Sunday, 27 January 2008

Put on your corsets and calm those nerves

My hubby just before we watched Lark Rise to Candleford: "I find these BBC period dramas so calming." Which is pretty amazing, considering how he primarily enjoys the History Channel, news shows and guy movies. And any TV shows that mix violence with good dialogue. Now I can add to his favorites list shows that focus on propriety, village life and love that cannot be due to one's station in life.

Happy B-day, John Belushi

This is a few days late (his birthday was Jan. 24 according to IMDB), but here it is. Happy birthday John; we miss ya, man.

Friday, 25 January 2008

Do you like freebies?

I love freebies! I know this isn't my normal topic here, but I've found several freebies that others in the UK can take advantage of, too. Here goes:

Free eye test at D&A

Free flight if you sign up with BMI's Diamond Club (but you do pay fees and taxes, so it remains to be seen how much of a deal this is)

Get a coupon for half price entrees at Zizzi restaurant in the Telegraph next week (I think it comes in Sunday's too, but the week editions are cheaper)

These finds all came from These seem to be the most usable bargains I've ever found there, and they don't involve signing up for a credit card or some such to get them!

Takes off bargain-finder cap.

Monday, 21 January 2008

Where does the Times find these goobers?

The Times will apparently print any uninformative, ill-researched and plain wrong article that grabs attention. Case in point: a travel article advising people to stay away from the U.S. because gaining entry is too tough. Really? Turns out the writer means that it's not really tough to get in, but rather going through security and immigration is a pain in the ass. He then fails to really explain any of these new difficulties in detail or list anything that sounds significantly different from what it's like getting into the UK, and the only things that sound bad are the things that he imagines are the thoughts going on in some official's head, or things that could maybe sorta happen.

He mentions "A preflight e-interrogation," which he fails to explain and, based on his attitude, probably is an out-of-proportion way of describing answering a couple of questions online. He also dreams up "an outside chance of a rubber-gloved rectal rummage." Believe me, the guards don't want to give a booty check anymore than you want to get one, and that kind of thing isn't done randomly like a bag check. Then the writer suggests other places people can go instead, which he presumably thinks have more lax security. Because you'd rather get through the airport fast than feel safe? Good luck with that.

I personally don't have a stake in where the lamo travel writer or anywhere else chooses to go on holiday. Go where it seems fun; go where you can afford; go where you can indulge in the things that relax you, be it shopping or skiing. I'm not saying you should go to America, though I think a weekend shopping in New York when you're getting 2-for-1 on your pounds sounds divine. But wherever you go, it's going to be a hassle getting through the airport. If it's not, that's the time to worry.

Friday, 18 January 2008

Who gets drunk and goes to the zoo?!

Seriously, who does that? On Christmas Day, no less? And then taunts a tiger until it attacks you and kills a friend? These guys had marijuana and vodka in the car. At the zoo. 'Cause you need to be loaded before you go look at a panda. Time to reevaluate your life, dude.

Tuesday, 15 January 2008

Harold and Kumar (and NPH) return

The follow-up to Harold and Kumar go to White Castle (known as Harold and Kumar Get The Munchies in the UK) is coming out April 25 in the U.S. It's called Harold and Kumar: Escape from Guantanamo Bay. Yes, really. I loved the first one so I'll have to check this out, but it looks like it could offend some people on about 20 different levels. At the same time, in a world gone Politically-Correct mad, the fact they aren't afraid to offend might make it appealing to some. Check out the preview and decide for yourself.

The most important factor is that it has Neil Patrick Harris, so I'm sure it will be Legen ... wait for it ... dary (You'll have to watch How I Met Your Mother to get that joke). Or you can just watch the awesome NPH in his role as Barney in the clip below.

Monday, 14 January 2008

TV reviews, England style

Hang on to your hats, because this next idea seems to shake up the sensible order of things: Newspapers in England review TV shows after they air. That's right, after it's too late for you to tune in, you can read all about it.

You can find short reviews of some shows before they air in some magazines. However, the newspapers do longer, meatier reviews after the show is gone and won't be back; if it sounds good, tough luck, you missed it. Can't we get preview copies of shows for the folks at the papers, too? Newspapers can't get no respect, man. But wait, do these reviewers really watch the show at 9 p.m. and then write their review after 10 p.m.? Sure, you can get something in quick under deadline at that point (depending on the paper and its late deadline), but would you push it for a TV show? I'm guessing reviewers often do get a preview copy and write their articles before a show airs, but the papers wait to print it until after. Just for funzies.

However, I do see the point of reviews printed after the fact a little better after reading reviews for a couple of shows I watched last night. I still think it's doing things backwards, but it was interesting to read someone else's take on shows for which I had a context because I'd seen them.

Thursday, 10 January 2008

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

What's news is all relative ...

The local Reading paper does what a lot of papers do when in competition with big boys (like The Times) -- it covers news that locals couldn't find elsewhere, no matter how seemingly small and insignificant. This often means anything could be news, like a kid's bike being stolen or a cat using a toilet (with video included, ugh).

Flipping through a local paper (in any country) is often amusing, but I'm not knocking it. I worked at a small paper early in my career, and there simply wasn't the staff or funds to cover the big stuff (which was already being covered in lots of other papers and shared around via news wire services). What readers can't get elsewhere is the small (sometimes *very* small) stuff from their hometown. So small papers are usually weak on serious or in-depth news, but that's not typically their job. They won't tell you what's going on in the world; they tell you what's going on with your neighbors. It won't win a Pulitzer, but it fills a niche.

Monday, 7 January 2008

Graffiti gone wild

You know graffiti is out of control when cleaning it up becomes an employment opportunity. This must be a Reading Borough Council van, as the phone number matches the one on the town Web site.

Thursday, 3 January 2008

Christmas crackers not as tasty as they sound

The first time I heard of Christmas crackers, I thought it was some type of holiday treat. If cookies are called biscuits here, perhaps a cracker is some type of cake? Nope. I discovered long before Dec. 25 that a Christmas cracker was a gift-wrapped tube that you pull apart. I only recently found out that it also pops (one might say it cracks) when you pull it apart. We bought some for our Christmas guests, who were all Americans and one from Japan -- not a native Brit in the bunch. Two of our guests brought Christmas crackers, too, as they were serving the dual role of host and guest -- they invited us for dinner, but needed our kitchen facilities. So we were both the guest and host in our own home. Dinner was made for us and we didn't have to leave the house, which is pretty much my idea of heaven.

But back to the crackers. Fortunately, my husband knew how to get off to a cracking good start (haha). He told us how to use the crackers. I thought everyone got his own and pulled it apart, but it turns out you do the wishbone thing, with two people each pulling an end. Whoever gets the bigger end gets the prize inside. I learned on Wikipedia just now that you can also just each get a cracker, and you get to keep yours no matter who gets the bigger end.

And it would be a shame not to get a prize. Not because it's worth anything -- it's mostly the kind of stuff you'd get from a nickel bubblegum machine in the States. No, the fun is in getting a prize, even if it's crappy. You also get a little paper hat, which I'd seen people wear in British movies but had never figured out what they were for. I still don't know what they're for, but that's neither here nor there, as they are sort of fun to wear and see your guests wearing.

The prizes can be better, depending on how expensive the crackers are. But you still can't expect much. The ones my hubby bought were $20 and the "main" gifts inside were things like nail clippers or a cheap pen. Each also included a paper crown and a slip of paper with the kind of joke that 5-year-olds would tell. Which made them sort of sweet I suppose, and fun to groan at.

The crackers were a success. We think they should be marketed across the pond as party favors in the U.S. They of course would cost much less (what doesn't in the U.S.?), and we envision people putting them out at birthday parties or creating special ones for businesses, say, to give out at grand openings with magnets and keychains bearing the company logo inside. Maybe we'll market it ourselves and become the cracker kings of America. It could happen.

Tuesday, 1 January 2008

Reading on New Year's Day

Town still trashy
I decided to cruise around city center to look around today, thinking the town would be mostly vacant. Turns out I was wrong, as many people were out and many stores were open. I still did a little exploring, and went out past the Broad Street Mall area onto Oxford Road. I turned for home quickly though, as there didn't seem to anything thrilling there -- the area was rather grim looking.

The above picture is just one sign of grimness. All that trash rests inside the fenced-in area of an otherwise attractive-looking church called Providence Chapel. It's obvious that people on the sidewalk purposefully toss their trash over the fence. Why?! There's no lack of trash bins, but apparently also no lack of people who think nothing of littering. I can't understand why anyone would choose to turn his or her city into a huge rubbish bin.

Horsing around

I also saw police officers on horseback on my little adventure around the city center. These animals were huge and made impressive clopping noises with their hooves. They also smelled and I can only imagine they left steaming "gifts" on the pavement. That kind of litter I can understand better than the human-made variety (usually consisting of bags and bottles rather than poo, I should hope).

Who says you can't get anything for a pound?

I also went by the 99P store (P is for pence); it was closed. This is the place my husband said would be our only shopping site -- except he never went back. I've never been inside, and do admit I'm curious about what they have. The store is also an example of how the cost of living here is roughly double that in the U.S. Judging from the items my husband brought back on his one visit, the store sells the same stuff you'd get at the 99 Cent store in the U.S. (or a Dollar Tree). And 99P is about double 99 cents. Even cheap junk isn't that cheap here.