Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Where were you when the earthquake happened?

How exciting to be part of a major national event (I'm referring to last night's earthquake). As nobody votes in elections anymore and we're all watching millions of different tv channels, the capacity for the nation to come together has been severely diminished these days.

I was asleep when it happened, and so experienced the whole thing while half-dreaming, half convinced that someone was shaking the bed or that I was having a major spasm. I had a similar earthquake experience in Japan in the 1990s. Still, my fella tops it all with the fact that he was in a proper earthquake - a big San Francisco one in the late 1980s - he was in a restaurant at the time, but he'd seen Carry on up the Kyber so continued eating his soup blasely as if nothing was happening, while outside people ran about panicking as the road snaked up and skyscrapers danced. He enjoyed a brief moment of minor celebrity when he got in his local newspaper along the lines of "Huge Earthquake in San Francisco - many injured, local man missing" (his sister blabbed to the press) and was the subject of one of those comedy cavern standup routines where some local comedian made fun of him.

Even though last night's quake was a little one, it was still oddly disconcerting - as a very fun scottish friend I have said this afternoon "The one thing you think is certain in this life is that the ground beneath you won't start moving and shaking. You can't rely on other people or your health, but at least the ground is the ground and the sky is the sky." She's very wise. I'm going to be going to her wedding in a month or so up in Edinburgh. She is trying to get me to wear a kilt (I am Scottish on my mother's side). This would be my kilt pattern:

It's a bit bland but I quite like the idea of swanning around Edinburgh in my own kilt.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Sir you have a lucky face

So after being in Vancouver I was only back in the UK for three days before I had to go off to Hong Kong for some (boring) work stuff. I didn't even have a chance to get over the 8 hour time difference between Vancouver-UK, before I had similar time difference for UK-Hong Kong. My body doesn't know what time it is - I'll be feeling fine and then suddenly practically slump over. At other times I feel like I'm walking in quick sand. And at others I'm waking up at 5 in the morning feeling bright-eyed.

This time I travelled in style (business class flatbeds and staying in a hotel suite). I feel just like 1970s jet-setter Jason King (with a bit less hair)

This is my third time in Hong Kong and I don't have any culture shock. I still look like a whitey western tourist and every time I leave my hotel I have to navigate a gauntlet of hawkers who collectively call "Sir, hello sir, copy watch, copy watch, copy rolex, massage, tailor, copy watch!" to me. Depending on the route you take, you can be accosted by about 40 hawkers in 5 minutes. Sometimes they announce that I have a "lucky face", which is always nice to hear, but I never hang around long enough to find out what scam they're trying to pull.

Apart from that, I have had a lot of Starbucks and caught up on Lost, Big Brother US and Torchwood in my spare time - all utterly ridiculous. Just like that chap out of Brokeback Moutain, every time a new series of Lost starts I think "I wish I could quit you". It's so annoying and idiotic - characters appear, do a lot of shouting and then die and are never heard of again - and every week there seems to be some new mysterious supernatural happening, which rarely gets explained. And the flashbacks just feel indulgent. However, I've stuck it out for 3 years hoping for some answers - like a lover who keeps forgiving an erring partner, I feel I've invested too much to chuck the towel in, so keep forgiving and hoping things will improve (I don't think they will). At least I won't make the same mistake again - the minute Heroes got crap I jacked it in.

Thanks to the writers' strike, Big Brother in the US has been bumped a few months forward. This year, robotic hostess Julie Chen (Chenbot) looks more dangerously chenorexic than usual - her breasts have almost vanished altogether now (I worry about the Chenbot - someone needs to feed her a handful of nuts and bolts). The hokey twist for this season is "til death do us part" which means the contestants all play as couples. For the first time in 9 years, two attractive gay men have been put in the house at the same time - in the past, gay contestants have been old and/or fat and/or ugly and/or screamingly camp, so it will be interesting to see if these two get on and whether the cameras will show it. Another pairing involves a 40-something "cougar" (divorced, somewhat predatory older woman) paired off with an offensive hog. I don't think they'll last somehow.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Apres non-ski

So my skiing trip didn't go exactly as planned. Me and skiing have a bit of a love-hate relationship. I had lessons when I was 16 and enjoyed it, but the last time I went skiing, a few years ago, I'd forgotten most of it and ended up cracking my thorax (painful). So I was a bit unsure about skiing again. However, my friend assured me that he'd go over the basics with me again and it would be fine. He's a lovely person, with a rather naive way of looking at the world (I blame the fact he was brought up as a Mormon). I often feel like he's Rose from the Golden Girls, and I'm the other 3 Golden Girls when I'm with him.

Anyway, this morning we got kitted out with our skis and warm clothes and stuff, and then took the gondlier up the mountain. I'd only been on dry slopes before, and started to feel a bit concerned as the mountain didn't seem to end - 15 minutes later we were still on the gondlier. We eventually got to the top and my friend told me how to stop (snow-plough or twist your body sideways). Then he pointed at a slope and said "go down a little bit and then stop". So I tried. However, I wasn't able to stop and sped up instead. My friend was screaming "Stop! Stop!" so I threw myself on the ground, rolled a bit and stopped. Suddenly a ski instructor rushed up to us and said "YOU shouldn't be on the slope, you nearly crashed into one of my clients, you have to go back down the mountain!" So that was the end of my skiing. I was kind of relieved and spent the remainder of the day being pampered in the hotel.

My friend couldn't understand what had gone wrong: "I taught someone else to ski and they were OK!" (I resolved not to put any of my eggs in his basket from now on.) Anyway, at least I didn't break anything this time. I don't like skiers - they're all so extroverted and healthy-looking. I prefer people who don't go outside and are risk adverse.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Globetrotting again

I am staying with a friend in the Yaletown part of downtown Vancouver. It is a sea of skyscrapers - my friend is on the 18th floor of one which has televisions in the elevators and its own gym. His entire apartment is the size of my living room, however. Still, it's very nice, and the area is full of trendy furniture shops, Starbucks etc. There are also a lot of dogs, especially single women in their 20s and 30s walking around with baby substitutes cute little dogs. There's even a shop that caters for them, called Barking Babies. It's lovely, but I do wonder what will happen to all these little dogs when Carolyn or Madison or whatever their names are decide to take the plunge and have a real baby. At least I acknowledge my cat is a baby substitute, and unless my fella grows a womb, that's all we're having.

My flight here was particularly nightmarish - 26 hours without sleep. I almost missed my flight to Chicago as I left my laptop on the train from Lancaster to Manchester airport and had to retrace my steps to lost and found to retrieve it. Then the plane was delayed landing in Chicago and as a result I had 15 minutes to transfer to another plane. I never understand why you have to go through customs and immigration and pick up your luggage at Chicago, even if you're only transferring to another flight outside the U.S. - they still take your fingerprints and bark orders at you - I've travelled through a lot of places and can confirm that American immigration is the most humourless and rude in all the world (I'm sure they've be pleased). Fortunately (or not), my flight to Vancouver was cancelled due to the snow so I had to wait another 5 hours for a later flight. And then that was delayed another 2 hours as the pilot was delayed on another flight and then the plane had to be de-iced which took another hour. I finally got into Vancouver at 1 in the morning, rather than 5 in the afternoon as planned, not feeling in the best of moods.

We are travelling up to somewhere called Whistler for the weekend, which is a well-known ski resort. It is also, by complete co-incidence, Whistler's gay week or something like that. It sounds ghastly anyway. I am going to be very careful on the slopes - last time I tried skiing, I cracked my thorax or sternum or something as I forgot how you stop. So it's the baby slopes for me this time.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Mind you head

The poor old Statue of Liberty. I think I did a blog post about 5 years ago when I lamented how often she gets mauled. And lookit - she's lost her head again!

I saw Cloverfield at the cinema on Friday. It's a bit like the Blair Witch Project, but with a much bigger cast and budget - and set in New York rather than the woods. It feels scarier than a lot of other horror films for a number of reasons - it's filmed "realistically" (if such an adverb can be appplied to a monster invasion). Very little information is given so you are as confused as the other characters in the film. No big name actors are in it, so you don't think "Oh it's Tom Cruise, he won't get killed off", as you did in War of the Worlds. And some of the scenes are very reminiscient of 9/11 footage. The first few minutes of the attack, which interrupt a rather mundane going away party, are the scariest, althought the sense of suspense is kept up throughout after that point.

I was rooting for Marlena (Lizzy Caplan), a rather sulky miss who spends the first part of the film looking bored and fending off the sad advances of uber-loser Hud Platt (TJ Miller), who is the one holding the camera for most of the film. Hud gets most of the funny lines in the film. Will the monster attack bring them closer together? Or will they both die horribly?

I also liked the too-clever conceit of the tape occasionally cutting out to bits of earlier footage that had been recorded a couple of months previous to the attack, where a perfect day is juxtaposed with the living Hell of New York. There's also a very relevant bit in the earlier footage - although blink and you'll miss it.

I didn't know why the film was called Cloverfield, but apparently it's a reference to the fact that clovers often grow on sites that have been heavily bombed.

My friend and her husband went to see it and she emailed me to say that he spent most of the film with his hands over his head, rocking and nearly left halfway through.

This is one of those films that seems to have divided opinion - personally I liked it - even if the shaky camera did make me feel a bit sick - sit near the back if you suffer from motion sickness.