Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Political thoughts

Recently I've been unhealthily fascinated by this website, it groups together the latest poll results from across the States into one nice clickable map. It is strangely addictive, to see how things are changing day to day. I'm particularly interested by the way that they take these poll results and try and predict the final result. The latest of these is predicting a victory for John Kerry. Which is odd because the latest poll results, on the main page, indicate that Bush is slightly ahead. In the latest poll Bush is a couple of percentage points ahead in Ohio, whilst on the predicted final result page they have Kerry just winning Ohio, which is the difference between him and Bush winning the whole thing. The difference comes from the fact that undecided voters, as in those who told the pollsters they were undecided, are split two to one in favour of Kerry (not sure why, I guess some poll told them that's the way undecided voters are going to vote). Amazingly some 10% of Ohioans are currently undecided. You've got to wonder what they are waiting for. If they haven't made up their mind yet when will they? Or will they just wake up next Tuesday, drive down to their polling station and flip a coin to decide whether to vote. Then, if the coin so decrees, flip the coin again to choose between the candidates.

They also have a crazy map where they try and do a least squares fit to the poll results to predict what the final result will be based on the trends. Which cannot possibly work (they freely admit that the map shouldn't be taken too seriously), and is predicting a win for Bush. Sitting here watching all the election nonsense as an, interested, observer it's all strangely fascinating. It's a bit like watching an entire country go through a car wreck, in so much as you don't really want to look, but you can't look away. I will be glad when it's all over, I may also be terrified and dismayed, but still I'll be glad.

In related news, it seems that those nice folks over at have blocked anyone outside of the US from visiting the site. Now even if we ignore all those Americans who happen to be overseas, and now can't look at their President's re-election website (they're "Building a safer world, and a more hopeful America" in case you are currently in the disenfranchised portion of the world... now I'm not sure about the world being safer, but certainly most of the Americans I know are terribly hopeful that something is going to happen on November 2nd), surely this is sending some sort of a message to the Rest Of The World. And maybe it's not the sort of message that the leader of the world's only superpower and, lets not forget, of the coalition of the willing, should be sending. But hell I'm just some dirty foreigner, what would I know about international relations.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Melancholy, free beer and freer thoughts

I'm sure that you'll be pleased to hear that I was only moderately drunk last night. In so much as I remember walking home, all 5 or 6 yards, and talking to people, and getting in to bed and all that jazz. One out of two ain't bad, right?

Today started with me finishing Good Omens. It was a very good read. A lot of it was really rather clever, and I like that in a book. However, I can't decide if I see more of myself in Aziraphale or Crowley, and, more to the point, I can't decide if it's a good or bad thing that I can't decide. Actually, there were a lot of characters that I sympathized with, Shadwell and Newt from the male perspective, Wensleydale and Greasy Johnson as well, come to think of it. I think if I had more courage, and was a different age, I'd fall in love with Pepper or Scarlett (War), but I don't, so I won't. The other thing that this book was great for is that reminded me of the sense of wonder in which I used to hold America, "it's got 39 ice cream flavours, at least". I wonder where that sense of wonder has gone? When I was younger, I used to imagine having a big map of America and sticking pins in all the places I wanted to go to. Now I'm not sure if I want to go anywhere. Familiarity breeds contempt, as they say.

I spent most of today walking around, on a truly beautiful autumn day, listening to the blues and feeling melancholic. I'm not sure if the feeling was the result of the music, or the reason for the choice of the music. It may well have just been post-birthday what am I doing with my life sensation. (In case you're wondering I don't know the answer to that question.)

Probably the highlight of today came when Man. Utd. beat Arsenal. As Ruud was preparing to take his penalty (while the score was still nil-nil), I kept having flashbacks to last year, and myself and my brother driving past Stonehenge when Ruud blasted his stoppage time penalty against the crossbar. I was really quite relieved when he scored today. Plus I won twenty or thirty quid from the match. In fact, my weekend gambling would have been much better if I'd only placed a bet on Juan Pablo Montoya when I saw him at 40/1 to win the Brazilian Grand Prix... but I didn't.

In other news, I hope that the Americans have learned their lesson and never name a place Camp Victory again. I mean don't tempt fate, bad things will happen if you do. As the teachers used to say, "It isn't big, it isn't clever and the other children aren't laughing"... except of course they normally were.

In yet more other news I graduated from the beer club this evening. So from this night forth, I get a free beer on Sunday nights. Tonight's free beer tasted particularly nice. I'm told you never forget your first.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Birthday Thoughts

On this day (well looking at the clock, actually on yesterday) twenty seven years ago, in Que Que hospital, I came screaming into the world (at least I assume I was screaming, I have no recollection of the incident, as you can probably imagine). On this anniversary of me putting her through the pain of labour (and once again, I'm guessing here having never been, and never will be, in labour), my mother gave me a book about English Rugby (yea we're world champions) and a little globe jigsaw (it's all magnetic, spherical, silver and cute). These are the two presents that Mumsie gave me back in April, yes April. I opened them whilst I was sat at the bar downstairs, shortly after I had finished struggling to eat an egg and bacon sandwich. Yes I was somewhat (read very) hungover.

The hangover was the result of Liquorfest, a Harrison West revolving party. I woke up this morning in my bed with no idea of how I got there... I suppose the main thing is that I did get there. The party was hosted by some friends of mine from the bar, and they have a quite delightful house, complete with a hidden liquor cabinet and beer tap. As far as I can tell I didn't break anything or make too much mess, so I guess you could say it all turned out nice again. (Incidentally it's not only me who doesn't remember all of the events of Friday night, neither the owner of the bar nor the barmaid, who were both guests at the party, remember how they got home. It's quite impressive that we all did manage to get home, seemingly unscathed.)

Today I went to Cleveland. Cleveland is like Sheffield. (Sorry to all of you who live in Sheffield... or Cleveland). It's not a bad town, but it doesn't really have much going for it. It does have the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame but I only got to see the painted guitar exhibit in front of the museum. I got to see Lake Erie, which was big and wet. However, I didn't get to see the Oldest Stone House. I'm not sure what the qualification for the Oldest Stone House is, it might be in Cleveland or in Ohio or in America or in the World. Despite looking for it I couldn't find it in the fading light of this evening. Never mind though, I'm sure it wasn't a life changing experience.

Friday, October 22, 2004

The mouse in the house... well in the bathroom of the flat

Last night I very nearly urinated all over the floor of my bathroom. No it wasn't anything to do with alcohol, surprisingly enough. Instead it was the result of a furry little house guest, who appears to have taken up residence in my building. There I was standing there in my underwear, in front of the toilet, doing my thing — it's not a pretty sight, don't spend to long thinking about it — when something scurried out from behind the toilet. The little mouse, for it was a mouse doing the scurrying, made a bee-line straight for my right foot. To my enormous credit I did not yelp like a girl (c.f. my mother) at this point, instead I lifted my right leg and performed an elegant pirouette to my left, with only minimal spillage, as the mouse sprinted for the safety of the kitchen.

When the mouse made it to the door and tried to turn left into the kitchen it performed the cutest little cartoon dance. The kitchen has a wooden floor and as the mouse moved from the linoleum of the bathroom to the wood of the kitchen it lost all of its grip. Thus causing its back legs to swing round, much further than its front legs, and its little legs to move into overdrive as it searched for grip. It really looked like the cartoon way that Tom (or Jerry, for that matter) would run around corners. 'Twas very cute.

I suppose I'll have to go and get myself some mousetraps, humane or not humane that is the question. Ho hum.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

A tale of two films, one marathon, a big fried breakfast and some other stuff

This weekend showcased the two sides of autumn. On Saturday it was miserable. The rain came down, the wind blew, my ears got cold and my gloves came out for the first time this season (just to clarify, I didn't use the gloves to warm up my ears). On Sunday it was gorgeous. The sun shone, a light breeze fluttered the turning leaves and the world looked like a beautiful, colourful place.

Fortunately, for the runners, the Columbus marathon fell on Sunday rather Saturday. So whilst some people got up bright and early on Sunday morning and started running at 8 am, I woke up around 10:30 and rolled downstairs for an artery clogging, fat ladened, fried breakfast. I must confess I felt slightly guilty sitting at the bar scoffing my food when not more than twenty metres from me people were rounding mile 24 of their marathons.

But enough of me being a lazy, fat bastard. On Saturday I came over all intellectual and reactionary and went to see a documentary, The Corporation. It was very interesting. Obviously it was something of a one-sided film, as most documentaries seem to be, but they did make some token efforts to mention the positive side of corporations. However, most of the time the film concentrated on the litany of offences that corporations have committed, and it is quite some litany. I'd try and list some here, but it'd be easier if you just went and watched the film. Suffice to say that a lot of corporations are doing a lot of naughty things.

There were a few things which I didn't like about/didn't quite agree with the film. One of these things was their history of Fanta (the Coca-Cola drink). They claimed that Fanta was created so that Coke could still turn a profit in Nazi Germany after Coca-Cola had been banned due to it's American/Jewish connections (I read somewhere that it was banned after somebody showed Hitler a Kosher bottle top). The story I'd heard previously, and still believe, was that once Coca-Cola was banned in Germany, the Coke bottlers (who are all independent companies, they buy the syrup from Coke and then make the drink and bottle it) tried to work what the could do to keep making money. The solution they came up with was to make a fruit based fizzy drink, which they called Fanta. After the war Coke went back to its old bottlers and bought the Fanta brand from them to grab a foothold in the German/European market. So not quite a nasty subterfuge to ensure that Nazi money flowed to Coca-Cola, as the documentary implied. Of course I may be wrong and they may be right.

Another problem I had with the film was Michael Moore. He was in the film far too much, for my liking (and I like Michael Moore). I think the reason he featured was to try and give the film the "star power" necessary to get a wide release, so maybe he was a necessary evil. My problem with Mr Moore is that I think that he has been so vilified, as an extremist and self-publicist, that he doesn't add credibility to the film, but instead takes it away. However, he certainly does help generate media interest. I was particularly annoyed that he got the last word in the film, but it's only a small gripe.

To try and recover from Saturday's intellectual endeavours on Sunday I went to see Team America: World Police. In places it was very funny, I'm sorry but puppet sex scenes are just hilarious. In other places it was teeth grindingly telegraphed, and not in a good way. All in all, there were enough funny or clever moments in the film to make it a mostly enjoyable couple of hours. (However, by far and away the best part of watching the film was that I was doing it maybe 100m away from the finish line of the Columbus marathon, while people were still finishing. This in itself was not particularly impressive, and was probably somewhat reprobate-able. What made it an excellent experience was that two of the customers in the movie theater — I only use that phrase to emphasis the American-ness of the upcoming contrast — were Big Fat Americans, you know the type I mean. I'm not joking when I say that these people were more out of breath getting up out of their seats and walking 50 yards out of the cinema, than some of the marathon runners were upon finishing their 26 miles, 385 yards. It was really quite amazing to see the two sides of American fitness in such proximity and sharp contrast... and yes I know which side I'm closer to, after all I was in the cinema with them.)

Friday, October 15, 2004

A post for the sake of making an uninteresting drunken post

My bad! Today they are repeating the "feathered felchers" Daily Show episode, and the quote was actually "flightless felchers". Never let it be said that I am not willing to stand corrected.

Somewhat unsurprisingly I was in the bar this evening. It was the landlord's birthday today (by the way, I use landlord to refer to the owner of the bar... 'cause that's what we call the owners of pubs back in Blighty. It probably stems from some dim dark moment in the past, when the man owning your house also owned the local public house, but I don't really know), nothing particularly interesting happened with regards to this, except my friend Cathy insists that last year he celebrated his birthday on the 13th.

I want to rant about John Kerry and George Bush discussing their faith last night in the debate, but I just can't get excited enough. Instead I'm watching Tough Crowd on Comedy Central, which is hosted by one of the most openly pro-Bush TV personalities (a guy named Colin Quinn).

I really wanted to mention the pretty girl who was knitting in the bar this evening, but being as I am, in certain internet message board parlance, NGA I can't really be bothered to elaborate.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Thursday's post, about Tuesday's debate, finished on the Sunday after Friday's debate, posted early Monday morning

The bulk of this post was written on Thursday evening (its conclusion was postponed due to a political debate I got into with my German colleague, in which I was cast in the role of George Bush's defender — just call me mister D.A.), although this bit and probably a couple of other bits were written on Sunday night.

I should probably point out that I only saw the last 10 minutes of the Cheney/Edwards debate, but have no fear I won't let a lack of first-hand information stop me from commenting on it. The 10 minutes I saw were terribly dull, John Edwards waffled on about his father learning to read and Dick Cheney tried to convince us all that we could die any second from a terrorist attack. (Incidentally the fear-mongering that's going on really does work. A few weeks back my Republican artist neighbour told me that we are currently engaged in the Third World War. Which I thought was a little bit excessive... but what do I know?) Apparently I missed all the fun stuff about Cheney's gay daughter.

One of the things that caused all manner of media fuss in the aftermath of the debate was Cheney's assertion that he'd never met Edwards before that night. Unsurprisingly this turned out to be not entirely true, surely every politician in Washington has run into everyone other one at some point in time, and they'd met a few times before, including at a prayer breakfast (footage of which was liberally splashed across front pages and television screens). Personally I don't care if Cheney lied, or whether it was deliberate. He's a politician. Politicians lie. But I do have a couple of questions. Firstly, what the hell is a prayer breakfast? And secondly, and more importantly, why is nobody but me scared that both of the vice presidential candidates were at a bloody prayer breakfast? I realize they both weren't V.P. candidates at the time, but still a prayer breakfast. Sometimes I feel like the only non-religious crazy (as in the only person who is not a religious crazy, and not the only crazy who is not religious) left in America.

On the subject of religious crazies, I had a chat with Big Greg the other night. It was, um... interesting. (I should point out that he's a lovely guy, maybe not the sharpest tack in the box, but seems like the wouldn't hurt a fly kind of bloke.) A few (paraphrased) highlights of the conversation were:
"the only good thing a Democrat could do, would be shoot himself"; "Democrats are the baby murderers"; "a woman should be at home pleasing her man (in reference to Hillary Clinton)"; "9/11 was all Bill Clinton's fault"; "... (with regards to Muslims) if they were all Christian we wouldn't have these problems with them"; It was all very interesting/scary (delete as applicable).

Since I started writing this on Thursday, we have also had the second presidential debate, which I watched in a packed Victorian's Midnight Cafe on Friday night. Truth be told, I don't remember much about the debate, this might have something (which I saw today can be spelled summat, in certain English dialects — including my own, possibly) to do with the fact I consumed a not insignificant quantity of alcoholic beverages. The only thing I truly remember about the debate was that somebody asked a question about abortion. Now I don't remember what the question was, but I just never cease to be amazed that abortion is an issue in America. Such an important an issue that it is considered one of the twenty, or so, questions that the two men vying to be president are asked to answer.

The most memorable thing about Friday night was chatting to a vehement Bush supporter. She was a friend of a friend, and was, shall we say, a lady whose years were somewhat more advanced than my own. One of the reasons that she preferred Bush was, of course, abortion. She mentioned something about there being an extra 60 million people who could have been contributing to my social security (I didn't want to mention that I would almost certainly never be claiming social, due to my non-American, probably going to fuck off home to Blighty, nature) if it wasn't for abortion. Then she said asked how many of those people could have been geniuses, naturally I countered by enquiring how many of them would have been serial killers (a pointless discussion on both sides, I think you'll agree).

At an earlier stage in the evening, the lady recounted a couple of stories which, she felt, went to the heart of Bush's character and why he was a good man to be President. The first was about some blokey, exactly who the man in question was has been lost in the mists of my mind, who visited our beloved Mr. Bush in the Oval Office. This visit occurred shortly after the man in question's wife had died. Apparently Mr Bush asked what was wrong and then prayed with the man, and let the man cry on his shoulder, dishevelling his suit (this in particular she was terribly impressed with). The second story involved a woman from Columbus (I wanted to write a Columbus woman, but didn't for some reason... well, obviously, after that I did) who's dying of cancer, or some other nasty terminal disease. Apparently, this woman was too sickly to go and see President Bush, when he visited Columbus, so her husband went in her stead. After Bush had given his speech to the collected assembly, wherever and whoever they may have been, the husband approached Mr Bush and asked for his signature, such that he could take it home to his dying wife. Later that evening when the husband returned home, he told his wife that he had the signature of the President of the United States of America for her, and she promptly burst in to tears. When she had recovered her composure she told her husband that the President of the United States of America had just phoned her. During her conversation with Bush, he offered her his condolences, regarding her illness, and said she would be in his prayers.

Even I, something of Kerry supporter, have to admit these are nice stories (although a little heavy on the prayer side), particularly the second one. But taking the time to speak to a dying lady is, to my mind at least, neither a prerequisite nor a particularly useful quality for a president. Sure, I'd like a world leader to be compassionate to individuals, but I'd prefer a leader who looked at the global picture and made the best decisions... for everyone. The former we have presently, I'd like to think, if John Kerry is elected, we'll have the latter. I may be wrong. (Before any crazy Kerry supporters complain that Mr Kerry is also the former, I'm not claiming the Bush is more compassionate than Kerry, I'm just relaying stories that have been told to me. Bush supporters tend to look for a more personal sort of justification, in their dealings with me at least.)

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

On the bus, with John Kerry

I had a cunning plan to not go down to the bar this evening. (To avoid any unnecessary tension, I can reveal that this plan was not successful.) The plan was to go to the cinema instead of the bar. The film of choice was Going Upriver: The Long War of John Kerry.

The major obstacle to the plan's success was that, for the first time since my move to Columbus, I would have to negotiate the COTA bus system. (Incidentally if you are looking for an object lesson in how not to design a website for a public transport system have a look at COTA's website. They do not even have an overview map of the bus service.) In any normal, civilized city, one's first trip on the bus would not be too daunting. Columbus is not, at least as far as public transportation goes, a normal, civilized city. Whereas in a proper city, each individual bus stop would have a timetable, and possibly a map, in Columbus they do not bother with such niceties (necessities). Instead if you stand at a Columbus bus stop, you are meant to intuit — from the shape of the clouds, or the length of the shadows, or the number of maroon cars, or a watch and a (scoffs) timetable — when, and if, the next bus is coming.

To improve my chances of successful intuition, I forearmed myself with a set of timetables (printed out at work, of course). Despite leaving work a good hour an half before the film's start time, I still managed to turn up twenty minutes late, and with a burnt mouth to boot. The oral injury was the result of trying to eat a, piping hot, pizza in two minutes before I had to leave the house and catch a bus. For the record, I missed the bus anyhow, due to the fact that the number five bus was masquerading as a number ninety-six. After missing this bus, instead of walking 5 minutes and catching the number two bus, I decided to wait 10 minutes and catch the, round-about routed, number seven bus, that wouldn't get me downtown quickly enough to make my connection. Eventually, after an interminable ride on the number seven bus, an unnecessary mile and an half hike across downtown (and one of its slightly shady neighbours) and a short trip on the number two bus, I arrived at the Drexel East. Although I didn't see much of it, it seems like a cool little cinema.

The reason that I wanted to see this film is that I wanted to feel something positive towards Mr. Kerry (and no I don't mean 'feel something' like that). Up till last week, I'd felt a lot of bad feelings towards Mr. Bush (whom, a prior incarnation of myself, would have voted for four years ago, if he'd of had a vote), but no positive feelings towards Mr. Kerry. However, last week, during the debate, I saw a few glimmers of the underlying John Kerry, as opposed to Mr Not-Bush. These few glimmers of John Kerry, the individual, intrigued me. Well they intrigued me enough to spend $5 and go and see the film about his Vietnam days. The film was certainly very interesting. I think you have to admire a guy who comes back from a war, in which close friends of his died, and then openly, in a senate hearing no less, calls the war 'a mistake'. All of this he does by the time he's 27, or in other words my age. Hopefully these budding warm feelings about Kerry will increase in the next month, and maybe they'll spread amongst the rest of the populace.

The return journey was both less dramatic and more traumatic. The lack of drama was due to the bus arriving 5 minutes after I did at the bus stop and dropping me off 5 minutes and one beggar woman — who claimed that her husband had just died of cancer — away from home. The trauma stemmed from the window behind my seat making loud cracking noises every 100 metres. This in itself was not particularly traumatic, but it evoked memories of the Blind Bus Driver of Haverhill. This was a gentleman who drove one of the little "Hill-hoper" buses from Haverhill to Cambridge, and he was blind, or at least drove like it. We are talking about a guy who was wearing sunglasses — in England, for goodness sake — and on no occasion turned his head to the left or right, but kept staring blankly forward. Seemingly the driver made turns based on how many bumps since the last turn. He took great pleasure in brushing the bus passed every bush or tree beside the road, so much so that he broke the indicators and scraped most of the paint off the left-hand side of the bus. It was a white knuckle ride through hickville Suffolk and Cambridgeshire.

One quick childish giggle before I leave. On the window behind me was the message: "Please keep all body parts away from the window opening.". And I thought, normally the sign tells you to keep your arms inside, what other body parts have people been sticking out of the window. Well, I don't think I need to elaborate further.

Monday, October 04, 2004

A start at breakfast, finish at tea-time, sort of post

I started this post sat on one of the sofas in the corner of Vic's, listening to Middlesbrough drawing with United, waiting for my breakfast. I finished it sat at home watching NFL highlights and drinking tea (Earl Grey — I had to look up how you spell Grey) from my England Rugby mug.

First the good. Shaun of the Dead is a very funny film. Plus, before all the zombies start running amuck, it made me feel all nostalgic and homesick (it's now been over 11 months since I was in Angleterre, and then it was only for a couple of weeks). Very funny film though. I think I might have to buy the Spaced DVD's, as it's made by the same folks who made the film. Who'd have thought to make the romantic comedy zombie film? Well these guys, obviously.

Lost is a very good TV show, or at least it was a very good pilot. Evangeline Lilly is a very attractive lady, and looked especially good standing in the surf wearing only her underwear. Besides the pretty girls in their underwear factor, it's also a well written, intriguing show filled with interesting characters. I'm really looking forward to Wednesday (8pm Eastern on ABC, in case you're in America and curious).

The Book Loft is a very good bookshop. I spent a good half hour today, sitting down in one of their many little nooks, reading the Lonely Planet guide to London. I know I shouldn't torment myself, but it just called out to me and I had to have a look. I love the fact that a chapter of the book was reserved purely for discussing the merits of different drinking establishments... I miss my Sunday roast lunches (the Yorkshire Grey was my most recent favourite, in case you're interested). Enough of this day dreaming though, back in the Book Loft I bought a couple of books, America (The Book) and Good Omens. I bought the America book because The Daily Show is just that bloody good. Good Omens I bought because it was written by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, and the real question is why has it taken me this long to get it? When I was trying to pay for these books — well actually the books and a cute little fairy card that I'm going to send to my Grandmother for her 84th birthday — the assistant asked me if I wanted to change my $13 Good Omens copy for a $5 remainder copy, which had a black mark on it's bottom. I did, and was very surprised that the assistant went out of his way to get me to spend less money, I suppose that's the whole service thing they've got going on over here.

In other news (it's getting late and I have to finish this post before I can eat, and drink). I watched Ohio State shoot themselves in the foot last night, it wasn't very impressive. I wonder if there'll be a lot of glum faces around the campus tomorrow. Sticking with American Football, the Falcons are 4-0 if they win the Superbowl (it's quite some way off, and highly unlikely, I know) I win some money, can't quite remember how much. Oh well food calls.