Wednesday, January 31, 2007

"And I don't have the time to waste on you anymore!"

Alison is gone. She's GONE. Out the door three minutes ago and in about 12 hours she'll be back in New York. I don't say "home" because three minutes ago she WAS home and now she's GONE.

And I am very upset. I feel sort of like a puppy watching its owners walk away through the chain link of a shelter fence.

I hate this! I hate watching her leave--the worst part is knowing I'll be doing the same thing in seven weeks time, only there won' be anyone to say good bye to me. I'll leave the same way I came in: making no noise and creating no mark. Good bye and good luck and get out. Only to go to the US and to what? Nothing. Friends scattered across the globe by the winds of chance, held together through tremulous internet connections and lacksadasical postings. I get to start all over again. Whoopee. I'm sick of starting over. I'm sick of meeting new people and making new friends. So, fine, I'm not the edgey globe-trotter I once fancied myself, but then again I never thought I'd have to go through this world alone. I don't even have a dog.


I'm done now, I'm done feeling sorry for myself. I'm going to go pack for Paris--why am I complaining when one of my new friends here is letting me sleep on her floor for free? I'm not complaining, I'm just upset.

I miss Alison.

Maybe I'll go chew on some furniture...

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Love conquers all

Alison and I fell ill last night with some random superbug that had me in bed at 7 pm marveling at the delicate shade of blue my fingers had turned. Apparently all the blood in my body was needed to combat whatever was attempting to throw my stomach into reverse. I felt better this morning, but only after I had lain awake half the night, alternately wondering if I was ever going to get feeling in my toes again and casting a modern version of "Gone With the Wind."

I'm beginning to start to think about possibly regretting staying on in London. Not because I don't want to stage manage again at the Fin, but because of one simple fact: Money. More specifically, I'm running out of it. It costs me thirty six quid a week for a travelcard, as opposed to fifteen when I was a student (I know, I know--it's a rip off, you should see the papers here) which is my major expenditure, now that I have my cocaine habit under control. I'm just worried that after I get my own apartment, and a car, and a cellphone and a dog, I won't have any money left over for...but then again, what am I saving up for? It's not like I'm going back to school, or even traveling anymore. (where would I go?! Canada?! hah!) I guess it's time to be a grown up and start paying back some bills. I am fortunate, all the debt I'm carrying is student loans and not crazy-interest credit cards. I just wish that I didn't suffer a minor heart-attack everytime I looked at my bank statement.

But, that's really all. Nothing much else going on. I'm flying to Paris tomorrow, and even THAT I'm feeling guilty about: it's hella money, not even counting the carbon emissions, and all the justification for "when am I going to get a chance to go again?!" doesn't make me feel better. Hopefully I'll feel different when I'm on the plane. I suspect that all these money worries are more related to the fact that I've just paid my last month's rent here and I'm trying to live off of four hundred pounds for the next seven weeks. Eminiently possible--but not with such high tastes. Nelson watches notwithstanding.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

My First Day as an Illegal Alien

I'll still drink tea when I come back to the states, but what I'll really miss is getting on the Tube to go to the teashop and having a pack of rabid Manchester fans start singing "When the Reds Go Marching In" in between asking "Is this London?" Ah. Went out for tapas again today ( and then to Knightsbridge for tea, at Alison's request. Did a lot of walking around the city. We stopped at the National Gallery so that I could finally get a print of "The Fighting Temeraire is tugged to her last Berth to be Broken Up" which is going to be the focus point in my living room...wherever THAT is. Then I got to carry it around Knightsbridge in it's pretentious little red carrying case, poking people in their Harrod's bags. Anyone can go to Harrods, but it takes a SPECIAL kind of person to spend money at the National Gallery. And it takes a Nicki to spend money at the Gallery on a painting that she already owns in postcard, notepad and mousepad form.

Yesterday was my last day at work, and it was very nice. A little rushed--I was trying to get everything set up since there will be NO ONE there on Monday--but at the end of the day the directors and secretaries gave me a copy of a photograph of the city with everyone's signatures around the edge. It was taken by one of the company photographers, so it's a one of a kind picture that has a much deeper quality than the stuff you can find at the tourist stands. I also got a lovely green necklace from one of the little indie shops in Covent Garden. I really feel like I'll be missed, which is nice. Although--not too missed, since I'm going back to have lunch with our publisher on Tuesday, and the HR manager has promised to forward my resume to their office in Chicago.

I know that I have seven weeks of rehearsal and show coming up, but I'm already feeling like "ah! This is my last chance to experience London! Get it all in while I can!" Probably not helped by the fact that some of my friends have already left and tonight I'm going to another goodbye party for an American. Ah, well. It's been fun. What's next?

Friday, January 26, 2007

Eddie Murphy, you are a Jerk and a Bully

I was all sad and depressed about today being my last day as an employee (and a legal alient) but THEN I was FILLED with a RIGHTEOUS INDIGNATION. So now I feel better.

Eddie Murphy has made a new movie called "Norbit" which is, as far as I can tell, basically about a quiet, simple man who is hounded by his harridan girlfriend who is brash, overblown and of course, overweight. The (very unfunny!!!) gag is that Murphy plays both parts. WHY o WHY does Eddie Murphy insist that playing on cultural stereotypes is funny?! In addition he plays an Asian man--Mr. Wong--which I'm fairly certain is about as PC as blackface. ARG! Can you imagine the outcry if white men decided to dress up like large, black women and walk down the street snapping their fingers and wearing loud jewelry? (not being stereotypical--it's there in the trailer for "Norbit"!) Or maybe the problem is just me: it seems acceptable for black men to dress up like women as long as they are making such broad jokes that everyone is in on them. Could it just be me? I'm still struggling to get a handle on my own feelings about the black/white divide in my own life. Why do I find it easy to shrug off Laurence Olivier's performance, in blackface, of Othello by saying that it was the late 1950s or the fact that Washington owned slaves, but when the Wayan brothers dress up like the Hilton sisters I get out my soapbox?

I continue to work through my issues.

I am MORE offended (righteously!) by the fact that Norbit's wife, Rasputina, is a fat woman, so you get all the jokes about her breaking the bed, eating him out of house and home. There is a comedy series here "Little Britain" that features two men dressing up as fat women and competing for a man who chooses them solely on their size--naturally the "comedy" is supposed to be about the gross out factor of two naked fat women running down the aisles of a supermarking stuffing crisps into their mouths. Society seems to have a horror of naked fat people: there is such a demand on us to be perfectly groomed, with clean hair and nails, otherwise we instantly become gross and smelly. Whenever fat people choose to relax in their jammies, it is almost always percieved as disgusing, slobby even. Whereas when Rachel on "Friends" puts on her pajama bottoms and digs into a tub of Ben & Jerrys, it's okay because we know that underneath all that she's actually slender, well-toned and probably going to go to the gym tomorrow. But the attractiveness of fat people ends when our clothes come off, and the facade crumbles. Even after all our work to stay polished and clean, as soon as the support hose comes off, all the old associates about fat = smell comes back with a vengeance. This, of course, is patently not true: I take a shower every night, whether I need to or not, and when I get up at 7:40 in the morning, 15 of my 20 getting ready minutes are spend washing my face, brushing my teeth, putting on makeup and spritzing with "Chanel No. 5." Which, incidentally, is the only think Marilyn Monroe (another large woman) wore to bed.

You may think I'm just being paranoid, but in my efforts to research Mr. Murphy's latest exercise, I visited the imdb message boards where I was expecting people to be as outraged as I am. Instead I found messages like "it's true, all Fat people smell" and "Fat people get food stuck in their rolls and that's why they smell" and "Fat people are costing us money because they all die of heart attacks and can't pay their hospital bills" and "Fat people use disabled parking spaces because they can, instead of people with a legitimate disease" and (my favourite) "Fat is a sin, because the Bible says that you should be healthy and not overeat." I am appalled. APPALLED. I can't believe that people can be so ignorant about weight. I could not believe the hurtful comments that people were flinging around like it was God's truth.

And I am well offended that people like Eddie Murphy are going to make money off of such ignorance. Well, I hope you have some nice audiences--I am never going to see a movie of yours again. Even "Dreamgirls" which I was waiting for like it was Moulin Rouge 2. Have a nice life.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Update from the DWG Club

Apparently, Laura, in answer to your question, Wikipedia confirms that although the Bears are on their way to the Superbowl, they still suck, having only won 8 championships versus the Packer's 12. Not that I care. See for yourself!

What was I saying? Oh, right. Today's dead white guy is Leslie Howard, who I had a dream about.
It was about him being in the RAF and being shot down by the Germans, only to escape to Hungary where he managed to survive because he could speak Hungarian because his parents were Hungarian immigrants, only he didn't realise that he was Leslie Howard, stage and screen icon, because he had amnesia, until thirty years after the war when someone snuck an illegal copy of "Gone With the Wind" into the country and he recognised himself and realised that that's what all those weird memories of fighting in an American war were about. I woke up all excited, thinking I should write a movie about it, but when I did more research, I learned that Leslie Howard wasn't in the RAF. He was a civilian/patriot/activist who visited the troops overseas and may have potentially been involved in spying activities. Returning home from Spain, the commuter flight he was on (in one of the "safe" flying channels over the, um, Channel)was shot down by zer Germans. Subsequent research has proven that they were probably not happy about his war efforts and rumours of his spying were the icing on the cake, and there was a direct order to target him specifically. Which is a hella story, but alas, I would have to ignore too much history to get a good movie out of it.

I am so tired today. Officially I am looking after twelve people, and am using two desks to check calendars and send emails. The only good moment of my day was when I went up to the ninth floor to deliver more coffee cups, and looked out the window at a Sky that looked exactly like my favourite Turner painting, stretched out over the skyline of my favourite city. It was so achingly beautiful. It's not fair.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

itchy wool sweaters!!!

It's finally cold here, although I had to laugh at the inch of salt on the sidewalks for the fistful of spitty snow that we got last night. Am wearing my green wool sweater which itches a lot but which is, despite appearances, the warmest thing I own.

I'm enjoying my last week at work--it's mostly making sure that everything is caught up so Lois can pick up where I left off--but I'm also helping other people with time consuming things, like filling out slow-loading webpages and being on hold. I spent a lot of time on hold today, to Spain, which has some great hold music. Here's a conversation I had with one of my bosses:

Me: Hello, Rick, what's up?
Rick: (who is an American) Ah, geez, I'm going to need to change my flights... (Rick has been working in Frankfurt for the last two months)
Me: Okay, let me get your calendar... (which is on the computer and is slow)
Rick: Last week, huh? How's everything going there?
Me: Oh, you know, not too bad. Spent most of the morning on Wikipedia reading about the Victory.
Rick: Victory? What? I thought you were a Packers fan!
Me: What?
Rick: The Bears victory--they're going to the Superbowl.
Me: No, Rick, I was reading about HMS Victory, you know, Nelson's flagship at the Battle of Trafalgar.
Rick: Oh. (pause) Of course.
Me: But, if I did care about football, I would root for the Bears.
Rick: Me too. The Colts beat the Eagles last week. (Rick is from Philadelphia)
Me: I'm very sorry to hear that.
Rick: Yeah, well.
Me: Nelson and Victory!
Rick: What?
Me: Your calendar finally loaded.

Monday, January 22, 2007

I was wondering what to blog about...

…when I got an answer to my Question.

Has anyone else tried Yahoo Questions? They’re great. You ask a question and then anyone can answer it. I’ve used it on several occasions when I needed a new idea. It feels a little bit like a magic eight ball—you never know what you’re going to get. My last question was simply “What historical things should I see in Paris?” with a little explanation saying that I’m ded interested in Napoleon, the time surrounding the Revolution, etc. I expected some well informed French people to direct me to historically interesting buildings and sights, but instead I get this:

“You should find all the sites where the french decided to enter a war then need help from other countries, or where they hide when under attack.”

I was so incensed I reported the jerk for abuse. I only wish I could have strangled him with the French flag while singing “Marseilles” and pouring wine into his eyes. No, no, sorry, what I really wanted to do was tie him to a chair and give him a history lesson. I’m no expert on French history, but I can think of several events where the French did not run and hide, the first being, of course NAPOLEON who conquered most of Europe and is considered, in some circles, to be the first reincarnation of the Antichrist. The second being, of course, the time the French lent us their Navy and military expertise so that we could defeat the British in the War of Independence. The third being the French Underground during WWII—probably the reason this ill informed jerkface thinks the French like to “surrender” is because the government chose to let Hitler take over rather than have him bomb Paris into the ground only for the inevitable to happen. If they hadn’t, all the sights everyone else is suggesting I see would probably have been reduced to rubble. Think about all the buildings in London that are gone, pockmarked or were rebuilt after the Blitz. Personally, I’d rather have the Louvre than the Barbican. Or maybe I'm giving him too much credit: he was probably thinking of the time that France chose to stand up to America's bullying and didn't support the invasion of Iraq. These are the kind of idiots that make my blood boil with their nasty, blinkered, stupid remarks that have NO BASIS in anything other than ignorance. Ah! Viva le France! Death to ignorance!

“Aux armes, citoyens !
Formez vos bataillons !
Marchons, marchons !
Qu'un sang impur
Abreuve nos sillons !”

Sunday, January 21, 2007

What weekend?

Friday was another longish day, but Alison and I ended it by watching "That Hamilton Woman" and drinking a bottle of wine. Well, okay, I ended up drinking most of the wine, but it only made the movie better. Our favourite part was the bit where Nelson makes the decision to go back and rescue Emma from Revolutionary forces: "Collingwood. You rendezvous off Malta. Hardy, continue on and join up with the fleet. I'm going back to Naples." To which we merrily chimed in "Fetch me my rowboat! Er--just one oar! On second thought, get me a kayak with one of those double paddle thingys!" At which point we collapsed on the ground laughing. Okay, you had to be there, but, damn, this movie is so historically inaccurate and full of character assasinations that it's just a joy to watch. As a matter of fact, about the only thing they got right was "kiss me, Hardy!"

Not that it matters, but the wine we were drinking was from an Australian company called--you guessed it--Hardy's, and I highly recommend it.

So then last night we felt the need to redeem ourselves by going to see something cultural. Luckily the English National Opera was putting on "The Marriage of Figaro" so we got up at the crack of eight, went for tickets, then came home, napped, got dressed up and sat for three and a half hours in THE MOST uncomfortable seats EVER whilst watching two hundred year old opera. I never thought of theatre as an endurance sport, but, really, I think I would have been happier standing. The ENO was started as a way to bring opera to the masses, so they do all their shows in English. A great idea in theory, but do you have any idea how inane shows sound when you're repeating the same thing over and over in English? And they also had the "translation" over the stage. But, nitpicky things aside (if I wanted accuracy, the Royal Opera House is just down the street and translations be dammed!) I really enjoyed this performance. The setting had been updated to 1920s England, so the Count was a boorish country squire strutting around in his hunting jacket, and Figaro was his scheming manservant. Think "Gosford Park." The sets were really amazing, but what absolutely killed me were the props in this show--during the overture you saw servants going about their every day chores and it was full of props: geese that were being plucked, wellington boots to be shined, brooms, buckets, etc. All period and all never seen after the first five minutes. Ow. I think my favourite character was Cherubino who is a young lad (played by a woman) who is just in love with being in love with every woman possible. Typical 17 year old. Watching him running around getting in and out of situations was the funniest part of the show. Final verdict: I think I could get into this opera thing, but next time we're going to see something in the original language.

Today I had an English breakfast, and, as it's not yet noon, signs are good that I might actually get some things accomplished. On the list: cleaning the bathroom, cleaning my bedroom, updating my resume, sorting through my clothes and books trying to figure out what I need (should I keep my A to Z if I'm never coming back? Ahhh!) , looking for a job, doing research for my Paris trip (wait, Napoleon might not be buried in Napoleon's tomb? do tell!), get pizza because there's a show tonight called "The Trial of Tony Blair" that I want to watch and basically become a productive citizen so I can adopt a dog. I'll let you know how far through that list I get.

Friday, January 19, 2007

cranky. need dog.

I’m also cranky because the humane society in Fon du Lac turned down my application for one of their dogs, suggesting politely that I might want to get settled first. Fair enough. But I don’t know WHERE I want to settle. After the temperate winters of London, I’m not looking forward to living in Wisconsin again, but I don’t know where to go. The huge fact that I need to find A Job, A Place to Live and a New Sense of Purpose in the next two months is overwhelming. I just want to put my head under the duvet. I don’t like starting over again. I just want to settle down somewhere and do my bathroom in a “Nile” theme. (and by “nile” I mean “battle of” not fruity palm trees and alligators) Is that so much to ask?!

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Underground weather

I wouldn’t normally write about something as boring as weather, but since they had to evacuate one of my company’s properties in Paris, cancelled the Eurostar for this evening and stopped all flights to and from Heathrow, I thought I would mention in passing that it is howling here. Not really raining in London, but elsewhere it is blowing fury. At this point, as I sit comfortably on the eighth floor, well above the whipping trees and turned out umbrellas, it’s more annoying than anything else, because we have six German directors here freaking out that they are unable to get home tonight. You say “ah! Mein flug geht nicht! Scheisse!” I say, “what a great opportunity to take in a West End show. And, being a six-figured salaried director, I can even afford the insane prices for the front of the stalls!” Mostly I’m just itchy to get out of here. I might actually make it out on time tonight—not that that means much, since I came in at 8:15 this morning. Dur.

What I really wanted to write about (and don’t worry, I’m off the clock) was the phrase “makes your blood run cold” which up until a few days ago I thought was just a figure of speech. That was until I read about a new set of Tube bombers who actually made it on the Tube and it was only because their bombs were poorly made that they failed to go off and so another crisis was averted. They were captured and now they're on trial. I read about the first days of this trial in the Metro and I literally felt my blood run cold—it started in my scalp behind my ears and pooled down between my shoulders. I am a blender of emotions at this. Mad, that someone would dare take a bomb on my favourite form of transportation. Terrified, that I could be on that favourite mode of transportation and something might happen. Worried, that events like this are slowly warping my still-developing attitudes towards minorities. (yes, they are Muslim, but can I just say that I’m hacked off that all newspapers feel the need to point out the bomb material was packed in with chapatti flour, thereby indicating firmly that these men are “other” because God knows if a white person were to make a bomb it would have safe, normal white flour) Where was I? Oh yes, and stressed out that it’s just one more thing to worry about. At this rate, I won’t need to be sad about leaving London, I’ll be ready to go. Who needs to hear about this kind of thing day after day and always be on your guard? Not I, say I.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Bit of presidential news, another naval movie, some complaining & no sleep

If your secretary has stayed until 7:30 the night before to rush a project over to the printers as soon as it is finished you do NOT say to her the next morning as she hands you part one "Where's part two? It was finished last night, why hasn't it been printed?" You congratulate her for her dedication to the project and say you are confident that part two will appear before three pm when it is needed. You do NOT get pissy because it is in fact YOUR fault that your associate-director did not make the 100 page presentation priority 1. The noble, hardworking secretary has just clocked up two hours of overtime waiting for YOU to get your act together and now she is going to arrange four different sets of flights for four different people to the same city because she is awesomely organised and you, ahem, are not.

Walked into the house (at 8:10!!!) last night to a bit of good news. Two bits, actually. The first was a shiny copy of "That Hamilton Woman." So now I am the proud owner of a totally bootlegged copy ("starring Laurence Olivier as Lord of Horatio Nelson!")of one of my favourite films. The best part is that since I own a copy I can get some screenshots of all the breechy and non-period costume goodness.

Second bit of good news, which hazily penetrated my tired brain as I checked my email for the last time, was the fact that Barak Obama has created an exploratory committee to see about this presidential thingy. Wait, that was too Bush-like: I mean to say that he has formed an exploratory presidential committee to see if making a bid to become the Democrats nominee was feasible. He's expected to make a formal announcement on February 10th in Illinois. I'm so glad that he's running. I really like Barak Obama. I think he is a very smart person who has the best quality of all in a politician: the ability to listen to people. I'm so excited that he's going to run for president. I know I'M definitely ready for a young president who hasn't had time to become tainted by the process of gladhanding your way to the top. Most people say that his lack of experience will hurt him, I say it can't hurt any more than 8 years of President W did. I can't wait to see what he does with this campaign. For the first time in awhile I am excited about a candidate, and I can't wait to see what happens next.

More info

Monday, January 15, 2007

"If I must have an opponent, let it be a coalition."

Thank you, Napoleon. Just another quote I would use to illustrate the idea that those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it. A coalition, huh? Like between the US and Iraq? hmmm...

Of course history isn't always fun. Last night I dreamt I was an aide-de-camp to the Duke of Wellington, and it was soooo boooooring. We were all sitting around and his grace was all like "ooh, I'm so clever, and then I was like "hey, do something!" and he was like "what?" and I was like "I dunno, invade France!" and he was like "well, I can't, because if I wreck this army, I can't get another one, so we have to be defensive," and I was like "wait, what year is this?" and he was like "1812" and I was like "aaargh, what a boring year! You're even boring in my dreams!"

And then I realised I was dreaming and I woke up freaked out that I forgot to set my alarm, so I checked and it WAS on, but it was also 6:40AM, and then I was mad because I had to get up in thirty minutes and I couldn't fall back asleep because I was afraid I'd wake up again and it would be 1832 or something and his conservative grace would be there boring me to death again about his policies of not reforming anything ever.

So I'm kind of tired today.

that's all I really wanted to say.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

One day in Greenwich

Alison has also been very depressed lately, since she's leaving at the end of the month. I thought it would be a good idea if we got out of the house for awhile, so we went to Greenwich. Nothing unusual about that, only this time we took a ship. It was £3 for a Thames Clipper ticket, which took about twenty minutes. It was the most beautiful day possible, a bit chilly, but not unbearable. The sun was gorgeous and there was no clouds or smog. London is so gorgeous by river. We got dropped off on the other side of the river though, so we had to walk through the pedestrian tunnel which goes underneath. We went for tapas (Spanish food) under Alison's direction, and then wandered around the market for awhile before finishing off with cake and coffee. I even managed to find a new pin--there's a legend that Nelson killed a polar bear while he was 1st liuetenant in Canada, which is why they're nearing extinction--and this pin had a really funny picture of the teenage Nelson about to brain the polar bear with the stock of his rifle. It is just the most random thing to have on a pin, and I had to have it. Then we took the DLR (electric driverless trains) back into the city.

It was just a gorgeous perfect day. I think we were both happy to wander around in our city and enjoy the hell out of it. And you know me, add ship and I am happy. Still, I can't help wondering when I'll get back to Greenwich again, which is why I bought the pin. I am absolutely dead though. So much walking and Spanish food and about a pound of chocolate cake. It's only 7 here, but I might turn in early. I have a new book: "The Age of Misrule." Legends and gods come back to life in modern London. So far I've recognised all the places, from Wandsworth Common to Clapham Junction. whoo.

One day in Greenwich

Alison has also been very depressed lately, since she's leaving at the end of the month. I thought it would be a good idea if we got out of the house for awhile, so we went to Greenwich. Nothing unusual about that, only this time we took a ship. It was £3 for a Thames Clipper ticket, which took about twenty minutes. It was the most beautiful day possible, a bit chilly, but not unbearable. The sun was gorgeous and there was no clouds or smog. London is so gorgeous by river. We got dropped off on the other side of the river though, so we had to walk through the pedestrian tunnel which goes underneath. We went for tapas (Spanish food) under Alison's direction, and then wandered around the market for awhile before finishing off with cake and coffee. I even managed to find a new pin--there's a legend that Nelson killed a polar bear while he was 1st liuetenant in Canada, which is why they're nearing extinction--and this pin had a really funny picture of the teenage Nelson about to brain the polar bear with the stock of his rifle. It is just the most random thing to have on a pin, and I had to have it. Then we took the DLR (electric driverless trains) back into the city.

It was just a gorgeous perfect day. I think we were both happy to wander around in our city and enjoy the hell out of it. And you know me, add ship and I am happy. Still, I can't help wondering when I'll get back to Greenwich again, which is why I bought the pin. I am absolutely dead though. So much walking and Spanish food and about a pound of chocolate cake. It's only 7 here, but I might turn in early. I have a new book: "The Age of Misrule." Legends and gods come back to life in modern London. So far I've recognised all the places, from Wandsworth Common to Clapham Junction. whoo.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

sad panda

I talked with the HR person at work yesterday, and she told me they were unable to hire me because they were unable to define a "role" that would justify hiring another full time person. However, she did ask me hopefully if I had managed to extend my visa, which leads me to think that if I was able to stay here legally, then I would be able to keep working. Or if I was English and they didn't have to go through the hassle of sponsoring me for a visa they would keep me working. Either way, come the 26th of January, I'm gone. I don't know why I'm so upset about losing my job. The only reason I can think is that it was the last hope I had for staying in London. But, as I try to reason to myself, would I really be happy working corporate full time? Surely after awhile I would get antsy for the theatre and then I'd be stuck working as a secretary. Well, we'll never know, will we?

I feel like London is breaking up with me. I didn't think it was possible to be dumped by a city but apparently it is. I find that I have an increasing aversion to living in a big city, so maybe now I'll have to find someplace small but arty and set up shop.

The good news is that I met the director and producer for the show that I'm stage managing in Feburary. I'm going to be working on a show abou two women, with a woman director and producer. Sounds like it should be very empowering. It will make a nice change from babysitting high flying corporate directors who have meetings in Paris on Monday and then Frankfurt on Tuesday and who need their flights changed, anyway. And! I did end up buying tickets to Paris. I will be staying with a friend, so now I can really go all out with the pursuing of historcal knowledge, commeorative statuettes of Napoleon and French food. Who knows, I might even try the snails.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

An open letter to Naomi Novik, author of "Temeraire"

Dear Naomi Novik,

I tried to enjoy your book, but it was hard for me because you gave credit for some of the greatest naval victories ever to a bunch of dragons. (also your descriptive writing style is a little weak) The British navy didn't need dragons to blow up L' Orient! They did it themselves! And as for turning the battle of Trafalgar into a diversion tactic so Napoleon could invade England with dragons, shame on you. Although the idea of having dragons carrying over troop transports is...a very clever idea...NONETHELESS! To make up some fakey Dover invasion (when everyone knows Napoleon was planning on going through Ireland) just to have your pretty dragons fly around and save the day is unforgiveable. And to have Nelson survive the battle!

! ! !

How dare you. How very dare you. What, so now he's going to get fat and boring and be one of those old sailors telling sea stories only to be shouted down by people wanting to hear about the dragons? Pfff! I only hope that when Peter Jackson makes your book into a movie he will do justice to the British Navy. I suspect that you and I have a lot in common, Naomi. Couple a' Americans...history fangirls...who like magic... ships and know. Typical, ordinary. Have you seen "Master and Commander?" You'd like it. I tried really hard to like your book, but I think I was just too biased in the opinion that history didn't need improving on. Now, if you could have had the dragons fighting AT the battle of Trafalgar, that would have been wicked. And if you could have somehow got Nelson ONTO a dragon, well, now that would have just been spectacular. AR. As it stands...well, sorry, but "Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell" is still sadly solitary in my "alternate history" bookshelf section. But! Good description of the ship-py bits, and I've added "Temeraire" to the list of potential dog names (right after "Horatio"). And good luck on that movie. Forget England, Nicki expects to see the best.


Tuesday, January 09, 2007

The City of Light (and sugar)

All this reading about George Washington and visiting WWII museums has been making me think about sugar. I usually take one teaspoon in my tea, and I’m up to about three cups a day, so that’s quite a bit of sugar. I was contemplating this commodity this morning as the kettle at work boiled, how we as a modern society take it totally for granted that we will have sugar on our tables. White sugar, refined sugar, but the crystally stuff we have grown up with. We had to learn that honey, maple syrup, and the like were perfectly acceptable substitutes for tea.

The reason I was thinking about sugar was because I want to go to Paris for a weekend, and the Eurostar has a deal where I can get tikkies for about 80 pounds. easyJet, on the other hand, has tickets for about 20 pounds. Round-trip. I’m not a huge fan of flying, I’d rather take the train, which is also better for the environment. But for that price, I think I may have to fly. My work colleague pointed out that the plane is going anyway—and if I’m environmentally conscious, it’s better for the plane to fly full than it is to fly half empty. She also pointed out that 60 pounds is over 100 euros, “and think of all the French clothes you could buy!” Commemorative statuettes of Napoleon, more like. I could dig in my heels though and demand cheaper train tickets but unless I get several planeloads of people to dig in with me, I’m not likely to change anything. Which brings me back to Washington. Like most of the Virginia planter class, he was in debt to several British companies, but unlike most of them, he did something about it by deciding to act locally. Rather than order everything from abroad, he started having his clothes made in Virginia, growing crops he could sell directly to buyers without the middleman and, yes, buying his supplies (including sugar) from American suppliers. Along the way indicating, of course, that the best way to throw off the yoke of British oppression was to stop buying their goods. A good example of “think globally, act locally.” I haven’t been acting very locally lately. But I want to go to Paris. I don’t know if I can balance out the act of flying to another country by other good deeds such as buying British-grown produce, fair-trade coffee and recycling. I know a lot of people roll their eyes at my minor attempts to be a good Earth citizen (or rather, at my picking and choosing which bits to be militant about) but I will keep trying.

And I am going to Paris. Damnit. It’s not fair that a student of history is kept away from the seat of one of the most explosive revolutions in the world while suited businessmen jaunt over for the day to attend meetings where they discuss how to tear down historical buildings just because she is trying to save the planet. Damnit.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Hanging the dictator

It is so humid and rainy today that my hair is literally corkscrewing until it looks like something more appropriate for a painting by Van Dyck.

So I was reading on that all the remaining charges against Saddam Hussein have been dropped. 'Cause he's dead. I will refain from making an inappropriate pun on the word "dropped" but it did cross my mind. Saddam's collaborators, however, are still on trial. I still don't know how I feel about this whole trial thingy. I suggested to a friend that perhaps we should have put him on an island, the same way the English did with Napoleon, and this friend said that this would just put him above the law--and under democracy, no one is above the law. Fair enough. I can see his point. But I also wonder if perhaps the US (or UN) shouldn't have just held onto him in prison. Instead of turning him into a martyr, keeping him as a symbol: We took your leader, but we are merciful enough not to kill him.

Of course, then there's the other side of this, which is that any defence of Saddam's execution sounds like a defence of the man himself. And while I wholly support him being punished, I can't help wondering who's going to put W on trial for "crimes against humanity." It's such an ambigous term. Aren't we all humanity? Wouldn't a person who murdered one human be guilty of "crimes against humanity?" I read an article in the Guardian yesterday that compared Saddam's trial with the Nuremberg trials. The main differences, as far as I could tell, was that in the '40s, the perpetrators were not handed over to the country they had wronged, instead they were tried by an international court. As the first time this had ever been done, the prosecutors there were anxious to make it fair. From my hugely underinformed view, they were fairly fair. Any ten year old can tell you life's not fair. But the attempt should be made at impartiality. If we insist on imposing our western morals and ideals on the rest of the world, then we should be trying harder than ANYONE to get things fair. Saddam's trial should have had the same anxiety about it, but I imagine it was hard to get impartiality when the judge was from a village that Saddam bombed and had lost relatives. I've read about how great it is that this judge gets to preside over his opressor's trial, but...if it would preclude you from jury duty, surely there must be someone who's less directly affected. There is such a fervour about this man and his actions that I feel like it would have been impossible for him to get a fair trial anywhere in the Middle East. I also feel like the US was too busy making it look like Iraq was capable of having a judiciary system to worry overmuch about fairness. And what about those other 146 charges that were dropped? Perhaps the real punishment should have been sitting through those trials, coming face to face with your victims.

Well, he's dead anyway. And we've all got the pictures to prove it. Our generation's dead dictator photo, like Mussolini, perhaps. During the American Civil War, Union troops dug up George Washington's body and brought him further north so that Confederates couldn't hold it for ransom. I wonder how long Saddam's body and image will remain a potent symbol for his followers. My guess is a lot longer than most people think.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

get my history on

Today was a day when any sane person would have stayed inside. It was rainy. It was cold. But apparently there are not a lot of sane people in London because the streets were full of sightseers--myself included. I went to the War Cabinet Rooms, where Churchill and his cabinet worked during World War II expecting it to be fairly quiet, but there were actually a lot of people there. Then again, maybe it just felt that way because we were in an underground bunker. This bunker was converted from a basement under Whitehall and was bomb-proofed so that Churchill could fight on the seas ans oceans even through the Blitz. It was ded interesting. After the war the staff tidied up, locked the doors and left so everything was pretty much as it was in 1945 (with the addition of some cleverly-placed plexiglass). My favourite room was the typing pool: six secretaries had enough work to keep them busy 24 hours a day cramped into a space about the size of my bedroom. Or the original map of the Atlantic ocean where they tracked convoys with pins, the routes clearly visible because of the holes.

There was also a museum on Churchill's life. I don't know much about Churchill, he always sort of struck me as slightly arrogant, but the displays on his life were fair and informative. Maybe slightly too informative--there was so much interactive displayage that at times I wasn't sure if I was supposed to touch the TV, wave at it, do a little dance in front of it or say anti-communist slogans to get into the menus. The best part was definitely the display of Churchill's favourite things: his cigar...his champagne...his favourite silk nightshirt...his favourite movie starring Olivier and Leigh as Nelson and Emma... Also the portrait of him from 1878 looking like a poncy little girl with ringlets. But what a life, eh? To be born in the throes of the Victorian Era, to serve in WWI, lead in WWII and end your political career trying to the USSR and USA about their nuclear problem. I think I begin to understand the post WWII mentality of Britain. I need to learn more about the 20th century Britain though. I was telling Alison that I feel bad that all of the books I've been reading, all the thinking I've been doing has been about dead white guys "...but, then again, there's many of them."

(speaking of dead white guys...I ducked into the National Portrait Gallery to get out of the rain for a few minutes and discovered that the Nelson watches from last year were on sale and ask me what time it is. )

Afterward, Alison, Lisa and I met up and went out for cake and tea at a patisserie in Soho at a place called Amato. Cake like the angels eat. I had a Black Forest Gateaux that threatened to float away it was so light and fluffy. Yes, a good day, even if my jeans were wet up to the knees. I love London. Even in the rain--maybe even especially in the rain--this is the best city in the world.

Friday, January 05, 2007

hand me something sharp

“Hello, National Theatre box office, how can I help you?”
“Yeah, hello, I’m calling about ‘Caroline, or Change?’ I wanted to book tickets? But I looked on your website and it wasn’t listed anymore, so I was wondering if it—“
“It closed last night.”
“WHAT?! Oh my God! I’m sorry, I just—what? I am going to have to go and stick something sharp in my eye. I can’t believe—aaargh!”
“Is there anything else I can help you with?”
“What? Oh, no, no thanks. You have a nice night.”

I am such and idiot. IDIOT. I don’t deserve to live in a big city with lots of theatre and other cultural opportunities. I cannot BELIEVE I let “Caroline, or Change” slip by without seeing it!!! Seriously, what kind of a moron am I? I’m so mad at myself I could spit. Or drink my tea in what I hope is a suitably angry fashion. And I have no one to blame but myself. And you know what the most annoying part is? I wasn’t even being lazy before Christmas—I saw loads of shows, had a brilliant time, but I just couldn’t prioritize. There’s just too much culture in this city. Grr. Well, that settles it: I’m going to see Love Song tomorrow before I forget and miss out on the awesomeness of Cillian Murphy.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007


I have already complained about the crappy free newspapers handed out after work and forsworn both of them. They suck. The last thing I need after a stressful day at work is to get all het up about some Q-list celebrity with her bits circled and arrows pointing to it. Anything that uses "lollipop heads" and "muffin tops" to describe people is firmly out of my literary pool. But tonight I grabbed "The Epoch Times" which is a newspaper with actual words. And no celebrities. But lots of interesting things about the world at large and useful information, such as the fact that stevia is 300 times sweeter than sugar. The leaves can be ground up and used in place of sugar in coffee and tea. Where do I sign up? I'm so glad to have adult reading material on the Tube instead of furtively picking up leftovers and pretending to be disinteredly amusing myself. The sad part is it's only free on Wednesdays, but, hey, another reason to love Wednesdays!

I also read an article that said over 30% of Britains read a book every day. And apparently someone invented a machine ("the Espresso" -no, really) that can store 2.5 million books and spit one out on command for less than 2 cents a page. Price: $25,000.

The other star in my day occured when I stopped at the library and caught the word "Temeraire" out of the corner of my eye. HMS Temeraire being, of course, the ship that saved Victory's bacon at the battle of Trafalgar. I took the book out of the shelf and read the first paragraph on the back, which described what seemed like a fairly standard naval book. This is what the second paragraph says: "The war tearing Europe apart is not fought upon land and sea alone, for battalions also fill the sky. And the fiery death they bring has little to do with gunpowder-it comes from the very guts of the beasts they are flying: DRAGONS."

Damn. I don't even want to read it. I just want to contemplate the potential awesomeness of this book. I'll let you know how it turns out. Dragons and ships. Damn.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

long Sunday afternoon...

Today was actually a pretty good day, considering that I only got about five hours of sleep last night and I was literally the only secretary there. At least I was busy. Most of the directors were gone (although Rick managed to call me three times on his day off) so it was mostly catching up on emails and confirming flight details.

When I look back over the last three weeks, I can't believe how quickly they flew by. The flight over was nice--thanks to Nytol I slept most of the way and arrived as stumbly as Jingles after a visit to the vet. Chris was courteous enough to pick me up and let me cry on her several times over the course of the evening. Before I left mom warned me that my uncle was coming home from the hospital and when I called her to say I arrived safely I found out that he passed away. I was so glad that I could detox and deal with culture shock at a friendly house--I think I might have frightened my parents with my combination of jetlag, Nytol withdrawl, stress and drama. Luckily, I reentered society fairly quickly--two days after I landed I was watching the Packers game, drinking Spotted Cow and eating cheese curds.

The first week was taken up with memorial services for my uncle. The best way to describe him is like the title character in Mr. Holland's Opus, only more popular. It was so wonderful to see everyone in the family and all his former students, but I will be honest and say it was also very stressful.

I honestly spent most of my time watching TV and eating. And drinking good Wisconsin beer. Even when I went to visit my hetero-life mate, Laura, all we did was watch TV and drink beer. And bake cookies to eat. But it was so wonderful to not have to worry about the stress of work and getting on the Tube and being able to eat as much as I wanted and turn up the heat. I love going home and just hanging out. Although, I do tend to sort of flounce through stores now and go "GOD! aren't these clothes hideous?!" (not that that stopped me from spending an entire paycheck on new clothes. Woo.)

I didn't completely slack, however. I finally redeemed my Barnes and Noble giftcards for two books "Lies My Teacher Told Me" and "His Excellency" which is about George Washington. I don't know if my brain connected everything I read, but everytime I read a new idea or had a firmly held belief challenged I felt some neurons firing that had been dormant for quite a while. I LOVE READING! I love thinking. I'm going to become a teacher so I can stand up in front of a class of students and wave books at them while screaming about how cool George Washington is.

I spent Christmas Eve at my Aunt Margie's house with her family--the best part was my little cousins Katie and John helping everyone to open their pressies. That's the problem with our family: not enough babies. Christmas Day we had our open house and invited all our family back. I did my best to inflict damage on my mom's cooking, but, alas, I was repealed by sheer numbers of meatballs, weenies and cheesy potatoes. Which is probably why we spent the days before New Year's sleeping in front of the TV. (although I did see "Night at the Museum." Best part: Civil War dummies getting shot and "bleeding" stuffing. haha.)

So now I'm back in London. I wrote in my journal the other night "I don't know whether I'm happy to be back in England, or just happy to be back in some kind of routine," but I did have to have a stern talking to myself about getting nostalgic about the smell of bus fumes.

New Year's Resolutions:
1. Be better about financial things and not spending money like slippery water.
2. Get serious about being a vegetarian.

As soon as I finish this buffalo wing sauce...