Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Steve Martin, I love you

Ok, so you're married. So am I. Let that not prove an impediment to our true romance. No one else could've pulled off arrow-through-the-head, banjo-picking, anti-comedy like you. I still remember struggling to stay up way past my bedtime to see you on SNL in the late '70s. I remember a monologue where you put live cats and was that a trout? down your pants. I remember the Two Wild and Crazy Guys. I remember it all, for I loved you even then.

Then you did some silly movies. I was 11 or 12 and didn't quite get it at the time. But I got it, over time. And you got less silly. Then you wrote one of my favorite books, "Shopgirl." How can you know so well how a woman thinks, how we take completely different things from conversations than men do? You're insightful. My best friend shared your book with me and we fell for you, hard. Then I bought my own copy. Then I gave my husband a copy for his birthday. Little does he know my adoration for you, Steve.

And now there's your autobiography, one more in a long line of writing credits that prove you are entertainment's Renaissance man (you act, you do stand up, you write books, plays, movies, you're a student of art and philosophy, and you're cool in an off-kilter way). Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life was wonderful. It was interesting and well done -- my only complaint is it was far too short.

Be a dear, Steve, and remedy that with another book about your life after you dropped stand up. Do it for yourself; do it for your fans; do it for us. It is a one-sided love entirely based on my admiration for you as a writer and performer, but if us two crazy, mixed up kids can't make it in this one-sided, long-distance admiration fest, who can?

Thursday, 22 November 2007

Yep, Oprah is out of it

I know Oprah is mega rich, but come on, she grew up poor and should have a good idea of what is affordable. But celebrity seems to blind her to the simple fact that most people can't (and won't) pay $300 for an ugly blouse and trouser set (hell, I wouldn't pay that much for a beautiful blouse and trouser outfit, but I'm a bargain shopper), about $3,800 for a refrigerator with an HDTV in the door, or $42 for a set of three bars of soap. Remember, if you're translating into UK prices, these are all items in the U.S. and should typically cost about half of what you'd think of spending for similar luxury items in the UK, but they don't!

These are just a few items from the holiday list of Oprah's Favorite Things. This list appears monthly in Oprah Magazine and I assume also online. Now, I would imagine I'm in the typical middle-class income range of her typical reader (though I'm not a regular reader, but I have bought her magazine a couple of times in the States). She's probably got a lot of readers who have much lower incomes, and some who make much more. But I would guess my income fits the demographic of the target audience her magazine shoots for. But from the products she recommends, one would think her readers were all in the income bracket that has summer homes in the Hamptons and a ski chalet tucked away somewhere. I've seen her suggest candles that cost $40-$50. For one candle. The kind that if I were going to splurge and get as a luxury item, I'd go somewhere and get one of similar size and lovely fragrance for $10. Maybe as much as $20 if it were a gift. I just couldn't fathom spending more than that on a candle. But Oprah could, and thinks you should, too! Get real girl, we don't all have mad Oprah cash!

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Travellers? Seriously?

Reading seems to be plagued with travellers, a nomadic group that goes around in their RVs, parks anywhere, is accused of increasing crime, and generally annoys the hell out of people who like to live in a more stationary manner.

A local newspaper story titled "Travellers force children out" discusses the bizarre problem. In this story parents couldn't find a parking spot when taking their tykes to swimming lessons because a convoy of travellers filled up the parking lot. A court order had to be obtained to get them to move out. I don't know why you can't just tell them to pack it in without the time and trouble of a court order, but that seems to be common -- you can't just tell them to move along, presumably because they are a recognized ethnic group and they have rights, dammit, even if that means clogging up your street where you pay high taxes with their rusty old RVs. There was another problem recently where travellers had parked near a bridge in Reading and were causing a lot of annoyance, not the least of which being that the traveller children, being unencumbered with a need to be in school, where trying to force passerby to pay for the right to cross the bridge. Rambunctious little darlings.

Travellers are of Irish heritage, and apparently some live in the U.S. I never heard of that before the show The Riches, which is a U.S. program that recently started airing in the UK. It's a well-acted show (thank you, Minnie Driver and Eddie Izzard), with a largely unbelievable plot. But I wonder how many Brits watch it and think the whole traveller society is much more prevalent in the U.S. than it really is? I'd never heard of or seen them before. The only group of RVs I've ever heard of parked in a lot belonged to "snowbirds" who go down to Florida for the winter, and they're more old and cold than a nomadic tribe. And they paid to park in an RV lot, rather than just randomly hanging out. Let's hope the whole traveller thing doesn't catch on in the U.S., 'cause this girls likes a place to park without being hassled by urchins, ya know?

Monday, 19 November 2007

Obnoxious gits beware: Using the C-word could cost ya

You gotta love it when snotty 29-year-old gits who earn more money than you (£45,000 a year, or about $90,000) actually have to suffer the consequences for being an ass. Here's what The Times says in a story titled "Labour aide quits after C-word rant":

An aide to the Labour leader at the Scottish Parliament has resigned in disgrace after calling the First Minister a “c***” at an awards ceremony.

Matthew Marr, chief press aide to Wendy Alexander, issued a grovelling apology for his behaviour at the Scottish Politician of the Year Awards last Thursday, which culminated in him screaming abuse at Alex Salmond before apparently ranting to bemused onlookers: “I hate the f***ing middle classes.”

As well as launching a verbal assault on a Nationalist politician sitting at his table and insulting a cloakroom attendant, Mr Marr is also said to have greeted a fellow guest with the question: “Is that your bird, then?”


Mr Marr had been in his £45,000-a-year post for less than two months. As Mr Salmond went up to collect the top award at the ceremony, Mr Marr loudly declared that the newly elected First Minister was a “c***”. Although Mr Salmond did not hear the remark, Jennifer Dempsie, one of his special advisers, who was seated at Mr Marr’s table, was said to have been deeply offended. She told friends that Mr Marr had spent the evening being obnoxious to her.


Mr Marr was also accused of haranguing the Nationalist MSP Christina McKelvie, a member of Holyrood’s standards committee. She said: “His conduct throughout the night, in particular to women, was inappropriate.”

Real classy bloke, eh? I hope he displays better manners when he's flipping burgers at McDonald's.

Saturday, 17 November 2007

This is messed up

I just learned that a woman who stole my purse several years ago is passing her trashy self off as me. I didn't know her and have never seen her; she stole my purse at a supermarket. It had my wallet, cell phone, driver's license, credit cards, check book and social security number. Basically, the keys to my life and the means to make it hell.

I reported everything as stolen and didn't lose any additional money. I did go through tons of aggravation, worry, emotional stress and depression over it, though, as she wrote every one of the checks. I had informed my bank of the theft, but it turns out they didn't inform the people who tried to cash those checks she had written -- the bank just told them payment had been stopped. So I had to go to the bank for each check that came in and sign a fraud report -- the nearest branch of my bank was 40 miles away from where I lived (I had moved before the theft and didn't see a need to change banks -- oops). Then I had to send a copy of the fraud report and the police report to each person who contacted me trying to collect on the stopped check. Some of these people called me. They were rude and treated me like a thief at first (I imagine a lot of people that write bad checks claim their checks were stolen). I was able to convince all of them that I was telling the truth, but this was very distressing to have people call and treat me like a criminal after I'd already been victimized.

Due to something stupid the daft wench did, the police found out who she was and where she lived. But because she wouldn't answer the door when they knocked, they never arrested her. Yes, really. Yesterday I called the police where I filed the case and am trying to see what I can find out as I've lost my original copies of reports, but there's not much they can do now as she has apparently moved on to another town. I don't know her real name, though the police should.

I just learned that several months ago a man called my mother back in the States and told her she should check on her daughter in some city I've never lived in, because he thought her boyfriend was abusing her (it was the thief he was referring to). He said this woman worked for a friend of his. She had obviously been using my name or else the trail wouldn't have led to my mother. My mother told him that her daughter was happily married and living in England, but that her purse and ID had been stolen years before. My sister also called the guy and explained that this woman claiming to be me was not me and was in fact a criminal. My sis seems to think he intended to take action, but we don't know what he did, if anything. I'd like to call him and see if he can help me and the police locate this woman, but my mom and sis didn't save this guy's name and number (I can't believe they wouldn't find that important enough to keep, but I'm not trying to bash them here). Neither my mom or sis told me about it for fear it would deeply upset me (which it did), and they knew I was already under a lot of stress due to my knee problems. But they still should have told me, as now I know I have to be on my guard again. My sister let it slip last night, and the freak out began.

I guess I should've always been on my guard. This woman has my personal information and she has criminal intent. My husband scared me to death when he said what if she commits a crime and she's representing herself as you? Well, that means an arrest warrant could be issued for my name. There would be no current address that was my correct one, and I could prove the one who did whatever illegal mess she's up to wasn't me if by some stretch of the imagination the police located and tried to arrest me when I go back to the States. But I'm sure I'd be treated with a lot of disbelief and maybe spend a night in jail until the cops straightened it all out as they're pretty skeptical of people who say "it wasn't me." It's all very unlikely to happen, but I believe in worrying as fatalistically as possible and freaking myself the hell out.

Just a note on what type of woman this person is: when the checks came back, I saw she had written them to (and thus stolen from) places like the Christian Mission. That is a charity shop to help the needy, and it sells donated used items at low cost. That's where you pass a stolen check?! That's not only disgusting to steal from a charity, but it shows how she thinks -- why not go somewhere and buy new furniture or clothes if you're stealing checks? Oh no, she decided to run down to the charity shop to get some things she'd had her eye on, like that couch that smelled of cat piss or the stained mattress that someone died on. She also wrote a check for $30 to Taco Bell. How the hell many tacos did that heifer eat?! I just can't fathom how you'd spend $30 at a Taco Bell. You can get a small lunch for $2 and a huge one for $4 or $5. Was she throwing a party? And the best idea she could come up with for a place to steal food was Taco Bell? The mind boggles.

So here I am, feeling trapped and helpless and hoping some low IQ, low-class criminal won't add to life's problems and challenges. Which she actually already has, I just don't know how long it will continue or what degree of trouble she'll cause. That's messed up, y'all.

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Magical Elves an urban legend in the making

England has great candy, and it's usually inexpensive. I love Hob Nobs and Mcvitie's chocolate digestives so much that I haven't bought them once since I moved here. Not once.

That's because on my last trip to the UK before my knees turned traitor and I could still get around easily, I lived off cookies - or biscuits, as the English so confusingly call them (it makes me think of something to be slathered in butter and dipped in gravy on Thanksgiving). Cookies were cheap and easy, and I wasn't up for spending my hard-earned dollars in high-priced restaurants. Even though I must've walked 8-10 miles most days, I still gained 5 pounds in two weeks due to my yummy fat-ass-making cookie diet.

So I try to avoid the sweets here, as I know I'll eat one at a time -- one pack of whatever it is, that is. This is a bit hard when you have a skinny husband who loves sweets and can eat all he wants without gaining an ounce, the beast. It's vile, but that's my situation. I make him hide his candy, and he hides it about as well as he puts on pounds. So I'm not saying I don't eat sweets at all, but I avoid them and don't usually buy them for myself, choosing instead to occasionally filch some from the hubby's stash if I'm jonesing for a fix. He doesn't go in for Hob Nobs or McVitie's, fortunately, or he wouldn't be able to keep any for himself. (Please note any low-cal snack bars marked low-fat don't count as candy, otherwise my system would go into shock from lack of chocolate).

Recently, I saw these little chocolate bars called Magical Elves at the news agent. They said they contained "Cadbury chocolate with popping candy." I was intrigued, and the bars were small, so I bought two and took them home to share with the hubby and see what the popping business was all about.

I got packs with two different elves, thinking perhaps this denoted different flavors. It didn't. We each ate half of our elves and traded the other half to see if any of it was mint flavored or some such, but no dice. The candy did pop, however -- pretty much like Pop Rocks from the '70s, but without the fruit flavoring. I wonder what happens if you eat a Magical Elves chocolate while drinking a Coke? There's a new urban legend just waiting to be born.

In the end, the elves weren't so magical. They tasted like your standard bit of chocolate, but with an odd, poppy sensation. I won't be tempted by them again when I'm at the store. Thank God they don't have Magical Hob Nob Elves on the counter, or I'd have to stop buying newspapers.

Sunday, 11 November 2007

Free music, anyone?

This weekend I signed up for a free trial and 50 free downloads at Click here for the link that gives you 50 free songs (if you go to the main site first, it only lets you have 25). It's all indie music, so you won't find the current hits here, but there's lots of good music. It's all in MP3 format, so these work on any music player.

At the moment, I'm totally in love with string arrangements of pop and rock tunes by The Vitamin String Quartet. If nothing else, check out their versions of In Your Eyes by Peter Gabriel, Boston by Augustana and All Along the Watchtower by Bob Dylan. Audio beauty, just as the original songs are, but in a different way. ITunes sells these too, btw, but at 99 cents a pop -- and I think it's double that if you have a UK iTunes account.

You do have to give a credit card to sign up, but can quit at any time within the two-week trial period without being charged. This is a U.S. site and I used my U.S. credit card to back the free trial, but as I was turned on to the site from a coupon in Time Out London (which I ditched for better offer), you should be able to sign up whether using a U.S. or UK address and card. I have yet to see how easy or hard it is to cancel; let's hope I don't regret my love of freebies! I don't anticipate any problems though, as I checked user reviews on the Web, and no one complained of problems quitting.

FYI, if you sign up, the site does keep a running tally of how many downloads you have left, and pay attention to that -- if you go over, it automatically signs you up for a paid account (the lowest being $9.99 a month for 30 songs). Happy listening!

Monday, 5 November 2007

"I hope this stuff isn't raunchy ..."

That's what my husband said as I pureed veggies for the spaghetti pie I was making tonight. That's not real encouraging, to have your man describe your meal-in-progress as possibly "raunchy." But that's my guy, always fronting with the "funny" comments. Of course, he never said anything I had made was raunchy and was merely referring to the unusual recipe I was trying, so I'll give him a break.

I was cooking up a recipe from the controversial new cookbook "Deceptively Delicious" by Jessica Seinfeld. It shows you how to hide vegetables in foods. It's aimed at kids, but I think veggies are gross, too, and my husband can only tolerate them slightly more than I can. So out comes the fun little book for tricking the tykes!

In the end, the recipe was not bad. We really couldn't taste the carrots and broccoli in there. But the whole thing was way more work than I usually put into a meal (Most of my recipes are: boil some pasta and/or bake or cut up and fry some chicken breasts. Either open a jar of pasta sauce or a can of Campbell's tomato or mushroom soup to make a sauce. The end, good night Irene, that's all she wrote). The Seinfeld recipe was a crazy amount of work and cleaning up from my perspective, and I won't be making it again.

On the bright side, at least my husband didn't think it was "raunchy." Lucky for him; I would've felt just awful dumping the leftovers in his backpack while he slept. Now THAT would be raunchy.

Saturday, 3 November 2007

My Boyfriend is a Twat

No, I'm not cheating on my hubby. I just wanted to note one of the funniest book titles ever. I haven't read this yet, and the library doesn't have a copy, so I doubt it will go on my to-buy list as my dating of twats is long over, and I like to think of my husband as more of an occasional goober or doofus than a twat. But if your boyfriend is a twat, you might give it a read.

Zoe McCarthy also has a blog by the same name, which sounds quite funny. I've updated this post, as the reason the link didn't work for me before was user error! I've added the pic too, which wouldn't work last night during an odd Net slowdown.

Now that I've finally seen the site, I found some very funny merchandise proclaiming "My Boyfriend is a Twat." The coffee mug especially cracks me up for some reason; perhaps it's the thought of sipping it while looking up through your lashes at said twat (and if you stay with him, hopefully he's actually a sweetheart with the occasional twatish tendencies). The items are great if your boyfriend has a sense of humor. If he really is a full-on twat and finds it infuriating, perhaps you can request special "My EX-boyfriend WAS a twat" items, which you can then use as a means of letting him know he's getting the boot.

It's a dirty shame

The streets are awash with filth. That may be a bit strong, but it's what came to mind after I went to the mailbox this morning. Everywhere I went, there was trash -- empty crisp packets, discarded cigarette packs, stained fast-food cups, even a banana peel with a bit of squished banana still lying in wait inside like a yellow bomb ready to detonate under the feet of any unfortunate passerby.

The banana stays in my thoughts as it seemed the most dangerous item of the littered sidewalks, roads and waterways that are sadly a familiar sight here in Reading. As I hobbled (a term my husband uses to lovingly describe the way I walk as I still struggle to recuperate from a knee surgery that wasn't so successful) past it the first time, my hands were full with cane in the right and mail in the left. I noted other discarded items along the way, such as a half-full bottle of wine and a huge plastic ax that presumably recently was part of some Halloween costume.

Coming back, I almost didn't notice the banana among the yellow leaves scattered in my path. I've developed a terror or tripping or falling since my knee problems (and recent renewal of back problems) continue, and it startled me to think I might have slid on the peel. I don't catch myself well if I trip, and I don't move that easily. Falling is a scary thought when you know even a minor fall could undo months of progress. I thought of picking up the peel and carrying it to the next trash bin about a half block away, but bending hurts my back and knees and, honestly, the thought of how gooey and icky that peel might be and my lack of a tissue to wipe my hands all contributed to my leaving it lay. I'm ashamed of the admission; I should've picked it up anyway. I noted that other passerby (all who seemed to have no issues walking or moving freely) failed to pick it up, too, but that's no excuse on my part.

But I'll move beyond the banana-that-could've-been-picked-up issue-- my real concern and amazement is the quantity of trash and the carelessness with which some people seem to treat their daily environment here. I was taking another of my short walks last week (probably to the mailbox or to buy a paper, that's about as far as I can go on foot and still make it home for now). Three teenagers were walking along, talking and laughing. One finished up some candy and let its red foil wrapper flutter to the ground, seemingly without a thought, and kept walking. All in view of me, even. No sign of shame whatsoever. What the hell is wrong with people? Who wants to live in a trash can? But that's what a few thoughtless people are doing, turning the city where they live into one big trash bin for everyone. I keep telling myself to bring a plastic bag to pick up what I can, but as I rarely have a free hand for long when out and about, I never end up doing it.

It's a shame, as the city has so many pretty buildings and parks and the canal -- it could be lovely, and it is in some places. Don't look too hard though, or you'll see rubbish everywhere. I certainly hope it's not that everyone throws trash down without thinking, but enough people do to make a very noticeable difference. I guess it's all part of the anti-social behavior that's constantly mentioned as one of the ills the country is battling. Some people don't care about anyone else, or even what side effects they'll have to live with from their behavior. The effect of that can be seen everywhere.

If I weren't a young woman that gets around like a 90-year-old due to crappy genes and bad luck, I'd get a trash bag and go to work on some of it myself. But there's only so much that would accomplish, I suppose, and I'd probably tire of it as day after day the trash reappeared as if by some grimy magic. And the sad thing is, it shouldn't be necessary for me or anyone else to pick up so much rubbish. There is no lack of trash bins along the streets here; the only thing in short supply is whatever attitude would keep people from dropping trash in the first place, whether it be from a desire to not contribute to the filth or from shame at what others will think if they see the litterer in action. It's all a dirty shame.