There Should Be A Word...

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Krissa surprised me with the gift of Douglas Adams' 'The Deeper Meaning of Liff' last night - a book I've skimmed through a number of times but never really owned. Along with Blackadder producer John Lloyd, Adams took place names which were, in their opinion, being under-used, and put them to use describing objects and experiences for which there are not words.

Liff, itself a town in Scotland, has been pressed to mean 'an object or experience for which a word does not exist'.

The book elicits a range of responses, from the sort of 'ah-haaaa' reaction of realising that you are not the only one to have experienced something, to full belly laughs.

Anyway, after putting down this book and checking my Gmail inbox, I had the sudden impulse to coin a word of my own:

Culver vb. To receive an item of spam email which is trying to dupe you into believing you have won the lottery of some distant and foreign country, when you are in fact from that country, rendering the scam less than useless, and more than slightly amusing.



We are pleased to inform you of the release today, the result of the BRITISH MEGA-LOTTERY INTERNATIONAL PROMOTION held on the 30TH
of FEBRUARY, 2005.

Your name and Email was entered as a dependent client with reference
number:EGL/429331247/03 and the batch number:72/50685/MMH.

{so on and so forth etcetera, hundreds of millions of dollars, blah blah blah}



Warm in New York, Isn't It?



Next Time, Get Hercules

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I feel like I've just finished counting all the rocks in Wales.

In a way it is refreshing, after working for a long time on a project which wasn't moving very fast, to start, thresh out, and complete a mammoth task in a comparatively short space of time.

Short compared to the amount of time you'd think you'd need to do what I've just done, that is.

Ah, obfuscation.
Nonetheless, after two years of working to task under government-procrastination, and before that being a great user of the universal get-out, 'This Is What We Would Have Done, If We Had More Time' - a personal favourite in my own short jaunt through Academia, I have just completed something enormous.
On time.
And not crap.
I'm not sure I could do it again.
Putting modesty to one side for a moment, I think my employers were lucky to get me, because I don't think that even a hypothetically unemployed Hercules would cruise craigslist for work.

Enjoy spring while it lasts, they said.
The winters are cold, and the summers are a bitch, but spring is fabulous and after a New York summer, fall will be your best friend.

I'm not looking at anyone in particular, but this really isn't what I was lead to expect. It is COLD in this office. Hear me? COLD.
And it's raining.
And it's practically June.

Damn this wet spring for forcing me to lapse into the repeated sin of starting sentences with conjunctives.

Damn it to hell.

Where it will be warmer.

Although I suppose we can't rely on that forecast either.

Sith Happens

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All right ladies and gents? Mixed bag today.

Krissa and I trotted out as part of a big bunch of peoples to see Star Wars Episode III: Revenge Of The Sith on Friday night at the Ziegfeld in Midtown, notable for the pre-movie warning - 'Please turn off your cellphones, pagers, and light sabers', as there were a few glowing swords waving around above the crowd while the pre-film commercials were running.

So...yeah! What's the general reaction to the film?

I thought it was visually stunning but beyond completing the saga there were a few items which smacked of having been bolted on at the end to smooth the transition into the older films. Most memorable of these for me was Yoda pulling Obi-Wan's 'extra training' out of the bag at the end, which would seem to be nothing more than a one-line disclaimer so that the 70s trilogy's repeated use of Alec Guinness' echoing and spooky voice is not totally incongruous.

But other than that, it was great. I think that Lucas may have been shying away from the general evilness which he would eventually have to deal with, like someone avoiding bringing up an unpleasant topic of conversation, or bad news. We started out with a completely likeable little youngster who would ultimately go very very bad indeed, but I think Lucas took a liking to Anakin Skywalker, kept him good for too long, and then gave him too much ground to cover in his fall from being a pious knight with a quick temper to the complete and utter torturing bastard we know Darth Vader to be.

I enjoyed it.


So now that Krissa and I have a Playstation 2, it was inevitable that the Playstation 3 and the other big companies' next-generation consoles would be unveiled this past week or so. Having read a little around the subject, I'm impressed by some of the specifications, not least this quote from a press release:

"Activision has already confirmed that Spider-Man 3 would ship on next-generation consoles, but at Sony's 2005 E3 press conference today, we got to see a real-time Spidey doing his thing. The character was amazingly detailed, so detailed in fact that we suspected he was from the last Spider-Man 2 movie. In fact, he was. Sony claims that the PS3 is so powerful it can run the computer generated Spider-Man from the movie in real-time..."


Alex, a flatmate of mine at Warwick University, is currently staying with Krissa and I until Thursday. On Saturday night we picked her up at La Guardia airport and took her to a birthday party in Brooklyn. Yesterday, while Krissa nipped over to Biscuit's for an Alias catch-up, Alex and I took a whistle-stop tour of the city, taking in Fifth Avenue, Times Square, The Public Library, Grand Central and the Staten Island Ferry, before rounding off, and I can still hardly believe this as I type, with pizza at Grimaldi's, and cheesecake at Junior's. Click below and browse the pictures!

At Grimaldi's we were sitting next to a trio of firemen from Hampshire, UK, who were in town for training with the FDNY, and who realised I wasn't exactly local from my Cowes Week sweatshirt (Cowes is a town, and Cowes Week is a sailing festival)...and at Junior's we sat at the bar and ate two slices (even between three this is an impressive feat, after Grimaldi's, it's unbelievable) of cheesecake served up by a friendly waitress.

I might be getting predictable, but hey, I have to say it, it was another great weekend.

Oh, and before I forget and this mention becomes effectively useless, The Shivs are playing at The Luna Lounge tonight, at 7.30.

I'll be there.

Mal de Semaine

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I've been feeling a little homesick lately. Just on and off for the past week or so. Quiet moments have found me looking through flickr at photos tagged with 'England' or 'Isle of Wight' before getting on with whatever I'm meant to be doing.

My Mum's had a bit of trouble with a tooth which has been a pain for a few years - she finally had it out on Tuesday but she hasn't been well for a long time and the painkillers are knocking her for six. But, as ever, she and I had a laugh on the phone at lunchtime today.

It's my Mum's birthday on Sunday, and she's looking forward to having a nice meal and some wine with friends.

This is the longest time I've ever gone without seeing my family, and it's a sad fact of language that I cannot express how bad that feels with how great it is to live here in New York and love Krissa and have our life together and have you know how it actually is without the confusion and opacity of words lead you off into a conclusion which is false.

It's good...I'm really happy, but a little sad at the same time.

As simple as words get is as close as I can get to geting it across.

Anyway. So a little melancholia in combination with looking forward to this weekend - Alex, a university flatmate, is coming to visit, we have Star Wars Episode III tonight, and an excellently promising looking party on Saturday night - and it's my Mum's birthday on Sunday.

And then I found this picture, of Mum and I somewhere in Devon in 1980...

...and I smiled.

Happy birthday, Mum, and have a great weekend, world.

If you haven't already seen the photos from the Debauched Debutantes' Ball, then take a quick look before reading on, because I want to talk about my first real moment of Middle Aged Empathy, which happened on Friday as a direct result of events leading up to the Ball on Friday night.

Krissa was snowed under at work, which ultimately led to our late-night speeding cab ride through Manhattan, but on Friday afternoon meant that Krissa couldn't spare the time to shop for her costume.

Which took me through the large glass doors of Victoria's Secret on her behalf.

Quite who Victoria was and what she was keeping from everyone is a matter for another time.

I was tasked with buying nude coloured fishnets and some black stockings, and as I walked in and saw the array of minimally dressed mannequins in some startlingly complex clothes, I suddenly understood what it was like to be middle aged and in a record store, possibly shopping for obscure death metal for a teenage daughter...

Not sure where to start.
Unsure of the territory.
Afraid to ask for help for fear of being made to look like an idiot.

Evidently bluster and bravado were the order of the day, and absolutely positively no one wearing a Victoria's Secret name badge should be allowed to talk to me before, "That'll be X dollars, please sir." Above all, I should really take care not to get distracted. (Did you know that the Wonderbra was invented by a Mechanical Engineer? Once you get past the mid-teen realisation that compared to actual women, mannequins, no matter how skimpily attired, are utterly sexless, the design engineer in me can, distressingly, take over...but don't tell anyone I said that)

I walked as confidently as I could into the heart of the ground floor. Bodices and thongy things gave way to fragrances. Thankfully all the assistants were busy. I knew I was in the wrong place. Upstairs we go.

As the escalator rose I noticed a heavy-set teenage boy, around fifteen or sixteen, leaning over the rail on the floor above, mouth slightly open, staring at a video of models in underwear bouncing down a catwalk. I allowed myself a brief pang of sympathy.

Still keeping up the brisk pace so I would look like I knew where I was going, without, you know, looking like I knew where I was going because I shop there all the time, I wandered the top floor. I couldn't help but sporadically stroke my beard with my be-ringed left hand so that the impression I gave off would be more, 'married man looking for wifely accoutrements' rather than, 'perv off the street who came in for a quick lech'.
A girl in a velvet jacket started walking towards me the second I hesitated, and I had visions of the women's underwear version of the scene in High Fidelity where Jack Black acts so horrified that a browser in the music shop doesn't own Dylan's Blonde on Blonde that he browbeats the poor, mortified soul into buying half the store. I'm not entirely sure what that would have entailed in a lingerie boutique...and being a man...but I didn't hang around to find out, for at that moment I spotted a rack of drawers (of the sort that you store things in, not the sort of drawers that you might buy in Victoria's Secret) and made a beeline across the floor, skidding past a male assistant who was berating a hapless girl, "Oh, you haff to own at least one of the angel range," and found myself in front of my goal - the Hose Zone.

The record store analogy began to haunt me once again as I pulled open a likely looking drawer and began to flick through the many subtly different varieties of leg coverings as I used to do all the time with CD cases and vinyl. (Nowadays I do most of this online, and it's more clicking through than flicking through, before anyone thinks I'm old before my time)
Nude satin top. Black lace top. Semi-nude chiarascuro top.
Flick, flick, flick, flick.
Flick, press.
Beep bip beep beep bip bip, click.
"Hi darling. I've got demi-opaque snow-topped, transparent rhino-horn capped, black lace top-"
"Black lace top."
"Okay...and now I'm looking at fishnets..."

The velvet jacketed assistant bristled behind me. I was flaunting the rules. Surely I knew I had to feel foolish before I was allowed to leave?

I joined the line of women at the till who were attempting to hold their purchases sort of low and out of sight enough to disssociate themselves from the lace and elastic in such an open forum, but not so much as to bring security guards their way. I paid, and I left, walking out through the tall glass doors feeling like I had just passed some sort of test...even if I cheated...a little.


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Where to start?
That was a great weekend.
On Friday night, despite late work duty on Krissa's part, she and I made it to the Debauched Debutantes Ball.

From her office we took a cab from Midtown all the way down the East River to Brooklyn across the Brooklyn Bridge - a really decadent choice of transport for us, but hot damn if the city doesn't look magnificent at 10pm on a Friday night from a speeding cab..
Jason's pictures are here, doing an amazing job of making everyone look fabulous. Anna's, vying for the same prize, are here.

That was one hell of a party, and big thanks to Biscuit and Mike for throwing it.

Saturday passed, it has already been said, with fruit juice, coffee and coca-cola, a diner brunch in Astoria, and Krissa and I playing, as she puts it 'racy-racy' on the PS2 - the perfect hangover day, really, with the added bonus of productiveness - doing 50lb of laundry and having a mini-barbecue on our driveway, drinking beer and eating half-pound burgers on our street, watching the sun drain from the sky and taking silly photos of each other.

Yesterday, Krissa, Mike, Biscuit, Kate, Conrad, Jason, Shiv and I took part in the New York AIDS Walk 2005 (Official site here).

Starting in Central Park, we walked up to the top of the park, across to St. John the Divine and the River Driveway, and back down to our starting point in the park, a total of 10km, all in the name of the AIDS-focused charity, Gay Mens' Health Crisis and over 40 other charitable organisations both in the New York area and all over the world. Over $5,000,000 has already been raised, and if you'd like to contribute, it's not too late.

After finishing the walk we sojourned (by subway...we'd just done a 10km walk, remember?) down to Union Square for pizza and burgers and coffee and bitching about our feet and how it didn't seem possible that we all felt so dirty after just half a day.

It was more than a little manic, but it was a great weekend.

Krissa's and my photos from the weekend are in flickr sets. Hurrah for Flickr Pro!

On a lighter, and by lighter I mean more inconsequential, note, over the weekend the Autoblography stats crept over 90,000 hits since March 2003, and the 3,000th (non-spam) comment was left, by Vendela.

An Interesting Debut


In my time I have been hungover. It's happened.
I have developed manners of managing hangovers.
Sometimes I drink fruit juice; sharp, crisp, sugary...and for the same reasons sometimes a couple of pints of coke can suit a morning after. And there's the old reliable standby - coffee, too, to turn to for pulling the hindbrain kicking and screaming into the daylight.

Last night's party makes me want all three, possibly in some form of cocktail.
That was one hell of a night, dudes.

Homo Asapiens

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Jason already mentioned this, but it's worth saying again.

Yesterday he and I had lunch in Brooklyn Bridge Park, and, given the great views of the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges, not to mention Manhattan itself, it's not unsurprising that a photographer and a newlywed bride and groom were walking around, posing for shots against the scenery.

The first time the three of them walked by I couldn't help but laugh, because the photographer was wearing a t-shirt bearing the legend, 'Love Is For Losers'.

Australopithecus Frutexas

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Fox News, on the rare occasion that it is on in the Petit Autohibography household, has an annoying habit of announcing upcoming news stories with questions which, it is easy to suppose, they are inviting the viewers to answer.

"Unexplained fighting breaks out between teens in a Long Island town. Just what is going on?"

Fucked if I know. You're the news bods, not me.

"A new superbacteria kills a perfectly healthy athlete. Antibiotics don't work. What can YOU do to stop it?"

Die with dignity whilst infecting as few people as possible.

"Was a hand grenade thrown at President Bush?"

If you're not

So I take myself too seriously.

I poke fun at myself, I take the piss out of myself, but a lot of the time I still take myself too seriously. I have delusions of grandeur, I aim too high without working in proportion, I demonise some of my less savoury character traits so that I lead myself into an almost religious self-denial.

You see, back in Hatfield, as some readers of stamina will recall, I had a 9-5 job which did not entail a huge amount of work outside of those hours, and, once the dynamics of office life had been mastered, demanded very little cerebral effort or elbow grease inside those hours. This wasn't a reflection of the people I worked with, or even for, merely the task in hand and the politics (literally - politics) involved, which I shan't go into.
So it has to be said, as a young man of newfound means, I drank quite heavily and I played a considerable number of video games, a lot of the time to the exclusion of pretty much everything else.
Both of these things can be looked upon in today's society as potentially addictive. I, of course, living alone, had no arbiter but myself to judge my behaviour, and whether I was an addict or not was not something I could rationally judge. Besides, I wanted to keep doing both things.
Periodically I would stop having a drink at home after work, but not for long. The evenings were far too long without a glass or two of wine with my meal, and my attention span was a lot shorter. Besides, I could afford it, and I wanted to, so even if I thought that I was being excessive, my will won through in the end.
And I can't tell you the range of feeling that this time brought. I would look forward to a clear weekend, where I could play games, cook myself meals, read in the garden, play games, drink lots of coffee and round the day off playing games and drinking wine. During those weekends I would alternate through being bored, frustrated, annoyed with myself for wasting time, and very, very happy after, say, a bottle of wine and a pretty sunset and a modicum of mindless violence on the games console.

In emigrating and starting married life everything changed. All of a sudden I wanted to be the best I could be for Krissa, to be the best husband and person and man and friend. Clean-shaven, lantern-jawed, funny, serious, hard-working, clean-cut, amibtious, successful, healthy, fit, everything.

In other arenas of my life I have seen halves of couples become lonely or unhappy because of what might be passions, or even addictions, in their partners. I mean, when you're married or in a relationship, mucking about on the computer can be an exclusive activity. As can be video games, working late five nights a week, morris dancing societies, anything.

Setting out on married life, I didn't want to be one of those people. I didn't want to consistently spend time away from Krissa because of something I did, I didn't want her to feel unimportant, or second-best, or that I didn't want to be with her. So when Krissa suggested, after playing racing games at Biscuit's house, that we get a PS2, I had mixed feelings. I knew that the potential to become one of those blinkered and solitary partners was there, and I felt very guilty about that, because, and I could go on here, Krissa is a one-woman phenomenon and I'm crazy about her. Even the potential for becoming an insensitive and distant partner had me tied up in knots.

Which is the bit that has lead me to the conclusion that I take myself too seriously.

That I should chill the fuck out.

There are a lot of things that trump the best feelings I've ever gotten out of playing video games, and simply walking to the grocery store for some milk with my wife is one of is spending time with her in any way shape or form. And I can't see that changing...ever.

The first few nights after we bought the console, she and I played racing games against each other, or just mucked about in the faux-cities, exploring with cars and chasing each other and having a laugh.

And now a couple of weeks later it's come to the point where I'd like to buy a game I know is big. That will be fun. That I'll enjoy, and which could, potentially, take a very long time to play. So I got scared again, until I realised that it is entirely within my power to not let that get within squinting distance of coming between Krissa and I, and that means that I needn't panic or feel guilty or worry.

So tonight, or tomorrow night, I'm going to buy Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, and I'm already looking forward to that feeling of starting a good game, watching the intros, the graphics, exploring...and this time, sharing the pleasure it gives inside of the expanding boundaries of a good life together. That'll mean in moderation, and that's good. It might mean a night here and there of me playing when she's out with friends, which is also good. But at no point will playing that game mean more than or come above spending time with her.

If she wants to play, and she almost certainly will do, we'll muck about together.
It'll be fun.

Iron Stone and Wood

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Click through for the large version. The flickr set made after a bit of a photographic stroll around Dumbo, in north Brooklyn, is here. I might be adding to it later.

Don't Fear The Loathing

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This is a Knight In White Satin. Never reaching the end. The end of kicking your ass, that is.


Deep within the Spooky Forest, you are attacked by the Wolfman.
Perhaps you can defeat him by kicking him in the nards.


You're fighting an eXtreme cross-country hippy
This is a hippy on skis. Did you ever see such a thing? Yes, you did. Just now.
He tries to whip you with his dreadlocks, but gets dizzy before he connects.


You're fighting a Weretaco -- an ordinary man, who, when the moon is full, turns into a half-man, half-taco monstrosity. He tries to bite you with his fangs, but his fangs are made of shredded cheese.


You're fighting a Bread Golem
This is a golem made out of a loaf of bread. You find him crusty and his wit stale. Having thought the previous sentence, you almost hope he manages to kick your ass.


Ladies and Gentlemen, multi-user online roleplaying games will never be the same again.
Check out The Kingdom Of Loathing.

A quick persual of the about page should convince you.

Kingdom of Loathing is an enormous retro-style, free, complex and at times extremely funny game, with pop culture references, random quests, beasties, cheery stick-man graphics and lots and lots of cocktails. So far I've spotted any number of music jokes, and game and film references that will make you think twice about playing in the workplace, as you have no idea what will come up next and make you laugh.

Give it a rumble.
Oh, one word of advice - KoL has gotten a little popular (it's spawned a host of fan and help sites and at least one internet radio station) and at times experiences bandwidth problems. Once you're logged in though, all is well, but a few attempts to log in may be necessary. Have fun.

Dangerous Fruit

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Shortly after coming out the shower this morning our telephone rang. It was my Mother, who had heard a minimal report about the explosions at the British Consulate in New York and was understandably worried. Due to juggling aerials, TVs with European plugs, and the Playstation, we had no TV.

NPR was nattering about subcommittees for something or other, so we tuned the radio to 1010am, which turned out to be in the middle of 10 minutes of baseball coverage. Then, out of the sport section...

"Two small blasts shattered nerves and some glass this morning outside the British Consulate in New York, no one is reported injured. SO. Will the World Trade Center have to be redesigned to incorporate security concerns?"

At which point the story about the new WTC site trailed off under much shouting at the radio from me, unbelieving that anything like this could be given so little coverage. They later came around to the story again - the WTC redesign is a separate news item today, and I'll bet the presenters thought the blasts were a neat little segue - covering it in more depth, but at that point Krissa calming me down was all that was keeping me from being crushed to death under the weight of the indignantly British chip on my shoulder.

The important thing is that no-one was hurt.

Reuters covers what is known so far here, the BBC here.

All the main sources think that the blasts have something to do with the UK General Election, but what point they are attempting to make is unclear. There are a number of different organisations housed in that building, and the quite frankly surreal use of metallic fruit seems to be an odd note - it is the British Trade Consulate after all, and the cut and thrust of fruit embargoes or taxes or trade agreements isn't something I'm too well up on...nah. It can't be that. No one could be so incensed at the dropping prices of pineapples.
The choice of New York for the attack poses interesting questions about the aims and agenda of whoever planted the devices. If they were intended to make a point about Britain's war involvement on the day of the election, then carrying out the attacks in New York would be pointing the finger at US-UK cooperation on that front, but in addition to this setting off explosions in one of the most terrorist-wary cities in the world could be an indication that somebody, somewhere, is capable of doing more than just blowing up metal fruit.

If I were talking to you face to face now, I would be shrugging.
But again, the important thing is that no one was hurt.

The subterranean and sometimes superterranean New York City Subway provides a practically practical urban travel solution.

It has a long history - started just after the introduction of Buddhism to Thailand, just before the fall of the T'ang Dynasty in China, and twenty three hours after Charlemagne hit puberty, the New York Subway system recently celebrated its 1,250th anniversary.
The Metropolitan Transit Authority, or MTA, marked the occasion with a series of antique trains and cabooses on some subway lines, in some cases so antique that men with red flags were commissioned to walk in front of a few trains, improving punctuality and speed of service considerably, despite worker complaints of sleeplessness and high blood pressure caused by sustained coffee breaks waiting for trains to catch up.

In the beginning, back when Manhattan was covered with swamp, forest, and a pair of small but tenacious glaciers whose visas had expired after the last Ice Age, the Subway system was entirely above ground. Work gangs of Manhatto Indians, supervised by deposed members of the T'ang Dynasty, erected four and a half miles of elevated railway, using open carriages and horses for locomotion, which might seem an unusual choice until you learn that diesel engines back then were nearly four times as expensive as they are now. This first line ran between the docks downtown with the popular adult entertainment region around Times Square, thus securing the financial future of New York by relieving visitors of any glass beads they might have about their person as soon as possible.

Due to the proliferation and continued popularity of constructing buildings for business and habitation on the earth's surface, and, in 1921, after a politely worded letter of complaint from Mrs. E. Stenowitz of No. 17, 12th Street about excessive noise during her afternoon nap on the preceding Thursday, the entire New York Subway system was moved underground. All, that is, except in the outer boroughs, from where it was deemed unlikely that Mrs. Stenowitz would be disturbed.

This ushered in a new age in urban transportation. The MTA, who had upgraded from horse to steam the year before, proudly threw an enormous launch party for the inauguration of their tunnel system, which was attended by many of the city's dignitaries and assorted scientific luminaries of the age. The tunnels appeared so popular with these first travellers that the MTA smilingly waved that first underground train past the starting station three times before a sharp-eyed intern noticed that the mayor's wife had fallen off her seat and it was found that the entire two carriages-worth of VIPs had died of smoke inhalation.

The MTA reluctantly invested in covered carriages, and the steam locomotives of the MTA ran until 1989, when the network was again upgraded, this time to electricity. The smoke from those old engines is what gives today's subway tunnels that stylish matte black look.

And so the modern New York subway was born.

There are several different types of train on the New York subway, casually classified by their seat type or running line.

Yellow Trains
So named because of their orange and yellow individual shaped seats, these trains combine the maximum of colour impact with attempted innovation with seat layout. Intead of long rows of uniform seating with space between for standing during busy periods, these feature a promontory of four back-to-back seats with only enough legroom for people with growth hormone deficiency. Strangely, these seats are not marked for use solely by the vertically impaired, meaning that New York has a constant annual shortfall of knee doctors.

Grey Trains
These trains are named for their long benches of smooth grey plastic, coated with TeflonŽ to promote a sense of closeness and intimacy amongst fellow passengers.

Trains on the 1,2,3,9 Line
These trains have been genetically modified (yes, you read that right) to be narrower than the rest of the trains on the NY subway, as a multi-million dollar study carried out before the conception of the line showed that people who lived in the Bronx and worked Downtown, and vice versa, were 27.6% thinner than people living and working in the rest of the city. After the construction of the line the mathematics involved was publicly called into question, but the consultant concerned was on holiday in Bali for personal reasons and could not be reached.

The stations of the New York Subway are legion. Some stretch for many miles underground, linking with colonies of primitive ape-like creatures who worship the trains as Gods and whose greatest honour is when one of their number is taken up by the MTA, and others are no more glorious than tile-walled scrapes in the ground. Here are a few.

The Bog Standard Station
Surprisingly, this category is not named because it is a dependable standard that there is always an area of a New York Subway station which smells like, but is not, a toilet. The station usually consists of two platforms for trains going in opposing directions (usually...usually) and sometimes a central track for express trains, some of which don't actually stop anywhere, and contain the continuing progeny of the last bunch of fans to leave the final Yankees game of the season of 1937, and who survive by eating the meat of the primitive ape-like creatures they occasionally encounter. The walls of the station are usually tiled in white with burnt sienna flourish. There is a central kiosk, manned or womanned by someone in a blue cap who is either asleep, reading, or too busy doing complex three-dimensional continuum mechanics equations in their head to be of any practical use, but they make nice ornaments. Trains pass through the Bog Standard Station pretty regularly, but they are not guaranteed to be the train you want or expect.

The Back Of Beyond Station
An aura of quantum uncertainty surrounds the Back of Beyond Stations. This station has two platforms, but the only way to get to the right one is by picking the right entrance from the street, which is impossible without going into one to find out which is the right one, by which time it is too late. A help kiosk may adorn one side, but never the side you are on. Trains pass through with the same period between appearances as Halley's Comet, that is to say, approximately every 76 years.

The Changeover Hub Station
These 24-hour-a-day seething masses of humanity are a joy to every traveller, tourist or trapped elevator user who passes through their doors. Decorated through art-expression programmes at local mental institutions for that extra nerve-jangling degree of verve and get-up-and-go, the big hubs are never dull places. Be it breakdancing, choral singing, stress tests which are free but where the results cost $10, or even the age-old tradition of picking pockets, there is always something going on. It is impossible to navigate a Changeover Hub Station without two handy survival techniques:

1. Know which train and which direction you need BEFORE entering the station. Maps in the Changeover Hubs are not of the current NY Subway System, however alike they may seem.

2. Take no heed of the signs. Adopt the same techniques that you would if in a labyrinth or similar mythical maze. Sadly, with the volume of foot traffic passing through the Changeover Hub, using a thread to mark your path is impractical and would be costly to cover in terms of trip-and-fall lawsuits from your fellow subway travellers. Instead, follow the nearest wall until it reaches steps to a train platform. Descend and ascertain the species of train which attends there. If unsuccessful, ascend and continue to follow the wall until you find your train.

The 'El' Station
Similar to the Bog Standard Station, only layered in the opposite direction on stilts, with the distressing tendency to wobble when trains brake.

Subway Etiquette and Decorum

In Groups
Feel free to relax, be social and chat, but otherwise maintain general societal behavioural norms.

Solitary Travellers
Do not make eye contact. Feel free to use a personal music device, read a book, newspaper or stone tablet, or rock back and forth singing the lyrics of The Rolling Stones to the Mr. Softee theme. Swing naked from the hanging bars. Poledance around the poles. Leap balletically from armrest to armrest, slapping people in the face with a crawfish and reciting 'The Charge Of The Light Brigade' by the popular poet, Alfred, the Lord Tennyson. Do whatever you want. This is the New York Subway. No one will react. Just don't make eye contact.

This weekend Krissa and I went up to Rhode Island to visit her parents for Greek Easter, and on Friday night we went to see The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy.

I've got a lot of feelings about this film because I've lived with and loved the books for so long, and in that time I've listened to the original radio version and seen the TV series (on DVD), and both of them differ from the books I love.

There will never be a complete transfer from the written word to the silver screen. You just can't get everything perfect for everyone, because even something which is perfectly transferred from the imagination of the writer will not be the same thing seen in the imagination of the people reading the written words. People complained about the Great Hall at Hogwart's in the first Harry Potter movie, until JK Rowling weighed in and said that it was portrayed exactly as she herself imagined it.

So once you've crossed the boundary into the pschologically healthy territory where you can accept that nothing is ever going to be transferred perfectly, you can stand atop a hilltop in this new land, and look around and see that some things would be bloody hard to make into a two hour film.

A sandwich, for example, or a small dog named Raymond.
Both of these examples would be very difficult to fit into the projector.

Or, alternatively speaking, there is a real challenge in taking something which isn't a story with a particularly linear or ending-orientated plot and making it into a two hour film.
Hitchhiker's isn't a road movie.
The first book doesn't stand alone with a nice rounded start and a satisfactory ending - it's the start of a journey into an Earthless universe which wanders off into another four brilliant, more or less directionless novels. The main human character doesn't get a love interest until book 4, and an off-the-cuff remark about a bowl of petunias in book 1 turns into a full-blown plotline in book 5 (using your memory as a reference tool has limits. It's 4 or 5, I'm sure)...but you get the impression - there is very little about the Hitchhiker books which would transfer into anything but a long series. There's just too much stuff.

So it's not going to be the same, and it's not all going to be there.
It's an adaptation, and it's an adaptation of five sporadically sensical, scatterbrained and consistently off-the-wall books into a movie, a format which we well know as smooth, contained, seamless, linear...and with a relatively short attention span.

So it's different. I'm just defending the adaptation side of things - that things had to change, and if they hadn't, the film wouldn't have worked at all.

The film itself?
I enjoyed it enormously.
I think a part of the enjoyment of the experienced bordered on relishing it. Through articles or web publishing I followed Douglas Adams' lengthy and ulitmately, for him, unsuccessful quest to get the Hitchhiker's film off the ground, through rights-ownership purgatory, adaptation and company-confidence hell, and all this cyclically sprinkled with periods of elusive all-systems-go heaven, and it really made me feel for him.

When he died so suddenly nearly four years ago, he had just finished yet another draft of the film screenplay.
I heard the news while on-air at RaW, and I think everyone in the station at that moment who heard the news at that moment had a similar reaction; along the lines of, 'Ah, shit.'
This was a man who could really think. He was incredibly funny, passionate about his family, charmingly procrastinatory about his work (although my impression of his brilliance was only increased when he told of how he wrote one of the Hitchhiker's books in three weeks when his Publisher took drastic action to get some draft out of him), pragmatic and sensible about the technologies he became famous through ridiculing, communication, people and the earth.

So when Krissa and I sat down in the cinema, a large popcorn between us, I relished the feeling that the film was a real achievement. It was an achieved goal of someone who I greatly admire who did not live to see its completion, and that feeling made me happy to see it.
When the 'So Long And Thanks For All The Fish' showtune came on, I was already happy.
So maybe my review won't be terrifically impartial, but hey.

I loved it.
[The following bits might spoil the film for you if you haven't seen it yet]

I thought that the visual work was excellent, Marvin was perfect, and Mos Def was an astoundingly good Ford Prefect -just the right mix of distanced oddness combined with a layer of cool.
On the other hand, there was so much of the books' stuff crammed into the film that I felt at times it might have been a bit hard to get the most out of the film if you hadn't already read the books - I've already spoken to someone who left after the first fifteen minutes, defending himself to me with the reason, "I dunno man, some of that British humour is kinda dry..."
But then again, if you hadn't already read the books, then the Earth plotline was a little anti-climactic, and the ending a trifle sudden.
I enjoyed picking up on the few nods to the past incarnations - the old Marvin standing in line, the old Arthur Dent as the welcome hologram at Magrathea...but they were pretty blatant.
I think the casting, overall, was magnificent. Bill Nighy was a precisely pitched Slartibartfast, apologetic and absent-minded, obsessed with his fjords. Alan Rickman's voice was perfect for Marvin, Stephen Fry an excellent Voice, and, I have to say, Sam Rockwell pulled off an impressive Zaphod Beeblebrox. There was enough egotistical stupidity and bluster for me to get into believing him in the role, despite the pop-up second head.
Martin Freeman? Well. I think he was spot-the-fuck-on. I always thought that Simon Jones' version of Arthur Dent in the TV series was a little too moany. A little too displaced and lost in the new alien world he found himself in. The Arthur in the movie, however, has a little more spine and kick to him, which I like. He's still nothing approaching the action hero, but at least he does more than wander around with his hands in his dressing gown pockets, moaning in a very polite way.

So there you go. I was so pleased that Hitchhiker's got filmed that the fact itself put me in a good mood, but this morning Metro reported that it topped the US box office over the weekend, and that's made my day.

I thought about Douglas Adams again this morning as I stood, waving my dripping wet hands around in front of an automated motion-sensor paper towel dispenser to no avail, and feeling that I must look like a right nooly.


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