Director Chris Nolan continues his winning streak of incredibly stylish and enjoyable cinema with this story of two feuding turn-of-the-(20th)-century stage magicians. Starring Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale, the film establishes itself with immediate geek cred (dude it’s Wolvering versus Batman), but that’s not to say it’s a geek only film. Far from it. A tragic performing accident cost one magician his wife, and both their friendship, and when one manages to create the most stunning illusion the world has ever seen, it’s up to the other to figure it out. Deception of both the characters and the audience is integral, and David Bowie is brilliantly cast as Nicholai Tesla. You may think you see the ending coming, but you second guess yourself enough that the entire ride is a fun, engrossing mystery play. Incredibly well acted, visually quite stunning, and overall great entertainment.
The Quiet Earth
FLASH! BUZZ! The sky goes blank and Zac Hobson wakes up to find himself alone, in his house, on his block, in his town, country, and, presumably, the world. More than any other post apocalypse film, the Quiet Earth explores the mindset of a man who suddenly has the world to himself. At first Zac panics, the prospect of being the only person alive a frightening one, but eventually he settles into his predicament, moving into a mansion, decorating and adorning himself in excesses he’d have never afforded in life. Ultimately, though, there’s a survival instinct which keeps Zac on patrol, searching for others while being able to sustain himself without going utterly insane. Eventually he does meet someone else, but as Joanne becomes something of a beacon of hope for him, so too does he realize that there’s possibly other survivors, and the all to real threat of human conflict, whether real or imagined, threatens to destroy his utopia. Though hardly a visually stunning film (Australian made, dating back to the mid-Eighties), it’s highly intriguing in concept and execution.
Scrubs Season 4
Did Scrubs jump the shark in the 4th season? Maybe. It’s certainly a hump for the series though, and not one I’m sure I can get past. The problems I have with this latest season are many, starting with the fact that the once-brilliant daydreams/absurdist asides/exaggerated gags that the show has become known for have strayed from being clearly defined to muddled (in other words from “that didn’t happen, but it’d be funny if it did” to “did that happen?”). The relationship drama, which was something else the series excelled at early on also fell apart as JD became a less interesting and less sympathetic romantic lead, and his relationship with Kylee, a black woman, just sort of came and went as a completely wasted comedic opportunity. Meanwhile, Elliot’s character really faded into the background, seriously overshadowed in the early episodes of the season by the introduction of Heather Graham’s bubbly Dr. Clock. For the first time as well, the show prominently re-used gags. Unlike some of the running jokes, these reused gags just got tiresome. On top of that, some of the go-to second stringers like Janitor, Doug and The Todd were too over-exposed this season and aren’t as funny as a result. Plus, well, they’ve made JD too goofy, fun-loving and bumbling, to the point that you seriously have to question his aptitude as a professional.
That said, the show still manages to pack an emotional bite, with Turk and Carla’s relationship struggles being the meat of the season. John C McGinley as Cox still holds the show shoulder high above most other sitcoms, and it’s still much smarter than your average laugh-track. The most pointed moment this season had Cox and Kelso discussing the decline of the doctor’s status in the community, observed now as walking lawsuits waiting to happen. Despite some great moments, Scrubs is definitely an engine running out of steam. The writing staff seems to want to punch up the absurdity and the emotional resonance to such extremes that they don’t cohabitate so nicely anymore, and they don’t seem to know what to do with their characters anymore so they just make them seem sillier to the point where it draws you out of their environment. I loved the series to this point, but this is my last visit to Sacred Heart.
Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby
Will Ferrell re-teams with Anchorman co-writer and director Adam McKay for this, erm… not sure what to call it as Talladega Nights is not a send-up of the world of NASCAR as the film acquired the rights to use NASCAR branding thus limiting how much making fun of the institution and their fans they could do. This is essentially why the movie fails. Without the satirizing of something so prevalent (and deserving) the film is left up to Will Ferrell to be a goofy bastard. He does it, and he does it well, but it’s not enough. Since he doesn’t have nearly the quality of comedic supporting cast on his side as he did with Anchorman (John C. Reilly and Michael Clark Duncan are fine actors and have a warm nature to them, but they’re not gifted comedic actors like Paul Rudd or Steve Carrell). Sacha Baron Cohen (aka Borat) plays a rival driver with an absurd French accent and a penchant for flouting his gayness, but for all his talent Cohen still doesn’t evoke the laughs he should. The best of the supporting crew is actually Gary Cole as Ricky Bobby’s drunkard, absentee daddy who reemerges to teach Ricky how to drive again. Cole is the only one who sells his role and understands that sometimes humour is understating rather than exaggerating. It’s an amusing journey but neither memorable nor impressionable. For all of Anchorman’s quotables, I don’t even recall a line from the film that sticks out.
Comedy is constantly evolving, revolving, regressing and progressing. Thinking about Talladega Nights above and then the Party and I can’t help but think them two completely different beasts. The former is a loud, in-your face, vibrant and overt effort at comedy, whereas the latter is subtle, methodical, nuanced and, to a degree, charming. It’s odd then that I can see similarities in the performances that Will Ferrell and Peter Sellers give in their respective endeavors. Both work with an enormous amount of physicality, although Ferrell’s use of his body is in a shameless manner while Sellers works a more shameful side. Both also embody character, the difference being that Ricky Bobby isn’t supposed to be that sympathetic an idiot, while Hrundi Bakshi is utterly sympathetic and more bumbling than idiotic (think a fish ignoring the water versus a fish out of water).
Directed by Blake Edwards, The Party is considered a classic of comedy cinema. My first time watching it, nearly 40 years after it was made, and I personally found it slow but still endearing. It’s from an era where laff-a-minute didn’t exist as a concept, and comedy often took time. At the same time it’s deliberate in every set-up and execution. It also doesn’t always go for the laugh and it rarely goes for the obvious, instead blindsiding you with the unexpected. In the expansive grand finale, chaos piles upon chaos in absurd delight. Though nothing in the film was uproariously funny, it is stylish and cute if 20 minutes too long.
Lost season 2
You almost forget, as the season runs past the 2/3 market, that everyone is trapped on a island. In one episode they mention that it’s like a snowglobe with an island in the middle and there’s nothing else around, nowhere else to go. The series itself gets so lost in its own mystery that it at times forgets that these people don’t want to be here. And yet, if you think about it, if you stumbled across such a bizarre scenario with so many questions that don’t have easily appointed answers, wouldn’t you be curious too? The show actually does acknowledge some of its own detractions, and occasionally brings up reminders that, yes, the island isn’t a home. But, they concede, you might as well be comfortable. Season 2 is all about “the hatch”, and psychological head games as well as classic 60’s sci-fi scenarios are order of the day. The Others are revealed and while some characters are introduced, others broken, healed or killed off. By the end of the season you will be convinced that nobody is safe. The ever-tightening weave of interconnectivity that is the characters back stories are mostly entertaining, but occasionally they slow the show down too much (I guess your like for the character in focus determines how much you enjoy it). Following the old X-Files model that for each question answered, two more are asked makes Lost frustrating and yet addictive viewing. The special features rest assure us that there is a masterplan and that there won’t be any “it’s all a dream” cop-out (one episode addresses this head-on). Season 3, airing now, cannot come soon enough to DVD. For people who are frustrated with the show on a weekly basis, I maintain that watching the show in clusters of three or more makes for more rewarding viewing, whether you wait for the next DVD or dust off the VCR is up to you.
While in London, UK, I became a prolific user of their Underground system. Each station (i.e. tube stop) joins the deep subway lines to the surface via a number of stairways, tunnels, and escalators. All throughout are prominently displayed adverts, and the bulk of these promos, at least at the stations I frequented, are for the voluminous number of theater attractions in the city. “Footloose”, “Blood Brothers”, “We Will Rock You”, “Porgy and Bess”, “Mary Poppins”, and dozens upon dozens of others. But what attracted me was three white figures contrasting against a black moon in a blue sky, with MOMIX written in block letters above it. “Experience something different” it stated. So I did.
Well, what is MOMIX? Well, it’s a series of traveling dance performances created by Moses Pendleton (erm, okay). The performance I saw was subtitled “Opus Cactus” for whatever reason. Dance, when done right, is interesting and beautiful to watch, form and style over substance or story, I figured that Momix was doing something that was overtly stylish, a sort of Cirque du Soleil but less creepy.
The curtains lifted to exhibit a projected image on a mesh drop, allowing you to see the performers behind it, but not too clearly. The pounding of earthy techno rhythms kicked in and four white leotards emerged from the darkness, blacklight accentuating their whiteness. Standing in profile, the figures leaned forward…far forward, then backward… far backward, well beyond what ordinary ankles should handle. Then, magically, they’re floating in the air. It’s not until they turn in profile that you begin to question or understand that the “dancers” are wearing unitards that are half black/half white, and the lighting is such that you can’t see the black. The projected images change (the different intensities of lighting on the images sometimes unfortunately expose the dancers) and the sleep-inducing rhythms speed up and slow down while the performers move and shift about the stage.
There’s a novelty to Momix, that once you figure out, suffices as an audience member. “Oh, that’s clever… now what?” As an observer, once you know that the suits are two-toned, you begin filling in the other half of the performer unconsciously. The performance itself was dull and lifeless, too stuck on its own cleverness to do anything really interesting, including coordinating, as the pacing of the performers was horrendously out-of-sync. If they actually involved a coordinated dance effort, better rehearsed, and learned to use more of the stage to add depth and other visual trickery, rather than just relying upon one element of misdirection, well, it would at least be more engaging. As it was, dullsville.
The IT Crowd season 1
There’s only one thing wrong with season 1 of the IT Crowd (currently Region 2 only) and that is there’s not enough of it. Originally aired early this year, and the first show to ever release its episodes on-line before they aired, the IT Crowd is the brainchild of Graham Linehan who created both Father Ted and Black Books (two of my all-time favourite comedies) about two IT nerds, Roy and Moss, working for a nondescript corporate company, and their thrown-to-the-wolves boss, Jen. The first half of the first episode of the show is rife with the expected corporate computer comedy, but beyond that it’s patented absurdity.
The brilliance of the IT crowd, specifically beyond its pilot episode, is how each episode juggles many different balls and then sends them colliding together at the end. Linehan’s an expert at this kind of situation comedy, and few American programs, save perhaps Seinfeld or Steve Carrell’s The Office even attempt. A great cast and spot-on writing make it endlessly re-watchable, immensely quotable and enormously fun, the scant six episodes leaves the viewer with a stitch in their side and wanting more. Unfortunately the next IT Crowd episodes aren’t airing until 2007. Sigh.
After a few weeks off I’m back in the comics review saddle over at the lovely Rack Raids — The 4-Color Valhalla.
John Woo’s 7 Brothers #1 and 2
Conner Hawke: Dragon’s Blood #1
Gotham Central vol 4: The Quick and the Dead
Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes #24
Rex Libris #6
Action Comics #845
Big Question #9
Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters #5
This Eurofever that clasped hold of me in London has been hard to shake. None of my usual routine things, such as plenty of liquids and megahot baths has yet warded off the peskiness that it is. The bug has gestated over the past week, transforming from it’s sore throat/ears to a general goodgey malaise to its weekend iteration which saw me in coughing fits as I lay down to sleep and hacking up of the gross stuff in the morning.
I took Friday off work (well did a stint of work-at-home) after my morning coughing fit managed to strain a muscle in my side (around my rib) making movement difficult, coughing, laughing or sneezing painful. I polished off Scrubs season 4 (review soon) while also getting some reading done
> BOOK REPORT INTERRUPTION <
Book: QI:The Book Of General Ignorance
Purchased: November 12, 2006
Start reading date: November 19, 2006
Finished reading: November 23, 2006
Total days taken to read the book: 5
Average reading speed: 61 pages/day
The QI: Book Of General Ignorance is a book of trivial facts which most people get wrong. Well, it’s not always what most people get wrong, but rather more nitpicky answers to things people usually think are right (tallest mountain in the world vs. highest mountain depends on measuring from seabed to peak or base of mountain to peak) as well as a lot of interesting things (like Robin Hood’s tights were originally red) which allowed me to play Cliff Claven annoy Aden for a few days in a row. A fun read from John Lloyd and his “Interesting Questions” team (they have a game show called IQ in the UK as well), with a British slant naturally but there was a surprising number of Canadian and Australian tidbits amongst the UK and US chunks as well.
>END OF LINE<
Saturday I kept my keester on the couch from roughly 8:30 am to 9:30 pm, erecting myself only to get more tea or food, warm up my hot pad, or got for a pee. In that time I managed to plow my way through Season 2 of Lost, which I will review later, but have to say is in the top three of most addictive hour-long shows ever (Battlestar Galactica and Buffy: The Vampire Slayer are the other two… I’m sure 24 comes in right after, but I’ve never watched it, so I can’t really say). I need to catch up on Season 3, desperately.
Yesterday, after my morning hackfest, I made my way uptown to join Aden and her family for a big double birthday celebration for her grandfather and grandmother (84 and 83 respectively). I was in miserable condition, but had a great time nonetheless (the healthy slab of roast beast certainly helped as did the just-like-grandma-makes slice of apple pie, yum!). Last night I had my worst coughing fit yet, and it took a good 20 - 25 minutes to calm down from it. Slept like a log though. Sore throat this morning and that generally goodgey feeling all around, but I’ve actually been okay since sitting down at work.
I need to ask Joan more about that chocolate thing cause it didn’t work for me…
Book: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
Purchased: borrowed September…sometime
Start reading date: September 23, 2006
Finished reading: November 13, 2006
Total days taken to read the book: 50
Average reading speed: 6.05 pg/day
Oskar is a highly intelligent and highly independent 8-year-old, his father’s death in the World Trade Center attack obviously having a profound affect on him. Before his death they would often play elaborate seek-and-find games, so when Oskar discovers an envelope marked “BROWN” and containing simply a key in his father’s possessions he goes out on the hunt for it’s meaning.
The book deals immeasurably well in quirks and riddles, and uses unusual techniques in storytelling (including multiple narrative points and time frames, as well as pictures and textplay) to paint a portrait of Oskar, his father and his grandfather. Peculiarly engaging, funny and touching.
Book: Danny Wallace and the Center of the Universe by Danny Wallace
Purchased: November 13, 2006
Start reading date: November 20, 2006
Finished reading: November 20, 2006
Total days taken to read the book: 1
Average reading speed: 128 pg/day
Well, this was noted as a “Quick Read” book, a publishing imprint of Ebury Press in the UK which specializes in wee novelettes (big type and low page counts). Wallace you may (or not) recall from his Join Me and Yes Man adventures (wherein he started a cult and said yes to everything, respectively) once again gets up to weirdness as he visits the “center of the earth” in Greenwich, which gives him the idea to look up the center of the universe on Google. Turns out it’s in Idaho, in a town called “Wallace”, a curious “Northern Exposure”-type town. Another hilarious telling in a bite-size bit of reality entertainment.
Yeah, so you didn’t hear from me for a week as I went underground and incognito. After setting off the alarms at the London office on Saturday, I went for a stroll around, got lost in the Piccadilly Squarea and had LizV take me on a night tour of London after the proper pub fish’n'chips’n'peas dining experience.
Sunday I slept in (needfully and thankfully), trotting out of bed at 11am to go do a spat of shopping for a book to read on the way to the airport (to meet Aden) and pick up some things I had eye-spied a few days before (mostly region 2 DVDs which aren’t available in Canada). A quick pack-up at the hostel and a jaunt over to the hotel were needed, followed by dinner with Liz and the tube ride out to Heath Row, where I found Aden already waiting for me (apparently her flight was an hour early due to favourable tail winds).
Monday, our first proper day in London together and Aden wanted to see the London office (since we both work at the same company there was curiousity there), which was conveniently located next to the Tower Bridge and Tower of London. We toured around the Tower of London for a few hours, the first half hour with a very amusing guide, a right and proper Beefeater (Yeoman Warder) with a masterful sense of timing and delivery (as well as knowledge of his subject). From there I exposed Aden to the Pret-A-Manger for the first (but certainly not last) time. A little bug told me that McDonalds owned Pret, but turns out they have a 1/3 stake in the company, which puts me a little more at ease.
Following that, we took a walk to the Globe Theatre (sadly we were there during off-season so no Shakespeare for us) and beside that the Tate Modern. Getting our fill of history, culture and art for the day, we walked across the Millenium Bridge towards St. Paul’s Cathedral (which was under renovations, mostly cleaning, but they had a tarp up which from a distance made it look like everything was status quo). Took the tube up to Shaftesbury Ave. and ventured into Forbidden Planet, which was both dizzying for us geeks, and also a little unimpressive.
Hungry and tired, we ate at the (later disovered to be a franchise restaurant, as practically every restaurant in London seems to be a franchise of some sort) Garfunkles and ventured to the cinema to watch the awesome Korean giant monster movie “The Host” (review coming soon).
That pretty much took it out of us for the day. Sleep beconed and Tuesday was coming fast.
Back from London after the 12-day/12-night stint, and guess what? I’ve got Eurofever.
No, it doesn’t mean I’ve fallen madly and obsessively in love with Europe or the British countryside (or cityscape), but rather I’m sick and I’m not happy.
When mi hombre GAK returned from his multi-month Eurotrip, he too returned with the Eurofever, although his took a pretty nasty turn of caughing and snarfling and a general sense of malaise (well, not really, he was still a pretty active little bugger for a guy who was pretty damn sick and requiring of the anti-biodes).
My Eurofever hopefully won’t result in needing of the little pink pills but, as of now, my throat is sore and my ears hurt. I’m not hacking or sniffling (well, not sniffling due to anything other than weather), but I am uncomfortable in my own head right now and that’s not cool by me.
Lizvang took me for a stroll around Londontown yesterday (though about 1/2 hour too late for the Lord Mayor’s fireworks celebration), taking a peek at the thames, the Millenium Wheel (’the Eye’), the Parliament buildings/Big Ben, 10 Downing Street etc. Along the way and on the way back we passed through the theatre district, which is a pretty massive district.
It’s no secret that London is the world leader in the theatre scene and they have pretty much everything here. Lion King, Blue Man Group, Wicked, Spamalot, Chicago, the Producers, and a couple dozen others. On one stretch of road within a block we passed theatrical renditions of both Footloose and Dirty Dancing. Truly.
You know how they say Hollywood is pretty much bankrupt of ideas, always making films based on books or comics or tv shows, well, theatre is equally so, considering the majority of theatre her is either based on a movie or, as is the case with ‘We Will Rock You’ or ‘Daddy Cool’, the works of 70’s era pop bands (Queen and Boney M, respectively). I think the film adaptation was spurred on by the overwhelming success of the Producers (although that was a more natural fit than some) and the Lion King, and the latter no doubt based on the success of Mama Mia, and later, Moving Out (or is it Moving On… I’m not much of a Billy Joel fan).
Anyway the theatre scene here is pretty hard up for anything original, but then again, there is something quite attractive about seeing something familiar done a different way (except for Footloose and Dirty Dancing, I want nothing to do with them)
w, d: Denis Dercourt
*NOTE major spoilers below*
In fact, I don’t think I could properly write my feelings about this film without giving away everything. But then, a one-line description spoiled the whole movie for me before I saw it. It read: “A young woman seeks revenge for the piano exam she failed as a ten-year-old.”
So, your first question is “Why would anyone willingly see a film with that description.” Well, blame Cache, a masterful and creepy suspense film which not only thrilled me but kept me thinking long after it was over. It was French, so is the Page Turner. I guess I thought since one French “sophisticated suspense” film was so damn good, that another would be too. But no.
Canada coin denominations –> $2, $1, .25, .10, .05, .01
UK coin denominations –> £2, £1, .50, .20, .10, .05, .02, .01
The £2 coin and the Canadian “toonie” (or “twonie”.. doesn’t look right no matter how you spell it) are similar in size and both have the dual-metal thing going on (as opposed to a Gwar vs. Metallica “metal dual”), only the silver on the £2 is the inside metal, and on the twonie is the outside metal (the inside metal on the £2 is also larger in size, and there’s writing on the edge of the coin… “Standing on the shoulders of giants”, the one in my hand says)
The £1 coin is small and thick, as opposed to the $1 Loonie, which is not much thicker than a quarter and just a little larger. I don’t know if the pound coin has a cute nickname like the Loonie or not, or if it’s just always a pound coin. It too has writing on its edges, varying from issue.
The .50£ coin is large and decagonal (I don’t have one in front of me but if I recall it has many flat edges as opposed to being circular). Canada has had 50 cent coins but they’re not regular issue or circulation.
The 25 cent coin, or “quarter” in Canada is about the same size as the 10p coin in Britain, which is confusing, as is the fact that the 5p coin is the same size as the Canadian 10 cent coin (”dime”).
I’m still trying to determine if the UK coins have clever little nicknames. The only one that I know is the Tuppence, which is the UK two pence coin. It’s a huge copper coin which is light but takes up a lot of pocket space, and generally doesn’t make much sense… get it.. cents/sense? I’m hilarious.
I had a Christmas Cracker yesterday from Pret-A-Manger, which is Turkey; bacon; cranberry sauce; pork w/sage and onion stuffing; three veg mash (potato carrot and swede) and onion in a tortilla wrap. Yeah, doesn’t sound the most delightful does it, but I was brave and gave it a go. To be honest, it was pretty damn good. It was like having a complete Thanksgiving dinner (minus the pumpkin pie) in every bite. Yum!
They also have a salted ham wrap which, judging from the samples they were giving out, is pretty tasty, in that addictively salty kind of way.
London is fantastically easy to get lost in. I attempted to walk back to the hostel from the office yesterday evening, plotting out my route but keeping the mapbook strapped to my back just in case. Well, it didn’t take long, about 15 minutes, in fact, before I no longer knew where I was. I recognized Bank station and then, thinking I was taking a north-westerly street, an hour later found myself on the northeast side of town on Bethnel Green. Thankfully, I was just there the night before so I could find my way to the Underground and make my way back to the hostel, only to return to the area I though I knew, spend a few minutes looking for food and another 40 trying to figure out where I was.
The city is beautiful, just completely not intuitive.
Have to remember to go back to Brick Lane, though, that place was rad.
Tonight, I’m off to Southampton, travelling with the Duloks for their gig, and probably doing some roady-like things…
Full report tomorrow, perhaps.
My Flickr account now has some Londonish photos up. Not feeling photogenically inspired these days due to my long working days, but I’m sure when Aden’s out next week there’ll be gobs more.
You will notice in the set some bizarre photos of people wearing spandex… that’s because last night I joined my friend Mar for Hot Breath Karaoke (described as “London’s only Award Winning* karaoke-meets-wheel-of-fortune-on-AM-radio-at-a-car-boot-sale!”>, which was cut short by the arrival of the not-yet world famous improvisational dance troupe, Duotard for the first ever DANCEOKE!
Hot Breath lasted for 90 minutes, when HB’s Emcee (originally from Vancouver) and his wife (orginally from Ottawa) stripped down to their spandex and performed some stunning feats of ironic interpretive dance. Following a 10 minute break, they returned in new, sparklier suits to lead the crowd in the first ever Danceoke, guided by the Wheel Of Feel. The pictures explain nothing… I guess it’s a “you had to be there” kind of thing.
I have a feeling this kind of ironic dance is going to become big, considering how popular shows like “So You Think You Can Dance” and “Dancing With The Stars” have become, alongside all the various movies about dance (most recently the generation-definining “Take The Lead”), there needs to be some sort of smarmy, indie backlash.
(now with video)
…imagine what I could do on a relaxed Friday afternoon.”
A conversation at work involved the mocking of one co-worker’s portable hard drive, calling it a toaster. This segued into a conversation about toasters and then the fact that there are now toaster bags for cooking things in.
Seriously. And not just one company is making them, but at least four:
1 (love the description on this site)
4 (now available from Papered Chef)
From there, the conversation grew to discuss Japan’s pinache for developing useless inventions (aka “chindogu”). One person invented a cap that has a suction cup on the back of it so that you can suction your head to the window behind you so you don’t slide over when you fall asleep (optional display board stating “Wake me when I arrive to…”). This article is a good primer on the phenomenon of chindogu (noting that attempts for an American tv show, “Funniest Home Viedoes”-style, hasp been proposed).
We began to discuss things like the “tube strap” which would allow you to harness yourself to the overhead handrails and have both hands free to read the paper (optional: “tube seat” ala swingset style), or the prepackaged baby squeeze feeder. All brilliantly stupid ideas, which prompted the statement that titles this post
The Brits aren’t known for their cuisine. Sad but true. In fact, after three days here I find it hard to believe that the English have any affinity for the food they put in their mouth or body. There’s a lot of pre-packaging here, and the grocery stores, at least in central London, tend to allow for piecing together snack-like meals consisting of a fresh piece of fruit, a granola/candy/chocolate bar, an individual-sized packet of crisps (aka potato chips) and bottled juices or waters. Oh yeah, and a sandwich. This place is bleeding sandwich obsessed. Nearly every luchtime joint, corner store or even evening restaurant seems to offer sandwiches, more often than not cut diagonally and stored in a wedge-shaped plastic container with cello-wrap on top.
“EAT.”, “Pret-A-Manger” and Subway sandwich shops are everywhere. If you thought there was a Subway around every corner on Toronto, it’s literally that way in London. Even the plentiful Starbucks around here sell sandwiches.
This one came from the Tower Bridge Cafe… it’s a bacon, chicken and spinach (with mayo) mix. Perfectly palatable, but not something to entice me every day. The Cherry square I had for dessert though: marvelous.
Yesterday was beautiful, absolutely and, apparently, atypically. This sort of dewy gloom that we have around today is from what I can tell, the norm. It’s still pretty warm, and when you’re moving it’s quite easy to build up a sweat, then catch a chill the moment you slow down.
The Tube system here impresses me immensely. You can get pretty much anywhere by Tube and with a bit of walking, in central (Zone 1) London at least. It’s great, and the signage is so intuitive and wonderful it’s almost easy. I got into the thick of the morning rush. No pokey joes around here. If you don’t have your fleet feet on, you’re bound to be trampled.
The most immediate thing you have to get used to when roaming London is the movement of traffic, both human and vehicular. You walk and drive on the left (pass right)… it’s relatively easy to get used to walking but the innate notion of looking the opposite way for traffic when you’re at a stop is hard (thankfully the streetcorners always tell you to either “look right” or “look left” (with an arrow to point for the directionally challenged… you know who you are).
I love being cc’d on Japanese emails at work, since all I see are “シンプレックステクノロジー 小寺様” except with the occasional dose of english:
起動し、変数 LEGOLMD_LICENSE_FILE にランセンスファイルのパスを設定する必要があります。
I guess I could install the Japanese character recognition software, but what fun is that? This way it’s like watching Spanish news, where every so often in a rapid string they’ll slow it down for a deliberate enunciation of words like “George Bush”.
It’s not German
When you scan documents as text, sometimes the character recognition software doesn’t properly catch it all or it gets a little confused. So if you try and copy and paste out of a scanned PDF, it sometimes doesn’t look right:
“Softwarein productiond, isasterr ecoveryt,e stinga nd developmenet nvironmen”
as opposed to
“Software in production and, disaster recovery, testing and development environments”
I originally thought that I had pasted in some German text, then realized most of the spacing and a few of the characters had screwed up. Heh.
Well, I’m in flippin’ London, and despite the fact that I’m ungodly jet-lagged (not for lack of trying to avoid it though) I’m feeling happy.
The Red-Eye left Toronto around 8:30 Sunday evening (EST), the 7-hour flight slated to arrive approximately 12 hours later Monday morning at 8:30 (GMT). I was pretty exhausted Sunday from a lot of running around so I’d hoped that would translate into easy sleeping on the plane. No such luck. The notoriety that planes have been garnered with is accurate, they are very difficult to sleep in.
For starters, well, the seats don’t recline much, therefore it’s hard to get your neck into position that’s comfortable to sleep in. Add to that the fact that they don’t bother to turn off the lights until 3.5 hours into the flight it’s all nastyness. But I think I could still have slept if that were the only issue, but the steward and stewardesses kept coming around offering drinks, food and Duty Free shopping (really, people, it’s seven hours, can you hold off the consuming for just that long???), and they’re not quiet about it either.
Even then, I just wear my headphones to ignore them. With the headphones on I can even ignore the babies crying (I’m surprised at how many people used their baby as their one carry-on). But the worst of it was the elderly Hindu lady sitting next to me. She was sweet and polite enough, but she has that old lady narcolepsy trait where she can fall asleep at the drop of a dime, which just had me bitter and envious, but also, she had the jimmy legs something fierce. I mean, come on… crying babies I can ignore, the jimmy legs… it was like tubulence confined to only the two seats we were in.
Oh well. I tried to sleep, ignoring “the Lake House” and “Driving Miss Daisy”, had the 6am (GMT) breakfast (they’re gggrrrross!) and awoke myself in time for the landing. Oh that landing.
I was sitting on a wing seat, and as we descended into London, the fog was uber thick, so thick in fact I couldn’t even see the wing that was right there in front of me! Yowza! Next thing I know we touch down and I still couldn’t see anything out the window. That’s a brave pilot.
Heath Row buses transported us from the plane to the terminal in stages, so it took a while. Inside, customs was rapide and my bag was waiting for me. I decided to take the tube in from the airport, but the most difficult aspect of my trip so far was figuring out how, exactly, the London Underground payment system works. I sorta had it figured (but not really) and made my way inside London…
Sweet, beautiful, sunny and warm London. I’ve been told it’s not usually like this but the forecast says it’ll be this gorgeous all week. My lucky stars. I got lost on the way to the hostel as there was construction on the street the hostel was on and their sign was removed so I couldn’t find them. I had to pop into a net cafe and hail Lizvang to talk me in. She did a great job and she’s looking fabulous, her hair has even begun to grow back.
Meanwhile, I still needed to get to work, so I’m attempting to master the tube system, which is surprisingly easier that Toronto’s (despite having about 12 times as many lines) which is in large part to plentiful signage. It’s a terriffic system, for the most part.
Work is across from the Tower Bridge in a beautiful old boathouse. It’s a gorgeous space that unfortunately is being evacuated for larger quarters in a month or two. Too bad, I like it in here. Everything is going fine so far, but I need to catch some sleep. Another four hours should do me and I’ll be time-adjusted I think.
Can’t wait to explore the city with Aden next week. She’s going to love it here.
My buddy E, taking inspiration from my other buddy E last year, decided to dress his new Shetland Sheepdog pup, Indy, up for Hallowe’en.
And now for something…sorta different
The Mr.T Virtual Playset. Mr. Thibideaux, witout his beard and ‘hawk, gives me the wiggins.
Since January of 2005 I’ve been a featured writer on CHUD.com’s Thor’s Comic Column. Well, due to some technical issues, we havn’t been writing a column for, oh, three weeks now (and as you can tell from the sidebar, my output has pretty much ceased as well). But we weren’t taking this whole “forced hiatus” thing lying down. Our happy little gang has come together and branched out on our own with Rack Raids - The Four Color Valhalla.
The site is in Beta mode which means what you see isn’t exactly the finished product, but we’re getting reviews up there like mad. Formatting still needs to be solidified, and a lot of the visual dynamic of the site isn’t in place yet, but we’re loving the immediacy of write-it-then-post-it rather than a weekly column.
Each of us will have regular days, with mine being Thursdays. But I recommend you drop by daily for new reviews of books new and old. We’re not aiming to be the best comic book website on the internet, but we are aiming to be one of the best review sites going. Once we get the spit and polish in place, I think it will indeed be.
I needed a new suitcase for my impending/looming trip to London (where I shall be mixing business with pleasure: shaken, not stirred) and the lazy looker I am really only went to one location: Winners. Their advertisements told me “you should go”, so I did.
Winners, for those who aren’t familiar, is kind of like a remnant house or a liquidation world. They get a whole gaggle of cast offs or rejects or returns (mostly, though, end-of-line stuff), primarily in the clothing department, but they also get accessories and some home decor (they have a sister store called Home Sense that is all home decor of this sort). Everything is deeply discounted and requires a lot of rummaging to find the good stuff.
The store near BOBTown had a nice selection of luggage, since a few weeks ago, they were having a luggage promotion and they brought in a lot more stock than normal. I was eyeing up one of those hard case suitcases, but couldn’t seem to find one that was sizeable enough for a two week journey without being absurd. So I put it off.
When I went earlier this week, my selection was still a little more limited, but I eventually found a suitcase to my liking (two actually, but one had a faulty button on the inside which I deemed unacceptable, so I went with the other). Did you know the Swiss Army is branching out of not going to war and making knives and now makes luggage?
I think mine is a Mobilizer 22 as it looks virtually the same as the one pictured, and yet mine was only $80, and not $300+.
With three children, my friend/neighbour/coworker made out like a bandit with Hallowe’en candy, and now she’s bringing satchels of it to work to share. I have a low willpower tolerance to chocolate and chips (and chocolate chip cookies), and this stuff is staring me right in the face. Already in the past hour I’ve had two tiny bags of chocolate raisins, one of chocolate peanuts, another of some Real Fruit Gummies and a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. At least with these selections I can pretend there’s something healthy about it.
I’ve ruined my lunch.