December 13, 2008

There is Life INSIDE Your Apartment

Was it really only eight months ago I was whinging about how uncomfortable I was in this flat? Funny how things change. These days, barely a weekend goes by when I don't leave the place for more than twenty-four hours at a stretch. Some weird combination of Stockholm Syndrome and weather-related agoraphobia.

Some call it anti-social behavior, some call it nesting.

Today's an inside day. The weather's been miserable and I've got a deadline for two assignments tomorrow so I've been plugging along at those. And napping. And watching a crappy George Clooney film. And reading a good book. And wishing there was Diet Coke in the house; but not bad enough to walk outside for five minutes (I'd perish in these wintry elements).

Larry went outside for a spell today. He had his standing Saturday session with the personal trainer (surely they do more than stand around?) and came home several hours later.

"You were gone a long time," I said from a place of observation, not judgment. Seems he stopped at one of the Chinese Massage and Herbalists on the way home for a rub and a consultation. I'm not entirely sure how they diagnosed him, but they say he has a build-up of dried feces in his intestinal tract.

Wonder how much he paid to learn that? I've been telling him he's full of crap for almost twenty years now. No charge.

Yup, I'm a giver.

December 12, 2008

Other Than That, Mrs Lincoln, How Was the Show?

The reading went very well, thanks. And I was touched by how many people showed up on a Friday night to listen (and buy). It was really kind of you to schlep into town (unless you live close, and then it was just really kind of you).

Maybe it's delayed karma for the Yaki Soba at Wagamama (go on, buy the book) all those months ago. But my hand hurts and I've written a letter to Balans.

Not that they care, I'm sure.


I've just returned home from a meal at your Soho restaurant (my second this week) and am compelled to offer some feedback.

I think your sweet potato / pumpkin soup is delicious. However, one of your food runners accidentally spilled mine this evening, resulting in a second degree burn on my hand.

Both the runner and the waiter were briefly apologetic, and offered me ice and an additional drink once I'd finished the one I had. The waiter came back a second time and (trying to be funny) asked if I wanted "any more vodka as disinfectant."

I worked in food service, as a waiter and then a floor manager, for many years. If anything like this happened in a restaurant I worked in, management would have been at the table in a heartbeat. I did notice the waiter tell the manager, and he waved it off. Literally ... he looked my way, looked back at the server, shrugged, and flicked his hand.

I did not ask for a second drink, as we had already ordered a bottle of wine. When I received the bill, I was surprised that no compensation was offered. I asked the waiter if, since a) I didn't take him up on his offer of a second drink and b) my hand was blistered, he couldn't give take my original drink (at the VERY least) off of the bill.

He came back from a second consultation with your manager and said he took the soup off. The drink was 10.20 (you charge extra for soda water in a vodka and soda when the vodka is 9.25!?!?!) and the soup was 4.50.

So, for my spilled soup (1/4 of which went on the table or my hand ... and was not cleaned up until after the first course dishes were cleared), I'm compensated with a blistered hand (which, more than two hours later is still very painful) and less than a fiver off my bill.

This is unacceptable. Since moving to London four years ago, I've enjoyed your restaurants very much (against the recommendations of many local friends) and have been keen to bring out-of-town guests there. I have to say that tonight's experience has (forgive the pun) burned me on your brand.

If this had been a restaurant I worked in, or managed (back in the day), I'd have seen to it that the meal (if not the table) was comped. To have received a free soup (of which I still have a searing souvenir) seems hardly adequate.

Please let me know what you can do for me before I pursue this further.

Kind regards,

chez bobzyeruncle
Wx xxx

For those of you not in London, Balan's is the equivalent of Food Bar (and if you didn't live in NY when Food Bar was around, then the equivalent is "I'm gay, I'm hungry, I know ... let's go to Balan's/ Food Bar (RIP) /The Diner on Sycamore (RIP) / insert your homo-friendly eatery here'").

Anyway, I'm soaking in ice and aloe vera and still pissed off at really rancid customer service. It's a shame that soup is so good.

'Tis the season.

Less is More

One of the best things about my day job is that I often learn as much (if not more) than the students. It's a give and take: they come away with a better grasp of English, and I end up with useless interesting knowledge for pub quizzes and/or impromptu games of Trivial Pursuit.

Take today, for example. In the midst of verifying vocabulary, polishing pronunciation and diagramming diction, I discovered a big difference between American and European measures of automotive fuel consumption.

In the US, we look at miles per gallon. The bigger the better. The focus is on going further.

In Continental Europe, we look at litres per 100km. The smaller the number, the better. It's about consuming less.

Here's a handy calculator if you find yourself on a different continent and want to speak fluently about your car's efficiency.

December 11, 2008

Ready, Steady, LAUNCH

decongested2.jpg Tomorrow night is the launch of Tales of the DeCongested, Vol 2. I've got a small story in it (in which I may or may not offend fans of Oprah, Eckhart Tolle, and/or Wagamama) and they've asked me to read. Token American I reckon. Or token slow guy who weighs more than he should (okay, I'll let it go soon, I promise).

Anyway, it's a great collection of some of London's most talented writers (so the blurb says) ... and me.

Charing Cross Road
2nd floor

Come if you can, and if you can't, then buy the book here.

December 10, 2008

I'm Gutted

Before I started the official pre-training for Paris a few weeks ago, I got on the scale. Much to my unamusement, the number was a bit higher than I'd expected (yes, I do have a mirror, but still).

Since I'vereturned to the run, several people at work have been telling me it looks like I'm losing weight, to which I tell them they're very kind but should visit their local SpecSavers.

I got on the scale today and the number is 4 pounds higher than the pre-training weigh-in. I'm sure that has nothing to do with my dinner of uncooked pie dough a couple nights ago. Or the macaroni and cheese I had for lunch.

It's called carbo loading, right?

Here comes Santa Claus ...

December 8, 2008

Is It Too Late for Halloween Pie?

Does anybody else see the scary face?

On the right-hand side. Two eyes and a downward slash of a grimace.

Granny Smith never looked so grim.

It's Beautiful! What is It?

"Did you make it yourself?"

That's what Terry asked Larry about our festive tree yesterday when he was over for a visit.

One might think that his question was a testament to Larry's previously untapped arts-and-crafts talent.

But his tone said otherwise.

Imagine yourself asking a nine-year-old special needs child the same question.

"No," Larry replied. "I paid 30 quid for it at the store."

There's no recession on the short bus.

December 7, 2008

Piercing Comedy (see what I did there?)

Several years ago, my sister called me up and said, "David Hyde Pierce just won his Emmy."

As it wasn't even close to Emmy season at the time, I figured that she'd been watching Frasier and had just seen a particularly good episode. I was correct. Something to do with Niles ironing, cutting his finger, trying not to feint at the sight of his own blood, etc.

Years later, I'd never seen it.

During yesterday's Saturday of sloth, I napped on the sofa, chair and bed ... drifting in and out of a Frasier marathon (on two separate TVs -- I'm an overachiever when it comes to some of the deadly sins). There were many laughs, especially during the episodes written by Joe Keenan. But still, no DHP pressing his pants.

So I did some research, and here it is ... six minutes of television comedy gold from the sixth season of Frasier.

December 6, 2008

'Tis the Season, Innit?

If I were a Scrooge, I would be all bah-humbuggish about this festive (or lack thereof) season.

But the thing is, I'm not bah-humbuggish at all, it's just that the holiday bug hasn't bitten me yet. No cards. No shopping, No interest.

Is that a bad thing?

We fly home for the North American Holiday tour two weeks from tomorrow. I wonder if it'll hit me by then? And if it doesn't ... well I'm going to be a neurotic, guilty bag of messy come about December 23rd.

Funny how that works.

December 5, 2008

A Truckload of Angst

Ever wonder what fuels all that melancholy punk-adjacent agida?

Now you know.

December 4, 2008

Making the Grade

In which we continue our assimilation ...

I got my first official mark1 last night, which pretty much did my head in2. I had a number of positive comments, one critique about an awkward sentence, a note that I might have been a little heavy-handed with the summation, and an "overall, very nice."

My score was 73. I was not chuffed4.

Back in the colonies4, 73% is pretty much a C-; just barely passing. Whilst5 I've been through a lot of therapy to let go of my perfectionist tendencies, and I've embraced the whole "a B+ is okay" mindset, a C- just wasn't cutting it.

So I opened my gob6 and queried7 just what said score actually meant.

"It's a first8," I was told.

Yes, my first bad mark of my grad school career.

Turns out it's a good thing and I guess I should have done a little research on conversion rates (like I did with dollar -->pound, pound-->kilo, Fahrenheit-->Celsius, etc.) Had I done so, I'd have found this handy chart:

UK Grade
Conversion Chart

So, it turns out my evening had not gone pear-shaped9 after all.

What I can't get my head around is that 70% is "excellent" over here and that one can pass with just over 40%. Does that hold true only for essays or is that true in maths10 as well? I know, I know, it's all about the scale and it seems comparing the two are chalk and cheese11, but still, the fact that they grade on a 100%-scale and "no one ever gets over 80-85" seems to be a bit defeating.

America = "aim high"
Britain = "you'll never reach the top, but keep trying anyway"

I'm sure that's just a little cynical.

They all keep saying that marks are irrelevant and we're in this programme to write a novel, not to get marks. But still. That's not the way the US public school12 system raised me. Must do better, although I don't want to be a swot13.

And, yes, I'm grateful for my mark, although I'm still not sure how the little ticks14 and comments totaled up to a minus twenty-seven points.

Maybe I shouldn't worry about it and just move on.

:: :: ::

UK - US translations:

1 mark = grade
2 do your head in = drives you crazy
3 chuffed = very pleased
4 colonies = US of A
5 whilst = very annoying (and arguably archaic) version of while
6 gob = pie hole
7 queried = asked
8 first = with merit
9 pear-shaped = tits up
10 maths = math
11 chalk and cheese = apples and oranges
12 US public school = UK private school (or maybe comprehensive?)
13 swot = brown noser, teacher's pet, etc.
14 ticks = checkmarks

December 3, 2008

Don't Tell the Barackophiles

It's a very sad day for the family of the week-old conjoined twins, who were operated on yesterday.

Religious fundamentalists will be happy to learn that Faith turned out to be stronger than Hope.

Too soon?

December 2, 2008

America's Got Talent

When I saw Rice and Queen in the headline, this isn't the first thing that came to mind.

What's Hillary's special talent going to be? Tap dancing?

December 1, 2008

Coming to A Town Near You

I wonder if I can get back into yonder blogging habit during the month of December. If so, we'll have posts from at least four cities in three countries on two continents. T-minus 20 days till Bob and Larry embark on the North American holiday tour. Kind of like rock stars, without the stardom. Or the rock.

Speaking of rock, the new Killers album/CD/whatever is aces.

Just back from a remarkable talk by Ronan Bennett. I've not read any of his books, nor seen any of his films, but he's got quite the story. The talk was sponsored by the screenwriting program at City U, but we aspiring novelists (fuck me, how pretentious does that sound?) were strongly encouraged to attend.

Best piece of advice (and I paraphrase):

It's not so much about writing what you know, but it's all about writing what you feel.

Best exchange of the night (that the moderator didn't count on). Again, I paraphrase:

Moderator: So you wrote your first novels and screenplays without ever taking a class or working in a group?

RB: Yes.

Moderator: And you just wrote without knowing the plot or the ending?

RB: Yes.

Moderator: That sort of goes against the orthodoxy, that you should have the story mapped out.

RB: Is that the orthodoxy?

Moderator: Yes.

RB: Well that should be taken out back and shot.

There are no rules, there are no formulas. Just write the damn story.

:: :: ::

So what have you been doing?

Saw the London production of August: Osage County, which was every bit as mesmerizing as it was when I saw it in New York. If you're anywhere near London between now and the end of January, you should make the effort. Amy Morton's performance cannot be beat.

Also saw Changeling last night, which was good but not brilliant. A few holes in the plot that left me scratching my head (no that's not dandruff), but a well-crafted film and Ms Jolie didn't bug me at all (she can do that sometimes). Post-film conversation led us to talking about the Oscars, and we have nary a clue as to what will be up this year. Any favorites that are slipping my mind? Yeah yeah yeah, Heath will get the posthumous nomination, but who's Angie baby (she is a special lady, isn't she?) going to get put up against?

Speaking of being bugged, I've got to (which reminds me, a student wants a lesson on the difference between "have got to" and "must" tomorrow) finish this novel that's been working my nerves. Then I'm going off the list and read Revolutionary Road, which I've only just discovered in the past couple of weeks. And, did you know, that David Sedaris reads it once a year? That's high praise indeed.

That's enough rambling for now. Oh, wait. I had Larry proof a book review I wrote on Saturday before I sent it off to my Lit Crit instructor. I'd been reworking it for several hours and needed a pair of fresh eyes (since none were available, I chose Larry ... thanks very much, I'm here all week, try the veal, tip your wait staff).

Anyway, he said, "It's very clear and well-thought out. Much more so than on your blog."

Awww, and I thought he never read this.

Anyway, it made him want to read the novel I was writing about (Sarah Waters' The Night Watch, which I recommend although it's not as good as Fingersmith), so I guess it wasn't all bad. We'll see what kind of mark I get come Wednesday night.

Okay then, that's enough. You're still reading this? Lord, it must be a slow night.

Let's see if I can't get in one post a day for the rest of the year.