IKEA And Oberon's Shoes

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The New York Diaries: Day 304

There is an odd smell in the lobby of my apartment building.
It emanates from five large cardboard boxes resting at odd angles against the wall, the doorframe, and the entry table where our rejected and unwanted mail lies in a jumbled pile.
It is a resiny, piney smell; the smell of IKEA.

Last night Krissa and I spent an hour on the road, five minutes selecting our favourite Nordic bookcase, fifteen minutes browsing for light fittings and alarm clocks, and twenty minutes struggling to get our new furniture, ingeniously and conveniently boxed in half ton, thirty-foot-long flatpacks, into the car.
Those Swedes.
They really know how to piss you off, don't they?

I hate to say it, but urban IKEAs could do well to take a leaf out of Argos' book.
Or catalogue.
The way people in New York shop at IKEA is this:

Stage 1: Spend three full weeks on the internet methodically reviewing the ergonomic, aesthetic, and design/build principles of each of IKEA's items of furniture - all 30,000 of them. Mentally place each of the 30,000 items in every conceivable place in your home, including on wall brackets above the bed, or bolted to the ceiling.

Stage 2: After hair-pulling, sleepless nights, budget projections, cost/benefit analysis and awkwardly unsocial drinks with a Feng Shui consultant whose number you can't remember obtaining at a house party, a decision is made.

Stage 3: Launch a thirty-man expedition to the nearest IKEA, complete with collapsible canoes, a week's food supplies, malaria tablets and an excitable cartographer from the features department of National Geographic Magazine.

Stage 4: Find that the piece of IKEA furniture you wanted is not in stock.

Stage 5 (optional) : Arson.

I think a transparent, online logistics system might be a good idea; not only whether an item is in stock, but also how many, how many were sold in the last 24 hours, the predicted amount of time it will take for them to run out, and also, MOST importantly, when the next delivery of that particular item will be.

OH, and, courtesy of Argos, those natty little stock-checkers in the store itself, so if something catches your eye you can check if it's in stock without trying to attract the attentions of a fast-walking deaf-dumb-blind-mute in an IKEA polo shirt.

Anyway; we bought two bookcases, a TV unit and some shelves...oh, and an alarm clock. Construction begins tonight.


The Rest Of The Post Title...EXPLAINED!
I am wearing Oberon's shoes. They're mine really, I just lend them to him at weekends.
Speaking of which, the final two performances of A Midsummer Night's Dream are this weekend. They're indoors, so there's no excuse if bad weather looms (and I don't think it is; I've been keeping an eye on the Looming Forecast) and the Sunday performance in particular promises to be very special indeed...the publicity has been good, apparently, and the audience space isn't to be hard seats or the ground, but chaise longues and chairs...

To refresh thy memories:

Saturday, July 30, 12:30 PM
New Lots Library
665 New Lots Avenue at Barbey St.
Brownsville, Brooklyn
3 train to New Lots/Livonia Avenue stop. Walk along New Lots Avenue 4
blocks to Barbey Street.

Sunday, July 31, 4 PM
Brooklyn Waterfront Artists Coalition
499 Van Brunt Street
Red Hook, Brooklyn
F train to Jay St / Boro Hall, then B61 to Van Brunt or
G train to Smith/9th Street, then B77 bus to Van Dyke and Van Brunt.

Be there, or be elsewhere.

Grand Designs

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There isn't an Autoblography fan club...as such, so I think that if I am to knock up a few t-shirt and hoodie designs through Cafe Press they might as well not be of the 'OMG AUTOBLOGRAPHY COOL' variety. This way, I figure, potential buyers won't be so embarrassed as to immediately relegate their new purchase to the 'Wear As Pyjamas' department of their wardrobe.


I'm not even sure I'll put the URL on all of them, or maybe just have it as an option. They might have a little basis in the past few taglines or themes or whatever, but other than that they might as well have nothing to do with this site at all:

1. History Will Be Kind To Me, For I Intend To Buy It Drinks

Quite possibly my favourite past tagline. Current design brainstorming favours an old man with a scythe and an hourglass doing tequila slammers. Quite how I'll draw that and get it all onto a t-shirt without it looking utterly cack is beyond me. I might use the new-found illustrative genius of my better half.

2. I Could Tell You, But I'd Be Lying

Could stand on its own as a text-only tee. Thoughts?

3. Coffee Shop Of Your Very Dreams Merchandise

The future doesn't look bright for the CSOYVD. I am busy, and as virtual drinking and eating establishments go, the Coffee Shop Of Your Very Dreams is time intensive. Hella time intensive. As they say, it's not what you do, but the way that you do it, and while virtual drinks might be a little...2003...I am still proud of how all the little quirks and themes and...historical accidents...turned out. So we'll see. It may return. Maybe.
However. I have fleeting mental images of a tee shirt or even a tote bag with the Uberpercolator on...or even Kaffene, the briefly-appearing God of Coffee Delivery who bore a striking resemblance to Mercury/Hermes only with a blacker outfit...

4. Blah Blah Boyfriend Blah
Not my words. Might do pretty well on a girl's tee.

5. The Flying Fish
Doodle previews to follow. I like the flying fish. He cool.

Hmmm.

Have Beens

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I have been:

- finishing Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Cor.

- starting Zadie Smith's White Teeth. Even more cor-ier. This woman's writing is blinding. I'd avoided the book for ages after getting a bad impression whilst channel surfing over the TV adaptation. More fool me.

- watching the New York Yankees beat the Minnesota Twins. My first baseball game. I found it very amusing that the words to 'God Bless America' were put up on a huge dot matrix screen, but the rendition of 'Take Me Out To The Ballgame' didn't need them.

- playing, open-mouthed in wonder, with Google Earth.

- thinking about the economics, complexity and future of space flight after yesterday's slightly worrying shuttle launch. Not to mention the wisdom of expecting repairs to be easier in orbit just because it's nice and quiet.

- listening to The Rolling Stones.

- fiddling with writing bits again. Doing the play has really opened my eyes to just how much free time we have in the course of our everyday lives. With our/my free time roughly halved, all of a sudden I haven't wanted to play Grand Theft Auto all that much, and a strange new wave of Wanting To Do Something Constructive has befallen.

- cooking up birthday plans/presents/ideas/concoctions for the missus.

- looking forward to going home. England, England, I hath not forsaken thee.
...um...
...well....
...not completely, anyway. Krissa and I are going for a week from the 13th to the 21st. We're mostly spending time with my family, but we're also going to be dropping in on Shiv and Dom's wedding.

- thinking about t-shirt designs, to follow suit with Krissa's foray into fashion design. If anyone has anything they'd like to see on a t-shirt, be it past taglines or whatever, speak up. I'm struggling with the design for the 'History Will Be Kind To Me, For I Intend To Buy It Drinks' t-shirt. Ideas, anyone?

Strutting And Fretting

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Krissa and myself and the rest of the Communicable Arts team, headed by the incredible Barrie and Becky, did two of our run of four shows in outer borough parks this past weekend.

Von King Park in Brooklyn was first on Saturday, and the park was sunny, green and dominated by a baseball diamond in one corner. A Community Arts Center in the middle of the park had a skewed concrete amphitheatre set in front of a baking stage backed with abandoned equipment and detritius of set-making; broken chairs, wooden offcuts, rusting power tools and a set of very dusty golf clubs. The park was lively, with stalls selling lemonade and jewellery, and the arts centre was dotted with rabbits, fish and lizards in glass aquariums. Maybe because of the relentless sun, the noise of the park, the wind and the airliners overhead, or because of the body-language commitment of coming and sitting in the amphitheatre which was set below the paths of the park, our audience was small. Clustered in the little shade beneath a small tree or hanging, curious, over the edges of the amphitheatre, observers were fleeting or diverted.

Towards the end of the play within a play a glass bottle smashed on stage. There was a sudden double-take, and stunned looks up to the parapets of the seating area, but we pressed on and finished the scene.

Great, I thought. Now I know how it feels to be Daphne and Celeste.

The play finished and we felt good; despite the noise and the lack of a thrilled horde of spectators. The bottle had fallen from the roof of the theatre in the wind. I mean, the play within the play is bad...it's meant to be, only it's also meant to be so bad that it's funny. Not worthy of shattered glass...so we hadn't been feeling too bad anyway.

In a way Saturday's performance reminded me of student radio at university. There was an awful lot of effort beforehand for an audience you're not entirely sure of, but in spite of all the doubts you have it's a kick and you enjoy it.

Sunday was an entirely different kettle of fish.

Maria Hernandez Park is a park with a story behind it. This Village Voice article is a handy summary (also rather conveniently detailing the Mexican place a lot of us ate at afterwards).
The park was thronging in the sunshine. A square block with a large open circular terrace in the middle surrounded by baseball pitches and an enormous children's play area. Our stage was a raised section of the central terrace. It was agreed that no-one was too do falls or tumbles on the mosaic-like stage, nor was anyone to lie on the red-hot surface without a blanket or sheet (no small thing in a play where some of the cast spend whole scenes asleep). Kids swung precariously from climbing frames backstage.

We had a tent for costume changes and to hide behind when we weren't meant to be visible to the audience, but from the second we started the bulk of the audience were sitting at the sides enjoying both the play and the drama behind the tent: quick costume changes, hot and hasty gulps of iced water, and fighters who had been giving each other atomic wedgies on stage moments earlier leaning on each other for support in the heat.
After her first couple of scenes in serious makeup and brightly coloured fairy garb Krissa sank to a sitting position under the climbing frames.
"Why summer Shakespeare? What's wrong with spring Shakespeare?"

Kids who had been playing baseball or monkeying about on the climbing frames came and sat in front of and on the edge of the stage. A woman with a cart selling flavoured ices set up shop in the middle of the terrace, watching in between sales (a sure-fire sign that people are gathering in New York is when someone else turns up to sell them things). Families stopped on their park walks. Old guys sat nonchalantly on benches, completely incidentally facing in directions which meant they could see everything going on.

It was great.

It also had an unexpected little bit of added realism when, running away from a freshly transformed Bottom, I skidded and fell, tearing my trousers and bloodying my knee, but adding a fake roll for added good theatrical measure. I'm still walking with a bit of a limp.

By the time the final scene rolled around, everyone was playing up to the crowd, and we finished on a fantastic high. I can't wait for this weekend and our next two shows.

Krissa and I have behind-stop seats at a Yankees game tonight.
So..baseball. That's like cricket, only in a square, right?

Post-game update @ 11.26PM: That'll be behind-homeplate seats that I was thinking of, then. And we didn't have them. We were in a box on the tier. Which was awesome. More...only not now. Now...sleeeeep.

Prologue

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So I sustained an injury during the play on Sunday.

Open floor for guesses to what and how in the comments...

To make it fair for non-regular readers, the play is A Midsummer Night's Dream and I play, altermately, a sarcky bastard and a wall.

And to make it fair for people who haven't met me in person, I'm a malco-ordinated being with an inertia problem.

Extra points for extraordinarily imaginative or correct guesses.

I Fought The Law

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Working Stiff's Zeroth Law: The smaller the number of minutes between waking up and the moment you need to leave home to make it to work on time, the greater your need for coffee.

First Law: Your need for coffee is directly proportional to the difficulty you will have making coffee.

Second Law: Your physiological need for coffee is directly proportional to the likelihood of getting coffee all over yourself.

Third Law: The greater your need for coffee due to fatigue, lack of mental agility or hangover, the greater the likelihood you will overshoot your caffeine requirements and subsequently suffer a short attention span, lethargy and headache.

...Pro Uxoris Lavari

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So we were all poised to torch the place down to the embers and start again, when I stole a quick look through the NYC building codes. Faced with the prospect of rebuilding the house from scratch I decided that it might just be easier to wash the dishes after all.
Nice idea though.

Dulce Et Decorum Est

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There is too much washing up. I think we're going to have to burn the entire building down and start again.

Yawning For Britain

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I confess that Shakespeare doesn't normally rock my world. There is a musty dryness I associate with his rhythm and his iambic pentameter or whatever it is; a relic from the many old, smelly, tissue-thin pages of Complete Works I've thumbed through, yawning, for school. I was in a school production of Julius Caesar which swore me off Shakespeare for life (13 years isn't bad as far as lifelong vows made at the age of 12 are concerned, right?), but I know Macbeth and Romeo & Juliet best; I studied both at school, and even taught Macbeth when I was private tutoring. Even so, there is an agedness and a sense of irrelevance that I feel whenever they crop up in thoughts or conversation - we're talking the 16th Century, people, and apart from The Church of England, Sir Francis Drake and The Spanish Armada...(sod's law - now I come to write a list, it's fucking long)...okay okay and Henry VIII, the introduction of pepper and the potato, stuff going on in North America... apart from all that (Ah, Monty Python. How we love thee) what else from the 16th century is at all relevant today?

(I could be snarky about The Church Of England here, but I'm tired, so I won't.)


I love the Midsummer cast.
There's a thrill to the enthusiasm and attitude they give off. A lot of them have only just moved to New York, or are staying here for the college summer break, and most of them are hungry for professional acting.
I say hungry rather than 'looking to get into' or 'would like to work as' because that's what they are. They're hungry for it.
Last night people were swapping professionally taken photographs they'd had taken for auditions, and hints on resume presentation were exchanged. I couldn't help but find it exciting.
You can say what you like about the number of waiters in New York who introduce themselves as actors at parties- it's a longstanding cliche. You can scoff and hazard a guess at the success rate of wannabe theatricals, wonder at how many hopefuls the city swallows whole each year.
It doesn't matter, because the main, huge, staggeringly brilliant thing we're talking about here is living a dream.
The joy in taking a step towards your dreams is contagious, and last night the atmosphere was rife with it.

There is one hell of a lot to be said for being sensible with your life. Life (for the most part at least) is not a rehearsal.

I've written similar words before; we all have dreams, and we treasure them. A lot of us want to do something for which you don't strictly need qualifications - write, act, make films, make music, play sport...but we go ahead and get qualifications anyway - we're sensible, because dreams don't always come true.
But it seems that by the time a lot of people are in a position where their dreams are a possibility (if only they were to reach for them) most are secure in their 'sensible' path; confident, comfortable, safe...and so they carry on living that way to the detriment of their dreams.

Which is what makes this bunch of people different. A year or two of college left or going for auditions left right and centre, they are chasing their dreams, and they're brilliant to be around.

The only reason Shakespeare is making me yawn today is because I stayed out drinking with his actors until 2am last night.

Soundbitten

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It'll change soon, but for the moment...that little BBC sidebox quote is from yours truly.

Also, if I can persuade you to come to our play (times below) with a promise of myself looking ridiculous, there was a new addition to my wall costume last night, and you need to see...

Not Quite Wonderwall

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Tonight is our last rehearsal for A Midsummer Night's Dream. Tomorrow is meant to be, but seeing as it's an open dress rehearsal and people are being invited to wander in off the street, I don't really feel it qualifies.

Things have come together staggeringly well.
Well.
Considering that I'm still struggling to make my one eight-line monologue come out right, the fact that there are a bunch of exceptionally talented people delivering all the other lines in the play is certainly more the cause of everything coming together than any application so far on my part.

The best thing I do is fall over in a spectacular manner, and I haven't done it the same way twice in all our rehearsals. Considering that some of our shows are going to be staged on concrete, this is going to need some reconsideration.
Maybe I should do it anyway?

Enough!

The shows are as follows:

Saturday, July 23, 12 PM
Von King Cultural Center Amphitheatre
670 Lafayette Avenue, between Marcy and Tompkins Avenue.
Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn
G train to the Bedford/Nostrand stop. Walk east on Lafayette Avenue to
Marcy.

Sunday, July 24, 2 PM
Maria Hernandez Park
Knickerbocker to Irving Aves, Starr to Suydam streets
Bushwick, Brooklyn
L train to Jefferson Street stop. Walk two blocks on Wyckoff Avenue to
Starr Street and two blocks South to Irving Avenue.

Saturday, July 30, 12:30 PM
New Lots Library
665 New Lots Avenue at Barbey St.
Brownsville, Brooklyn
3 train to New Lots/Livonia Avenue stop. Walk along New Lots Avenue 4
blocks to Barbey Street.

Sunday, July 31, 4 PM
Brooklyn Waterfront Artists Coalition
499 Van Brunt Street
Red Hook, Brooklyn
F train to Jay St / Boro Hall, then B61 to Van Brunt or
G train to Smith/9th Street, then B77 bus to Van Dyke and Van Brunt.

Come and see Krissa as an old Greek ya-ya! And as a flitty sarcastic fairy! And me as...(myself for the most part) Snout The Tinker, taking snarky shakespearean comments to new depths, standing on stage in an epic piece of grey t-shirt material, cunningly disguised as a wall!
Plus, I fall over*.

*Falling over is concrete dependent.

Headcount

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Okay....so how many people here know what 'a strop' is or means?

City Conditioning

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New York City is like a teenager's bedroom at 1pm on a Saturday.

There is the sensation that the air hasn't been changed for months. There is the feeling that someone needs to brusquely walk in and throw open the curtains, open the window, and arouse the slumbering methane factory beneath the sheets. Above all, there is the same overwhelming feeling that you are no longer clean after startlingly short periods. Today, that period was about thirty seconds - from stepping out of my front door, thirty seconds was all it took to make me feel like I needed another shower.

The city is sticky. Overcast and pale grey, the sky this morning also seemed to promise wet and sombre weather ahead...so on the way out of the door I scooped up my umbrella.

After my thirty seconds of rapidly declining freshness were up I started looking forward to my subway ride. The cars, while crowded, are at least air-conditioned. The sidewalks between our apartment building and the subway were periodically streaked and wet from the night-long dripping of old and incontinent air-conditioners in the windows of the buildings above.

I was right to bring an umbrella, because it rained on the train.

Like the smart little commuter I fancy myself to be I used my freshly acquired copy of Metro to wipe down an inexplicably water-spotted place and took the last seat in the carriage. The N-W trains sometimes run irregularly in the mornings and after just a few stops the train was packed to full rush-hour capacity, which is when it started raining. Cries of shock and surprise came from the people standing in front of me as water cascaded slowly but relentlessly out of the air conditioning unit in the ceiling. One woman started crying about her suit being ruined, and everyone tried to shift out of the way, but there was nowhere to go - the train was packed. A few wayward drops caught the upturned pages of my copy of HP6, the edge of my jeans was hit and a splash off someone's shoulder dampened my shirt sleeve, but apart from that I scooched over in the seat and dodged most of it.
Or so I thought.
Reaching the top of the subway stairs and stepping into the bustling pageant that is downtown Broadway, a lazy breeze drifted by. It was a useless breeze; merely teasing the city with the illusion of relief from the yoke of meteorological oppression, but it was enough to let me know that the back of my shirt was completely soaked.

I am wet, I am sporting a distressingly subway-like odour, and now the air-conditioning in my office isn't working.

This is Stuart, New York City, having a strop.

Among The Rats And The Fireflies

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There is a little park in Queens where you can sit on a bench by the water amid some trees. The river laps gently against large close-chocked stones which form more of a barrier than a beach, and between each passing whining roar of planes mere seconds from landing, you can hear the soft irregular chiming of a marker buoy rocking on the water.
At dusk you can see only the very highest lights of Manhattan's famous skyline, gathered and huddled and low against the horizon, dulled by mist and distance. River rats scuffle and stop, wary, at the fringes of the pathways, hesitant. As the darkness deepens in the shadows of the trees and the light of the landing planes is pushed before them through cloud, fireflies spot the gloom with rising flashes of amber.

And it is peaceful there.

Muggins

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When Krissa and I fall asleep with the air conditioning on, we're usually warm. But the triumph of thermodynamics that is our air-conditioner contrives to make midnight wake-ups a chilly affair; especially if, in the balmy mugginess of New York's summer evenings, we fall asleep outside the bundled knot of covers.

But in that cold-skinned waking in the middle of the night, the effort of victoriously detangling and claiming a corner of blanket from the slumbering melee is all it takes to push my temperature up to a level where I don't want the blanket any more.

Which can be so annoying that I throw a sleeping-childish huff and wake Krissa up, at which point I have to pretend to be asleep again until she drifts off or we both do.

Air-conditioning is a marvellous thing.

No Ball Games

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There are two kids, standing in the middle of a playground. Between them on the ground is a ball.
Other children are sitting or standing in groups around the perimeter of the playground, watching the two.
There is no teacher.
No one is moving or talking.

One of the children in the middle of the playground is wearing a badge which reads 'prefect'. You can tell he has made it himself. He might have used a computer and a printer, because it looks like it might be official, but it isn't certain. Regardless of this, the boy with the Prefect badge is standing tall, staring stiffly, one hip out, his head lolling gently with an assurance which is oddly echoed by half of the children around the edge of the playground.

There is no teacher.

The Prefect's opposite number is bristling. He is shorter, more strongly built, maybe a little older. He has a badge, too. The lettering is pretty small, but the background is a bright green and stands out. The badge says 'Ball Monitor'. Again, there is the suggestion that he might have made it at home. The Ball Monitor is weaving gently, shifting his weight from foot to foot ever so slightly, glowering at the Prefect. Behind him, children leaning against the wall stare darkly across the grey tarmac at their opponents.

Suddenly the two sides charge at each other and the children are fighting, biting, kicking, punching, tearing, swearing, bleeding and dying.
There is no teacher.

This isn't a very nice story.
Read it again if you like, because I'm going to talk about what I didn't say.

I never said where the playground is.
I never said who or what the children are.
I didn't say just how big the ball is in real life, or what happened to it because of the fighting.

I did say that there was no teacher. I have weighed up a fair bit of the available evidence and I have come to the conclusion that there never was a teacher. That's because the big thing I left out was this:

The story does not take place at a school.

Bad News

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I feel bad.
Life has me working very hard at the moment, so I'm only just catching up on my reading. I've checked a lot of blogs in the last half hour or so; accounts of the events in London on Thursday have left me scared, proud, upset and thankful that matters were not worse.

My condolences to the relatives of the dead, and my sympathy to those who were injured. To everyone who was in London on Thursday, you have my respect and awe.

Krissa and I do not watch television in the mornings - but as I sat down at my desk in the office my phone rang and she told me about the bombs. My reaction was dull, like the information wasn't real, or couldn't apply to the real world. That couldn't be London London. Not the London.

9am in New York is 2pm in London.

I checked my email and a few people had thoughtfully emailed me to say that different groups of friends had already checked in...I sent a frantic flurry of emails, and to my relief responses began to trickle back.

The distance -in time as well as miles- made the wait to hear from people harder. My immediate family live on the Isle of Wight, but there are so many people I know, or have known, and all I really know about them and what they do now is that they live and work in London.

When the news reports of bomb blasts appeared on television when I was a child, during the era of frequent IRA blasts, I had a sense of detachment - everyone I knew and loved lived on the Isle of Wight. We were detached, in a very real way. Our little mile-wide moat meant that scary real-world things like explosions happened elsewhere. Scenes of blocked off streets, windowless cars, bright sugar-cubes of broken glass scattered across black tarmac...none of it was real.
Island mentality is hard to explain. While I know my way around the Island like nowhere else, The Mainland was an other-where. A place apart. There was the Island, and there was The Mainland, and in a lot of ways, the rest of the world was packaged up in the same box as the concept of The Mainland - an unknown arena, known only through short visits and the pinhole of the media.

So when Krissa told me the news, part of me didn't really take it in. Like news from distant lands, there is concern but no connection, no sting of association. The picture of the bus after the blast was a shock akin to a slap in the face.
That's my distant land...oh my god. Oh my god.
Whenever I see a picture from the UK it feels strange. After so long in the US little things like road signs and cars can be strong reminders of just how different New York is to London, even if I have gotten used to New York. The long strip of red metal panelling hanging off at an obscenely shocked angle..the black cab, the speed limit sign. As the recognition sparked the feelings of recognising home...the reality of it all swang in and sickened me.

I have friends there.

I am glad you are okay. Really, genuinely I am happy and relieved that you're all all right, and it is terrible that something like these bombs is what has made me get in touch with a lot of people I hadn't contacted in ages.

Politics...I'm not a political person. I like not being a political person. It's easier than being avidly political, for example, and I'm wondering if that's why I'm laid back about it all. I have my views. Maybe I ought to start thinking about them and expressing them.
Not right now, mind.
All I can say is...no. This is wrong. No cause worth living for is worth killing for.


It seems that tonight...not long ago as I write, Birmingham city centre was evacuated of 30,000 people and four controlled explosions were carried out. It's not clear if there were any devices; authorities are saying that they were just suspicious packages.
Apparently, despite the seriousness of the possibility of blasts, people took their drinks with them as they were evacuated...doing the conga past armed police.

I'm not sure this is a social statement you can apply purely to Britain's reaction to the bombings, because it's a Saturday night in Birmingham, but still.

Disappointment

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BBC News:

Deal signed to put Olsen in space

Not even half as gratifying as you might think.

Independent Firsts

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Krissa and I didn't go to Washington DC in the end. We met up with a few of her old Kenyan schoolmates on Friday night and had a great time. In the end it came down to considering the drive down on Sunday evening followed shortly after by the drive back on Monday evening. If we had wanted to get back to New York in enough time for even some sleep to happen, we would have had to leave before the bulk of the festivities, washing me up on the barren shore of a Tuesday morning desk well travelled but exhausted.

With the new job only just in the bag, and me with ropes still to learn, we decided it wasn't worth it.

In the event we had an amazing weekend anyway. On Saturday we took advantage of borrowing the car from Krissa's parents and adventured upstate a little, driving through Sleepy Hollow, watching the boats come in off the river at Tarrytown, spying deer on the outskirts of Ossining and gawking at New Croton Dam. We finished the day with an outstanding and strangely incongruous restaurant. This little place reminded me of a cross between a wheelless railway carriage and a Nissen Hut, but it had warm candlelight flowing out of its windows into the darkening night, echoing the fireflies who hovered outside.

(FIREFLIES! Flies...which light up! That's so COOL. I've never seen them before.)

There were oysters and swordfish and supreme steak on the menu, and we treated ourselves before heading back into the city.

And Sunday we played tennis, hung about and went to see Batman Begins with friends at the Lincoln Center IMAX.
I'd never seen a film on IMAX before, and Krissa, who dispatched herself to buy the tickets and then kept this little detail to herself, said, "Oh, yes, it's IMAX" just as, with perfect theatrical timing, I rounded a corner and saw the screen.
This is New York, ladies and gentlemen. After a gentle evening's burger and enjoyable conversation at a river restaurant, our friends and I chose to go to the movies. At 11pm. On a Sunday.
The cinema was so full that we had to sit in the front row.
The screen, let me remind those of you who knew, and inform those who don't, is the height of three double-decker buses. I had to physically move my head to see details at the side of the screen.
The film was...great. But the fight scenes were totally lost on us, an epic blurring flurry of limbs and shadows which only resolved themselves as the victor obligingly squared up in silhouette clearly enough to be identified.

On Monday we went to Kate and Stan's housewarming/July 4th barbecue, and then went onwards to Jeb and Neela's for fireworks and awe.
Awe.
The fireworks were the most expansive, most jaw-dropping, and most delectable visual spectacle I have ever seen. Probably one of the most expensive, too.
From our rooftop vantage point we could see all three sets of simultaneous and identical sets of fireworks across the city, and the East River set were reflected in the mirror-like surfaces of the skyscrapers of Manhattan.

I have no idea how I managed to forget to blog this for so long...but as I choose the title 'Independent Firsts', I've remembered something.
My little sister Jemma has finished university, and is graduating with a First Class Honours degree in Psychology from Portsmouth University.
Out of all of these firsts, hers is the most impressive.

It even beats the fireworks by miles.

Original Sin

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I am sitting in the office in our apartment in Astoria, blogging on my new iMac.

I say new...it's an iMac G3. It is one of those coloured ones with all the machinations and buzzings and electronic fuzzamahoo built into the monitor unit.
It is running on Mac OS 9.2.2 (I think) and I am standing in the middle of it all like a French mime pretending that the surrounding crowd are very strange. Lots of windmilling arms and open-mouthed surprise, a sporty black and white-striped sweater, and a beret rakishly on the back of the head.
Metaphorically.

What we need is a little exra RAM, which in turn will lead to a slightly more youthful OS, and a slightly less confused-mime-style Stuart at the keyboard.

Seriously. One mouse button. What's that about? I feel like someone has sliced off two of my virtual fingers.

Krissa and I are off for a decadently late diner breakfast. I bid you adieu, have a good Monday, whether it be Independence Day or the beginning of your working week.

Whoring Totals

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Are you my 100,000th reader?

Check!

Scroll down, and at the bottom of the sidebar on the left, there is a number.
If this number is 100,000, you are my blog's 100,000th visitor!

Well done, all of you, for doing very little really, and thank you for doing it so often.

This isn't a scam. And to prove it, there isn't a prize.

Brownian Motion

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With ten minutes unexpectedly spare this morning in the preparation for work, I sat down in my comfy chair and called my Mum to see how she was. The last few days, what with starting work, rehearsals and a wonderful birthday dinner with Krissa's Mom, have left me with few idle moments to pick up the phone.

We started to natter and then I realised I had made a terrible mistake.

The chair.

My body, so recently and so rudely roused from its sleep, was relaxing and settling into the chair with a view to picking up where it left off.

After we hung up (Mum's fine, by the way), it was a terrible effort to get out of the chair, and even now I feel like I've taken a few steps back towards sleep which I shouldn't have taken.

What I really need is a short walk followed by being rapidly shaken around in violent and unexpected ways for forty-five minutes in a rattling shiny metal tube packed with commuting strangers who are all invading each others' personal space and simultaneously pretending that no one else is actually there.

That should wake me up.
So that's what I'm going to do.

Have a great weekend, everyone.

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