Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Dublin Wrapup

Continuing my theme of posting irregularly, I'll try to finish up my Dublin stories. The Dublin Castle, something I had high hopes for, was vastly disappointing. In fact, it was so disappointing that I found myself saying foul things about the Irish in general. Seriously, how could they have thought this was a good idea.

Christ Church, however, was a different story. It's pretty damn awesome inside and you get to go in the catacombs below, which are pristine, but still cool to look at.

Anyway, it's story time. On Thursday, we went on a pub crawl, as I mentioned previously. We started out at the smallest pub in Dublin.

Yes, it's about that wide inside. And yes, I failed to take a picture of the inside.

After one pint, the nine of us departed for Temple Bar. It's the prime district in Dublin and also where I stayed. We ended up at the pub that was connected to my hostel - Gogarty's. They didn't know any better. While there, we met this crazed French guy. He was 40ish, balding, drunk, smelly, and obnoxious. At one point, when he found out where I came from, he said something like, "I don't like Americans, but I met one that was ok once." Which of course caused me to quip, "Yeah, well I generally despise the French, but I know one that isn't too bad, I suppose." I was not in the mood to banter with a jackass of his nature.

Anyway, he immediately started hitting on this German girl we were with. She was not interested at all, but that didn't stop him. She was actively seeking to get out of there, so we started downing our pints quickly so we could move on. Nobilarity ensued.

Yes, that is that bloke's leg, but no, it's not a real leg. Apparently, he felt that it was the proper time to swivel his leg and drink off his foot. Sadly, I was too slow with the camera to actually get him with his drink on his shoe, but this wasn't too bad of a snapshot either. A hasty exit followed.

When we got outside, we realized we were down three people. Two American girls and one of the Germans. So the Aussie rolls back inside to find out what's up. We wait at least five minutes before they come out at which point the Americans start berating the rest of us for ditching the guy. "He wanted to buy us all drinks," one of them crooned shrilly. "I can't believe you are so rude like that," another squeaked pitifully. Still not in a mood to banter with bullsh*t, I hastily made our case: He was a weirdo who wanted to get in your pants and used the "I'll buy the table a round of drinks" as his wedge to make sure that we stayed and to impress you. We cancelled the drink order, we said goodbye, and we moved on as we had planned. There's nothing rude about it. At this point, I was accused of being "cold", which, wisely swallowing my tongue, I thought, "Well, at least I'm not an immature bitch (ass ho)." Of course, the German girl had the cincer: "What's the problem. He was drinking off his shoe. Next pub please."

Needless to say, the night fell apart from there. I was already annoyed at both of the Americans (who I think were Top Tossers), one for being a Fran Drescher (the annoying Nanny) type that would laugh, stop, say, "That's funny right?" and then continue laughing. The other one was mostly quiet, but she was the one that said we were rude and cold. We broke up the pub crawl after one more pint.

On Friday, I went to Trinity College, a history museum, St. Stephen's Green, and the piece de resistance - Malahide. See, all those sights in Dublin were interesting, but I was tiring of the town. There just isn't that much to see or do and it's not that nice of a town. One area is extremely expensive; the rest is dodgy shite. I'd read about Malahide (about 20 minutes north on the train) and this castle there. I really wanted to see a proper castle where they did some medievall stuff, not some fluffy castle that's painted in pastel colors. So I hopped the train around 2 pm and found my way in a very small country town on the coast.

The walk from the train station to the Castle is quite lengthy, but was entirely enjoyable. You start out in a field and then walk through a forest.

When you finally get out, you come to the back side of the Castle where they have this Nintendo Style graveyard.

After checking that out, I walked around the castle and found myself taking it in from the front side.

I did the tour (not medievall enough for me) and walked around and just enjoyed the incredible weather and beautiful environment. Finally, I walked back to town and saw the "coast" if you could call it that (it's on a bay, not the Sea). Feeling a bit parched and wanting to take in some of the local flavor, I found one of the two pubs in the town and sat down for a Guinness.

It was an old style pub with a fireplace going and tons of locals. This is what they do apparently because everyone knew each other. They had their kids in tow as well. In fact, there was a sign on the front door that asked patrons to only stay for an hour if they had kids with them because it was "unkind" to make kids stay for longer. Bizarre idea bringing 10 year olds to the pub.

When I returned to Dublin, I desperately searched for Fado's. It had a similar logo as the one in the States, so I was curious. After an hour and a half of looking (and walking around it at least 5 times), I finally found it.

Sadly, all I had found was a crappy little hotel bar with little more than a few tourists, no food or Irish music, and no flavor at all. Stubbornly, I sat for a pint before heading back to the hostel. When I got there, the Italian guy who was sharing my room asked if I wanted to get a beer. Even though I was exhausted, I immediately said yes. Part of traveling alone is meeting people and I was so soured on that after Thursday night's ridiculous episode that I was interested to see if people from Europe would be less the jackass then a couple of Americans. Turned out to be a good decision. We met up some other Italians and listened to live music and had a great time. Even though there was a language barrier, it never was much of a problem.

All in all, I had a nice time in Ireland. But I have to confess to being disappointed with Dublin. It's a city undergoing massive development and change; at one point I counted 45 different cranes around the city all in use building stuff. But it's also a city with little character. To me, it had the feel of a tourist trap - excessively priced everything and crappy "Irish" souvenirs. Going to Malahide was the best decision I made because it gave me some real flavor, it was beautiful, and I now want to sample more of the Irish countryside. Maybe I shall.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Back at work

I have many stories to tell but for some reason my thoughts are jumbling around my head like dice in the cup just before the toss. Perhaps its residual fatigue or perhaps its that I stayed up very late finishing this book - one that's marketed as the "thinkers" Da Vinci Code (and is entertaining in its way, but clearly not as good as Da Vinci). Either way, two things are clear: I have little focus this morning and the pictures I want to post with my stories are on my computer at home. Thusly, this post will be about two things.


In the post-9/11 & Iraq War II world that we live in, it is normal to expect that there would be certain security procedures present in high profile locations. We, as a culture, have accepted those provisions and adapted our lifestyles accordingly. In London, for example, there are almost no trash cans since "the terrorists" could plant bombs in them set to go off at inopportune moments. Thus, Londoners litter with a passion, almost as if it's a patriotic duty to tarnish the city with cigarette butts, cellophane wrappings, and the various trappings that constitute the detritus of urban living. The act of littering has become more than simply a careless disregard for the Londoners environment; its evolved into a giant middle finger raised in the ultimate salute to those who would terrorize: "We will not be stopped from disposing our trash, even if you threaten our precious trash cans!" they shout triumphantly as they ever so subtly add to the layer of urban droppings that commuters like myself wade through daily and the men in shiny vests spend their lives collecting armed with only a broom and their ideology. Everyone does their part in the war on terror and the trash man is no exception.

Dublin, however, has not boldly joined the fight against terror by removing their trash cans. Instead, its almost as if they added more. It doesn't make the city that much cleaner (drunk people care not about trash cans), but it does make it a heck of a lot easier for gents like myself. Oddly, Dublin is a city almost untouched by the war on terror. Aside from a few (hundred) security cameras, you barely notice the presence of police and you never find yourself walking through a metal detector. In fact, given Ireland's tumultuous recent history, it's fantastically shocking to realize that the city has a disdain for the traditional "target hardening" measures so enthusiastically supported by the free spending Department of Homeland Security. Not once did I experience a security measure when entering a museum or exhibit in Dublin. Maybe that speaks to how far down the country is on the terror threat, but I think I have a better theory. Terrorism is nothing new to Ireland. It's not shocking, it's not chic, and it sure as hell isn't going to provoke the regulars out of the pub - at least not until that pint of Guinness is finished. Therefore, it makes sense that Ireland's response is more reasoned and calm than the US response. Combine the two factors and I think you have your answer: shock of terror plus high threat causes billions of futile expenditures that will never make the US safe but does make the people feel a bit more comfortable all the while lining the coffers of a burgeoning crop of "homeland security" companies. Want to create an industry, follow the US government model.

Anyway, all of that occurred to me as I was walking through airport security on Saturday. The Dublin airport was a crazed mass of people all twitching and vibrating in odd rhythms more expected at a dodgy rave than a busy international landing strip. When I finally got up to the security gate, I understood. The only thing they didn't do was strip search me. Pockets, belt, shoes, jacket - all of it in the conveyer. Mind you, leaving the UK, I didn't even take my jacket off when I went through the metal detector, not to mention my belt or shoes. It was an odd contrast leaving Dublin, not something I expected, but one that left a lasting impression. The entire process shouts of something that I had not pondered previously: Ireland had to do something to look like they were fighting the war on terror and absurdly excessive airport security seems to be what they selected. A small blip on the anti-terror RADAR sure to placate the US when this small island nation would never support the war in Iraq or other stringent requirements at home. "Fine," says the US, "just don't let them terror bastards use your country as a launching pad. Increase security at the airports so that they can't blow anything up."

What was truly most bizarre, however, was my re-entry into the UK. If you go through Heathrow or Gatwick, the passport inspection can be a serious pain. They can ask you a lengthy series of questions (even with a visa) and generally delay your trip home to the point of annoyance. At Luton, I didn't even get my passport stamped to verify re-entry, not to mention inspected. Customs was shut down; everyone entered through the "EU" aisle and no one had their bags inspected for contraband. It was shocking and something that caused momentary hesitation, but I quickly dismissed as I knew any delay would cause me to miss my bus back to the city. I still wonder if I "evaded" security out of error - mine or the airports, I'll never know.

Solo Travel

There is this romantic notion that is espoused by some and tested by many that traveling alone is exciting, fulfilling, and thrilling. One of the reasons I wanted to go to Dublin alone was to test this vision within myself - can I do it? Is solo travel for me? I'm not generally the type to like to do things on my own like that. Independent, yes, but not to the point that I can have a fulfilling existence without meaningful contact of others. I'm a social animal, as I believe we all are, and solo travel flies in the face of that enduring reality. How can one have a meaningful interaction with people that are ultimately transitory in our lives? Then again, aren't most (all?) people ultimately transitory in our lives?

There are advantages to traveling alone. You set your schedule, you decide what you want to do and see, you can wait to eat lunch until your famished to the point of dropping because you couldn't be bothered to find food at the appropriate time, instead choosing to sacrifice sustenance at the alter of touristic discovery. All of these are things that I did and will do again when I travel solo. But, even those advantages are coupled with an ever present and more important disadvantage: life's journey is just more meaningful when you share experiences with another of significance. It impacted me little to meet an Aussie and tour the Jail with him aside from the genuine enjoyment of another's company for a brief moment. I found myself wondering at times what the trip would have been like with friends or family, what they would have thought, what fun we would have had.

This is not a desperate plea for female companionship. That comes to us all in time and it's something I've enjoyed in the past and from time to time in the present. But it's not about that. It's about sharing experiences with someone of significance, be it a brother, a sister, a mother, a good friend, a lover. This is where the solo traveler experience departs from my ideal. Yes, I can go it alone. Yes, I can enjoy myself, meet interesting people, and have a great trip. Those questions are not in doubt. What is clear, however, is that those experiences pale in comparison to what could be experienced when you travel with someone you truly care about, someone you are truly close to. It's not that solo travel is bankrupt, it's that when compared to traveling with someone you are close to, it can't compete.

I'll end this missive with the following: I'm sure that I will travel alone in the future; it's an inevitability that I see no escape from. I'm also confident that I will enjoy myself, I will go places, see things, and do things that I've long dreamed about and that will be fulfilling in its own right. But, if I had a preference, I'd do those things with someone who mattered, not a random character on a similar road of isolation.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Not Dead Yet!

Finally managed to find an internet terminal. So I'll try to update on the last couple days. Tuesday was very busy at work and I barely had time to do much other than work. Well, aside from taking the Intern out to a posh Thai place paid for by the firm. That was nice. After work, I had a drink with the Roving Alcoholic and the intern, after which the Roving Alcoholic and I met up with my cousins. We had a meal at Wagamama and then met up some school mates for some pints. That, of course, led to a club and a bit too much debauchery, but we went home relatively early.

Against all odds, I made it to the airport on time. I overslept by about an hour, so packing was a relentless drive to throw odd assortments of clothing and other goods into a bag. Barely making my bus, I was able to relax. Sadly, sleep was not forthcoming. I got into the Dublin airport in the early afternoon on Wednesday with little trouble. Navigating the bus to the City Centre was no trouble either. For €1.75, it sure beat the £6 rail-link service they were selling on the plane. What a rip off. The bus is easy, fast, and cheap. Unknowing tourists gobbled up those passes though.

After a brief walk, I made it to my hostel. It's in Temple Bar which is the trendy sort of area in town which basically means one thing: overpriced beer and tons of live Irish music. Walking up, I was a little shocked at what a garish tourist attraction the Gogarty's bar is (adjacent and part of my hostel). I have to remember to take a picture tonight when it's dark out. Nothing like green neon. Checking in was no trouble, although I did have to "rent" a towel for €3.50. I wonder what happens if I steal it.

I went out for a walk almost immediately. There was no one in the room (I'm sharing an 6 person room) and I was eager to get a lay of the land. First, however, I needed to eat. It was almost 3 and I was famished. Very close to my hostel was a Shawarma place that advertised itself with the statement "World's Best Shawarma". Bold indeed. I decided to investigate and I found out two things: it was cheap and the waitress was incredibly hot. Needless to say, I sat for a meal. It was not, I would say, the world's best shawarma. But it was sufficiently tasty that I went back for a second meal the next day. I mean, it was only €7 for a whole plate of food and a coke. Hard to beat, especially in an overpriced haven like Dublin.

The next task: get lost and find my way back. There's nothing like walking the streets of a foreign city with no map, no clue and only your internal compass to guide you. I found it quite easy to get turned around in the warren of side streets, but I never truly got lost. It's just not that big of a city. Finally, I decided it was time to have a quaff of the local brew. Since my hostel is so powerfully garish and well equipped with live music, I clearly had no choice but to immediately park it at the bar. Not wanting to drink Guinness, I ordered a KilKenney, which for all those Southpark fans, is self-evidently funny.

It didn't take long before I started chatting with some Irish guys. One of them was a total weirdo, but was nice enough. Just a little lonely I think. We had a few pints there and then eventually headed out in search of some better Irish music. We never found any, but we did find some more pints. I called it a night around 11 or so but then realized how futile that is. See, attempting to sleep in my hostel prior to 2:30 am is essentially a non-starter. The pub below and next door both have outdoor patios and they are directly beneath my window. It makes for a long night.

Thursday was a blur. I started out at the Dublin Castle, then: Christ Church, Dublinia, the Guinness Factory, and finally the Kilmainham Gaol (Jail). In all, I probably walked 5 miles, partially because I went the wrong way, and partially because the Jail is really far from the City Centre. The highlight of the day was the Jail, but sadly, my camera batteries died just before I got there and I have no pictures to show for it. Still, it's a great place to visit and it only cost €2 with my student ID.

The Guinness Factory was alright, but it's basically high level marketing. It's interesting for a time, but after awhile, you sort of lose interest. Of course, it helps that there's a pub at the top and they give you a pint as part of your entry fee, at least, that is, until you remember that Guinness is little more than fetid swill water delicately infused with fresh scrapings of ass. The view at the top of the factory made it worth it, though.

On the way to the Jail, I met some Aussie who's been traveling alone for 6 months. We got to chatting (he was headed to the Jail as well) and he ended up inviting me to go on a pub crawl with some people he met. It was alright, I suppose. One thing I will say about traveling alone, you have too many of the same conversations. These are the stock questions:

"Where are you from?"
"How long have you been (in Dublin)?"
"How long have you been traveling?"

Et. al. Maybe I just didn't like those folks that much, I don't know. But it was tiresome after a bit. Plus the Canadian guy was just a little too proudful of the fact that he was Canadian and that grated on me after a bit. We did meet some crazy French dude, but I'll save that story until I can actually post the pic I took.

Today I've been all over. But I'm going to save those details until I get back to London (tomorrow). This is costing me euros as I type! In fact, I wouldn't have logged on at all except that my mission tonight is to find this pub I saw on the way into town called "Fado". That will ring a bell instantly for some of you, but for those of you who are unfamiliar, I've gone to two Fado's in the US and loved them. This one looked like it had the same logo. At any rate, I'm about spent and this seemed like a good way to finish off the trip.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Graduand to Graduate and other forms of grammatical masturbation

So graduation was on Saturday. I got right pissed at the school pub Friday night as part of the "alumni" event that they hosted. My cousin and his wife joined the party and we all had a very good time.

On Saturday, I showed up a bit late for the pre-graduation fitting and things like that. I had planned on showing up late. The inside scoop was that showing up at 1 meant that you'd sit around for 3 hours doing nothing. So I got there just after 2:30 and only had to wait around for 90 minutes. I think graduation is little more than an excuse for people to dress ridiculously and get away with it.

Finally, the ceremony got underway. We all filed in, got our seats, and listened to a variety of dullish speeches. The distribution of "diplomas" probably took the longest amount of time as there were over 60 "graduates". The diploma was a photocopy of a generic business MA with the name "John Doe". I mocked being peeved because I'm not in business. In fact, I spent most of the time mocking the entire proceedings. My professor who was handing out "degrees" whispered to me when I was on stage, "You look like you're really enjoying yourself. Perhaps you could fake it a little better."

Anyway, I didn't mind the ceremony that much and since I didn't go to my college graduation, I suppose it was nice to have the experience and get lots of pics of my friends. I'll post some pictures when I'm at home. The absurd thing, however, and the reason why I put graduates in quotes is that out of roughly 60 graduates, only about 30 actually graduated. The rest of us have one more term to go which is a little odd. Sort of takes some of the sense of accomplishment out of the experience.

After the ceremony, they force all the graduates onto the stage and make them toss their caps while the professional photographer takes pics. Nice to see that there was not even a hint of authenticity in that particular proceeding. I played along, but it wasn't until shortly after that I realized the downside of sticking around for the post-ceremony pics. They had a reception with wine, food, and desserts for all the attendees. Only problem was, by the time the grads actually got there, all the desserts were gone. The food wasn't great to begin with, so I was a bit peeved by that. All I wanted was some cake. I had to settle for finger food and wine.

The group that I normally hangout with all stuck around and killed the wine. Needless to say, we got fairly pissed. Then we headed to the pub. Fittingly, we went to the Volunteer which is the first pub I went to with school mates. My cousins met us up there for some drinks. Real World showed up as well with her 50-year old Aunt and a family friend in her 60's. They got completely hammered on Rum and Coke's. Things were getting out of hand when some random guy at the pub (who was maybe 21) started dancing with the 60ish woman and eventually started making out with her. It was freaking nasty. In fact, I think I just threw up in my mouth remembering the episode.

Later, the group was headed to a posh club, so I made a split decision to go along. I don't normally go with them to those clubs because they cost too much money and I never meet people there, but I was feeling in a celebratory spirit, so I decided to go. (My cousins wisely opted out.) Before we left, Real World met a group of young American girls and got them to come along. One of them was insanely cute so I chatted her up on the way. When we got there, the guy at the door is one of my mates so he let us in directly, but not before saying, "you can get in, but not those girls." Apparently, they didn't meet the dress code. Not caring too much, I waved at them, said something like, "see you on the inside" and went in. Yes, I'm a bastard but what the hell were they doing following a random group of people to a posh club in central London dressed in hoodies and jeans?

The club was fairly nice. I didn't have to spend much money because I was already "well oiled". There were a ton of people from school there which was cool. Some of those people I will never see again as they're returning to their home countries for good in a matter of days. I did happen to chat up some nice ladies, but in typical fashion, I was barking up the wrong trees. One woman chatted with me for a good 20 minutes before turning to this really old guy (as in 60ish) and said, "let me introduce you to my husband." That was certainly odd. It isn't every day that you meet a 30ish woman with a husband about twice her age. Later, I was chatting with a really cute Scottish woman and after about 15 minutes she said, "let me introduce you to my boyfriend." At that point I just said screw it and hung out with my friends. Most of the women in a posh club are the snobbish type anyway, so I wasn't terribly interested in wasting time or money on them.
On Sunday, I met up my cousins for lunch. As I was in from the club at 4 am that morning and was out of bed by 11:30, the day was an endurance contest for me. I was more tired than anything, but somehow managed to survive it. I attribute that to my German-Irish heritage which is finally good for something.

Anyway, my cousin was in the Air Force for awhile and has some Air Force buddies living outside of London. They came down and met us up for the afternoon. It was interesting to hear their perspective about living in the UK. It was very different from mine. I'm much more immersed in the culture because I live in London, I work in a British company, and I don't hang out with very many Americans. They're tied to a bit of America as they work on a US air base and mainly interact with Americans. Having been a Navy brat, I prefer immersing myself in the culture. The experience just seems that much more authentic, but I suppose they don't have much of a choice in the matter. Nice guys though.

Anyway, after lunch we walked up to Hyde Park. It was a lazy Sunday and we spent a good bit of time looking at paintings. Every Sunday, area artists go to Hyde Park and hock their wares. Everything's a bit too expensive for my scholastic salary, but it was fun. We found a great pub at one point. It had an upstairs balcony fully immersed in glorious sunlight. We had no choice but to stop in for a drink. Seeking a "British" experience, I had a Pimms and Lemonade which is difficult to describe, but is akin to an alcoholic's ice tea and is what the Brits drink in the summertime to cool off in the heat. (Never mind that it doesn't get truly hot here.) For reasons I couldn't quite comprehend, the bartender filled about half the glass with Pimms instead of the quarter glass that is normal, so the drink was much stronger than I prefer, but it was still drinkable. (I think it had something to do with my penchant to reply to every query with "yes". Like when she asked if I wanted a double shot "even though we have 50ml shots here". 25ml is the normal size.)

Later, the Air Force crew had to head back up North. But it was still awesome outside, so my cousins and I went back to the park and laid out in the sun and relaxed. Several hours of soaking up the sun later and we were hungry again. Traditionally, Sundays in the UK are the day of the "roast". Every pub has a Sunday roast and we decided to try that out. It's basically like Sunday brunch in the US except that this is just dinner so your choices are more limited. The place we chose ended up only having roast beef and chicken (sadly they were out of the pork and lamb), so we settled on chicken. It was quite good.

The other thing about the meal was that it revealed a secret of British cuisine that was previously undiscovered. The meal came with something called "Yorkshire pudding", which we assumed was some kind of pudding type dessert. I mean, it says "pudding" in the name and it was at the end of the menu where you would normally put a dessert. Apparently, however, Yorkshire pudding is what we Americans would call a "pop over". Here's an odd sort of link that has a pic and what I can only imagine is supposed to be an ode to the Yorkshire Pudding. I really don't understand why they can't speak a proper sort of English over here.

Finally, when I got home last night, I managed to watch this independent and free Star Wars movie called Star Wars: Revelations. I don't know if anyone has heard of it before but I read about it in Slate. It's totally cool. They shot it in the DC area on a budget of about $20,000 and did the video animation over the internet. By that, I mean there were literally thousands of fans around the world that contributed programming help and things like that. It's totally awesome. Unfortunately, it's only 40 minutes long, but it's easily better than Episode I or II. You can watch it online here.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Didn't Watergate teach us anything...aka...Why George W. Bush should be impeached

There used to be a time in American politics when a president that behaves badly and engages in clearly unethical behavior was punished for it. Watergate saw Nixon resign rather than be kicked out. Iran-Contra saw unique compassion from the Democrats as they decided to spare the country another Presidential scandal and instead were satisfied with a public inquiry and punishment for Jolly Ollie North. Things really got turned around in the 90's, though, when the GOP Hack-a-Prez tactic finally nailed Clinton on Lewinsky - an irrelevant and trivial bit of information that never should have become public.

I'll be happy to go into more depth later if necessary - but the short and sweet is, the GOP responded to Clinton's win in 92 with a series of investigations and special prosecutors into suspicions of wrongdoing by the Clintons when they were back in Arkansas. The root of these suspicions was a little private investigation firm down in Arkansas that sold their services to the GOP ostensibly to dig up dirt on the Clintons. Instead of digging up dirt, they just invented dirt and sold it to the highest bidder. They had a bone to pick with Clinton because of local politics, the national GOP just used that vehicle to attack the Prez. Anyway, after about a hundred million dollars of expenditures, two independent prosecutors, and thousands hours of testimony, Starr and crew came up with nothing on Billy and Hilly. It wasn't until that troll of a woman from the DOD illegally taped Lewinsky confessing to pleasuring the Prez that Starr finally got something on the Prez. Yeah, he shouldn't have lied about it (although his defense of why it wasn't a lie is pure Clintonian genius), but he shouldn't have been asked about it either. That entire era represents one of the darkest days of American politics of the 20th century.

Now, however, it's as if a CLEAR scandal, with a President lying to start an illegal war is going to be continually swept under the carpet. Here are some facts:

On May 1st of this year, The Times of London released a confidential British memo that were meeting notes from a briefing of top government officials and Tony Blair after Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon returned from a July 2002 meeting with US administration officials. The subject was Iraq and the admin at the time was already targeting Iraq leading one British official to say, "It seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind to take military action, even if the timing was not yet decided."

The gearup for the war was specifically planned and timed: "the United States had not finalized a timeline, but that it would likely begin "30 days before the U.S. congressional elections," culminating with the actual attack in January 2003."

In fact, this had already been roughly agreed to by Blair and Bush in April of 2002: "When the prime minister discussed Iraq with President Bush at Crawford in April," states the paper, "he said that the UK would support military action to bring about regime change." (Times of London, May 1, 05, "Blair Planned Iraq War from the Start")

But perhaps the most stunning, shocking, and frightening aspect of the memo is this little tidbit:

"Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. The NSC had no patience with the U.N. route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime's record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action." (Emphasis added.)

This is an incredible revelation because as The Times of London clearly states, "the primary impetus to action over Iraq was not the threat posed by weapons of mass destruction' as Blair later told the country 'but the desire to overthrow Saddam. There was little talk of WMD at all."

It was several weeks after this memo was written that Blair and Bush spun Iraq as an "immanent threat to its neighbors" something that was a clear lie. Jack Straw, Foreign Secretary of the UK, even went as far to say during the meeting that, "Saddam was not threatening his neighbours, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran."

So let me get this straight, a President lies about getting a BJ in the Oval Office and he gets impeached for it. The very next President lies about a policy issue - he tells the US public and the world that Iraq is a threat to world peace, is developing WMD, and had a role in 9/11 - all clearly false, something that there is documentation to support, something that resulted in thousands of American casualties, something that cost hundreds of billions of US taxpayer dollars, something that completely eviscerated all of the post-9/11 goodwill that the world showered on the US, and there's not even an investigation, not to mention an impeachment proceeding?

Let me just repeat a quote from above one more time: "the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."

Even beyond that, however, where is the US media? If you do a google news search on this issue you'll find a CNN International article, some "alternative media", an LA Times article, and not much else. This is a HUGE story, or should be. John Conyers, D-MI, has written a letter to the admin and attached 89 signatures from Congressional Democrats asking for an explanation. The letter was sent a week ago. Where is the Washington Post, New York Times, etc? Did I just miss the coverage or is the media going to collectively lie down in the face of "this is just old news y'all. Come on down to my ranch and we'll have a barbecue and y'all feel better right quick. Yee haw!" I guess the media would rather report on runaway Georgia brides. For shame.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Hall of Fame Moment

This one clearly goes into the Hall of Fame (Shame). I'm not sure what's more shocking - that a radical right wing conservative anti-abortion activist (and fucko who posts abortion doctors names on his website - an obvious hit list for whack jobs with one doctor already being murdered) would have sex with animals or that he would admit it.


I have this theory. It's still in development and it's something that I tested last night. Simply, my theory is, "I'll go out with anyone at least once". It sounds like a grand idea. How do you know you will or will not like someone unless you go out with them once, right? Well, last night tested me and my theory. It's still intact, but I definitely wavered a bit.

Last Friday, as some may recall, I went out to a club and met a Peruvian woman. We danced, chatted, exchanged numbers. Well, the risk of doing that when you're pissed (drunk) as I was at the time, is that you really have no idea if the person you're chatting with is attractive - physically or mentally. So, last night, when I met up with her for drinks, it was my first chance to see what she really looked like. Wow was I disappointed. It's not that she was entirely unattractive, it's that I was entirely unattracted to her - something I figured out in 5 seconds or less. I'm experienced enough in the ways of the world to know that if there is no attraction, nothings happening, no matter how cool the other person may be. Still, being a nice guy, I wasn't about to turn and walk away. Instead, I figured I'd go through with the date but try to give her signs that I was not interested. If she was perceptive, she would figure it out.

Sadly, she was not perceptive. In fact, I got the clear impression that she totally digs me. I hate to disappoint people, but in this case, I had no choice. I left took her to the tube at the conclusion of the date and deferred on seeing her again. Not wanting to make her feel bad, I was a little equivocal, but I made clear that I'm not after her. She went for a kiss, I went for a cheek. I think she got the message.

Anyway, the other real problem was something I've encountered before and something that I think is likely to become a hard and fast rule from now on. I have found it exceedingly difficult to engage people in a dating sense when their English is less than stellar. It's not that you can't understand them. It's that the act of listening and communicating becomes laborious to the point that I become disinterested, ancy, and irritated. I do understand that it's difficult to learn another language and be able to express yourself in that language and I'm not faulting people who are in that process. But I do not want to be in a situation where I constantly have to substitute words that I would normally use for simpler, easier ones. Nor do I want to be in a situation where the person I'm with can't follow me when I'm talking or making bad jokes (as I'm wont to do). And nor do I want to be in a situation where someone else can't express themselves properly because of the language barriers. So my conclusion is that while I appreciate Latin culture and people, we gotta be able to freely communicate to make things happen. (All bets off if she's extremely cute.)

Anyway, I had the opportunity last night to watch some of Kylie Minogue's first show at the Earl's Court Exhibition Center last week. They recorded it and played it on Channel 4. I have to say, without a doubt, she's one of the worst performers I've ever seen or imagined. Not only does she have an extremely average voice, her stage presence is non-existent, and she seemed to suck the life out of the audience. This is shocking to me. I've seen great shows before. Dave Matthews, for example, is pure intensity. Great, great act to see live. Kylie was pretty much the polar opposite. I like some of her clubby hits, but those should only be heard on disc, not performed live. What's really shocking is that given this reality, how could she sell out one show, not to mention 7?

In other news, some people are just necessarily thick headed. I've mentioned this before, but some of the folks I work with (ok, mostly just one of them) is dense to the point that it makes me question how she has a job, not to mention functioning biology. Last week she took 10 minutes to explain that she needed some coffee cup gifts to have price tags removed and then placed in padded envelopes for shipping. It took me maybe 5 minutes to complete the task. Why are you bothering me, I wonder. Today, she needed help doing an inventory for some marketing materials. I imagine it's because she can't count. Whatever the reason, the task proved to be a lot simpler than described, something she didn't catch on to, which forced me to seize the moment and force the agenda. If I have to do sh*t work, I want to get it done as quick as possible, not fiddle around for hours in useless and endless toil. Anyway, there's a reason I suppose that some people are only suited to admin tasks and she's Exhibit A.

Tomorrrow I have my US Foreign Policy final. There's been a lot of nervous chatter among my classmates because we essentially didn't learn anything about US Foreign Policy in class and the assigned readings are: a) not available (our library has 1 of the 10 or so books on the list) and b) oddly irrelevant (microcosm case studies that he never brought up in class and would cause a riot if he tested us on them). It makes it tough to study for a final if you don't have any study materials, you have no direction from the professor, and you have no idea what you were even supposed to learn. All of these gripes are legitimate gripes. This has been the absolute worst effort by this professor since I've been here (and there are reasons in the background for this that I won't discuss) and I'm just as clueless as everyone else. That being said, I'm still pretty confident that I'm going to ace the exam. Half of the exam will be writing a foreign policy memo, which I aced both of the ones I had to do previously and the other half will be short answer. I can't imagine that the short answer will be highly specific meaning that I'll be able to draw on a variety of knowledge that I have retained over the years. Unfortunately for my classmates, they have no such exposure to IR or debate (my primary sources) and are not so advantaged. I see many complaints about this class forthcoming.

Tomorrow my cousin and his wife arrive in London. They've been traveling Europe for two months and this is the last leg of their journey (and maybe Ireland too). It will be good to see some family and hear their stories. Plus, I'll be done with school for a week which makes two reasons to celebrate.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Finally, an answer

I don't know about y'all, but ever since pundit annoying-aire Arianna Huffington asked, "If Jesus were alive today, what kind of car would he drive?" I've wondered what would he choose. Would it be a yuppie-mobile like a Saab? Would it be a hybrid electric car that, while did not release CO2 when driving, was powered by fossil fuels via battery recharge (coal fired power plants), and threatened to contaminate the groundwater with mercury when the battery expired and was improperly dealt with by the sanitation authorities? Or would he just say screw it and get an H2?

Well, as Jesse Jackson once quipped, "the question is moot!" He wouldn't drive, at least not in the US, because he'd be denied a liscence.

"Christ is not speaking to the media at this time."

Tuesdays are for Toads

The exam went well last night. No real surprises. I could have scored an A, but I'll have to wait and see. The hardest part was selecting the questions to answer. Disturbingly, I dreamed of international law this morning, only to be rudely awoken from a blissful slumber by my alarm. Damn it felt warm under those covers too.

I read in the paper this morning about the latest row involving erstwhile Prince Harry. The royal family is essentially a family of dense material as they're all stiff as a board and thick upstairs. As is tradition, the men go to this military school for college and have military careers after. Most of the careers are for show, a couple years of service, followed by a lifetime of pomp, circumstance, and charity shows. To follow this yellow brick road, Princes still have to qualify like every other student. That means they have to get at least one A Level. An A Level, as best as I can understand and describe, is basically like 95 percentile in a field of study at the high school level, nation wide. We don't really have it in the US, although maybe that's what the Standards of Learning (aka, SOL, or Sh*t Out of Luck if you don't pass) is or is becoming.

Anyway, as I mentioned, the royal family is dense, so Harry's A Level was in Art. I mean, it's not like he had any private tutors or all the advantages of extreme wealth or anything, so he did the best he could with what he had. Or did he? The row is that his former teacher, after being sacked, claims that she wrote his final paper for him and the head of the art department painted the majority of the picture, not the Prince. It's a big deal to accuse a member of the royal family of cheating and it's huge to accuse the Prince of it, but it sounds all too credible to me. What really galls me, though, is how the British public just turns a blind eye to the fact that "their Prince" is only able to qualify through Art. Then again, when the enemy comes a calling, you just might need someone to paint a scary picture to frighten them away. F*cking royals.

Last night at the pub for the post-exam drink, one of my classmates who was essentializing women's roles last week, brought up that debate again. When she continued to essentialize women, I was finally able to make my argument that it's not only false to suggest that women are more peaceful, but also viewing women of power in that way contributes to the iconography of sexist, "know your place woman" type ideals. She didn't entirely agree with me, but that was ok. I got to make my point. Of course, throughout the evening when the conversation turned from interesting to boring (a bitch session about one of our professors) I concluded that she is rather thick indeed.

I found myself in an odd place last night. Several of my classmates have complained about the difficulty in getting good grades and figuring out what certain professors want. I certainly understand the problem; I was peeved when my prof gave me a B+ on a paper last October when I knew that I had done a better job than several others who had graded higher. In fact, I'm still pissed about that because, as Big Worm said, "there's principalities in this!" But that's not the point. The point is, I was offended because my ego was on the line. It wasn't simply a matter of how well written the paper was, it was a matter of how I did vis-a-vis my colleagues. After swallowing my pride and talking to the prof about the paper, I learned very quickly where I had gone astray and I have been acing his papers ever since.

The point of this long winded narrative was that when asked by previously mentioned thick clodhead about how I always get A's, I was in an impossible position. I learned from my prof because I listened. Most of the complainers in the program don't listen, thus they never learn. She is definitely one of them. But even beyond that, her ego is definitely on the line. She is having problems because she used to score better as an undergrad at U of Colorado, Boulder. So, I told her that. I said that you need to check your ego at the door, swallow your pride, and talk to the prof on a one-to-one basis and figure out what you need to do to be successful.

Of course, in the distant background buzz that is my internal monologue, I knew that it was advice likely to be immediately disregarded. But, at the time, yet another thought occurred to me. One of the weaknesses of this program is that the school is tiny - there are only two "full-time" profs and they both have jobs elsewhere meaning they aren't on campus that much and they just aren't available much if they're needed. The prof in question is not what I would classify as a good teacher, but he is a good guy and you can learn from him if you give him a chance. But his inaccessibility has undercut his relationship with half of the students in the program who expect that for the money they're investing, they'll have full-time faculty that will work with the students. I'm not so bothered by all of this, but I guess I just expected less than they did.

To sum up, I think there are many reasons talented individuals achieve different levels of success, but maturity has to be a central concern. I would suggest that at least 90% of the students in the IR program should be able to get A's and A-'s. Some may have to work harder than others to achieve that, but it should be possible. Unfortunately for them, that doesn't happen because people allow emotion, stress, and fear to divert their focus. I suppose that's life in a nutshell.

Finally, I discovered why Real World called me at 7:45 yesterday morning. Only Real World could think this way or imagine a world in which this behavior even rhymes with "totally f*cking unacceptable". I'm still in shock myself. She called, at 7:45 in the morning, to make sure I was up so that I would not miss the exam. Really, when it comes down to it, what everyone needs is a wakeup call 12 HOURS in advance. Yes, that's right, the exam was at 7 PM last night. As Ross Perot would have said, "See, in life you have some crazy people. And then, see, you have a second group see, and they're the truly crazy - psychoctics, schitzos, the whole gamut of what we'd call crazy. See, as you can see from my pie chart over here see, there's another section that most people don't know about see. And that's Real World. She has her own level of crazy see." It boggles the mind how anyone's brain could operate like her's does.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Wish it twer still Sunday

I'm feeling a bit punchy this morning. In fact, I'm feeling quite punchy. Nothing went right last night from the time I put head on pillow until the time I finally got up. For some reason, I had difficulty sleeping. It happens. So I spent most of the night tossing and turning until finally dropping off into a light slumber sometime after 3. It was not fitful nor restful, but it was better than nothing.

Yet, it was not to last. Some total jackass decided to make some toast this morning at about 7:30. They put their bread in the toaster, turned it up high, and left the room. It only took a few minutes before the room was filled with smoke and the fire alarm provided a rude wake up call for all of us. This is pretty typical for the jackasses that are my co-residents. For some reason, about 60% of the fools that live in this house are total morons when it comes to common sense day to day stuff. They're also sloppy jalopies that turn the kitchens into pig sties over the weekend (no cleaner on the weekend). Not that I care too much about that. The guy who cleans the house is a certifiable a-hole as well, so he can piss off.

Anyway, to top off this particularly profound morning, Real World called me at about 7:45, roughly 10 minutes after putting head back on pillow. Now, there are few things that are more egregious in my world than calling at that hour - and she knows this because I totally bitched her out about one time. If it's an emergency, hang up and dial 999 (the UK's 911) - don't call me. I never did find out what the hell she wanted because I refused to answer. I'm obstinate, stubborn, and highly disagreeable in the mornings - and twice as bad when I'm sleep deprived.

Finally, I rose and got my shower. The guy showering in the stall next to me had BO so powerfully that the entire room stunk like armpit. You know it's bad when you're in the shower and you still stink. In fact, I think that if that occurs, you should immediately seek medical attention because it's likely that something on your personage is rotting and close to falling off. Then again, without stereotyping too badly, that guy may have liked the way he smelled. For all I know, he could be the type that actually thinks Right Guard smells good, for example. Or he could just be a dirty Frenchie. (Sorry, couldn't resist.) Either way, I was shocked and appalled.

I was fortunate to get in the shower when I did, however, because I was in no mood to run out of hot water. It started to run out just as I was finishing up and someone else was starting up. Poor bastard. Should have planned better. Then again, he could have been Asian. One thing I've noticed is that the Asians in the house will shower in freezing water. I prefer to skip a shower under those circumstances, but not the Asians. They universally freeze their asses off rather than staying dirty.

Work is turning out to be a veritable blast. I've already been given busy work that a monkey butler would reject. It will seriously take me less time to complete the task than it took the braintrust who gave it to me to explain it. I'm just looking forward to my sandwich later.

Also, I'm eagerly searching for a thesis topic. Apparently, and this was pretty shocking to me, I will be the first person at Webster London to complete a proper MA thesis. My professor informed me on Friday that in his eleven year's teaching there, no one has ever done the full thesis, instead opting for the "integrated studies" class, which is like a baby thesis (shorter, less stringent, and only 1 reviewer). I wasn't having any of that. I want my money's worth, even if it does cause me extra work. At any rate, I need a topic ASAP. Well, more like two weeks, but still, I need a topic. Ideas anyone?

In conclusion, it's a crappy little Monday, I have an exam tonight in international law that I've barely studied for, I'm fatigued and punchy, but I'm confident and mostly upbeat. Just don't mess with me today because I'm not in the mood.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Catching Up


The moot court went quite well and was quite enjoyable. Our "client" was someone who had been arrested, beaten, and jailed under terrorism legislation in a fictional European country. We successfully argued that his rights had been violated in two instances (although I was pissed because I thought we should have won a third, but whatever). I enjoyed it a lot because my group (3 others) basically didn't want to talk that much so I did most of the speaking. And, I must say, that my long experience of power wording speeches to make them persuasive were pretty much an unfair advantage. The other side not only had a huge handicap in that Real World was one of their "lawyers", but they had the weaker case, and they were just not prepared for the onslaught that I delivered. It was, quite simply, brutal to the point that the 57 year old South African gent, who was on the other side, just shook his head in shame.


Class was annoyingly futile on Thursday. My prof really isn't a very good teacher and we never get anything done. I was so frustrated that I urged him to move on at several points. The "conversations" were pointless and we had material to get through. I'm only taking one more class with this guy, which is good because he's a really nice guy, but I just can't deal with his lectures anymore.

While in class, we did have one argument that I found to be fairly surprising. Somehow, we got to talking about discrimination and our prof said, "if you look at parliament's in Europe, you have less than 50% representation by women. That proves there is discrimination. If there was no discrimination, there would be the same number of women as men." I was fired up. There's nothing like sophomoric analysis that does harm to the social good. No, I declared. That's a call for quotas. There should be equality of opportunity, not of results. I was castigated. I was called out. I was practically shouted at. I stood my ground. Not only that, I bludgeoned their paltry excuse for "arguments" with more vitriol and scorn. The most disgusting thing I found is that there was such an essentializing bias about women - i.e. "women are more peaceful" type shite. Tell that to Margaret Thatcher. Anyway, my prof suggested that we table the discussion until next term when we have a politics of development class that does involve inequality issues. I was and still am perturbed by this. If any of those clowns had stopped for a second and listened to my argument they may have realized that i was not a closet GOPer and that I want equality just as much as they do. Still, I've marked it on my calender. I will disabuse them of their paltry views at a later date.

Thursday, as you may have heard, was also the day of the general election here in the UK. Their system is fairly quaint and extremely amusing. They have tons of minority parties, which are basically people that could scrounge up 500 quid and 40 signatures to get on the ballot. So, you have people that dress up as jesters and have absurd names for their "parties" like "People's Liberation Front for Beer Drinking" and things like that. I stayed up watching the results until 4 am. Probably not the wisest thing since I had a big paper due on Friday that I had not completed, but I just couldn't drag myself away. Finally, I went to sleep after the outcome was clear: Labour victory, but a bloody nose over Iraq.


I managed to get up very early and finish my paper. I think it turned out quite well. I had to present the paper and turn it in to my prof at 1:30 and that went well too. I'm sure I'll ace that "class". After, I met up with some classmates and had coffee (after a long bus ride on an exploratory adventure into parts previously unvisited). Good times.

Last night, I went out to a pub, then a club with some mates. I had not cut loose in awhile and I was getting ancy. We ended up at a shite club (as this group likes to go to), but that was ok. I met a nice Peruvian woman (working my way around that particular continent) and danced with her all night. We're going out on Tuesday.

Today has been utterly wasteful. I'm currently cooking up a big meal and then later I'm going to help Eurotrash move. He's still finalizing the details of his new apartment as I write this. I need to study, but I'm ok for my exams now that they're around the corner.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Dreary Wednesday's Slipping by

I had the pleasure of going down to the Russian consulate yesterday. One of our attorneys needed a visa to go to Russia on business. Apparently, no one is allowed to just fly into Russia with a passport. Everyone needs a visa. This is just a desperate ploy for an impoverished nation to raise capital in the most petty ways. The "rush visa" (same day) costs £120 for "processing". On a good day, the consulate is clearing £10k. But I guess when your country is the remnant of a bygone era that failed miserably and is overrun by corruption and Mafia, you'll do whatever it takes to generate hard currency. Still, it's a clear disincentive to visit the country (not that it was on the top of my list anyway).

The consulate was exactly what you would expect from a former outpost of the USSR. Shoddy construction in that all too square and boxy Soviet way, security cameras everywhere, black lacquered gates that make you feel like you're going to play skeeball on the Jersey shore, and loud, rude Russians everywhere shouting indecipherable commands. To get in, you push a button at the gate, tell them what you want, and get a one word response repeated in loud, broken English, "push, push, push!" The security gate is one of those tall metal bar turnstyles that maybe exits in the NYC subway, but mostly reminds one of an exit from an amusement park.

Once inside the building, there are no directions of where to go or what to do, which, of course, presents one with a choice: do you ask and risk getting expelled or do you simply gamble? When in doubt, never ask a disagreeable Russian that barely speaks English anything. Fortunately, my gamble paid off and I found the right spot. The visa counter resembles something you'd see inside a prison, an image I'm sure the Soviets desired when they designed the place. There is a red line on the floor in front of the service windows that you are not supposed to cross. Each window is shielded with thick glass and each attendant is one wrong word away from shutting the blind in the most passive-aggressive "f*ck off" that a Russian can manage.

The room was packed with travel agent couriers awaiting tourist visas, most of whom were Russians sporting that "just this side of Mafia" look that I may have mistaken for a combination of abject boredom, extreme fatigue, and the nicotine/caffeine edginess that couriers always seem to possess. My only surprise was that the room was no filled with chain smoke, but, it seems, that even the Russians are modernizing.

There didn't really appear to be a queue, just one older Canadian guy at the window. I waited patiently, behind the red line, while he took his best shot. Apparently, he said the wrong thing. "Next customer! You, move! Move! Move! Next customer!" was shouted in barely decipherable English as the Canadian huffed and puffed about how he had mailed something to someone. Silly child of America Junior. Expecting the Russian bureaucracy to keep track of something like mail. For shame.

As instructed by my co-worker, I smiled congenially at the troll behind the glass. He was the gatekeeper. No visa, no travel, unhappy boss. Less than one minute later, the passport and papers were handed back to me with, "pay, pay" and a point toward the window at the end of the counter. The cashier was a less than active babushka eager to get her grubby little paws on my currency. Nothing like changing pounds into rubles, is there?

After paying, the wait began. All bureaucracies have procedures that exist solely to frustrate those that need something and the consulate was no different. After 45 minutes, I was finally able to reclaim the passport, visa attached. Expecting something official, imagine my surprise when I realized that in the 45 minutes they possessed this passport, they had merely managed to staple the visa card (which was filled out by the first clerk in less than 1 minute) to the passport. It's not like the Russians contain the technology or fortitude to actually run an Interpol search on every visa, which just convinces me that the whole episode was a grand charade.

I finally left and headed back to the office. My excitement for the day was over; I had nothing left to do but enjoy the cab ride through sunny central London. And after such a taxing afternoon, I was forced to space out for an hour before heading home.

Today is a typically dreary Wednesday - the hump day for most workers, but for me, the end of my work week. The sky is shadowed in heavy clouds of gray with a chill breeze just cool enough to make one shiver, but not cool enough to justify a jacket. I wore my sports coat instead. It's a cheap, low end model, but suits me well and if there's one thing about England, it's that they will never question you if you're "dressed up".

I arrived late for work. I couldn't be bothered to get up on time. This week is once again the cycle of up late and up early. As it is, I'm operating on about 6 hours of sleep, which is 3 hours more than yesterday. Not putting anything in my body aside from ostensibly healthy consumables like pizza, ice cream, coffee, and amoxicillin leaves me feeling freshly American for a change. Eliminate the "cancer causing agents" but gorge myself on gluttonous repasts tempered with high level pharmaceuticals.

There was a wait at the shower this morning. That discovery led to a profound string of hallway cursing. I'm not the morning type to begin with, but don't f*ck with my routine. Already being late, I made busy by brushing my teeth and getting my clothes together. Later, I stood tapping my foot awaiting the overly effeminate gay French guy to finish whatever the hell it was that he was doing and move along. A hot shower is the one thing that sets apart "civilized" from "uncivilized" and my day ceases to function without one. When I finally did get in the shower, I lingered under the hot water, scalding my skin, opening my nostrils, and invigorating my brain. Work be damned.

I hate sharing showers.

I'm leaving early today. My international law class was moved from Monday to Wednesday because of the "holiday". I would have preferred it stayed on Monday, but the whiney types in class couldn't imagine a world in which they wouldn't actually have a true "holiday". Not like anyone went anywhere. Instead, we all collectively spent our "holiday" doing schoolwork as exams are less than a week away. Tyranny of the majority, as the GOP likes to say from time to time.

We have a moot court session tonight in class. I'm excited to beat some ass. Real World is on the opposing counsel, which is great because not only is she a complete moron but also she's an unstable moron. Unfortunately, there is no cross-examination session, but at the least I have power worded my case, prepped my team, and we're ready to lay a smackdown. Not that it really matters. It's a pretty useless activity all round, but it should be an enjoyable diversion at the least.

Tomorrow I'm going to finally have coffee with Miss Colombia. I haven't seen her since the immemorable evening at the club a few weeks ago. No matter what she says, I'm going to give her the business. Lovely girl, but obviously in need of personal growth. Not that I have any time to have coffee with her. My paper still isn't finished. In fact, it's adrift in a sea of uncertainty much like W's domestic agenda. I'm confident that I'll be able to put it together by Friday, but it's going to be a painful process. I just have no time for minor inconveniences like sleep.

Tomorrow is also the general election here in the UK. I'm curious about how the TV reports the results. I've seen the US model and I've heard stories about the UK, so it will be an interesting comparison. Someone at work yesterday told me that the BBC has a flimsy cardboard "pendulum" that swings back and forth all night until the results are finally tallied. Sounds exciting.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

From the Hall of the Very Disgusting

Wilmington television station WWAY reported that Stowers found the finger in frozen custard he purchased Sunday night.

Stowers, who did not immediately return calls Monday from The Associated Press, told the station: "I thought it was candy because they put candy in your ice cream ... to make it a treat. So I said, 'OK, well, I'll just put it in my mouth and get the ice cream off of it and see what it is.'"
Stowers said he spit the object out, but still couldn't identify it. So he went to his kitchen, rinsed it off with water -- and "just started screaming."

I have nothing else to add today.

Ok, that's not entirely true. Any story with the following quotes must be read:

"St. Bernard (dogs) are my favorite customers since they poop in large piles which are easy to find," Relles said.

"It sure beats computer programming because it's flexible, and I get to be outside," he said.

At least we know what to do with all those outsourced workers...

Modernity gone awry:

"It's a little too much for me to handle," said Steve Hepburn, of Clearfield. "It's like trying to eat half a cow."

India would be scandalized. Which reminds me, last week my prof made a joke about India not accepting beef imports that NO ONE in the class but me got. What the hell? As Riply famously quipped in Aliens, "have IQs suddenly dropped while I was away?"

Gotta love the Scots:

"One wee girl running down the wing was even called something by a woman in the crowd."

Honey, there's a new addition to the family. Say hello to Alex, the Zonkey.

And finally, the surest sign yet that the apocalypse is just around the corner.

(And yes, this is me being too lazy to actually put a real post in for the day.)

Monday, May 02, 2005

Glorious Bank Holiday

What exactly is a bank holiday? I've been wondering that since I rolled into this country last August. I've heard Brits describe it and their tale is absurdly laughable. A bank holiday "is a day when all the banks and government offices are closed and most businesses too." Yeah, no sh*t. But really, what is a bank holiday?

See, as long as I live here, I'll never understand the concept. In the US, when we have a holiday it's for a reason. Not in Britain. Instead, they just up and decided that they needed some days off of work so they built some into the schedule. What I don't understand is why they don't give reasons to their bank holidays. They have "remembrance day" which is akin to our Memorial Day. Shouldn't the day that you remember and honor your WW2 dead be a national holiday? Nah. Instead, we'll just have some bank holidays. The Brits, from my experience, would be utterly confused by my concerns. This is just how things are. They have an amazing capacity to simply accept things like this.

Today is a glorious day. The sun is shining, it's warm, it's beautiful. Unfortunately, I have a 4,000 word essay due on Friday and I've written maybe 400. I have work to do. Now, I've researched and read a ton, but North Korea is a huge topic and I'm just starting to narrow down my focus to an actual argument. This is one thing that separates me from many of my classmates. I noticed this recently, but it must be universal. When I write a paper, I search for an argument, when I find one I like, I build my case around that argument. When my classmates write a paper, they look for a topic, write about that topic, and hopefully stumble across an argument. You could make a case that their style has greater academic integrity except that my style doesn't search for any argument, it searches for an argument that I find mostly true, or as close to the truth as I'm likely to discover.

At any rate, I've been trained for years to do this via debate, so perhaps I have an unfair advantage over my mates. I'm not so concerned about that. They're a mostly lazy bunch of people and hard work always makes up for inherent advantages. Not like we're competing or anything. But still, some of my classmates are genuinely talented individuals and it pains me to see them give a half-assed effort. I know all too well what it's like to waste talent (see undergrad years) and my assumption was that people who chose a MA course would be more serious students. Sadly, I'm a bit disappointed. Maybe at Harvard, but not at Webster Graduate Study Center London (say that 10 times fast). Of course, the real thing that separates me from my mates is that I do work hard and I have some learned advantages that they don't have. So poo on them.

Ok, enough procrastinating. I've read all there is to read about the NBA, all I want to read about MLB, and the rest of the news. It's time to buckle down. I need 3000 words by the end of the night.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Hitchhike this

So I went and watched Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy last night. Eurotrash was pushing me to go and even though I was tired, I wanted to see it so I agreed. I have to say, the movie was one of the oddest I've ever seen. I'm not sure if I liked it; I'm not even sure how to classify it.

If it was trying to be a serious sci-fi movie, then it completely failed. But if it was trying to be a comedy, then it failed there too. So I can only imagine it was a hybrid - it wanted to woo you with some effects, hook you with some jokes, and have you not worry about the inanity of it all (probably like the book). But, it came off as a poor attempt at Monty Python style humor - or a really poor Adventures of Baron Munchausen. It's difficult to say I was disappointed. Because I don't know what I expected so it's hard to be disappointed. But I definitely would not recommend seeing it in the theater - only on TV when you have the time.

Anyway, something in the movie touched on a theme that I've been eager to rant about for awhile, so here goes. If you listen to Hollywood, the only way to find true love is to either A) Rape someone ('Don't Speak' - good, but disturbing), B) pay a 'love consultant' thousands to carefully plot out your love connection ('Hitch' - funny, but absurd and just misses badly on several key elements), or be one of the last two humans left alive in the universe because the Earth is blown to bits and she pretty much has no other choice ('Hitchhiker's' - see above). Not only that, if you do happen to fall into true love, when you meet the parents of your bride to be, you'll be spied on and given the fourth degree to the point that you won't even want to get married anymore unless some crazy turn of events happens that ends up with you getting arrested at the airport and your soon to be father in law is an ex-spy who can spring you ('Meet the Parents' - funny but SO f*cking stupid as all his movies are). And don't even get me started on 'Meet the Fockers'.

Here's my point: if love was truly that hard, then the planet would be extinct or we'd just revert to cave man times when you just walked in, pointed at a woman, said, "ughhe", put her over your shoulder as she kicked and screamed, and then forcibly mated with her. The older I get, the more I think about it, the more I conclude that the people who write movie scripts must be some of the least well adjusted people of all time. Whatever happened to boy meets girl?

Don't get me wrong, I'm not asking for a positive message all the time. Of the movies I listed above, 'Don't Speak' was my favorite and it involves a guy falling in love with the woman he rapes. Gotta see it to be it. But is it too much to ask that every now and then, perhaps Hollywood could be grounded in reality? I mean, seriously, think about the string of Julia Roberts-Hugh Grant movies - two people whose careers seem to revolve around Hollywood's distorted notion of "love". It's enough to make one nauseous.

Maybe I'm just disenchanted because there's little magic going on in my life or maybe I'm just fed up with the idea that love could be that hard. I mean, really, if it was that hard, we wouldn't do it. It's hard enough on it's own merits, we don't need to make it any more difficult by including things like exploding planets and ice queens that can only be accessed by absurd expenditures of money to crack their frozen exterior in a grand gamble that there's a heart of gold inside. What exactly did Hitch see in that woman anyway? She was a tabloid reporter who pretty much spent her time ruining the lives of rich and famous people, happened to be hot, but also spurned every man she met. In marches Hitch, the player's playa' and he's smitten by that? Maybe for one night, but certainly not for longer. It belies credibility to think that he would have wanted something more with that particular woman. Egads, I'm ranting about something that most people have probably not seen.

Here's my point: Everybody wants to be in love, have magic in their lives, have someone special. It's part of the unique human experience that separates us from the marmits and three-toed sloths. But our culture is SO dominated with this theme, that there is societal pressure to find that ASAP, which is ultimately the wrong message. Love happens when you least expect it, they say, and perhaps that's how it should be. In the end, I'm pretty happy right now being on my own. And while I do want that special connection again someday, now is not the time. Yet, I'm a pariah in our culture. There's no space for someone like me. It's not ok to be single because single means 'alone' and alone means 'lonely'.

Bollocks. I'm living my life on my terms. I live in London, one of the greatest cities in the world. I'm pursuing my career and excelling. When I'm ready and when I meet the right sort of person, I'll be willing to give myself to her. But I ain't just about to give it all away that easily. The bar is set too high for that.

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