Tuesday, May 27, 2003

12 dialogue exercises (writing, that is)

Thursday, May 22, 2003

Agunother interview with Zadie Smith - did you know she changed her name from Sadie to Zadie at 14? - linkpimped off of LMG (must stopped talking the old pan-European faux American argot. Sorry).
I am like practically the only answer on google for disgo usb memory stopped working. I hope that doesn´t happen to me.

Wednesday, May 21, 2003

I´ve realised that the previous post looks like very bad ascii art for a boy with a kiss-curl wearing extremely large earings. Unintentional, I promise.
I´m in Spain, look: ¿Ñ¿
Sunny Barcelona. Six degress warmer than London, but sadly I am practically locked in a sub-basement room with 200+ uber-maths-geeks types, talking animatedely about how you can get a dispersion of the smile in generations of swaptions. At least, I think that´s what the bloke said...
Talking to an old headhunter (sorry, "executive search consultant") friend yesterday, he described his requirement for a non-Exec board director as someone who hadn't just offered financial advice, but had actually run a business: "someone who can feel the width, you know?".

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

What's a shiva? When I was about four and my Grandpa died, we had to write news at school. I wrote: "my grandpa died. We have parties every night." My grandma also told me that he was up in heaven helping the angels, and if I looked carefully enough, maybe I could see him. Which I tried, until I took my eye off the road and walked into a lampost, knocking myself out.
Oh, and if you're out there, say hi. Please.
Crazy compressed day. Oh dear: this is all sounding rather "dear diary", isn't it. A day my brother described as "financial loss, emotional gain" (certainly the case for those of us who are self-employed). It's weird that it takes a funeral to get a bunch of people together from all over Europe and "the mediterannean" as well as Cheadle.

It's 11pm. I feel like I've been up for a week, and I'm getting up in six hours to go to Liverpool (an airport I call John Lennon, and my parents call Speke). I had to blow out my friends in Barcelona who I was supposed to be seeing the sights with tonight, and don't know if I can stay awake enough to go out tomorrow night. I'm evaluating whether I should try and get back here for Friday night, or wait till Sunday (the shiva, week's prayers, finishes on Monday). There are cousins flying in from all over the shop, and it feels right that I should try and be here. But I do have to do some work.

It was very strange, today, being in Auntie Vera's 1970's kitchen, with remants of all sorts of tea services from times past, boiling and reboiling the kettle at a rate of knots (shivas run on tea, apparently), with my sister-in-law, overhearing fragments of conversations. Not unlike workshopping a Mike Leigh play. Families, eh? Can't live with'em, can't......

I fear I'm not making sense. Or stop making sense, in the words of the song (sorry, no links, I'm on dial-up).

Oh, and got cool email from an old friend saying that his sister-in-law wrote the Guardian piece I linked about Wondrous Oblivion. I think it's possible that everyone I know really does know everyone else. Somehow. But then some people always say that I'm the sort of person who knows everyone, and I never think that that's a good thing, though other people say it is, but I never understand why. I like to think I have a wide and varied circle of friends, and am generally interested in humanity, but it's so hard to tell, nowadays.
So I'm all set to go to Barcelona this morning (the conference starts 8am tomorrow, leaves me a couple of hours to speed-tourist around the Gaudi stuff), when I get a phone call to say my Aunt's died. The funeral's going to be some time this afternoon, so I quickly (slowly - I was on hold for 17 minutes), change my Gatwick-Barcelona flight to a Liverpool-Barcelona flight at the crack of dawn tomorrow morning, and evaluate car-hire against train/taxi for getting up to Manchester. Downside of car hire? You can't return your car before 7am, sorry.

The guy I'm working for must think I'm some kind of funeral version of a weather-prophet: I've only been doing this contract for six weeks, and I've had to go to two funerals.

I saw my Auntie Vera when I was at home for Pesach, and she commented to me: "have you lost weight? Which proves she had her sense of humour to the last. She was a strong-willed, powerful woman, though less so in her later years, and leaves a legacy of not only a diverse, talented family, but her contribution to the legal system. I never really know what to say when people die.

Monday, May 19, 2003

My neighbours are doing my head in. That's all. I'm not a DJ. I'm a DJ-by-proxy.Right now, it's Lee "Scratch" Perry.
If the universe had a message for me...
... it would be "wrap up warm" and "take a brolly".

I left Kilburn amid fabulous sunshine late morning, only to come out of the tube 20 minutes later to a South East Asian rainstorm like you've never seen. And no jacket. I dried off and forgot about - coming home tonight, as we get to West Hampstead, there is post-biblical hailstones; so large the train stopped for ten minutes. Something's not right, with the world.
The Food We Eat...
I've been mesemerised by the Guardian's Saturday Food supplement for the past couple of weeks. It's a mesmeresing combination of semi-victim-laden how dangerous most foods really are, and heart-wrenching stories of how people in Kenya get paid like 20p an hour or something to tie our baby vegetables with a chive. Yes, a chive, really.

Same time, I've been reading more about low GI diets as a way to improve your health and stave off the inevitable Western disease of late-onset diabetes.

And now this: Stephen Joseph in California is suing Kraft Foods because he didn't know their baked goods - specifically, Oreo Cookies - have trans fats. Trans fats, which are also called partially hydrogenated fats, are bad for you. Apparently, most fats that are solid at room temperature are bad for you. He's even got his own website: BanTransFats. Here's a man who takes his cause seriously: you can even get a t-shirt: "DON'T PARTIALLY HYDROGENATE ME"™

Sunday, May 18, 2003

I was so proud of myself, yesterday, doing a double pilates class (one regular, one on the ball) till a friend said to me, "what is pilates? it sounds like some kind of upmarket rice."
My friend Jonny's film is at Cannes next week: Wondrous Oblivion.

Friday, May 16, 2003

Bars people in my office are talking about just now - the Player on Broadwick Street, and Milk and Honey. Apparently you can get a joint membership for both. It's like an old speakeasy. It's fantastic. (I think this is both of them). You can drink after 11pm in Soho, in really nice surroundings. But you have to get a membership for that - £280 a year, apparently.

Live, live conversation, from somewhere in W1. You heard it here first.
I know faxing is so last millennium daaahling, but y'know?

I sill have WinFaxPro and whenever I see the little window telling me the Fax Controller is doing something, I can't help wondering if he's like second cousins - mishpocha - with the Fat Controller. OK, so I'm showing my (mental) age.
So I managed to ressucitate Outlook by doing a repair, but I haven't closed and opened yet. I'm scared. I rely too much on my technology. Least I've got a backup.
Swiss Cottage Celebrity Spotting
There I am, in the bar with D and S, and thinking to myself how urban and hip everyone looks, and how I'd be really happy to invite probably all of these people to my party, they all look like the kind of folk I would hang out with, when D points out that there's a guy who looks like Darren Day in a beanie. How we laugh. Later, turns out it is Darren Day in a beanie.
And in an attempt to stave off the inevitable, I'm manically backing up everything I own onto CD. Hence late-night posting fervour. I feel it's bad form to leave your external CDRW drive doing its stuff alone.
The chances of me every writing like either of Newman/Guirgis are so slight that I should just pack up my pc and leave. Except that my pc seems to be surprisingly unwell without my help: refusing to open Outlook and generally being obstreperous. It may be a sign from the gods. If there are any.
Brain buzzing with other people's smartness:

Last night: Rob Newman at the Soho Theatre - From Caliban to Taliban
Dave Baddiel may have sold out on in early eighties political stand-up roots, and elected to share a sofa with Frank Skinner, but Rob still knows where his towel is. It's stand-up meets a scarily bright professor you had in college (OK, I'm not American, sorry) with a dry sense of humour. Catch him, soon. It's post-graduate anti-globalisation for the literati. Honest.

Tonight: In Arabia We'd All Be Kings at the Hampstead Theatre
I missed Jesus Hopped the A Train, but this startling, terse, funny, moving piece of work by 38-year old Guirgis is really something. Apart from being my first visit to the new Hampstead Theatre - the old lean-to being reduced to a surprisingly small pile of rubble on the Finchley Road - it's the tightest acting and best script I've experienced in ages. It closes Saturday, so hurry.

Thursday, May 15, 2003

I think I may have Reverse Politeness Syndrome (RPS) - I used to be very to-the-point, some might say even, quite brusque. Now, I find myself saying things like "many thanks" and "thank you so much" for the smallest of tasks. Is this good? Or merely annoying?
As soon as I get all wi-fi'd up (and that might mean me getting an iBook), I'll be over to Paris like a shot...
Cassock, that's the word I was looking for, way back when. Thanks to whoever googled on Frank Skinner/Polyphonic Spree. Almost sounds like a swear word, right?

Wednesday, May 14, 2003

Phone conversation with a potential flatmate:

Him: Wassappening? You still looking for a flitmate?
Me: (feeling unsure of him) er, yeah, maybe.
Him: Greet. I just arrived back into town from Sith Ifrica. I'm staying with a friend in Sith London. It's a wilderness, min.
Me: Well, if you're looking for a more Jewish life, North London is better
Him: Tell me abit it, darling - he actually called me darling? - it's the most God forsaken pleese on earth, Croydon.
Me: Well, I don't know about that - feeling duty bound to protect the interests of the good people of Croydon - anyway, tell me a bit about you, what you do, are you a smoker?
Him: No, smoking's a tirrible habit. I'm in North London tomorrow, hanging with me buddies, I'll be there at at 7.
Me: Well, I'm kinda working New York time right now, so it's going to be hard for me to get back that early...
Him: Whit time you at work till?
Me: I guess I'll get home around elevenish -
Him: Kim home, darling, you shouldn't be working thit leet.
Me: ... so, are you a meat eater?
Him: Yis, I love ma meat, makes me a man. You don't eat meat? That's tirrible.

Unusually unable to get out of this, I find myself making an arrangement with him I feel sure we'll end up cancelling
Me: so, Thursday at 7.30, cool. It's flat -
Him: what's this?
Me: The address. So you can get here
Him: Oh, I kint handle that
Me: - I know his sort - OK, well, call me when you get out of Kilburn tube, and I'll give you directions.

In the words of the song: what have I done?
Still can't get ordblag to work, but listened to Anna's, and came across this beautiful poem by Sandra Cisneros:

This weight
on the other side of the bed
is only books, not you. What
I said I loved more than you.

Though these mornings
I wish books loved back.

Monday, May 12, 2003

Sometimes you just want to go out for tea, and don't know where. The answer to your prayers, then.
Oh, yeah, and I also went to my regular Pilates on the Ball class. My abs don't hurt as much as they did in the first couple of classes, and I don't know whether I've just got the hang of it, or whether I'm not doing it properly. I'm firmly in the "no pain no gain" school on this, and I don't want to waste my time. The first class, I my abs ached for about four days.
Finally saw Phone Booth (after A promised to see it with me opening week and then promptly forgot). Went to the 02 centre on Finchley Road: plastic restaurants, people and stones. The only thing that isn't plastic are the fish. Had something to eat with S, M and D at Simpsons - not on the Strand - beforehand, and after a bottle of Chardonnay, it all started feeling quite twenties-esque. Till we got outside. It's like a hermetically sealed entertainment experience. Film's great though: old fashioned thriller, with a religious edge (think Seven and Stigmata).

That was last night. Tonight saw I Capture the Castle at the Everyman in Hampstead (the world's coolest, chicest cinema). Can't get over how theoretically similar it is to The Heart of Me (thirties bohemians, down on their luck, English made, Isle of Man filmed - apparently the tourist commission give you a third of your movie budget-), but from the moment it opens you really care about the characters. There's a lush, emotion to it that's infectious. Stars Romola Garai - that's her real name, not her stage name - and also Rose Byrne as her sister, who's very faux early Kate Winslett, and would definitely be cast as Robin if the Invisibles ever got filmed.

Saturday, May 10, 2003

Yesterday: good day. One: signifcant tax rebate, new computer-sized. Got me thinking. Two: bought a fab new tech-toy, an i-curve, ergonomically sound, and attractive, to boot.

Truth is, I'm thinking of going over to the other side: i-side. I want an i-book (small size), and i-pod, and a bunch of other i-things. Just not yet worked out what I do with a decade's worth of PC files/software, and whether I believe the "we're totally compatible" shpeil. I've heard it all before, albeit in a different context.

Friday, May 09, 2003

Just tried to use the free audioblog trial from blogger, and it sends me in a mad loop asking my blog username and whether I want the free trial. Over and over again. I do, OK? I am destined never to audioblog. Ah well, you'll just have to imagine what my dulcet tones sound like.
Bus Stop Update: semi-success
Well, after eighten months of to-ing and fro-ing, I have a result: within six weeks, my bus shelter will be replaced with a non-advertising shelter, that is only a two bay, rather than three bay. 24/7 (the company formerly known as London Electricity) just powered my existing bus shelter, even though they had a works order 12 weeks ago telling them not to bother.

Also, we are going to consultation with Camden and Brent about: putting the bus stop back where it came from. Having spent an hour reviewing photos of existing stops, talking with the local Councillor about local people's needs, looking at the spacing of the stops, it turns out it was pretty much fine where it was. So, consultation may take six months (minimum), but I could have acheived something. That something being the previously existing status quo, but hey.
LMG is my fairy blogfather. Thanks for fixing my permalinks.
Shmying in Claire's Accessories in the Trocadero, late last night after the movie - shouldn't those kids be in bed? - I came across a sash, displayed with the legend:
Spot the deliberate mistake? I know grammar isn't what it use to be, but, y'know.

NOTE: Of course my communication skills are superlative, as evidenced by the great sentence: grammar isn't what it use to be, but, y'know. All I need now is to add a two-word sentence at the end. Or something.
So it was The Heart of Me. Summary: cold, lifeless, you couldn't care less about any of the characters. Don't even wait for video, unless you want to see Helena all dressed up in her thirties-esque best.

Thursday, May 08, 2003

Ever had, like, one of those days? The bus doesn't stop for you, you leave your travelcard at home, you get to the tube and just missed a train. You can't find your wallet at the bottom of your bag. You forgot that cheque that you've been meaning to pay into your account for three weeks. You know.

Went for a run at 7am, which is about the only good thing I've acheived today. Had a - courtsey - update meeting on my last project, and found out that most of the marketing hasn't been done. Well, not to my satisfaction. A combination of poor project management and a no-can-do attitude, I guess. But it's not great for me if my project isn't a success, so I spent three hours trying to fix it, when I should have been researching the one I'm really paid to do. And of course X didn't take kindly to me calling her skills into question, however charmingly I did it. One of the big reasons I'm freelance is so I don't have to do politics, so when she started baraging me with emails to "prove" the - minimal - work she'd done, I went and sat in Starbucks to cool down. And I forgot to bid in my ebay auction, and can't work out how to automate it, and missed out on a Crown Ducal vase. Still, that £20 can go towards getting my ceiling fixed since our internal rainfall fun.

Also, a friend has persuaded me to do a three-day detox, which includes drinking faux-wheatgrass juice which is bright green, gives me a headache, and makes everyone in my office walk by my desk and say "what's that?"

And then, I'd seen a great skirt in Bulter and Wilson that I thought I might wear for my friends' wedding in six weeks, and I went back today with high shoes, and decided it just doesn't suit me. Worse than that, it makes me look like a rather decorative sari-wrapped Bollywood madame. But blonde. Not a good look. And the sales assistant made me feel that high (or in this case, that wide) by trying it on over her trousers to prove that if I had anorexia and 25" hips, I'd look great in it, too.

I crave sugar.

And I've called thirty people, and still only have the vaguest idea about how to tell a swaption from a volatility smile, or even if I should.

Noodles call. And crap cinema (either Lilya 4 ever, The Heart of Me, or I Capture the Castle - I'll keep you informed.)

Wednesday, May 07, 2003

I'm juggling a bunch of projects, so no time to think properly. Maybe you will. What do you think of this? The whole "cabal of neoconservative Jews controling Bush". And here's another view.
Tech things I have noticed, recently...
  • The Downes referrers script seems to alternate two entirely different lists of referrers
  • Sitemeter sent me email to tell me they're going out of business

  • Short list, eh? Apart from the Japanese site thingy - thanks for multiple tech-savvy emails, folks. One question: do I care? How many Japanese mobile phone owners can want to know about North London happenings? Can't help asking myself....
    You know I collect Crown Ducal dripware? Monday, I went up to the National Art Deco fair in Loughborough with my cousin - had a fab time. Nowl, I'm thinking of getting into Charlotte Rhead. This page on Crown Ducal is great - all the backstamps.
    You heard it here first. Apparently, I'm number three for the google search Saddam Edgware Road hiding. Who needs M15?

    Tuesday, May 06, 2003

    So I'm home early because I skipped aerobics and I'm going to bed any minute, because I have a serious sleep deficit from last night, when my mobile rings, and I see it's a New York number.

    It's F, my NY buddy, to find out if I would do a stand-up gig in New York in a couple of weeks time. Which would have been pretty cool if I didn't have to be in Barcelona - for work - the next day. I'm starting (just for those few miliseconds) to feel like an international (wo)man of mystery or something. All I need now is the income to match.
    Now, whenever I hear someone cough, I think it's code for something. Barcelona. Say.
    Strange and Annoying
    Anyone got any idea at all why these guys seem to be republishing my site?
    Tired and Emotional
    So, don't ask me why, but my upstairs neighbour decided to defrost her freezer at 1am this morning. Her kitchen's over my flatmate's bedroom, and J later said that for about an hour before it happened, there was loud banging and scraping, and she was thinking about going upstairs to ask them to be a bit quieter, when it started raining through the ceiling.

    J banged on my door and woke me up, and in something of a daze, we found buckets, moved the bed, stuff like that. It was a lot of water. And raining through my lovely new lightfittings, although I'm sure they'll dry out. J banged on our neighbours door, but they couldn't hear us. After about ten minutes, I called them on the phone, and L came down and said "that's terrible, that's terrible, the flats are so badly built." I went upstairs with her, she said she was defrosting the freezer, and there was maybe an inch of water right across their kitchen floor. Her boyfriend was mopping it up.

    Apparently, their freezer defrosting methodology requires (a) to start in the middle of the night on a school night, and (b) to just leave the freezer to defrost with a tea-towel in front of it to mop up a whole freezer's worth of water. I said a few fairly polite choice words (which J overheard and agreed were reasonable), as I'm not that great when I've just woken up.

    As it was still raining, J and I made up the sofabed, and she moved her stuff, and we put notes over the lights to remind us not to turn them on on the morning. I went to bed about 1.45, but didn't get to sleep till about 4am. Mostly because I was fuming: accidents happen, sure, but I was just pissed off my neighbour didn't apologise, and when I - perhaps ill advisedly - mentioned the noise problem from their flat (he's a DJ), she said there was no soundproofing. Implication: I'm the person being unreasonable.

    Now I have to deal with our nightmare managing agents for an insurance claim, and have a soggy bedroom to show to prospective new flatmates.

    Can I have some advice, please? And sympathy, if you have any? How do I get my neighbour to be reasonable?

    Monday, May 05, 2003

    Indecent Proposal
    Via Luke, comes news of strange goings on in London's ultra-Orthodox community. Not a story I've heard before, so I'm not going to comment till I know more, but I was surprised to read this final paragraph:

    "The high profile court case is threatening to shed light on the inner workings of the Jewish establishment, highlighting the secretive work of the Beth Din, the Jewish tribunals which rule on cases involving criminal, civil or religious law. The tribunals originate in early jewish history when the 12 tribes of Israel set up the first law courts."

    First thoughts: while I think the Beth Din has biblical origins - like many Jewish practices - I believe the origin is in Moses, judging together with other judges. And the work of the Beth Din is hardly secret: the United Synagogue Beth Din has its own website, and the Federation's Beth Din, in which this case occurs, is mentioned here. There seems to be a connotation of primitive practice in the article, that I don't quite understand.
    So my longstanding flatmate is moving out. I love the immediacy of the web: after suitable commiserations, I wenst straight upstairs and posted an ad on a flatshare website, and had a bunch of responses in 24 hours. The best was an American lawyer who sounds like she's mostly at work. Thursday we arranged for her to come over Saturday lunch time.

    I sped into action, and cleaned the windows in my (current) flatmates room. Then, I realised one of the lightbulbs needed changing, but when I took down the glass cover, realised that the cowboys-deluxe who did my bathrooms two years ago, smashed the lightfittings by accident, and replaced the glass orbs, couldn't find the right size. So they replaced both with slightly too large glass covers and glued them back together, knowing that by the time I realised this, they'd be long gone. So Thursday night, 11.30pm, I'm on the Habitat website, picking out new pendant light fittings. Crack of dawn, call my electrician and plead with him to come over Friday afternoon. Find a new cleaner (my last one got another job the week before Easter and I haven't had time to find a new one) and get her to come Friday morning. Call Habitat at Finchley Road as soon as they're open, Fifth Avenue is in stock, so ask them to package them up, I'll be down in ten minutes. I managed to fit all this in before hopping on a train to Brighton at 12.

    Turned down a rather nice lunch invitation, wait in for my prospective tenant: no show. No call, nothing. My friend F says that he expects a 50% no-show on that kinda thing.

    So - knowing that Anna found her flatmate online: if you know someone who is vegetarian/kosher, active non-smoker, and is looking for an NW2/6 flatshare, mail me.

    Friday, May 02, 2003

    Been a tough day. Just got back from Claire's funeral. It just doesn't seem right to go to a friend's funeral.

    Truth is, I've only ever been to Jewish funerals. There are good things about Jewish funerals - there's a rubric of what you say (I wish you long life), what you do (take food round, visit), which let's people not feel uncomfortable about how to respond. But there are things that are not so good, too: the funeral is always immediately, the same or next day, which is out of respect to the soul, but generally means that the mourners are still in shock. Today, while I reckon it'll take some time for the shock to wear off, the family had had some time to collect their thoughts. Her dad and husband spoke, and at the end, the priest gave out little laminated cards with a picture of Claire on one side, and the poem All Is Well on the back. I went to the wake afterwards. What was pretty amazing is that the weather's been shit today: on off raining and drizzle. But from 1pm when we got to the church, and all the time we were driving along the coast road to the wake, and even as we were leaving, the sun was shining, deeply, and the sea was blue and smooth. Almost, as if there was someone up there, fixing it.

    I don't think I'll ever understand why young people die.

    Thursday, May 01, 2003

    Someone has typed this out and stuck it on the wall behind me in the office I sometimes go in:

    A quote from Sky News...

    "Umm Qasr is a city similar to Southampton," UK defence minister Geoff Hoon said in The Commons yesterday.

    "He's either never been to Southampton, or he's never been to Umm Qasr," says a British squaddie patrolling Umm Qasr.

    Another soldier added: "there's no beer, no prostitutes and people are shooting at us. It's more like Portsmouth."
    Bitten by the (audio) bug
    Technology interface problems: I'm all signed up with audioblog (which, as Meg points out, sounds ridiculously like OddBlog when you call them), but they want me to press the # key, and when I do, my calling card (2p to the USA) company ends my call and tells me it costs 2p. To much technology, too many cross-platform non-standard keys. Bugger. If you want to hear my dulcet tones you'll have to call me up.
    Late-ish show of 25th Hour at the Swiss Cottage Odeon. (My friend: when I come out of the Odeon station, how do I get to the Swiss Cottage? Me: You can't f***ing miss it). This New York time thang is doing me in, so I'll just say it was good, although just as much an ode to post-9/11 New York as a tale. And like, these three friends would never be friends. Strange script and characterisation. One great gag (spoiler, sorry): Ed Norton to bloke with stripey shirt and striped tie going other way: "you look like an optical illusion".

    Trailered with a BMW ad called Hire, with James Brown, made by Tony Scott. Coolest car ad I've ever seen.

    Bed. Sorry.