Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Waiting for the furniture

Everything has been going surprisingly well so far this week. After many months I have regained my British nationality in the eyes of the INS/BCIS/USCIS.... whoo!! And yet more amazing still, they did this without messing up my name. I'm ever so proud of those boys up there in Vermont. What this means of course is that I have, finally, applied for a Social Security number. So here's hoping that they did actually manage to change my name from 'Vichol' in their database... which was the original problem way back in November, before they made me a Zimbabwean for 3 months.

At the moment I'm sitting at home having sloped off work once more. Although I do have a semi-valid excuse today.... I'm waiting for some furniture to be delivered. Being as the only furniture in my flat at the moment is a chair, a cardboard box and a mattress, I think that some furniture is long overdue.

Sitting here has at least given me the chance to listen to the last ever Mark and Lard show on Radio 1. Back in the good ol' days when I was a 16-17 year old still going to school at the incredibly inaccurately named Castle Manor Upper School, as it consisted of neither a castle or a manor, I started listening to their late night show. It was probably one of the first shows that really got me interested in music. I remember when they along with Mark Kermode and Mark Lamarr had the "So many Marks and yet so unremarkable" section... it was all very good. Not to mention they introduced my to Ian Duhig and in particular "Fundamentals" a poem about a missionary:

"....Let me make this clear. When I say `God is good, God is everywhere', it is not because He is exceptionally fat....."

The number of people who have looked at this web page increased rather dramatically over the last 24 hours as Neil Gaiman put a link , to my mumblings about seeing Thea Gilmore live in Pittsburgh, on his journal. Thus causing me to run about the room flapping my arms. And I really wish that I was joking when I say that..... I swear it's a neurological disorder that I suffer from. It's called, by me and for the first time right now, "Ryan's syndrome".. it's related to Tourette's syndrome but with none of the medical evidence, or anything else in fact, backing it up. It's symptoms are the aforementioned arm flapping, along with various other strange hand movements (not that type of hand movement), and repeatedly writing the word testicle.

Oh and if anyone is reading this having followed the link from that nice Mr Gaiman's journal, or anywhere else for that matter, if you live in or around New York you really should try and go to see Thea play at Joe's Pub tomorrow (Wednesday) night at 7:30. Also for anyone reading this who happens to live in America and possesses a TV, watch Wonderfalls this Thursday at 9/8c on Fox. It's really good... I'm sure you'd love it. Well okay I'm not sure, but chances are you'd really like it... I do.

Saturday, March 27, 2004

Two things

Two quick things.

In my local supermarket (Wegman's) they have a cheese section. And in the cheese section they sell a cheese called Heart of England. On the little card displaying the price of this cheese it says: "'Heart of England'. Region: France". I'm not sure if the guy (or girl) who made the card was joking or stupid. I hope he (or she) was joking but....

The w.bloggar spellchecker suggested I replace Bethnal with bottomless.... <the sound of me sniggering>

Small world strangeness.

If my mother asked me what I did this week I'd probably say that I went to Pittsburgh to see a Thea Gilmore concert and that she was very good. If pressed I might say something about why she was good and maybe mention how poorly attended the gig was. (I feel very pretentious using the word gig, but I also feel pretentious if I use words like concert or show. In my mind a concert requires either a stadium full of people or an orchestra full of instruments. But I don't think I'm really cool enough to get away with gig either.)

However, maybe due to the alcohol I have consumed, you lucky people are going to get the full colour commentary version of Ryan's exciting trip to Pittsburgh. I bet you can't wait.

Firstly, a quick thanks to Laura (pronounced, by me at least, such that it rhymes with cow-fir... she's Romanian if you wish to find a more conventional pronunciation guide) and Toni for lending me their lovely little Mazda, whilst they're out of town. It's a nice car to drive even if it is a bit small for me, but then again most things are a bit small for me.

If we start at the beginning we probably have to start with Neil Gaiman repeatedly recommending Thea on his ever interesting journal. (for instance, this week he mentioned his visit to the Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green, which I visited when I was little and staying at my grandparents place in South Woodford one summer or another, and I recall being terrified by some of the exhibits. For some reason I also remember it was in a big building near a park, but I could be confusing it with the fire station.) I bought her two latest albums and was instantly hooked by the clever lyrics and the <something I can't put my finger on> voice. So anyway, seeing as I had use of the car I decided to drive to Pittsburgh and see Miss Gilmore at Club Cafe.

Being as I am a lazy sod. I decided to skip work and make a day of it. So off to Pittsburgh I went. And after driving around all over the place and finding Club Cafe, I headed to the downtown area to see if there were any nice record or bookshops. Instead I managed to find a nice coffee shop, as in a shop which sells coffee beans for you to take home and make coffee with as opposed to a place which sells cups of coffee for you to drink there (I did also find a nice one of them, it's called the Beehive and it's on Carson St.). Well to be truthful the first time I tried to enter the coffee shop I walked into the Irish bar next door to it, so obviously I had to have a beer. My second attempt was more successful. I actually managed to correctly identify the front door and enter the shop. And once inside I bought some tea, some chocolate covered coffee beans and some ground Zimbabwee AA beans. I'm not quite sure of the mis-spelling if Zimbabwe was intentional or not. Obviously after all the Zimbabwe related excitement I've had since arriving in the US I had to get some of the Zimbabwee coffee.

Then I just wandered around looking at some pretty buildings and stadiums and churches etc. Not finding any record shops. But at least having a quick browse in a Barnes and Noble. Before returning to the car and trying to get back close to Club Cafe. Of course, instead of successfully retracing my route I managed to take a couple of wrong turns and drive to the top of a hill overlooking the rivers and the downtown. It was a nice view from the top though, so I was pleased with my little diversion.

Eventually I got back close to the venue and managed to find a parking space. And after a lot of wandering around and sitting and waiting until it was only half an hour before the start time I plucked up the courage to actually enter the club. You see, I was all on my lonesome and I felt a little awkward going to see a gig by myself. As I was coming from a few hours drive away from Pittsburgh I had decided to book tickets using the evil bastards ticketmaster, just to make sure I wasn't disappointed. This meant that I got to pay nearly $6 of fees on top of an $8 ticket price. When I finally got inside the club there were, excluding employees, a total of 4 people -- including me. So my did I feel a fool for paying all that money to ticketmaster. An hour or so later and the crowd had swelled to maybe a dozen people, and Thea, Nigel and a guitarist, whose name I'm sad to I didn't catch, came out and started.

They were fantastic. For a while sitting there before they came out I wasn't sure if it was going to happen, or if I really had wasted that $6 I paid to ticketmaster. But they did play in the 'intimate' (Thea's description) setting, and like I said they were really rather good. If you live in or around Pittsburgh and you weren't one of the 20 or so (the crowd swelled a little while they were playing) people who heard Thea, then all I can say is you missed out.

At one point during the concert Nigel played a melodica (which is sort of a cross between a recorder and a keyboard), which I can only guess is what Frost's album and website is named after.

At the end of the show Thea and some short balding English bloke were standing by the door thanking people and selling their wares, well their cds at least. So I even got to speak to her. And standing there as I was unshaven, with my hair at least a month overdue a cut, in a shirt I had retrieved from the laundry basket that morning and jeans that were starting to smell after a weeks wear... I thought my what a wonderful first impression I must be making. And let's be honest most likely it's the only time I'll ever have to make an impression... what I made probably didn't even class as a slight indentation or a smudge. But only in my warped mind is there anyway I could have made anything more than the wanttobe smudge which I did. After all she is incredibly talented and attractive and I am the grinning buffoon with the mis-spelled football t-shirt. Although in all fairness to myself I am the grinning buffoon in the mis-spelled football t-shirt who happens to have a PhD in high energy particle physics. But sadly it's not really the guarantee of fame, riches and women of say a film star or a musician or a road sweeper.

I did at least have the sense to scarper away from Thea quickly enough that my brain didn't catch up with the fact I was talking to her and make me say something stupid or embarrassing or offensive. Which is normally my modus operandi when I meet somebody for the first time. In fact come to think about it, I probably always do it... people just get used to my manner after a while. Still, on the plus side I got two signed cds (Loft Music and Songs from the Gutter) for the bargain price of $25 and also a signed postcard at the mere mention of Mr Gaiman's name. That and I got to talk to an English person, however briefly, which after a few months out here in the wilds of Pennsylvania was really nice. It's great not to have to repeat myself because someone doesn't understand or have someone tell me how great my accent is... strangely enough the two things regularly happen simultaneously.

Enough of this incoherent babble for now.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Should really be working

For some reason I can't motivate myself to do any work at the moment. I think the reason may be that I am lazy. Or maybe it is the result of some neurological disease. Chances are that it is just laziness.

I am currently listening to the Frost song Duo, which contains the lines:

"Her goldfish drowned that day
He tried to kiss her tears away"
Which, for some reason I can't quite understand, I really like. It also reminds me of when I was little (can't remember how old maybe 8 or 10) me and my nextdoor neighbour spent an afternoon throwing stones form my garden in to my other neighbour's pond. Then later that evening these neighbours came round to tell us we'd killed all the little fishies in their pond. So there you go don't throw stones in your neighbours fish pond, cause you might get in trouble for fish genocide.

By the way the Frost album is really quite good, if you like the Scandinavian electronica kind of music.>/p>

On the subject of music. One of my favourite artists at the monent is Thea Gilmore. I heard about her from Neil Gaiman's blog, and like her last two albums enough (the only ones readily available over here in the US) that I'm going to drive to Pittsburgh on Thursday to listen to her play at Club Cafe. I foolishly bought my tickets through ticketmaster, who charge a $2.75 convienience charge and then a $3.10 processing charge... grrrhhh! Still never mind, it's not everyday that I go to listen to live music. Hopefully it will be as amazing as Mr Gaiman claims. Judging by the albums it should be pretty good.

Umm... there are probably a few other things I could put here. I would say watch Wonderfalls at 9pm (Eastern) on Fox, if I thought that anybody was actually reading what I write. It seems as though I'm going to say it anyway.

Should probably get back to that work thing. Well first I'm going to wander up and down the corridor a bit wishing I had a wall, an electricity box, an empty Corona bottle and a football. Sadly those days have now passed.

Friday, March 19, 2004


4 was wait.

To be specific, wait for help. I still don't understood 3 though. But I'm not paid to understand these things. Come to think of it, I'm not sure why I am paid. I suppose I must have my uses, but who knows what they might be.

I think that after 4 and half months here in lovely Pennsylvania I am starting to go somewhat insane. I think I need to get out of my empty flat and do more stuff. But... it's cold outside and I'm lazy and reclusive. So who knows what I actually need.

I spent last week driving around LA. And I really did spend most of my time just driving around aimlessly. Still it was nice to be back in something approximating a city... although LA doesn't really count, it's more just a sprawling mass of freeways.

It was also nice to have a car, albeit a rental car, for a week. Living here in lovely State College sans voiture is not entirely ideal. Everything is just a bit too far away and a bit too hard to get to on the bus. If I ever get my arse in gear and save up some money maybe I'll be able to purchase a lovely little vehicle. But given my track record of frittering away money I'm not holding my breath.

On the flight to LA I was reading a story about a guy whose plane crashed as he was reading a story about a plane crash. And I thought that it was rather good. The short story was by Iain M. Banks in a book called "The State of The Art". Most of the stories were very good. The man is clearly rather smart. Not to mention being something of a talented writer. Or should I say author?

My friend, Chris, convinced me to go and see "The Passion of The Christ" while I was staying with him in Pasadena (actually it didn't take too much convincing). And to paraphrase the late (genius) Bill Hicks, my quick capsule review is "Piece of Shit". The film was guilty of being self indulgent and boring. Never mind all the nonsense about anit-semitism and unnecessary violence and all the rest of the bullshit. The film was just crap. Mad religious fuckers who go and see it will love it and any normal person will find it a graphically unmoving experience. Except for the scene where Jesus invents the kitchen table. Which will make most people go... huh???? But, maybe I'm just going to hell. Or maybe I think that St. Bridget of Sweden was just some mad biddy when she said Jesus told her he was beaten 6666 times on the body. Whatever floats your boat though.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Elevator antics

Just a quick post to see if gnome-blog works.

I was feeling very lazy this morning so I took the lift up two floors to my lovely little third floor cubicle. As I was standing there I noticed a sign giving instructions for what to do if the elevator stops. They were:
  1. Press the alarm button.
  2. Communicate with operator.
  3. Remain in elevator.
  4. ????Don't remember what 4 was

So, I wondered why do they need to say number 3? If the lift breaks down, you are pretty much stuck in the damn thing. The reason that you are using the alarm button is because you can't get out of it. Therefore, the chances are that you are going to remain in the elevator.