Sunday, April 29, 2007


Yesterday, the most powerful Earthquake to strike the UK in five years damaged buildings in Folkestone, Kent, in southern England. According to the British Geological Survey, the epicentre was seven and a half miles off the coast of Dover. They also rated it as 4.3 on the Richter Scale. I know, that doesn't sound like much, but after all, Britain is a small country. I didn't feel a thing. The first I heard of the quake was when I was driving home from filming at Pinewood Studios. The quake was mentioned on the radio news. Ominously, the traffic signs on the M25, London Orbital Motorway, displayed the message, "Major incident at Folkestone," then advised drivers to take an alternate route to Dover. Seeing that message, I didn't immediately connect it with the Earthquake. I worried that terrorists had attacked a ferry terminal, or something. You know those poxy terrorists, they are always up to something.
Racing home, I put on a TV news channel, as soon as I walked in. As it happened, BBC News was the first one I happened to get to. I looked for a story about Folkestone. Oh for Pete's sake! It was just the earthquake. I alternated between BBC News and Sky News. Wind blown reporters scoured the town of Folkestone, looking for damaged buildings. Some chimneys fell, a couple of ceilings collapsed, and the odd brick plummeted to the ground with a resounding thud. Survivors were interviewed, including one housefrau who attempted to catalog every misplaced chimney pot and brick in the neigborhood. Actually, everyone was a survivor as there were no deaths. One woman was taken to the hospital, which gave the ambulance crews something to do. Sky News had a helicopter shot of damaged chimney pots. How exciting! I fell asleep in front of the TV. When I woke up, they were still showing the same footage. All in all, it didn't seem anything like the 70s disaster film, "Earthquake." Eventually, I turned off the news and watched the remainder of the first "Austin Powers" film, already in progress. Shagadelic, baby!


Artist of the Week: Michael Gray

This week, my Artist of the Week is Michael Gray. First gaining worldwide success as a part of the dance music production and remixing team Full Intention, Michael, the DJ and music producer, went on to pursue a solo career. As a solo artist, his first big success was the single, "The Weekend," released in 2004. With support from Pete Tong and UK radio stations, "The Weekend" reached number 7 in the UK charts. In America, it reached the top 10 in Billboard's Hot Dance Airplay chart, in 2005. I liked the song from the first time I heard it. However, last summer, Michael surpassed himself with his next single, "Borderline," released in July, 2006. Not only did I love the song, with vocals by Shelly Poole, but I couldn't get enough of the sexy video, featuring rooftop dancers in black stockings. If you haven't seen the video, it's available on the net somewhere, like You Tube, or something. Just search Google for it.
Based on my love for "Borderline," I was prepared to award Michael Gray my Artist of the Week title as soon as I found him on Myspace. There was one problem. Michael didn't have a music player on his Myspace page. With a new single due out next month and an album to follow, in June, that has been rectified. His new single is "Somewhere Beyond" and it will be interesting to see if Michael is able to sore another summer dance anthem for the second year in a row. I will definitely be checking out the album, "Analogue Is On," when it comes out. You can check out Michael Gray at his Myspace page: . It has a working player now and you can listen to "The Weekend," "Borderline," and his new single, there. As long as he continues to come up with hip hop/dance style of music that I like, I'll be buying.


Friday, April 27, 2007

Australians, Get a Grip!

Snoop Dogg was supposed to be hosting the MTV Australia Music Video Awards, this week, but there is a problem. Because of his "criminal" past, Australian immigration officials have cancelled his visa. Kevin Andrews, the Australian Immigration Minister, said, "he doesn't seem the sort of bloke we want in this country." That seems a bit rich, coming from the "government" of a country founded by ex-convicts, who were exiled from Britain. It's not like Snoop was planning to move to Australia, he was just coming to do a show. Besides, as a terrocrat, Andrews is more of a blight on Australia than any rapper would be. Maybe we should boycott travelling to Australia, until Andrews steps down. All the cool people in Australia, call for this idiot's resignation. Kangaroos and koalas, throw feces at this schmuck. Dingos, bite his ass.

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Thursday, April 26, 2007

Busy Weekend

Last Thursday, I received an invitation to the opening of a new club in London. The invitation advised that I could bring a friend. It was good for either Friday night, or Saturday night, but I had to RSVP by noon on either day, in order to be put on the guest list. Reviewing who might be available, I decided to invite my friend, Tom. As he's done so much for me in the past, I like to involve him in as many freebies as possible. That reminds me of something that happened the last time I visited Tom.
Tom gave me an old watch of his. My watch broke, last year, and I have been doing without for many months, relying instead on the clock on my mobile phone. Suddenly, Tom presented me with this old, digital watch of his. It was a cheap, no-name brand, but it worked and the price was affordable. I was very grateful. Somehow, this led him to start showing me a couple of old Rolex watches he has. They were a bit dated looking, but he likes them. He asked me between the two Rolexes he showed me and the cheap digital, which one did I think he'd give me? Me being me, I suggested one of the Rolexes. He made it clear that wasn't going to happen. I was joking anyway. I don't want a watch so expensive that I would worry about someone stealing it, or about me damaging or losing it. Tom then made some joke about when I get rich and famous, I can give him a £12,000 Rolex watch. I looked at him deadpan and said, "what? Are you kidding? You can have a fruit basket." Tom didn't seem to find my response as funny as I did. I sure hope he was kidding.
Back to my invite. As it was too late at night when I received the invitation, via Myspace, to call, I sent Tom a message, informing him of the situation. I wanted to go Friday night, as I would be half way to London anyway, working at Shepperton Studios on Friday. Also, I'd be dressed well from work, so it would be easy to just continue on to the club. I asked Tom to send me a text before noon, to let me know if he was interested. Of course he didn't, so when noon came and went, I resigned myself to not going. Later Friday afternoon, one of the production staff at the sound stage, where I was working, asked my fellow background artists and I if we would be available to work Saturday. I was pleased about this because if I worked Saturday, it would be just as easy to go to the club Saturday night. This gave me more time to get in touch with Tom.
Before we wrapped on Friday evening, the Third AD informed us we wouldn't actually be needed Saturday, after all. I was disappointed, but the idea of going to a club had put its hook in me. I haven't been clubbing in over a year, so the idea appealed to me. I decided to call Tom anyway and see if he wanted to go. When I called his house, I got no answer. I left a voicemail message and went back to watching TV. It got later and later on Friday night, but still no call back from Tom. After finishing with TV, I went upstairs and signed on the internet. When I don't have to get up early the next day, I often stay up until the wee hours of the morning messing about on the internet. Tom didn't show up as online, either. Eventually, I went to sleep.
On Saturday morning, I slept in late. When I woke up, I checked online, but still no response from Tom. I reviewed alternative people to go with. I even asked Nando, my racist, Italian housemate, but he said he had to work Saturday and Sunday, so he wasn't up for it. Noon came and went, with no RSVP from me. I resigned myself to staying in Saturday night. It was cheaper and money is tight. As much as I wanted to go clubbing, I didn't feel like going by myself. Spike Lee's film, "The Inside Man," was premiering on Sky, so I watched that with Nando, after he got home from work. I thought it was a good film. Nando, of course, didn't like it.
Sunday morning came and I slept in again. It's always so nice being off work. Suddenly, my mobile rings. No, it's not Tom, it's my agent calling. The woman who was handling my recent film work was on the phone. She said I was needed back at Shepperton on Monday and possibly all week. After I got off the phone, I contemplated my predicament. I had no way to get in touch with the new manager, at the restaurant, where I work between acting gigs. Earlier in the week, I had asked him for his mobile number, in case I needed to get in touch with him out of office hours. He refused to give it to me, making some quip about not wanting me to call him at all hours. I guess he doesn't yet realize how cheap I am. There is no way I would pay to call his mobile (calling mobiles is more expensive in the UK than calling regular landlines), unless it was business related. He told me that if I had to let him know anything, to just leave a voicemail on his office phone, if it was out of hours. The previous manager had given me his mobile number, but I ended up never needing it. If I could get in touch with the manager that day, he could call the temp agency and order a temp to cover me. If he didn't find out until Monday morning, when he got to the office, he'd end up without cover for a couple of hours, or even worse, the temp agency might not be able to find anyone at all. Our new Head Chef had said he would give me his mobile number, on Thursday, but he didn't remember to. I puzzled over this conundrum for a bit. This wasn't a pleasant conundrum, like a sudoku puzzle.
I tried calling Chef Anthony, the only Chef I had a number for. When he answered, I explained my dilemma and asked if he had the Head Chef's number. If I could get in touch with the Head Chef, he might be able to contact the manager, or even have the authority to order a temp, himself. Anthony said he was out, but he would text me the Head Chef's number in about an hour. As a back up, I tried calling the old Head Chef, who's mobile number I still had. He didn't answer, so I left him a voicemail. He might have the new Head Chef's number, or even the manager's. Four hours later, neither of them had called me back and Anthony hadn't sent me a text. I called Anthony again, but he explained that it had turned out that he didn't have the new Head's number. With a heavy heart, I did the only thing I could do and phoned the office number for the manager. I left him a voicemail advising him of the situation.
Many people would have just left the message straight off and not worried anymore about it. I'm not like that. I think about other people and I try to make things as easy as possible on my employers. The management at the restaurant have been great to me, letting me have time off to pursue my acting career. I always act in a conscientious manner, where ever I work, never knowing if it's even noted, or appreciated. On Monday, I sat in the studio sound stage, with my feet up, sipping a hot chocolate, wondering if they were getting along without me at the restaurant.

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Working At Shepperton

Last Friday, I got to work at Shepperton Studios. It was the first time I have worked on a studio sound stage. Up till now, I have always done shoots on location. The only time I have been to studios is for costume fittings. Shepperton is one of the most famous studios in Britain. It has a history in film making that goes back to 1931. Some of the famous films to be made at Shepperton include, "The Day of the Jackal," "Alien," and "Gandhi." One nice thing about Shepperton is that it's only two junctions from Bracknell, on the the motorway, so it doesn't take me long to drive there.
I had an 8AM call time, but arrived early, to take advantage of the free breakfast. For me, breakfast consisted of a bowl of Frosties (known as Frosted Flakes, in America) and two slices of toast. As a beverage, I selected a fruit juice blend. A fellow I worked with on the "Texas Oil Refinery Disaster" episode of "Seconds From Disaster," recognized me and said hello. It was nice to see a familiar face. He and I have the same agent, so it's not surprising to run into each other on a shoot. After breakie, the Third Assistant Director (AD) led those of us who were background artists for the shoot over to wardrobe, and hair and make up. An attractive brunette from the costume department checked me over to make sure I was wearing the exact outfit I was supposed to have on. She compared my appearance to a photo taken at my costume fitting, the day before. Once I passed her inspection, I was directed to the make up artists. They didn't do anything with my short hair, but did apply anti-shine and powder to my face, so my skin wouldn't be so shiny under the lights.
After passing through wardrobe and make up, I was taken to the sound stage where we would be working, that day. Along with my fellow background artists, I was seated in a quiet corner of the stage, where there were chairs for us to sit on. Bottled water was also provided. A famous actor once said that acting is mostly waiting. We sat there for hour after hour. It was cold on the stage and a runner brought a couple of us cappuccinos, with a hot chocolate for me. The camera didn't even turn over until 1PM. The first scene involved only the principals and after a few takes, it was time for lunch. We marched back over to where we'd had breakfast and joined the queue at the catering truck. When it was my turn, I opted for the Thai chicken kebab, with rice.
Lunch break was an hour and once it was completed, we headed back to the sound stage for more waiting. One of the runners asked us if we were available to come back on Saturday. Several of the other background artists grumbled at this, but I cheerfully said, "I'm very available." I liked the prospect of working on Saturday, as I am off from the restaurant on the weekend, anyway, so it would be a chance to earn some more money without taking a day off from the kitchen. After finally using some of us for a few takes at the end of the day we were wrapped and told we wouldn't be needed on Saturday, after all. The Third AD did say we might be needed sometime the following week, but our agents would contact us with the details, when those were finalized.
It was after 7PM as I made my way home. I was surprised at how little we'd done, after a ten and a half hour day, including paid overtime. Most of the time, we were drinking, eating, sitting, sleeping, reading the paper, playing sudoku, and chatting. What a way to make a living. Because of confidentiality agreements, I can't reveal any details about the film we were working on. To outsiders, film making seems like an exciting, glamorous business. That is it's public face, once the product is finished and in cinemas. The day to day reality can be a little dull. The hardest thing is not to die of boredom. Still, it's easy money and beats the hard work at the restaurant. I got to talk with several of my fellow background artists and might have made a few new friends. All in all, they seemed a happy bunch, even if bored at times. I have an advantage over most of my background colleagues, because I never feel bored. So long as they provide us with free food and drink, and a place to sit, I'm happy.

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

A Trip to Pinewood

Last Thursday, I went to Pinewood Studios, for a costume fitting for the film I am working on. It was my first time visiting Pinewood, one of Britain's most famous studios. At the security building, the guard gave me a map and circled the building I needed to go to, the Stanley Kubrick Building. Then, he directed me to parking. After parking my car, I started walking along Studio Drive, as indicated on my map. Then I made a left on Broccoli Road. Named after Albert "Cubby" Broccoli, who produced the James Bond series of films, walking its surface is like treading cinematic history.
I was surprised to learn that Broccoli was actually born on Long Island, New York, the same as I was. He moved to England in 1951, a move I was to emulate, 47 years later. Broccoli formed Eon Productions, in partnership with Harry Saltzman, and together they produced James Bond. In 1976, the partners split, with Broccoli retaining the full rights to the Bond franchise. Before his death in 1996, he passed on the Bond franchise to his daughter, Barbara, who continues producing the series to this day. The Broccoli family was originally from Italy and Cubby's ancestors created the vegetable, broccoli, by crossing cauliflower with rabe.
At the intersection of Broccoli Road and 007 Drive, I came across the official 007 Stage. For me, this was like visiting Mecca. As a child, I was heavily into James Bond. After my mother took me to see "Dr. No," "From Russia With Love," "Goldfinger," and "Thunderball," I collected James Bond puzzles, a battery operated, James Bond, Aston Martin car, and a toy James Bond attache case, complete with plastic knife and exploding locks (powered by caps). Bond was my first and most enduring role model. The films inspired me to travel the world, develop an interest in scuba diving (although I settled for snorkeling, as a kid), and to learn as much trivia as I could. Bond always seemed to know something about almost any subject that came up. When I first traveled to France, from the UK, in 1990, I took the hovercraft across the channel, because Bond took one to Holland in "Diamonds Are Forever." James Bond and I even share the same initials. I have seen every Bond film more than once, except the latest, "Casino Royale," which I have only seen once, so far. Imagine my excitement to be walking right past the stage where the films were made.
The 007 Stage is a high building, bigger than any of the other stages I could see on the studio lot. It bears a big 007 logo and seems to dominate the buildings around it. Just past the Bond building, is the Stanley Kubrick Building, my destination. This building is named for another film legend, director Stanley Kubrick. He gave us monumental films including "Dr. Strangelove," "A Clockwork Orange," "2001: A Space Odyssey," "The Shining," and "Full Metal Jacket." I was greeted just outside the doorway by two women from the hair and makeup department. They escorted me inside and took my photograph. Then I joined some other actors waiting to see the costume department. I had a long wait, but I didn't care. I was being paid to be there. Besides, it just felt cool to be working in the motion picture industry, even if it was at a very low level. After my costume fitting, I walked back to my car, once again passing the 007 Stage. I remembered my long held dream to be in a Bond film. I am sure I would make a good Felix Leiter, Bond's CIA friend. Come on Barbara, what do you say?

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Sunday, April 22, 2007

That Damn Pritam!

While I was on location, at Waterloo, Wednesday, I received a missed call on my mobile phone, from my agent. They know I am on a shoot, so why are they calling me? I listened to the voicemail, but it was hard to hear with all the noise in the train station. With a heavy heart over the expense, I called back. A young man answered, then passed me to a woman, once he knew who I was. She said the film company I was doing the shoot for needed Americans to play the role of scientists, for a shoot on Friday. I would also need to attend a costume fitting on Thursday, at Pinewood Studios. In addition, she said she wanted to put me forward for a commercial shoot at the end of the next week. When I finished the call, I was pretty happy about having so much work coming in. Things had been pretty quiet for the first three months of the year.
The next morning, I was back at the restaurant where I work between acting jobs. Upon arrival, I immediately told the manager about needing to be off Friday, tentatively Thursday and Friday of the following week, plus about my costume fitting later that day. I suggested that I leave work in the afternoon, go to the costume fitting, then return and finish my work. I promised to stay late and make up any time I was away for. He's a great guy, so he agreed to my proposal. Not long after I started work that morning, one of the chefs came to me and offered me a entire tray of whole trout. If I didn't want them, they'd be thrown away. I was suspicious that this was a practical joke, so I checked with the Head Chef. He confirmed that there was nothing wrong with the fish and that I could indeed have them. There must have been around a dozen fish in the tray. I told him I couldn't use that many, but he suggested that I freeze them. I thought about it for a moment, then concluded that would be an excellent idea. He even gave me some suggestions as to how to cook them.
I went to see Chef Anthony and asked him if I could store the fish in the fridge in his work area. He told me he wasn't allowed to have meat or fish in his fridge and directed me to put the fish back in the main meat, walk-in fridge. Explaining to Anthony that I was going to a costume fitting that afternoon, I told him I was worried that the chefs would leave before I returned. As they locked the walk-in fridges before going home, the trout would be locked away from me. His little fridge isn't locked, which was why I wanted to use it. Anthony promised to leave it out for me, just before he went home. That seemed like a good plan.
At 1:30PM, I left the restaurant to go to my costume fitting. My fitting appointment was for 3PM, but I needed to stop home first and get the clothes I was instructed to bring with me. While I was waiting to see the costume people, at Pinewood Studios, I sent Anthony a text, reminding him to leave the fish out for me. He didn't send me any text in response. The costume fitting took much longer than I thought it would and I didn't get back to the restaurant until 5PM. Most of the staff had gone home and only the managers were left. Looking around my work area, I discovered there was no fish. I assumed that Anthony had forgotten to leave it out. Using my mobile, I called Anthony on his mobile. When he answered, I asked him what happened to the fish? He told me that he had put it out for me, but had placed the tray of trout in the racks of dirty pots and pans that needed washing. Subsequently, Pritam, my Nepalese co-worker, was instructed by the Head Chef to throw out some plaice that had gone bad. Pritam had taken the plaice and mixed it with my trout, then thrown all of it out. What an idiot! That prat had thrown away £50 worth of fish that I was getting for free. Fortunately, by the time I learned of this, he'd gone home already. Otherwise, I might have been tempted to throw him into the rubbish skip, after my fish.

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Back At the Office

On Wednesday, I was back on location, at Waterloo International train station, in London. I had a comfortable call time of 9:30AM, so I didn't have to get up as early as I did on Tuesday. Film making involves a lot of waiting around, while cameras and equipment are set up. Unlike the day before, those of us who were background artists didn't spend as much time waiting in our base at the station (a pub rented out for the occasion). This time, we were let out onto the floor of the station much earlier in the day. As it was a sunny day, the station seemed very bright. Although there was still a lot of waiting around, there was so much more to see out on the floor, as compared to downstairs in the pub.
There were many attractive women strolling through the station. There may have been attractive looking men, but I don't tend to notice the men. When I observe people walking through the station, I like to imagine where they are going. Are they locals, or visitors? Business people, or tourists? Lovers or colleagues? I would really enjoy having a seat at one of the cafes or restaurants in the station, where I could sit all day with a laptop and write about the various things and people I would observe.
One thing I particularly enjoyed was seeing how many passers by would stop to see what was going on. The lights and cameras always tend to attract attention. It was fun telling them, "we're making a film," when they would ask what was happening. It was fun seeing their eyes sparkle with excitement. There's something about film making that makes even very mature persons come over with a feeling of magical delight, reminiscent of childhood. In one scene, we were standing in front of the train departures display board, looking up at the board as if we were passengers checking the departure platform of our desired train. The old, mechanical board has been replaced by a couple of electronic ones. I miss the old mechanical system. When the display would change on the old system, little digit tiles would flip over, making a flapping noise. I loved the sound of the rapidly flipping tiles. The new electronic system is silent. While looking at the board, I noticed a train departing for Basingstoke. It stopped at Hook, the village I used to live in with my beautiful ex-wife, the evil Black Queen. If I was still married, I would be catching that train. I looked around and wondered what I would do if I saw her strolling through the station. Thankfully she rarely ventured into London by train, as she didn't like big cities. A fellow background artist, an Indian man who said I could call him "Victor" and who befriended me the previous day, offered me a couple of vegetable samosas, from a Tupperware container in his bag. Gratefully, I accepted. There's nothing like vegetable samosas to take your mind off your evil ex-wife.

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Artist of the week: The Donnas

This week, my artist of the week is the Donnas. It seemed appropriate while my top friends is dedicated to Donnas. They are an all female rock band. A girl band in the truest sense of the word, they actually play instruments. I am tired of female groups being called "girl bands," when they are only singing groups. There's something really rock and roll about women playing drums and electric guitars, and these gals are rock and roll. All the band members were born in 1979 (which makes them all twenty years younger than me). Originally from Palo Alto, California, they were all best friends and first got together to do music in the eight grade. They are all self-taught musicians and remained unknown until they finished high school.
The band members are Brett Anderson, Torry Castellano, Maya Ford, and Allison Robertson. Their musical influences include Kiss, Megadeath, Guns 'n Roses, Anthrax, R.E.M., and the Ramones. Last year, they split with their record label, Atlantic Records, but are still releasing music. Last month, the first single from their latest album was released. Called, "Don't Wait Up For Me," it's my profile song for the week. You can check out the Donnas at their Myspace page: . Rock on, girls.


Saturday, April 21, 2007

Staying With Tom

My good friend, Tom, agreed to let me stay over at his flat in London, on Tuesday night, so I could save the expense of traveling all the way back to Bracknell and back to London the next day. I brought along some DVDs to watch with him. Recently, Tom had asked if he could borrow some DVDs. I was hesitant, because I received a new DVD player as a gift, on Good Friday. That has led to me buying and watching more DVDs, now that I have something to play them on. Sometimes, Tom and I can go a long time without seeing each other. I was concerned that if I loaned him DVDs, I might not get them back for ages. Besides, I am happy to watch any of the films I own with him. I figured it was better for me to bring some when I visit and we can watch them together. That way, I can bring them back with me, when I go home. This time, I also remembered to bring the DVDs of a short film I am in, plus the "X-Forum" episode I appeared on.
When I reached the door to the building Tom's flat is in, I rang his buzzer. Once he realized it was me, he released the door lock, so I could enter the building. The hallway in Tom's building is usually dark when I come in. This time was no exception. After unlocking the outside door for me, remotely, Tom usually opens the door to his flat and leaves it ajar for me to enter. The light from inside his flat provides me with enough light to see where I am going. This time, Tom just unlocked his door, but didn't leave it ajar. Because of that, the hall was pitch black. When I was outside his flat, I literally couldn't see the door in front of my face. I used my hand to feel along the doorway. I could feel a door, but not any handle to open it with. Eventually, I could feel a flange of metal which is just above the lock. I exerted a pressure against the flange and the door opened. I walked into the flat and stopped. It looked different. It wasn't just that the decor had changed, even the physical layout of the flat was different. When I enter Tom's flat I have to turn left from the door to enter the lounge. Here, I just had to walk straight ahead. I slowly moved forward into the strange surroundings. Suddenly, a woman's voice called out, "hello?" I was in the wrong flat.
I yelled out, "sorry, I entered the wrong flat."
As I turned to go, a casually dressed woman appeared. She smiled and said, "that's okay." I felt embarrassed and tried to get out of there as quickly as I could. As I went back into the hall, I could see from the light spilling out of her flat that I'd inadvertently opened the door of the flat to the right of Tom's flat. How strange that her door was also unlocked.
Once I was safely inside Tom's, I told him, excitedly, "I just walked into some woman's flat!" Tom didn't seem like he could believe his ears, so I ended up repeating myself.
Tom being the way he is, he asked me, "was she naked?"
"What woman is going to leave her flat unlocked while she is naked?" I asked, rhetorically.
"I wondered why it was taking you so long to come in," Tom said. "Usually, you come in much quicker, when I buzz you in."
"Maybe you should invite her over for a drink, as a way of saying 'sorry,' " I suggested. Let Tom invite her. I wasn't ready to face her again, yet.
"That's a good idea," Tom replied. "You're lucky her boyfriend wasn't home, he's a cop. He might have shot you."
"On second thought, don't invite her," I said. Inviting a woman who has a boyfriend over for drinks is a fairly unproductive use of one's time. "Anyway, just because her boyfriend is a cop, doesn't mean he carries a gun." Most British cops don't carry guns.
I have been without a watch since my last one broke, early last year. Tom offered me an old, cheap, digital watch of his. I happily accepted. It's not one I would have bought, but a cheap watch was better than no watch. Besides, the price was right: free. Tom wanted to go to Tesco, primarily, it seemed, because he was out of beer. I offered to drive, but he said he would prefer walking there. As the days are getting longer, it was still light out. A walk might be enjoyable, but I was concerned that we might not get back in time for "Eastenders." Tom assured me we would. We set off into a warm, spring evening. Walking around the marina, I admired the boats we were passing. I asked Tom if he was seriously thinking about buying a boat. He'd mentioned something about it when we went to see "Curse of the Golden Flower," the week before. Tom seemed to be having second thoughts about getting a boat. I looked at the name of a largish sailboat, which was moored close to where we were walking. It was called, "the Black Pearl." "Hey, that's the Black Pearl!" I exclaimed. Tom didn't seem to see the significance of that fact. "That was the name of Captain Jack Sparrow's ship in 'Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl,' " I explained. Tom confessed that he'd not yet seen "Pirates of the Caribbean." My pearls of wisdom were being wasted on Tom.
We continued on our way to Tesco, eventually passing the sailing school. As we walked along the quay, I saw commuters coming home from work, heading the opposite way. Unlike Tom, I looked at every woman that passed us. Observing one blond as she approached us, I noticed that she appeared to be on the verge of crying. "That woman looked like she was about to cry," I told my younger companion. Tom didn't seem to have anything to say to that news. I wondered what was bothering her. Maybe she just got fired from her job. Nah, this is Britain. It's very hard to get fired, here. We turned the corner at the end of the quay. Then I was confronted with three joggers. Why anyone wants to run when he is not being chased is beyond me. I noticed a number of Orientals, as we walked. "There seem to be a lot of Oriental women around here," I observed to Tom. My observation seemed to leave him uninspired. In contrast, I am always inspired by Oriental women. As we walked through the subway which cuts under the last road before Surrey Quays Shopping Centre, I observed an attractive blond woman coming the other way. She had a carrier bag of shopping in one hand. Looking at her, I noticed she rolled her eyes, dramatically. I smiled at her. I often smile at women, when I am in a good mood. Sometimes, they smile back. I always get a thrill when one smile s back, even though it never seems to lead to anything. This one just rolled her eyes again. How odd! Maybe she has some sort of condition.
We soon reached Tesco. Tom stopped to use the cash machine outside. I don't know why he did that, when he could just use his card to pay for his purchases, but Tom often doesn't explain his eccentric behaviors. Once inside, we split up. He told me he'd be in the beer aisle. No surprise there. I picked up a sandwich to have at work the next day. I also added a bag of donuts, two bottles of sauce, a multi-pack of crisps, a box of microwave popcorn and two bags of peanuts, and two bottles of squash to my basket. Tom bought beer, wine, and some other bits. I looked at my new watch and noticed it was getting close to the time for "Eastenders" to start. I tried to hurry Tom along, but he seemed to be dragging his feet. It's almost like he was deliberately trying to cause me to miss "Eastenders." He went ahead of me at the checkout aisle. Of course, Tom picked an aisle with a male cashier. What a waste. Tom started chatting with the man operating the register. "Don't distract him, Tom, you're slowing him down," I said in exasperation. Tom just laughed to himself and continued chatting to the cashier. Oh for Pete's sake! "Would you two hurry up, there are people waiting," I said, trying to coax some speed out of them, again.
When it was finally my turn, I told Tom I bet I had spent less than him. His total had been £26. My total? £5.91. We walked out of the store with our purchases. I suggested taking the bus, but Tom wanted to walk. I was going to miss the beginning of "Eastenders." Because Tom doesn't even have Freeview, he doesn't get BBC Three, so I couldn't catch the re-broadcast at 10PM. We retraced our path back to his flat. Rounding the corner of the first quay, I saw a couple sitting on a bench, facing the water. The man had his arm around the woman and I noticed she was crying. As soon as we were a little past them, I said, "that woman was crying. How strange is that? We see a woman crying going in each direction."
"Maybe they are tears of joy," Tom suggested, like some overly optimistic leftist.
"Maybe he's saying to her, 'I'm going to rape you, as soon as those two geezers are gone,' " I countered. Neither possibility was very likely.
Back at Tom's flat, I rushed him to put on the TV as soon as possible. I felt relief to finally have "Eastenders" on. It's my favorite soap opera in the entire world. I sat watching it while Tom cooked dinner. After my show was over, I suggested putting on a film, from amongst the DVDs I brought. He didn't seem interested. He put some tosh on and I fell asleep in the comfy chair, where I usually sit. I woke up later and Tom was still on the settee, watching TV. Then I remembered the DVDs of the two projects I was in. "Do you want to watch the DVDs of me? I asked.
"What, now?" Tom asked, in response.
"Yes, now," I answered. I dug the discs out of my bag. First, I had him put on "The Whistle," the short film I was in. Tom seemed underwhelmed by seeing me on the screen. After my part, he asked if there was any more of me in the film. I gave a vague response and we continued watching. I wanted him to see that I was in the credits. We performers love our credits. When the credits were on screen, Tom seemed even less thrilled than he had about my actual performance. He told me he didn't understand the film. I explained it to him and had him put on the next disc. That was me on the chat show, "X-Forum." The "X-Forum" was longer, being an hour show. Towards the second half, Tom began to look sleepy. All of the sudden, he got up and climbed in bed. Although he could see the TV from his bed, if he made the effort, he rolled over and turned his back to the screen. "Hey, you're going to miss me. I have a good line towards the end," I yelled out. Nothing I said persuaded Tom to turn over and watch the end of the show.
When the show was over, I put the second disc away. I contemplated what to do. Tom's internet connection was down, so I couldn't post a blog, much as I wanted to. I always think about you, my dear readers. In the end, I decided to go to sleep, myself. I got undressed and made my bed on the settee. It was more comfortable than sleeping in the comfy chair, because I could lay down. I felt cold and noticed Tom had left the kitchen window open. Oh for Pete's sake! After closing the window, I lay down and pulled a small blanket over myself. That would do nicely. Tomorrow would be another day.

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Friday, April 20, 2007

I Bumped Into Matt Damon

On Tuesday, I bumped into Matt Damon...literally. Okay, to be fair, the actual bumping into was with his stunt double. I was working on a film shoot for a soon to be released, major motion picture. We were on location at London's Waterloo International Station and I was one of 300 plus background artists involved in the day's shooting. Matt Damon was doing some scenes with us and, at one point, his character was supposed to push his way through the crowd. I suppose the film company couldn't risk Matt running into someone as big as me. We were doing a take and I was concentrating on playing my part as a passer by, in the train station. All of a sudden, I almost collided with a guy going the other way. He was dressed like Matt Damon and looked like him...sort of. Ah-ha! A stunt double! How clever.
After a long work day with more waiting than filming, I was ambling along, on my way back to our base for the day, so I could sign out. I picked one of the exits from the station concourse, other than the main exit. Suddenly, I noticed that Matt Damon had picked the same exit. He was standing with some fans, signing autographs. I left them to it and continued to make my way to the base. As I came out on the street, I noticed a couple of paparazzi waiting at the corner of the archway. When I realized that they weren't there for me, I continued on my way. I was tired by the end of the day, having gotten up at 4:30AM. At least I worked with Matt Damon, that day. What did you do at work, on Tuesday?

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Thursday, April 19, 2007

I Have An Oyster!

I apologize for not posting any blog articles for the past couple of days. I have been working on a film shoot, in London. I tried to post this article, last night, only to end up accidentally deleting it. It was too late and I was too tired to do it over again, then. Hopefully, things will go better tonight.
On Tuesday morning, I finally bought an Oyster Card. "What's an Oyster card?" some of you are wondering. Well, for those of you not in or around London, an Oyster card is an electronic debit card which is accepted on London's Underground and London Buses, in lieu of cash. Introduced by Red Ken, London's crackpot, socialist mayor, they enable one to take advantage of certain discounts on Underground and bus fares, only available to Oyster Card users. I had been resisting purchasing one, because I didn't like the fact that, if you register your card, it enables the government to track your movements within London's transport system. I was also concerned that when using an Oyster card, you might actually end up paying more, if you make a lot of journeys in the same day, than when using a Travelcard.
I have learned that Oyster automatically caps the charges on any given day, so you never pay more than the cost of a travel card. By not registering my Oyster card, I retain travel anonymity. Finally, the recent fare increases for cash customers make the financial incentives too great to resist. Tuesday, I was working as a background artist (extra) in a major motion picture shoot, in London. I was running quite early and was very pleased with myself, as I sat on the Jubilee Line train to Waterloo station, where we would be filming that day. As the train accelerated down the tunnel, I began reading my favorite free daily paper, "Metro." What do I find within it's pages? An offer for free Oyster cards! Unfortunately, I saw this minutes after buying one for the regular price, £3. I always seem to miss out.

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Monday, April 16, 2007

Kate No Date

This weekend, the world was shocked to learn that Prince William and Kate Middleton have broken up. So many people were speculating that the Prince and Kate would end up getting married. Could that speculation have actually led to the breakup? Kate's mother stated her career as an airline flight attendant, then became a self-made millionaire. One rumor circulating is that Prince William's blue blood friends were in the habit of quipping, just after Kate would leave a room, "doors to manual," in mocking reference to something flight attendants say sometimes.
They had been dating over four years and some scientists say that the average duration of a human, romantic relationship is four years. They met during university. Maybe they are just naturally going their separate ways. William may not be ready to think seriously of marrying. Neither may Kate. I didn't get married till I was 38. I certainly wouldn't have been ready when I was 24. But the most shocking revelation in all of this? Kate lives in the same county as I do. I wonder why I've never seen her and William, when I've been at Tesco?

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Sunday, April 15, 2007

TV Alert!

Tonight, another Episode of "Seconds From Disaster," which I am in, airs on the National Geographic Channel, in the UK. Tonight at 9PM, on Sky Channel 526 (Virgin TV 230, Tiscali 112), the episode, entitled "Tornado Outbreak," can be seen. It's repeated at 10PM on Sky Channel 527. My part in this one is smaller than in the "Texas Oil Refinery Disaster" episode, but it will be fun to see me in something different. I play a weather radar operator and this time I do have my glasses on. If you missed the "Texas Oil Refinery Disaster" on the previous times it's been on, it will be on again this Tuesday night. American residents will have to check your local schedule for the National Geographic Channel, as the episodes air in a different sequence in the USA.

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Artist of the Week: Ben Mills

This week, I am pleased to select Ben Mills as my artist of the week. Ben came in third in the third series of "X Factor," last year. To be honest, I wasn't that impressed with him on the "X Factor." I was totally enraptured by the ultimate winner, Leona Lewis. Imagine my surprise when I recently saw a catchy music video and I thought the singer looked like "that guy from 'X Factor.' " Checking the artist on screen, I was pleased to have it confirmed that I was right, it was Ben Mills. The song is "Beside You" and I had to admit that I liked it. It seems like Ben has cut his hair a bit shorter than it was on "X Factor," which is a better look for him.
"Beside You" was supposed to be the first single from his album, "Picture of You." The single was supposed to be released on March 5th, with the album out March 12th, but rumor has it that the record company, Sony BMG, decided not to release the single, but concentrate on album sales, instead. I am not sure about the wisdom of that decision, but I love the song, "Beside You." I think it's the best thing to have come out from any of the last "X Factor" series contestants, including the winner, so far. Well done, Ben! Simon Cowell has compared Ben to a young Joe Cocker. I prefer Ben when he's doing original material, like "Beside You," to the covers that he had to do on the show. I give credit where credit is due. Those of you in the US market should particularly take note of this young man. British artists often find it difficult to break into the American market. So get behind Ben and ask your radio stations to play him. You can check out Ben on Myspace, at: . Add him as a friend and tell him I sent you.


Saturday, April 14, 2007

A Long Distance Relationship: the Black Queen Story Part 2

After returning to New York from my UK visit to meet the woman who would eventually become the Black Queen, I continued to talk with her every day. Using a combination of telephone calls, internet Instant Messages, and email, we kept in almost constant touch. I had made the trek across the Atlantic to see her, now it was her turn to come see me. She decided to come for a long weekend during the bank holiday period at the end of May, 1997. I was deep in the throws of that school boy excitement which accompanies the start of a new relationship. I looked forward to showing my new love around New York.
She found the best airfare deal with United Airlines. I found myself waiting outside the customs area, in the terminal that United shares with British Airways, at JFK international airport, on the shores of Jamaica Bay, New York. Once again, I was waiting for a British woman to arrive at a New York airport. It was almost deja vu to the situation nine years earlier, when the Great Michelle came for the first time. My new lover eventually walked through those doors, smartly dressed. She had classy taste in clothes. She was shorter than Michelle had been, but still beautiful, with the dark hair typical of most Chinese. The softness of her hair might only have been outdone by the smoothness of her skin, which was the color of honey, also a gift from her Chinese mother.
That first night in New York, we went to see a film. "The Fifth Element," starring Bruce Willis, was my selection. She liked the film, but had trouble staying awake. She was tired from her journey and the five hour time difference between New York and Britain. When it was 10PM in New York, it was 3AM back in the UK. We were invited to Princeton, by Paula, my ex-girlfriend, for a special event on Saturday. I was still friends with Paula and wanted to remain so. I decided the best thing was to foster a friendship between my new girlfriend and my ex, right from the start. When they met, Paula found my new love delightful. We went to a fireworks display with Paula and one of her coworkers, held on the Princeton University campus. Paula told her coworker friend that she was shocked that I had managed to find such a gorgeous new girlfriend, so quickly after Paula had broken up with me. On some level, I was enjoying rubbing Paula's nose in it, just a little bit. I wasn't totally inconsiderate of Paula's possible feelings and tried to keep the public displays of affection a bit muted, while we were Paula's guests. My new girlfriend had other ideas, though. After the fireworks, we attended a dance and she dragged me out on the floor, despite my reluctance, romantically dancing with me in front of Paula and her friend. My new girlfriend was a feisty little thing and I think she wanted to mark her territory in front of the other women. It was another thing I admired about her.
After the evening with Paula, I took my new love sightseeing. It was her first visit to New York and I loved showing her the sights. We went up the World Trade Center, rode the Staten Island ferry, and visited Time Square. She had never ridden on the back of a motorcycle and since motorcycles where my main mode of transport those days, I took her for her first ride. Paula loaned us her helmet for the occasion. My new love thoroughly enjoyed the motorcycle ride. All too quickly, the visit was over and she flew home. She planned on a longer, two week visit during the summer school holidays, when her husband could look after her two children. Before then, an issue arose. I had planned a trip to Hong Kong for June, 1997. I had been planning it for three years. Originally, I had been going with Paula, as we were still a couple when I started to plan the trip. After Paula broke up with me, she asked if she could still go on the trip with me. I had agreed, because there was no reason not to, at the time. Now, with a new girlfriend on the scene, things became more complicated. To make matters worse, my new girlfriend had lived in Hong Kong for part of her life and still had relatives there. She wanted me to postpone the trip and go later, with her. I didn't want to postpone it, as I wanted to see Hong Kong before the British handed the colony back to the People's Republic of China (PRC). I wanted to see the place before then, in case the Communists changed anything. The handover was scheduled for June 30, 1997. As it stood with my trip plans, I would leave Hong Kong just ten days before the PRC took over. The only way out of the dilemma was to invite my new girlfriend to go with us, so that's exactly what I did.
My new girlfriend kept declining my invitation. She claimed that she didn't have the money. I made it clear that she only needed the airfare. I would be able to cover her accommodation and food, just not the airfare. Still, she claimed she couldn't afford it. I suggested she borrow the money from her mother. Who knew when I would go to Hong Kong again? In fact, it's been ten years and I have not yet returned there. She made the excuse of needing to take care of her children. I pointed out that their father was perfectly capable of taking care of them. No matter what arguments I made, she would not give in. We remained at an impasse and I went without her. She never let me forget that as long as I knew her. Having Paula with me on the trip proved useful, as I had Paula call my new girlfriend from Hong Kong, in case her husband answered. Despite my new love claiming she was separated from her husband, they still lived in the same house together. Sure enough, he answered. Paula asked for my girlfriend and then passed me the phone once she was on the line.
After I got back from Hong Kong, my new girlfriend (I have been trying to avoid using her name, as I took a vow never to utter her name after she ended our marriage, but it's getting tedious. Let's call her D---a, from now on), D---a, sent me a dozen roses for my birthday, in July. Then, in early August, she flew to see me for two weeks. We would spend her birthday together. Before she arrived, I had a talk with Paula. I asked Paula if there was any chance that she would want to get back together with me, in the future. Things seemed to be getting serious between me and D---a and I didn't want Paula turning around and saying she wanted me back, after I got heavily involved with my new girlfriend. Paula said there was no chance and I threw my lot in fully and unreservedly with D---a. During the two week visit, I took D---a to the lovely barrier beaches of Long Island. D---a later told me that up to that point, she wasn't sure if she wanted to maintain our relationship, but after that two weeks with me, she decided she wanted to commit.
At the end of August, I went back to Britain to visit her again. She had finally gotten her husband to move out of the house and I was able to stay with her. It was the August bank holiday weekend. in Britain, and her kids were with their father, so we had time alone. It was that weekend that Princess Diana was killed in the car crash, in Paris. D---a knew I had a soft spot for Princess Di. I was laying in bed when she called up from downstairs, where she had gone to get us some drinks, that Diana was dead. "You've missed your chance, dear," was how she put it. At the end of my trip, D---a finally took the step of letting me meet her children, Ellen, age 7, and Harry, age 4. I usually tended to shy away from getting involved with women who had children and I was probably more worried about meeting them than they were about meeting me. They were so beautiful and affectionate to me, right away, that my apprehensions disappeared. They went with us to the airport, when I was leaving, and I remember them both giving me big hugs before I walked through passport control.
I invited D---a for Thanksgiving, that year. I have written about that visit, previously (see "Thanksgiving is a Thursday," 23 November, 2006), so I won't go through the details again. They are available in my blog archives. I went to Britain for Christmas. I bought D---a a pair of white sapphire earrings. I also bought Ellen a special edition, Christmas Barbie doll, from F.A.O. Schwartz, and Harry a toy gun and soldier play set. It was my first time, as an adult, buying presents for children. I was deeply in love with D---a, by this point. However, the long distance between us was hard to put up with. Clearly, something needed to be done about that.

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Friday, April 13, 2007

My Lucky Day?

I was sitting here, wondering what to write about. All of the sudden. I remembered that it was Friday the 13th, today. 13 is my favorite number. I embraced it, years ago. One thing about it that appealed to me is that many people are superstitious about it and think it's unlucky. Since I was a child, I have been a bit of a contrarian. This leads me to often embrace that which other people shun. I am not superstitious at all. If I ever get another cat, I'd like a black cat and I will name him Satan.
So, if Friday the 13th is considered "unlucky," it should be lucky for me, right? There is the slight problem that I don't believe in luck. Still, how did the day measure up? Why am I asking you? How the heck would you know? It started out with a headache. Literally. Of course, due to "health and safety" considerations, they refuse to give out aspirin, at work. They will give a band aid, but not aspirin. How's that supposed to help my health and safety? Obviously, the aspirin would eliminate my headache, thereby improving my health. What good would putting a band aid on my skull do? Ironically, they will happily sell me aspirin at the shop run by our company. It's okay to sell it to me, but not give it to me. Health and safety, sure.
There was no haddock left over to take home. That doesn't sound so lucky. Chef Anthony's car broke down, on the way to work. That could almost seem like "unlucky," for him. He asked me to drive him home. Of course, I agreed. Because he was keen to get out early, he helped me finish my work. That could seem like luck for me. I ended up leaving work fifteen minutes early. At home, I took Ibuprofen and then had a three hour nap. When I woke up, my headache was gone. I had a nice dinner, with some delightful chocolate truffles for dessert. I feel rested and great. So, it ended up feeling like a wonderful day. No conclusive evidence for, or against, luck, but who cares? I feel wonderful anyway.

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Thursday, April 12, 2007

Curse of the Golden Flower (review)

Although released in 2006, "Curse of the Golden Flower" is only just about to open in the UK. We often get films here several months after they open in the USA. I managed to catch it at an advance, preview screening, last night. The title sounds like the title I might use for a blog article about the Exotic Flower, or my evil ex-wife, the Black Queen. Directed by Zhang Yimou, who also directed "Hero" and "House of Flying Daggers," it had a $45 million budget, making it the most expensive Chinese film ever. The expense shows on screen, as the film, a historical drama set in AD 922, has elaborate costumes and sets, plus literally armies of extras. The story of an Emperor, his Empress, and his three sons, the plot twists with intrigue, betrayal, and surprise. International action star, Chow Yun-Fat plays the Emperor, while Mainland Chinese actress, Gong Li is the Empress. Gong Li is supposed to be the most famous actress in China. It's not hard to accept, as her role in the film is the most significant. Her performance is top notch. With the exception of one sword duel, all the action comes during the final quarter of the film. Unless you speak Mandarin, you must be comfortable with subtitles. I love hearing the original Mandarin and find subtitles no problem. Although not as colorful as "House of Flying Daggers," I think it is superior to "Hero" and well worth seeing. Granted, I am partial, because Gong Li reminds me of the Black Queen, but even my friend Tom enjoyed it, I think.


Collecting My Prize

As I mentioned last week ("Pre-Easter Ramblings, 05 April, 2007"), I won two free tickets to see a special preview screening of the film, "Curse of the Golden Flower." The problem was finding someone to go with me. Gala TV presenter, Opal Bonfante, turned me down, claiming she was filming. Pauly in the Morden was up north, doing a gig. Besides, he'd seen it already. The Artist and her daughter were both out of the country, although, ironically, not in the same place. My evil ex-wife, the Black Queen, and I are not speaking to each other. Other persons, who like to remain anonymous, were unavailable. What to do? I decided to take my good friend, Tom (formerly the Injured Cyclist: ). Opal suggested that I take someone who's helped me, in the past. Tom has been a very supportive friend. He went with me to my first two stand up, open mic nights. He bought me beer when I was short of money. He let me spend the night at his flat, when I had an early audition in London. As my prize includes a free beer for each of us, it was my chance to get him a beer.
I drove to his flat straight from working at the restaurant. I arrived earlier than he was expecting, so he wasn't entirely prepared, yet. Taking up temporary residence in my usual spot, on the comfy chair, we caught up on things. I haven't seen him since early February. Tom informed me that, subsequent to him agreeing to go to the film with me, he'd heard from his German friend, Harold. Herr Harold had invited Tom to watch the second leg of the Beyer Munich v A. C. Milan, Champions League Quarterfinals, at some German pub in London. In a blunder almost as big as Hitler's in opening a second front, by attacking the USSR, Harold had mistakenly thought the match was next Wednesday. Learning of his error, he told Tom at the last minute. Showing strength of character that is rare these days, Tom told Harold he'd already agreed to go out with me, last night. Hearing about this from Tom, I worried that he'd rather be going to watch the game at the German pub. I made Tom an offer. If he would get his ex-girlfriend to go with me to the cinema, I'd be happy for him to go hang out with the Germans. Unfortunately, he said he's been having trouble getting in touch with her, lately, so he declined.
The next bump in the road was the question of whether we would go in my car, or by the Underground. This caught me by surprise, because I thought it had been settled, previously, that we were going by car. Tom liked the idea of going by car, but he was worried that we wouldn't find free parking. We were going to the Cineworld at West India Quay, in Canary Wharf. Having never been to Canary Wharf before, I was totally dependant on Tom for advice. He said there was no on the street parking in Canary Wharf, at all, but we should be able to find street parking in a nearby area...maybe. There is a car park at West India Quay, but it's not free. Tom said it wasn't expensive, but guessed it would be about £12 ($24!). For me, that is expensive. Tom waffled back and forth over the options...Tube train, or drive, Tube or drive. Being more of a risk taker than Tom, I settled the matter. We would drive.
After circumnavigating Canary Wharf, we did manage to find free, on the street parking, just outside the district. Tom estimated we were five minutes walking distance from the cinema. As he'd been to this particular cinema before, he led the way. Turning this way and that, we passed through building lobbies and alongside bars filled with well heeled patrons. I felt acutely under dressed in my work outfit, looking decidedly blue collar. As we passed through one building lobby, I saw one of the most beautiful oriental women I have ever seen, coming the other way. She gave me a timid look, like she'd just come face to face with an escaped gorilla wearing clothes. As we passed each other like two speeding express trains, I wondered where she was from. We crossed a foot bridge, passed a Marriott, then approached a bevy of bars occupying the ground floor of an old warehouse building. Tom assured me the cinema was not much further. Admiring a trio of bottoms on the three women walking in front of us, I almost stumbled. They turned right and we left, but my head followed them, longingly.
As we approached an entrance to the Warehouse building, I spied a very attractive woman facing our direction. As we got nearer, I could swear she was smiling at us. As we got closer, there almost seemed to be recognition. Could this be someone who'd seen me on TV, recently? Finally! Oh, no, it's Tom's ex. Her hair looked darker, so I hadn't recognized her. They greeted each other then she greeted me. I got to do my first ever air kiss!!! We explained to her that we were on our way to the cinema. The moment seemed awkward. She didn't answer some of Tom's questions. Suddenly, some creepy guy walked up, smirking. He looked like he earned several times what Tom and I do, put together, which isn't hard as Tom is unemployed at the moment. She introduced us, after a little hesitation. She didn't explain who this geezer was, so he must be the latest boyfriend. The little creep was actually shorter than her. He had to have more money than sense, if he was dating her. As things were now very uncomfortable, we returned to our little trek to the cinema, to see the film stars. I guess we were on a kind of "star trek."
Finally, the cinema was in sight. The winners' notification had advised us to arrive by 7:45PM. It was 7:37 when we entered. I approached the box office, with Tom guarding my flank. Presenting my winners' notification, as instructed, I was informed by the cashier that there was a slight problem. He said that there was only one ticket left. That sounds like a bloody big problem, to me. He advised us to wait in the lobby and the manager would be out, shortly. I observed several other pairs of persons, also waiting for the same thing. Speaking to a couple of women who were waiting, I suggested that we all wrestle for it. I told her I thought she could take the third couple. Meanwhile, I was thinking I could take them all. The others waiting started contemplating which other film they would see. I didn't want to see another film, I came to see "Curse of the Golden Flower." Could we about to be victims of the curse?
Finally, the manager came out and started talking to this oriental couple. I moved over to listen. He said there seemed to be some mistake and that he would make a phone call. I made sure he was aware that it wasn't just that couple waiting, but all of us. The manager went way to make his call and I discussed our situation with Tom. "This doesn't make sense," I said. "The cinema auditorium must hold a couple of hundred people, at least. It's an advanced preview on a Wednesday night and we're early. It seems highly unlikely that they've sold out, already." The manager returned and informed us of the resolution. The auditorium held 250 people We would be admitted on a first come, first served basis. So far, no one had shown up, other than the dozen of us, so he said there was no reason to worry. We old all get in and all still get our promised free beer. I want to thank the management of Cineworld for coming up with a wise and just solution.
Tom and I set off in search of the free beer. Some cinemas in the UK serve beer. When I moved from America, none of the cinemas there had yet come up with such a service. I wonder if any in the USA have yet thought of it? It's a brilliant idea. After finishing our free, Tiger beers, we left the bar and made our way to screen seven. Passing a concession stand, I asked Tom if he thought we should get some popcorn. As we had paid nothing to get in, I speculated that we might be able to afford popcorn and soft drinks. Tom left it up to me. Examining the menu and looking behind the counter, I discovered they didn't have butter for the popcorn. Most cinemas in the UK don't. They may have the US beat on the beer aspect, but American cinemas can be counted on to have butter. As their was no butter, I opted out of popcorn. We continued on to screen seven.
Inside the auditorium for screen seven, I advised Tom to pick where to sit. I prefer the front row, but a lot of people claim not to like it. Tom was no different. We settled on the third row. Once we were seated and comfortable, Tom decided he wanted popcorn. He offered me £5 toward the cost, so I went out to make the best bargain I could, with the concession stand. As Tom also wanted a Diet Coke, I opted for a deal where we got two large Diet Cokes and a large bag of popcorn. The total came to £9.10. I made it back to my seat before the film started and without spilling anything. We watched the film, then I drove Tom back to his place. He asked me to stop at Tesco, so he could buy some beer. I happily complied. It's the first time I have been out to the cinema since "Casino Royale" came out, late last year. I won't tell you anything about the film, here. If you are interested in that, read my review to follow. This was the first time I have been to the cinema with Tom. It might not be the last, as he behaved himself rather well, other than the palaver over parking.

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

A Persian Parable

I guess everyone in the world knows about the fifteen British sailors and marines, who were held captive by Iran for almost two weeks. The Iranians let them go just before Easter weekend. Over this past weekend, the British Ministry of Defence (MoD) gave permission for the freed captives to sell their stories to the news media and at least two did so. Normally, under British military regulations, serving military personnel are not permitted to sell their stories to the news media. However, the regulations do allow for exceptions to be made in special circumstances. It would seem that this situation would qualify as "special circumstances."
Unfortunately, after some of the freed captives did sell their stories, quite a few members of the British public and media have expressed outrage that these folks were given permission to sell their stories. One morning radio presenter I regularly listen to went absolutely ape against it, right from the start. Since the weekend, a clear majority of callers to his program have agreed with him that being paid money for their stories was disgraceful. This presenter, as well as some of his callers," have asked that those who sold their stories be forced to give the money back. I have had one question occupying my mind, since the story about them getting paid broke. What's the big deal? One caller who demanded that those who were paid be forced to give the money back, acted like the money was coming from tax payers. It's not. It's a private transaction between some media companies and the people involved. I thought it was a nice way for the former captives to gain a little compensation for what they went through. I actually thought the MoD got it right, for a change. I seem to be in the minority on this one. So much hell has been raised over this that the MoD has felt the need to reverse itself and say that no further sales can be made, at this time.
Maybe I haven't lived in the UK long enough, because I don't get it. Why the outrage? If it would have been okay to give the interviews for free, why the complaints if they get paid? It's common practice, here in the UK, for people to be paid for their story. What do you think?

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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Good News, Bad News

My agent called again, today. When I called back, the woman I needed to speak to answered the phone. That's convenient. She said I didn't get cast in the TV show they put me up for. No one they submitted for it did. It would have been four days of work, if I had gotten it. Not getting that casting was the bad news. Don't you hate it when people say, "I have good news and bad news?" I do. And yet, here I am saying the same thing to you.
Now for the good news. The woman at the agency offered me two more days of work on "The Bourne Ultimatum," next week. When she asked if I wanted the work, I said, "of course." The film work should pay more than double what I get at the restaurant. I saw a trailer, online, over this past weekend, for "the Bourne Ultimatum," so I thought it was all in the can already. It's due out this summer. All of you make sure you go see it. It will be the first film in which I play two different parts.

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Monday, April 09, 2007

A Monday Off, in Walton

Today, I attended the Open Air Exhibition in Walton-on-Thames, with my friend, Jan the Artist. We had an early start, at 8AM. I managed to persuade the Artist to cook an omelet for me, for breakfast. Leaving my car at her house, we rode together, in her car. Upon arrival, despite being about a half hour later than planned (due to my omelet), we were the second stall to set up. Altogether, there were seven stalls. I was put to work immediately, helping the Artist set up her marquis. Fortunately, she had a good one and no assembling of poles was required. After the marquis was up, she dragooned me into helping to hang pieces of art from the frame, with cello tape (Scotch tape). I didn't enjoy doing that. As my lack of enthusiasm was obvious, she set me a more agreeable task of putting the smaller works into a holder, which would permit customers to browse through them. The Artist had brought a fisherman's chair for me to sit on. Eventually, I was able to park myself in it, while she fussed about, putting the finishing touches on her display. Ah, a place to sit and watch the world go by.
Across from us was a sculptor, who looked enough like my landlord to be his brother. To our right was a hot woman in black boots. She had reddish hair and sort of looked like Grace in "Will & Grace." Further down, on the opposite side, was a sexy, tall, blond, selling jewellery. The blond asked me where the weights to anchor the marquis were. I tried to be helpful, of course. Around the corner was a French market, which helped draw a crowd. Although the weather was bright and sunny, it didn't feel that warm, especially because we were in shade. I did my best to help draw prospective customers. The artist's work was the best of any of those who had work on display. For my efforts, she provided me with Cadbury Fruit and Nut bars, crisps, bottled water, hot chocolate, and some muffins.
During the afternoon, I took a break and wandered through the French market. Stopping in Woolworth's, I found a DVD of "Top Gun" on sale. Since it was cheap, I decided to treat myself and bought a copy. I also managed to visit three charity shops. As I suspected, there were loads of attractive women walking through the exhibition. I managed to meet several girls who Jan had taught in school. A woman named Anna stopped to admire the work and talk with the Artist. I managed to butt into the conversation and convince her to try reading my blog. Some passers by recognized me from a sketch the Artist had done of me, which was on display.
All too soon, it was time to go home. We ended up selling only a couple of pieces, but it was a fun day. Reluctantly, I helped the Artist dismantle her display and put it in the car. After the show was over, the Artist offered me a delicious, home cooked meal, as thanks for my help. Together, I think we ate up all the profits in snacks, meals, and drinks. Oh well, it was publicity for us both. Tomorrow, I am back at work at the restaurant. At least it's only a four day work week, then I will be off again. If you didn't attend today, you really missed out.

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Sunday, April 08, 2007

Playing Easter Bunny

I woke up today and it was Easter Sunday. Here in Britain, there is a tradition of giving Easter eggs to people. Not the hard boiled eggs with the dyed shells, like I used to make with my mother, when I was a child in America. Here, people give chocolate Easter eggs. In America, we used to give chocolate Easter bunnies. At the end of the day, it probably doesn't make a lot of difference. Chocolate is chocolate.
On Friday, a close personal friend of mine came to visit. She's very generous and brought me a fancy, chocolate Easter egg, packaged with three boxes of chocolates. Last night, as I was invited to Jan the Artist's for dinner, I decided I should stop and buy an Easter egg for her and one for her daughter. I was on a tight budget, though. As it was the day before, I hoped that I would catch a sale of some sort.
On the way to Jan's, I stopped at Sainsbury's. I found the seasonal items aisle and looked over the eggs on offer. I started at the expensive end and worked my way down. Finally, I found an offer for three moderately sized white chocolate eggs for a fixed price. The only problem was that I only needed two. What could I do? I bought the three. One would just be for me. When I arrived at Jan's, both her and her daughter were very surprised and pleased with my gifts. Who needs the Easter Bunny? Happy Easter to all my friends and blog readers.

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Artist of the Week: Avril Lavigne

This week, my Artist of the Week is Canadian, Avril Lavigne. Her third album is to be released this month and the first single from it, "Girlfriend," is already one of my current favorites. Debuting at #5 on Billboard's Hot 100 chart, in March, the video for it is currently receiving a lot of airplay on UK music video channels. In her video, she seems to have reinvented herself a bit, sporting blond hair. The first time I saw it, I didn't recognize her, until I saw the artist name at the end of the video. Some detractors have suggested that "Girlfriend" copies the style and sound of "Mikey," the 1982 hit by Toni Basil. I think Avril's song is significantly distinct from Basil's, and a much better song.
Avril has worked on three film projects, so far: "Over the Hedge," "The Flock," and "Fast Food Nation." Last year, she married Deryck Whibley, of Sum 41. She also does modelling and appears on the cover of the current issue of "Focus" magazine, here in the UK. You can check her out on Myspace, at: .


Saturday, April 07, 2007

A Night of Culture

I accepted an invitation, today, to go to the theatre with my good friend, Jan, the Artist. The evening started out with a home cooked meal at her house, in the company of her and her daughter. I contributed roast potatoes, while Jan provided pork chops, spinach, parsnips, and onions. Daughter was supposed to accompany us to the theatre, but after dinner, she announced that she was staying home, to work on a project for university. Although I was disappointed t suffer a fifty percent reduction in my escorts for the evening, I pressed on. After all, the show must go on.
Jan took me to Guildford's Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, where she secured standby, discount tickets at 30% off. The show we saw was a production of Jean Paul Satre's adaptation of "Kean," based on the original play by Alexandre Dumas. "Kean" is the story of British actor, Edmund Kean, although why two Frenchmen, like Dumas and Satre, would be so keen to write about a British actor is beyond me. This particular production starred veteran British actor, Antony Sher.
I had two beers while waiting for showtime. Once the play had gotten under way, I dozed off for a few minutes. This was no reflection on the quality of the acting, but was the result of failing to have an afternoon nap, today. I awakened refreshed and went on to enjoy the bulk of the play. This was the first theatrical production I had seen since 2004, when I saw "The Woman in Black." I fell asleep at that one, as well. Tonight was the final night of this production run, in Guildford. It was competently executed and entertaining.
If you are in the Guildford area and want to attend the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, you can contact the box office at: 01483 440000

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Walton-on-Thames Open Air Exhibition

If you haven't come up with something to do for Monday and you're in or near Surrey, England, you should check out the Open Air Art Exhibition in Walton-on-Thames this Monday. The exhibition will be on the corner of Hepworth Way and High Street, between 10AM and 4PM. Walton-on-Thames is a cool, riverside town, in Surrey. Julie Andrews was born there and it is home of the world's first Aston Martin dealership. How cool is that? It should be a nice, sunny spring day and there are nice views of the river.
A good reason to attend the exhibition is that a close, personal friend of mine, Jan the Artist, will be displaying her work there, as well as offering pieces for sale at reasonable prices. She will have prints and originals, oil paintings, water colors, and sketches. You can check out Jan and her art at: . I have persuaded Jan to do charcoal sketches of people on the spot, again at a bargain price. As an added bonus, I have agreed to make a personal appearance there, so come on down. I will be willing to sign autographs, discuss my film and TV work, make fun of you and your friends, all free of charge. Come early, because I'm not standing around all bloody day, you know. Women residents out number male residents, so fellas, it could be a great place to meet ladies. The train from London Waterloo Station only takes 25 minutes. Bring money, because we ain't giving these paintings away free, you know. Rumors are that some other celebrities might turn up. See you there!

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Ear, Ear

I haven't done much in the way of social commentary, lately. Okay, I admit it, I've been lazy. However, lend an ear, as the following has caused me to break my silence.
For several weeks, there has been a TV advertisement airing, here in the UK, promoting Walkers Crisps and Comic Relief. For readers in America, "crisps" are what Americans would call, "potato chips." In the ad, Gary Lineker, a former England football star who is now a TV presenter, is one of a number of celebrities who are portrayed as students in a classroom. The teacher, played by Stephen Fry, is doing the class roll call. After each student's name is called, he or she replies, "ear." All of the students are wearing fake, red ears. All, that is, except Gary Lineker. He replies, "here," and just has his natural ears. Lineker is know for having big ears. The teacher tells him to take off the fake, promotional ears and drags him, by his ear, from the class. Okay, not a fantastic punchline, but it's for charity Comic Relief. A voiceover at the end urges viewers to visit
I don't have a problem with the ad, but earlier this week, I was reading my favorite London newspaper, "Metro" (April 4, 2007), when I spotted a story reporting that Advertising Standards Authority had conducted a "thorough investigation" of the ad after receiving "a dozen" complaints that it mocked people with big ears. The last time I was in a classroom "a dozen" meant twelve. So, out of a nation of about 66 million people, twelve had nothing more going on in their lives and decided to formally complain about a charity ad sponsored by a crisps company. I would like to know how much money this useless investigation cost. The Advertising Standards Authority is an independent body set up by the advertising industry to police advertising. They are funded through "levies" (sounds like a tax) on broadcast airtime charges, display ads, and direct mail advertising. Ultimately, they can call upon government agencies, Ofcom and the Office of Fair Trading, to help force advertisers to comply with their dictates. Any fees charged on advertising costs will be passed on to the consumers, so it is we who are ultimately paying for this time wasting malarkey.
If that's not enough, in the same issue of "Metro," in their "Metro Digest" section, I find it reported that the Highways Agency (part of the Department of Transportation and directly funded by taxes), has spent £145,000 creating at traffic jam. The money is being spent as part of a six week long "experiment," which includes putting over 1,000 cones along a slip road (exit) at Junction 19 of the M25, to discourage drivers from exiting there in order to avoid congestion on the M25. The result will be more cars stuck in congestion on the M25 and a bigger traffic jam. Some local residents in the area consider the scheme "crazy." In response to suggestions that this project is a waste of taxpayers' money, the Highways Agency said, "£145,000 is less than a drop in the ocean...our budget is £330 million." Such is the attitude of government terrocrats as they spend YOUR money. Taxation is theft. I'm going to go have breakfast, before I drive my blood pressure up.

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Friday, April 06, 2007

Good Friday?

It was "Good Friday," today, and here in England, it was a "bank holiday." I was off work, yet still will be paid as if I had worked. What a result! I went to the Oracle, a shopping mall in Reading, with a friend. Upon arrival, the main, multi-story car park was showing "full" on the sign outside. Despite the sign, cars were steadily entering. So, was the sign true, or not? We decided to take a chance and ignored the sign. It turned out that spaces were available, although we ended up parking on the sixth level. There are only seven levels in total. I have never before been above the fifth. The mall was very busy. The sad news is, the sign has lost its credibility.
All day, it felt like Saturday. I had to keep reminding myself that it was Friday. As I continued to observe the Good Friday Bank Holiday with appropriately non-religious activities, a question popped into my head. Why do Christians call today "Good Friday?" If it's supposed to represent the day when their "lord and savior" was killed, that hardly seems "good." Surely having metal spikes hammered through your hands and feet is hardly going to be enjoyable. Oh well, at least my friend is Catholic.

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Thursday, April 05, 2007

Pre-Easter Ramblings

Today was my last day of work until Tuesday. Ironically, I used to like a band, in the 1980s, called Til Tuesday. After work, a bunch of folks from work went out to have a sort of going away party for the old Head Chef and old Manager, as they are leaving. Nothing eventful happened there. It was so warm, we were able to sit outside at the first pub. It feels like a Friday, because I am off tomorrow. I managed to mail my mother an Easter card, after work. This is kind of to make up for not sending a Christmas card. I miss talking with her. I received notification that I won two tickets to a screening of the new film, "Curse of the Golden Flower." My curse is that I don't have anybody to go with. My new curse is that I feel sleepy. Goodnight.

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Wednesday, April 04, 2007

You Never Know Who's Reading.

Yesterday, at work, I found out that the Assistant Manager of the restaurant has started reading my blog. I got into a conversation with her and the new Manager, after I finished my work. I should have left immediately and gone to get my haircut, as planned, but I so love to talk and perform in front of even the tiniest audience. Anyway, I managed to get my hair cut today, instead.
The Assistant Manager mentioned that I never seem to write about her, in my blog. I'm not sure if that was a complaint, or merely an observation. The simple matter is that she and I don't interact that much, on a daily basis. Also, I tend to write about the people at work who do something stupid. She just doesn't do much in the way of dumb stuff. Recently, she started wearing some new shoes to work. I suppose I could start writing about that. They are black, heeled sandals, with a closed toe. A wise choice, they look great on her. She also had her hair cut and is sporting a new hair style. I'm not sure why she's getting all glammed up, as she's already married. With a charming smile and big eyes. she doesn't need new clothing, or a new hairstyle, to get people to do what she wants. I wonder if the knowledge that she is reading my blog is enough to cause me to hold back on what I say?

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The Ostrich or the Egg

I was so annoyed last night. When I tried to post a new blog article, Myspace blogs were down for "20 minutes." After an hour and a half of waiting, I gave up and went to bed. I can only apologize to my loyal readers. The technology that brings us together sometimes separates us.
This past weekend, I had a lovely visit from my artist friend, Jan. Because of my cold (flu, whatever), I had opted out of our scheduled Bridge game, on Saturday. I had caught this sickness while visiting Jan the weekend before. She probably picked it up from some disease ridden child at one of the schools where she worked as a "supply teacher." For my American readers, a "supply teacher" is not someone who teaches supply. It's a British term for a substitute teacher. Although Jan is retired from teaching (oh I wish I didn't have to go to work), she does a bit of temping, as a supply teacher, to bring in some extra cash. Anyway, this experience has re-confirmed my suspicion that children are mostly useless and simply act as carriers of disease (and you only thought you could re-confirm reservations).
I think Jan felt a little guilty for getting me ill, so she came over with a care package and to keep me a little company. I called her on Friday night and mentioned that Nando was working late. I think I gave her the impression that I was lonely, what with Nando not at home. Nando was working all weekend, so Jan probably concluded that I would be lonesome all on my own. The care package consisted of Lemsip, salad dressing, fresh broccoli, tartar sauce, and a box of microwave popcorn. Despite my dropping hints that I prefer Lemsip capsules, she turned up with the original powder, which one has to mix with hot water, then drink. She brought what she likes. Never mind what I like. Oh well, it's the thought that counts.
On Sunday afternoon, I showed Jan some videos on my computer. I had warned her that my bedroom was a bit untidy. She reassured me that her daughter's room is also messy, so she's used to that sort of thing. I bet her my room would outdo her daughter's. I think I won that bet. Jan decided to amuse herself by picking up some books that were piled on my bedroom floor. This was a task I had started, myself, last year, but hadn't yet managed to finish. The pile of books was left over from moving in, a year ago. Although I have wanted to finish putting the books on my bookshelf for ages, it still felt a little intrusive to have Jan doing it. I tried to talk her out of it, to no avail. She said her daughter makes the same complaints when Jan cleans her room. Jan may be only five feet, two inches tall, but she has this gentle pushiness that's so unobtrusive, it's hard to resist. It's kind of like the tide coming in. It starts out lapping at your ankles, then the next thing you know, you're up to your neck in it.
From the books, she moved on to some of my ties that were tossed on a pile of folded clothes. They were deposited there after I took them to some costume fitting or another. Defensively, I tried to help, so I could put my spin on where thinks were put. After a while, I told Jan to stop. She would agree, but as soon as I relaxed, she'd start picking up something or the other. It was all I could do to stop her from throwing away my prized supermarket carrier bags. Eventually, Jan came across my ostrich egg. It was given to me in South Africa, back in December, 2002, by a rep from a travel company. I carried the egg all the way back to England, without breaking it. I have lugged it around to three rented residences, over the past four years. I looked at the egg and I looked at Jan. Suddenly, an idea sprang into my mind. "Jan, do you want that egg? You can have it, if you want it," I said.
"Is it an ostrich egg?" Jan asked.
"Yes," I said. Did it matter? It's a big flipping egg. Either she wanted it, or she didn't.
"I could have used it when I was a full-time art teacher," she informed me. That was interesting, but mostly irrelevant. That was then, this is now. Would she take it off my hands, now? I hoped she would. Finally, I could be rid of that useless thing. She agreed, but did so unenthusiastically. I was worried she was just being polite.
"Are you sure you want it?" I asked. "As much as I want to be rid of the damned thing, I want it to go to a good home. I don't want you to take it and end up putting it in your garage." Jan thought out loud about where she could put it, in her house. She held the large egg shell in her hands. Would she bond with it? I started to feel reluctant to let it go. Maybe this is how mothers feel who put their babies up for adoption before giving birth. When push comes to shove, they have second thoughts about giving the child up. I asked her, "if you were me, would you give the egg away, or keep it?" I sat on the end of my bed, while Jan stood with the egg in her hands. We debated the egg's future. No matter how much I wanted to be rid of it, I just wasn't convinced that Jan really wanted it. We decided that I would keep the egg, for now, while Jan thought about it. If she decided she really did want it, I would give it to her in the future.
If any of you would like to have an ostrich egg and will commit to giving it a good home, let me know. It's just the egg shell. All the innards have been drained out of it, so it's never going to hatch into anything. It will forever be dependant on you for care and attention. On the plus side, it doesn't eat anything and is very quiet. All of this discussion of the egg's fate has led me to ponder that age old question: which came first the ostrich or the egg?

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Monday, April 02, 2007

The Axis Reborn?

If you have been reading my blog regularly, you will be aware that my housemate, M1, recently moved out. Not being an altruist, my landlord has been trying to secure a replacement. This past weekend, he succeeded. On Saturday, he rented the vacant room to an Austrian bus driver, who I shall henceforth call, "the Austrian." The Austrian is 59 years old, so I am no longer the oldest in the house. Nando's initial reaction wasn't that positive. Yesterday, the Austrian came home from work with four cans of cold beer for us to share and invited me, and Nando, to get acquainted. Nando had already had two cans of Fosters, but he was happy to receive a third. For me, it was my first and only beer of the day.
Nando and I tend to play a version of "good housemate/bad housemate," which involved me doing most of the talking and Nando listening to the interaction between me and the target. Later, Nando and I compare notes. It was easy to get the new guy to talk about himself. Later, Nando expressed the opinion that the Austrian talked too much. The Austrian was describing his work as a bus driver, telling us how much he got annoyed by some of the passengers, when he suddenly stated that "blacks are the worst," then quickly said, "I'm not a racist."
Nando started laughing, heartily, and said, "I am. Don't be afraid to admit you are a racist," Nando advised. At least they had something in common. It's almost like a recreation of the Axis powers from World War II. Austria and Germany merged, and Hitler was originally Austrian, so the new guy would represent that side. Italy was a part of the Axis, so Nando would represent that side. That leaves Japan. We don't have a housemate to represent Japan. The Black Queen was half Chinese, maybe she can do as a fill-in. Here I am, the lone American surrounded by fascists.

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Sunday, April 01, 2007

There's No Fool Like An April Fool (Meeting the Black Queen)

Today is the tenth anniversary of my initial "meeting" with the woman who would go on to become the Black Queen. I say "meeting," but it wasn't face to face. it was a virtual meeting, in a chat room. As it was just over three months after the end of my relationship with Paula, I was looking to meet someone new. When she first spoke with me, I thought she was a guy, so I was a bit standoffish. Once I realized she was female, my usual charm offensive took over. Learning that she was half English and half Chinese intensified my interest. I love British accents and I have always been partial to oriental females. We exchanged photos and I found her attractive in her picture.
Everything wasn't clear sailing. I learned that she was separated from her husband and had two young children. Not letting myself be deterred, I called her on the phone. We continued talking over the internet and by telephone, every day, over the next two weeks. By then, I was certain I wanted to meet this enticing woman. I told her that I was prepared to fly to Britain and meet face to face. She agreed and I purchased a ticket to fly to London, before the end of the month. We planned on seeing each other over a weekend, then I would drive to Wales and visit the Great Michelle's brother for four days. I would return to the London area the following Thursday and spend a four day weekend with her, before flying back to New York. The visit to Wales was necessitated by the fact that my prospective girlfriend was still living with he husband she was separated from. She didn't want him to know about me, yet.
I flew to London's Gatwick airport with high hopes. When I entered the arrivals hall, I scanned the crowd for my internet girlfriend. As I first spotted her and we exchanged initial eye contact, I could tell by the expression on her face that she was disappointed. It seemed obvious that I didn't look as good as she had been expecting. My heart sank. At least I would get to see Michelle's brother, so I figured the trip wouldn't be a complete waste of time. My reaction was the opposite. She looked much better than I was expecting. The photo she had sent me hadn't done her justice. As we walked to the multi-story car park at Gatwick's South Terminal, she was very quiet. For safety, she had a friend drive her to Gatwick, so she wasn't alone. Her friend, another woman, drove away from the airport with me and my intended sitting together in the back seat. A hotel room had been reserved for me in a town called Langley, not far from where my intended's parents lived. During the drive there, I reached out to her and we kissed for the first time. It was a good move, as once I kissed her, she melted into my arms, all her disappointment in my looks forgotten.
At the hotel, I checked into my room. My blind date had arranged for some food to be waiting for me, when I arrived, as the hotel restaurant was closed, due to the late hour. She also had arranged for a bottle of champagne to be waiting in my room. We shared the champagne, then continued intimately kissing. I was impressed with how competently this half-oriental beauty had arranged everything. She stayed with me until the early hours of the morning, then drove home, promising to return later, during the day.
We spent as much time as possible together, during that first weekend. Then it was time for me to drive to Wales in a rented car. It was good to see Michelle's brother again, but my thoughts were occupied with my internet sweetheart. I told him about the girl who was stealing my heart. Soon it was time to head back to the London area. I drove back east, on the M4 motorway, as fast as I could. She had arranged for us to spend the weekend together at the Hilton hotel in Bracknell, Berkshire, just outside London. Ironically, I now live less than a mile from this hotel. Again, it was close to her parents' home, yet it was a much nicer hotel than I had stayed in at Langley. I checked in first, then she joined me, later. The next day, Friday of the first weekend in May, we met her parents for dinner at a local restaurant. It was her mother and her step-father, as her mother was on her second marriage. They seemed friendly enough. By then, I was thinking of my internet beauty as my girlfriend. She had planned for us to attend the theatre in Windsor, across the street from the Queen's castle, on Saturday. She dressed very classy, in black and I enjoyed going to a play with her.
Soon it was Monday morning and time for me to head home. During my visit, after the first time we made love, she had cried tears of happiness. She told me it was the first time in her life that she had been orgasmic with a man. I felt honored. That Monday, we sat in the car and she cried tears of sadness that I was leaving. We pledged to keep seeing each other and I flew home to New York a happy man. I was in love once again.

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Artist of the Week: Sugababes and Girls Aloud

This week, my Artist of the Week is shared by two groups: Sugababes and Girls Aloud. This is the first time in the history of my Artist of the Week that it's been shared by two artists. The reason for this unprecedented move is that these two British girl groups have released a single together. Entitled "Walk This Way," it's a cover of the song that Aerosmith did with Run DMC, by the same title. Sugababes and Girls Aloud released this single for this year's Comic Relief. Both groups waived their fess and proceeds are donated to the Comic Relief charity. When I first heard about this project, I was sceptical as to the result. The video for the song put the hook in me. I like the video better than I liked the Aerosmith and Run DMC video. These women look much better than the guys did. Ironically, I had a chance to be an extra in the video, but I chose to not apply for it. After seeing the finished project, I regretted that decision. You can check out both groups on their respective Myspace pages: and . On March 18th, the single reached number 1 on the UK chart. If you like the single, buy it. It's for charity.