Wednesday, February 3, 2010

movin' on up

I've decided to pack my bags and move to ... Word Press.

The decision was made rather suddenly. I was telling someone about my blog (i.e. shamelessly promoting myself), and when this person asked 'What's it called?' it took me 10 minutes to say the name, spell it out, and then try to explain it. I'm no web specialist, but even I realized that giving your blog a completely obscure name is not the best way to attract an audience. I was limiting myself to a few good friends and anyone who happened to include the words "imbecile" and "trottoir" in their google search, ensuring a further level of obscurity because most of these people would be French, and my blog is written in "English."

So onward, ever onward!

You'll find me here.

Monday, February 1, 2010

me and [insert clever blogging idea here]

I'm trying to think of a "Julie and Julia" gimmick that could win me more readers but it's harder than that Julie chick made it look. She started with a cookbook so I figure I should choose another sort of reference material. Here are some possibilities I've been mulling over:

Atlas: I could try visiting every country in the atlas (Pros: I'd get to see the world; I'd finally figure out where Togo is. Cons: expensive, time-consuming, would require me to visit Poland, unless I based it on my actual atlas, from which I've excised all references to Poland).

The Guinness Book of World Records: I could try to beat all the records. (Pros: would involve a lot of eating. Cons: too many opposing goals -- you'd have to be the fattest AND the skinniest, the tallest AND the shortest, the fastest AND the slowest; could also potentially require me to visit Poland).

Medical Dictionary: I could try contracting every disease in a standard medical dictionary. (Pros: could potentially be done from the comfort of my own home. Cons: wouldn't make for particularly light-hearted reading; could actually kill me).

Phone Book: I could try calling everyone in a given phone book. (Pros: could definitely be done from home; requires no particular skill. Cons: they might start calling back).

FBI's 10 Most Wanted: I could try to capture the FBI's 10 most wanted fugitives. Failing that, I could at least hang out with them. (Pros: would make more interesting reading than an account of making boeuf bourguignon. Cons: I would have to learn Spanish, as five of them are Hispanic; none of them is particularly cute - see for yourself, this is the FBI's actual 10 most wanted list. If they spent as much time looking for fugitives as they did experimenting with fonts, they'd probably whittle it down in no time.)

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

three days of the condor

Today, I will review the 1975 film Three Days of the Condor, directed by Sydney Pollack and starring Robert Redford and Faye Dunaway.

Available for rental, presumably, for years (in both VHS and later, DVD format I would imagine) it only went on sale at the Palac knih Luxor on Wenceslas Square in Prague recently, and I only bought and watched it yesterday, which explains why this review is 35 years late.

But let's not get bogged down in recriminations.

The movie is about Robert Redford, whose character's name escapes me now, but really, who cares? He's ROBERT REDFORD. He works for the CIA except he doesn't really, because he's not involved in any nasty CIA business, he just reads books - apparently in search of plans the CIA has in the past implemented or could potentially implement in future. He claims to read EVERYTHING, but that seems a little nonsensical to me. For example, would he read, Jane Eyre, in case the CIA has in the past or may in future pose as a plain governess who falls in love with a man who keeps his crazy Creole wife locked in the attic? (Although, that is ringing bells...Chile? the '70s? I must look that up.)

But let's not get bogged down in plot details. (Because frankly, I'm not sure I really followed it.)

This movie made me nostalgic for the '70s. In the '70s, for those of you who weren't there, or don't remember, people used to smoke a lot. INDOORS. I think it says a great deal about how our culture has evolved that 35 years later, I find the site of the receptionist smoking away while typing more shocking than any of the (many) shootings in this film.

Of course, that could be because, in the '70s, when people got shot, they bounced around a bit but they didn't bleed much. They rolled down stairs and fell out of office chairs, but they did it with minimum gore. I have to say, I liked that about the '70s.

But to get to back to the story, everyone in Robert Redford's office gets shot and he's saved only because he's gone out to get them lunch. When he returns and discovers the carnage (or what passed for carnage in the '70s) he realizes he's in danger and goes on the lam.

There follow a number of plot twists and turns during which the alert viewer will no doubt realize who is betraying whom, and the less alert viewer will have no idea who is betraying whom but will be happy, nonetheless, just watching ROBERT REDFORD.

Max Von Syndow plays a pivotal role as a creepy gun-for-hire from Europe (in the '70s, all the villains were European).

The opening credits note that the movie was based on the book "Six Days of the Condor," and I am really curious as to what happened to those other three days.

In short, a film that really must be seen to be properly appreciated (and perhaps seen a couple of times to be properly understood).

Thursday, January 14, 2010


This morning I've arrived at work only to discover we have a client-facing pivot table issue!

It's like reporting for duty on the deck of the enterprise just in time for a Klingon attack.

I'm psyched. I've been training for years for this moment. Bring on the client-facing pivot tables, I say! AND LET THEM PREPARE TO DIE!

Before beaming down to the planet of pivots, however, I need to find that one key member of my party - the character you've never seen on any previous episode of Star Trek, the one who really should have a big bull's-eye painted on his forehead because he may be beaming down, but the only way he'll be beamed back up is in mason jars. Or the distant-future equivalent of mason jars. I suppose the science of food preservation will have progressed by leaps and bounds by then.

Wish me luck!

(And if you're wondering why I've been left to command the Enterprise, it's because Captain Kirk is busy these days making goo-goo eyes at Gene Simmons.)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

windows 2010

Guys! I would have written sooner, but I've been soooooo busy, what with traveling to the land of my people (Scotland, not Tesco), remaining vigilant (something I've been doing since 9/11, and THOUGHT I could dispense with when Obama got elected but oh no, now I've got to worry about my EasyJet seat mate setting his underwear on fire during the approach to Stansted. One benefit of EasyJet, however, is that there is no in-flight entertainment - you have to make your own - and remaining vigilant, done correctly, can be very entertaining. My latest act of vigilance is to reply, when asked whether I'd prefer a window or an aisle seat, "I'd like to sit next to the Dutch filmmaker, please."), and committing the new office regulations to memory.

Have I mentioned the new office regulations? They arrived in an email with the subject line "Open Windows." Techie that I am, I assumed they were announcing they'd switched to pirated Microsoft software as a cost-cutting measure. Instead, I found a list of rules pertaining to the actual, physical windows in our office. To wit:

1. We will not leave the windows wide open during the winter until the very end of the day because it causes the air temperature to drop too quickly and the room takes too long to reheat.

2. The small windows above J**** will be left open for an hour or two (possibly longer), two or three times a day.

3. The office door will be left open for the circulation of air.

4. I will leave the big windows wide open every day for a few minutes just before I leave, while I'm getting ready to leave.

5. I will turn the radiator off just before I leave and will turn it back on when I arrive in the morning.

As they've recently introduced recycling bins for paper and plastic, I can only assume our office oxygen recirculation rules are part of the same initiative - we will also recycle our air. Our department has been a thought leader in that area - I breathed some air yesterday that I recognized immediately as vintage 2006 (fruity with just a hint of my old boss's hand cream).

I want to do my bit, but I'm afraid these rules are simply not sufficiently DETAILED. What if, for example, he wants to open wide the window and THEN get ready to leave, rather than doing the two simultaneously? Would that be considered a breach of the rules and if so, one subject to what sort of sanctions? And speaking of sanctions, none are mentioned. Can you really expect people to obey rules when no punishment awaits them for disobeying?

I mean, what's to stop me from throwing all the windows wide open the moment I arrive in the morning?

And jumping screaming out them?

Monday, December 14, 2009

taking stock

This decade and I have never been close (10 years in and I still don't know what to call it) but I'm not going to let that stop me from saying something potentially definitive about it.

I've chosen to concentrate on those features of the '00s (the decade we were all licensed to kill) with which I will no longer put up:

1. Dream Sequences. If the only way you can derive interest from a story line is to abandon it completely in favor of a pointless, plotless, feverish romp with dwarves and dead people and ducks (we're looking at you, Mr. David Chase!) it's probably time for a new story line.

2. User Forums. When I have a problem with my computer hardware or software, what I require is a user-friendly SOLUTION. What I do not require is a page of posts from people who a) have the same problem; b) had the problem but solved it by retying their shoes while facing north; c) had the same problem but solved it by rebuilding their computer from scratch, switching operating systems and re-reading The Art of Computer Programming; d) think my inability to solve my own problem makes me a Nazi.

3. Nasty Reality Show Judges. Enough, already. I don't even watch these shows and I know who Simon Callow is - and I know someone should sit up all night and SLAP him. Do people really get off more on seeing untalented people humiliated than seeing talented people triumph? If they do, then they should be ashamed of themselves, these people.

4. Celebrities. I call for an Age of Obscurity. Let's not talk about anyone who hasn't accomplished something of real worth (as determined by a panel that does not include Simon Callow) for the next 10 years.

5. "Green" Products. You want to save the earth? Stop buying so much shit!

6. Dick Cheney. Traditionally, the only way a former vice president of the US could continue to command media attention was to become president (this explains why George Bush Sr is occasionally in the limelight and could even be said to explain Al Gore's continued prominence - he did, after all, become president; he was just rudely deprived of the opportunity to serve). Why does Dick Cheney continue to appear, Jacob Marley-like, in our lives? I submit that if the media are to continue giving air time and column inches to Cheney, they should devote equal attention to Dan Quayle and Walter Mondale.

I know that for this to be a proper end-of-decade list it should have 10 items, but you know what? Life just isn't that tidy and rather than add four, half-hearted final items to make the quota, I will end here. Abruptly.

(Pictured above right: Walter Mondale. I'm doing my part to redress the imbalance.)

Friday, December 11, 2009

learning english?

I happened to hear Radio Ceska's English lesson this morning and I may never be the same.

I stopped what I was doing to write it down, dictation-style, and I present it here to see if you find it equally disturbing.

It's a conversation between an unidentified man and woman (the point, apparently, is to teach the phrase "to look at"). You hear the sound of babies cooing throughout:

Man: Look at the twins.

Woman: I can’t tell them apart.

M: Which one do you like better?

W: The one on the left.

M: Why do you like her better?

W: She seems more friendly.

M: What makes her seem that way?

W: I’m not sure.

M: Look at her eyes.

W: Oh yes, her pupils are bigger!

M: Now watch as I shine a bright light in her eyes.

W: Her pupils just got smaller!

M: Yes, and she seems less friendly. Next time you meet somebody, look at their eyes and see if the size of their pupils changes.

Is it just me, or does this sound like "Learning English with Dr. Mengele" to you too?

I don't know which is creepier - the fact that the man asks "WHICH ONE DO YOU LIKE BETTER?" or that the woman HAS AN ANSWER.

They finished up by illustrating the difference between "to look" and "to watch." An admirable goal, but why do it this way:

M: Stop talking and look at this photograph.

M: Stop talking and watch the action in this film.

I was half expecting the whole thing to be punctuated by slaps. The funny thing is that I had been considering suggesting these English lessons to an analyst at my place of work, who actually does need to brush up on his understanding of "to look at" (I asked him to "have a look at" a report I'd edited and he responded by email that he would "take a vision on it.") I've reconsidered, however. Lessons like these would have him telling me to "stop talking" and gauging my dislike of him in the size of my pupils. And we CAN'T have that.