Keats to find out. Or maybe I could just pretend I'm standing in that pale blue square of moonlight and write a new monologue for her.

It was a spectacular couple of hours. And a perfect way to end the last two weeks that I've spent with Anna ... who was really a gift of a student. I would love to see how Millais might have painted her.

She's a Finnish woman whose first language is Swedish. She used to teach Greek at the University level and has worked as an EU translator in Luxembourg for the last dozen years, a job she sort of fell into. She's spent the last several years refurbing a house she bought in Thessaloniki ... which has become her spiritual home. We've spent the last two weeks discussing myth and poetry, uncovering lyrics to modern pop-punk songs she's heard in shops, exploring the vocabulary of motivation, and pretty much solving the world's problems. She's reintroduced me to Greek mythology (a topic that's been weaving its way in and out of my psyche for the past couple months -- and now the synchronicity is too strong to be ignored) and given me my first glimpse of me of Constantine Cavafy.

If you ever need a reminder that it's all about the journey, give Ithaca a read. It's beautiful.

I really do have the best job and am working with the most fascinating people.

:: :: ::

Oh, and before you think I've gone all soft on you and lost my allegedly disturbed sense of humor, there's one more thing to share. I saw the other day that the morals police were trying to confiscate pieces of Elton John's photography collection (photos he owns, not photos he took) under the grounds that they were child pornography. It's a rubbish theory, IMHO, but people do get their knickers in a twist, don't they?

With that in mind, I saw this portrait yesterday at the Millais exhibit ...

The title of said portrait is "Cherry Ripe."

If I'd have put that in a Tuesday 200, y'all would have booed me louder than Carol Kane in The Princess Bride, wouldn't you?

But John Everett did it in 1879, using his own daughter as a model, and it's art.

September 28, 2007

He's Everywhere

A little FYI ...

I'm writing over here every week or so. A little diversion for those of you looking for insights into Life Clubs or wanting to know what I'm thinking about when I'm not scribbling (apparently) violent flash fiction or speculations on scrotums.

September 27, 2007

How's it Hanging?

Last week, Popbitch informed their less observant readers (and some nuns and lesbians) that men's testicles never hang at the same level.

This week, a reader writes in that

The higher of the two is always on the same side as which the male writes with.

True enough from this right-hander.

So now your task is to check for yourself and report back. Or go to your local sauna and ask people for their autographs.

September 25, 2007

Tuesday 200 - #59

I heard on the news last night about a plane that crashed on its way from California to here, and I wondered if that was the flight that Jamie was on.

At least it’ll get me out tomorrow’s date, I thought.

I’ve always been a little hazy on the good/bad thing, but that’s trending towards bad, right? A few hours later, I got a text from him.

Miss u. Can’t wait 4 tmrw. x

I was glad he was okay, I suppose, but still …

I called the dentist this morning to see if there were any openings for a root canal.

“Couldn’t help but overhear,” said my coworker Bev, holding a packet of Jaffa Cakes. “I’d offer you one, but if your tooth’s bothering … “

“It’s not so bad,” I said, grabbing two of the biscuits. “It’s just this guy I’ve been seeing. He’s been rubbing me the wrong way lately.”

“Who, Jamie? Cor, he could rub me,” she giggled.

I know. Everybody loves him. And yet I’ve been making myself half sick trying to find a perfectly good reason to call it all off.

And now the bastard’s forty minutes late and I’m all dolled up.

I'll kill him.

:: :: ::

What's a Tuesday 200?

Last week's Tuesday 200.


September 24, 2007

Mind the Gap

We're used to announcements when waiting for the tube ...

"Due to signal failure , there is a delay on the Central Line ..."

"Due to a sick passenger, this train is being held in the station ..."

Today I heard a new one.

"There will be severely delayed service on the Victoria line due to a passenger beneath the train."

True story.

September 20, 2007

Henry and Clare Underground

I was standing near the doorway of a Central Line carriage yesterday afternoon and a young woman got on, holding a copy of The Time Traveler's Wife.

I gasped. I didn't mean to, it just happened. I'm becoming one of those people whose brain acts faster than its internal censor. I guess I've also become one of those people who talks to strangers on the tube. Oh dear ... I'm becoming my mother.

She looked at me and I said, "that's one of my favorite books."

"It's so good," she smiled, but was only about 30 pages into it.

"You have no idea."

September 18, 2007

Tuesday 200 - #58

“How much longer, Mommy?”

The overweight woman stopped on the sidewalk and rummaged through her tattered purse. Pushing aside her emergency supply of Jaffa Cakes, she pulled out a manila envelope and handed it to her daughter, a mini-her in too-tight leggings and matching floral print smock. I guess people really do buy clothes at Asda.

“Just look at this Lulu, and keep quiet for a spell.”

The not-so-little girl pulled out two 8x10s. “She’s pretty,” she said, wiping her runny nose on the back of her hand.

“Seems Daddy thinks so too,” said her mother. She coughed and spit on the pavement, barely missing me as I slowly passed by.

“Daddy!” the troll-child shouted, rushing across the street.

A startled man stepped out of the theater, the color draining from his face as he froze under the neon marquis flashing “Cat’s Walk.” I’d walked by the strip club almost every day for years, but had never seen anyone going in or out.

The color drained from his face as he saw his daughter rush towards him.

The screech of his "Lulu!”

The squeal of the taxi’s brakes.

The thud of a new hood ornament.

:: :: ::

What's a Tuesday 200?

Last week's Tuesday 200.


September 17, 2007

Save the Oompa Loompa, Save the World

I made a series of schoolboy errors yesterday and am feeling a bit jet lagged because of it.

1. I didn't sleep much on the plane ride home. Said no to the Ambien and sat in my cozy cubicle watching Dexter and 30 Rock on my laptop.

2. Got home and fell asleep on the sofa. My cat nap turned into a few hours. Circadian rhythms be damned.

3. Couldn't wake up and decided to go to the gym for my first workout in ages at 6pm. Decided to go to bed at half-eleven and tossed and turned for ninety minutes.

4. Went into the living room to let the TV lull me to sleep. Ended up watching all of the Emmys and falling asleep on the sofa around 4:30 am. Larry accidentally woke me up an hour later when he was taking his cycle out of the flat to go to work.

5. I stumbled into bed and then hit snooze until 8 am, which is when I wanted to be at school this morning. D'oh. I really should know better, given the number of times I've made this journey in the last five years.

:: :: ::

So. The Emmys. I found them a bit odd. Not sure I get the "green" no-set thing. I think it's more of a charade than an actual carbon-neutral event. Although I think that about most allegedly eco-friendly things these days. Does that make me eco-cynical?

Did they really have to give Ricky Gervais best actor? That's just ridiculous. Wake up every one.

Either my TV's colour is way fubar, or Hollywood needs an immediate fake-tan intervention. The cheerleader from Heroes looked like an oompa loompa (who told her a billowy empire waist on a midget was a good idea?).

Okay then. Must focus and try to adjust to my time zone. It's good to be home.

September 15, 2007

Homeward Bound

Well gee, that was fun. And fast. And sort of a blur.

We're in the BA lounge at JFK. All hail business travel and the perks that come with it, or at least (these days) being partnered to it.

This was my second trip back to Manhattan this year and, as much as I enjoy seeing my friends and taking in the familiar sights (the smells and sounds I can do without, thanksverymuch), I'm once again pleased to be heading back to a more comfortable London lifestyle. I loved living here, but being a tourist (or even a hotel resident) in this town is exhausting.

I'm also aswirl in DILF fantasies ... not so much having one as becoming one. I'm feeling decidedly unsexy as of late. Time to get back to the gym do some serious reshaping/detoxing/blah blah. I feel fat and puffy and old and tired. I totally fell out of the running routine (they'll be no Great North Run for us this year) and I shamefully haven't been to the gym since before Africa. Maybe a new regime with some visible results will make me feel a little better. I seem to have reinvented my life over the past six months, now it's time to reinvent my body.

Am I just being stupid and self-critical? Surely there are some 45-50 year old (who look younger, natch) hotties you'd recommend to go into my inspiration book. Let the list begin ...

September 11, 2007

Tuesday 200 - #57

I met her just after she came to London. We were dancing at Pacha. A talent scout with a keen eye and a jittery hand found her in the club, after spilling sangria on her previously unstained jeans. She was the toast of the catwalk within six months.

Two years later, her catwalk’s a side street off Clapham Commons. Professionally colored hair has grown into a sheaf of straw pulled back into a sloppy knot. Couture skirts have been replaced with track pants and and an oversized green khaki coat with a fake fur hood.

We used to go shopping for push-up bras and boys. Today her Tesco's bag is filled with nursing pads. The baby strapped to her chest can’t be more than a month old. The black knit cap on his head barely contains enough yarn to make a mitten for my hand.

I can’t tell if she doesn’t see me or is just pretending not to.

I know I shouldn’t be eavesdropping, but I can’t help hearing her broken English, “Mama, I want to come home.”

I almost feel bad for selling her that first bag of crystal.

But a girl’s gotta make a living.

:: :: ::

What's a Tuesday 200?

Last week's Tuesday 200.


Start Spreading the News

I'm leaving today.

In about an hour, actually.

Larry's got a business trip and Citi gives me a free flight back to the states once a year ... "ex pat home leave" ... so I'm taking advantage of it. I'm looking forward to wandering my old hometown, taking in a show or two, buying things at a 50% discount from London prices, seeing old friends (although no one is possible older than me now) and having a mini birthday fete on Thursday.

And the best part is, we'll re-celebrate my birthday when we return. I do recognize the birth month, after all. Keep those cards and letters coming.

And give me a shout if you're in the city that never sleeps.

September 10, 2007

Run, Formula Filmmaking, Run

Have just come back from a mid-afternoon screening of Run, Fatboy, Run ... which could also be called Watch Americans Make Simon Pegg Unfunny. But that doesn't have the same ring to it, eh?

I think in the future, Simon should bag Mr. Schwimmer (who seemingly really tried to be all Richard Curtis) and stick with Edgar Wright. I'm sure the money's better with the stateside financing, but a fatter budget seems to have rounded the edges of off dark humor. I was hoping that Michael Ian Black would have co-penned a funnier script, but this one didn't work out so well.

And what was with David Walliams' semi-cameo? A tired spin on one of his Little Britain characters. So. Not. Funny.

Anyway, it's a predictable, frothy little fairy tale about a man who decides to get the love of his life (Thandie Newton, as beautiful as can be) back by running a marathon (with three weeks to train and requisite race-day injury to boot). There are some good gags, and Pegg does the best with what he's given to work with. Dylan Moran turns in a very cheeky performance as well.

Does he finish? Does he get the girl and win his 5-year-old son's affection? Is the too-good-to-be-true American investment wanker truly too good to true? Do the people that have bet against him get their comeuppance?

You'll just have to run to the cinema (or take a leisurely walk to the video store ... it should be there soon) to find out.

September 8, 2007


A few hours ago, I went upstairs to the quote-unquote-writer's-loft and dug up my copy of The South Beach Diet. A certain someone has been bending my ear (and his keyboard) about it for a couple weeks now and I'm feeling puffy.

A few minutes ago, I realized I was hungry and went to look for said book, as I can't remember where I put it a few hours ago. Attention Deficit Disorder does take its toll. As I went into the kitchen I saw a loaf of sourdough bread just begging to be sliced and toasted.

It's delicious.

I guess I'm not starting South Beach today, not that I've found the book yet.

But later on, when the carbs make me sleepy, I can have a lovely coffee from my newly acquired Nespresso machine.

mmm, caffeine

The selling point was the nifty accessory that froths the milk. It's a separate metal pitcher that sits on an electric base, much like a kettle, and will either heat or froth milk, depending on the doohickey you put on the bottom.

(And really, who doesn't like a doohickey on the bottom?)

The accessory is called an Aeroccino, which sounds an awful lot like a Harry Potter spell. Wave your wand, say "aeroccino" with a determined look on your face, and *poof*, you've got a little froth to make a macchiato.

Which would go very nicely with a slice of cake.

What do you mean there's no cake on South Beach?

The Family that Arguidos Together ...

Now that Ma and Pa McCann have been reclassified by the Portuguese legal system, they are no longer allowed to be in contact with the media.

What are they going to do with all that new-found spare time? I guess he'll have to find someone else to blog for him.

I hope this all gets cleared up soon. I miss not hearing about poor Harvey and and who's not going to marry Jodie Marsh.

Madeline is Dead

No, not that one.

A straight line is not the shortest distance between two points.

So says Mrs. Whatsit in one of my favorite novels, A Wrinkle in Time.

I didn't know that Madeline L'engel was still alive, let alone 88 years old and living in Manhattan, and was sad to read that she died yesterday.

If you haven't read the award-winning book, do yourself a favor and have a go.

RIP, Ms. L'engel. I'm still hoping to find a tesseract.

September 5, 2007

Mary Poppins for Prime Minister

Dear Metronet,

Just a quick word of thanks for your little strike.

Because of your 'action', I have reacquainted myself with my bicycle. I'm pleased to say that my commute time's been cut in half, and it will most likely decrease even more when the trains are running again, as traffic on the roads will clear up.


Sometimes you just need a little motivation, and I appreciate you giving it to me. I hope you get everything you want, and I'm pleased to say that you'll be receiving less of my cash during the forseeable future.



:: :: ::

In other news, I'm almost sad that I have only two more lessons with my Italian princess.

Me: And just what is a "nanny state?"

She: Oh. Yes. Well that is a type of government or society where most of the people, the citizens, are ruled and governed by their nannies.

I swear I'm not making it up.

September 4, 2007

Tuesday 200 - #56

“Dad, can I ask you a question?”

You never know what’s going to come out of an eight-year-old’s mouth. I brace myself for the potential curve ball he’s gonna throw and turn down the car stereo. “What’s on your mind, sport?”

“Do you ever think things that you know you shouldn’t?” Out of the corner of my eye, I see him picking at an imaginary stain on the thigh of his jeans. His mom used to do the same thing. I wonder if he realizes that. Somedays I wondered if he even remembered her … it’s four years next month that we buried her.

“Well sure Danny, we all have strange thoughts.” Steady on, I think to myself. “You know, sometimes it helps to say ‘em out loud. Lots of times they’re not as weird as you think.”

‘Well, I just saw that cooler on the side of the freeway … did you see it?”

“Nope, sorry. I was kinda busy watching the road. What about it?”

“Nothing really,” he said. The stain on his Levi’s was spreading. “I was just wondering what would happen if Gwyneth Paltrows’s head was in it.”

Sometimes he makes me so proud.

:: :: ::

What's a Tuesday 200?

Last week's Tuesday 200.


Checking Meaning

Today we were discussing climate change, using authentic text (eg, newspaper articles) rather than a course book. This is in preparation for an upcoming collegiate I-want-to-be-an-interpreter final exam.

Me: And can you give me an example of an "endangered species?"

She: Ummm ... fish?

Me: Okay. What specific kind of fish?

She: Sea fish?

This, I can assure you, was not due to a lack of English-language skills. I think she might have relatives in South Carolina.

September 2, 2007

So Much for a Sunday

So endeth the movie weekend. Saw a couple at the cinema and several more on DVD or cable.

The winner, by far, was Hot Fuzz. Maybe it's because I just saw Shaun of the Dead last weekend, but I thought it was a hoot and will require repeated viewings. I suppose I know need to add Spaced to my list of things to watch.

The second-most enjoyable film of the weekend was Hallam Foe. It's a twisted little dramedy and was a perfect afternoon at the movies. Jamie Bell gives a very strong performance.

The Simpsons Movie was a good giggle, but there have been much funnier episodes on TV Can't say anybody needs to rush out and see it if they haven't already.

Historical films left me cold this weekend, and I bailed on DVD viewings of The Last King of Scotland and The Wind that Shakes the Barley, opting to catch up with people had temporarily disappeared from my world and recently found their way into my in box.

The B&B is reopening tonight with a late-night arrival of AJC, who is taking a year off from teaching kindergarten to travel the world. First stop is London for an indeterminate stay. Bless, he's had a year to plan, but has decided to "be Bedouin about the whole thing." How decidedly un-Virgo of him. Fortunately, Little Beirut is just two blocks away, so he'll feel right at home. Or maybe we'll send him to visit Eduardo in Abu Dhabi.

I figure after a couple weeks he'll grow weary of our boring little world and head off to the Continent, but in the meantime it will be fun to have an old friend around. Rumours are that the B&B might not be around for more than a few more months, so y'all enjoy it when you can.

Ohh. And here he is now.