Tuesday, January 22, 2008

I also have a hard time opening my eyes underwater.

Saturday, January 19, 2008


Ah to be young and tactless, like my new coworker Vicky. She is 16, so I should give her a break, but really. Yesterday I asked her innocently how her day was. She mentioned a bit of a shopping spree. I wasn't really interested, but she began to catalogue all her purchases. There was a time, perhaps I would've been excited to hear such things, but hearing some teen rattle on about blowing all her cash on trendy accessories while I spend all my money on "essential items" is a little annoying.

What was most cloying was her insistence on gabbing about cell phones. "What kind of phone do you have? I have two cell phones. One's from my boyfriend and the other is a brand new blah blah. I used to have a different one, but I 'walked into a wall' with it. Well that's what I told my dad. Actually I threw it at a friend, cause I was mad, and he stomped on it and cracked the screen, so I made my dad buy me a new one."

Of course this kind of chit chat is not endearing. Maybe when she grows up a bit she'll realize this. But an interesting article on the BBC yesterday (see below) talked about a greater danger of such a materialistic outlook. Apparently people living in "selfish capitalist" countries (as opposed to "unselfish capitalist") are at greater risk of mental illness. While Oliver James does not define "selfish capitalist" in the article, I think one can get his drift. Both America and England are countries where keeping up appearances through the guise of material possessions is often given much more weight than the kind of person you are.

And at a cost. " ...studies show that 23% of Americans, Britons, Australians, New Zealanders and Canadians - all English-speaking "selfish capitalist" nations - suffered mental ill-health in the past 12 months. But only 11.5% of Germans, Italians, French, Belgians, Spaniards and Dutch experienced mental problems."

I also wonder at the promised cure-all in acquisition. Although we are skeptical about commercials and say to ourselves we know putting on an ipod won't make us dance around in musical glee, you can't doubt that these messages affect us. (i.e. I have all this stuff, why aren't I happier?)

Check out the article. What do you think? Why are Americans, Britons, and the like so depressed?


Thursday, January 17, 2008

War, what is it good for?

My father once started the ROTC classes that he taught with the above song. He then went on, I suppose, to explain what war is good for.

Most people believe war is a necessary evil. St. Augustine laid out the clauses for "just war theory." Everyone will admit that war is terrible, but few will admit there is any other way. Tonight the husband and I watched Charlie Wilson's War, a fascinating look at the real life senator who snowballed a small op in Afghanistan to a mighty blow against the communist empire. It was slick and intriguing; well-penned by West Wing's Aaron Sorkin-- but did not glamorize the conflict. At least not the death toll on the Afghani side. Mangled children litter the screen, Tom Hanks is lifted up as the man who will aid these fallen angels in the best way possible-- giving them guns to shoot down those communist bastards.

And they are bastards, right? Our first view of these villains is a scene of helicopters piloted by young men who love to kill Afghani civilians and even more treacherously, not commit to their girlfriends. You'd never guess that these are also fathers, husbands, brothers, and sons. That's the terrible truth of war. Every person killed is someone. Statistics can be ignored, but if that was your husband, or mine, that truth would become all too real.

Christmas in London the stores blare the same few Christmas Brit-pop songs over and over again. I was at first struck by the irony that Boots was pushing John and Yoko's "So this is Christmas" with the stinging bridge "...war is over, if you want it." There was a time when I smiled patronizingly at such lovely Lennonisms, even though my compassionate and sensible friend holds the song "Imagine" to heart. But this is also a simple truth: if the majority of people in the world said "no" to war, stood together and said we refuse to solve problems through murder, we could have peace.

Impossible? Well, you may say that I'm a dreamer....

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Logical Loughborough

How was your day today? Mine was pretty good. I worked long hours, but at least the people make it entertaining. There's an elderly lady who always comes in carrying a straw basket and demanding walnuts. She then wants you to put the walnuts in two plastic bags and then put them in her basket. I forgot and asked her if she wanted a bag. She asserted that of course she wanted plastic bags. I told her that I have to ask because some people hate plastic bags (myself included), to which she scoffed "Hate plastic bags! That's silly. There's no point to conserving plastic bags. There's no point. What people don't realize is that plastic doesn't come from trees!" And with a hearty laugh she took her walnuts, basket, and plastic bags and left.

Around 2 o'clock Vicky, the new girl, came in. She is approximately 5' tall, 70lbs, and has the cute freckled look of Punky Brewster. She is 16 years old. This being younger than my youngest sibling, I have little means of identifying with her. While she has been busy learning codes and trying not to screw up (ah remember those days?) today we got a chance to talk. She finished secondary school last June and doesn't seem to have plans for further education. She lives with her dad on a houseboat, and on her days off she likes to lay around in her pajamas eating chocolate biscuits. So far so good. Here's what I don't understand: she spends every weekend at her boyfriend's (and his parents') house, and she's pretty sure he's going to propose on her 17th birthday next summer.

"How long have you been together?" I query. About 8 months. "How old is he?" "Seventeen-- you know, an older man." "How old do you have to be to get married in England?" "You can be 17 if both your parents give consent." I had to keep myself from laughing. You're not old enough to sign your own permission slips, but you're old enough to get married. People said that Ryan and I were awful young to get married! And I feel like it some days; I'd love to take my days off and lay around in pajamas watching TV and eating chocolate. But there's laundry to do and recycling to be sorted, and what's more we can't afford a TV right now; so its time to start acting like an adult even if I'm not convinced of it.

"His mom will probably be mad if we get engaged, she doesn't like me, but now that I've got a proper job she'll see I'm not going to lead him down the wrong path." I nodded, too much a stranger to give my opinions on the matter. I watched Vicky as a woman with a baby stroller walked to her till. Vicky cooed at the baby and all I could do was shake my head.

Did you know that Britain has the highest rate of teen pregnancies in all of Europe?

Monday, January 14, 2008

Move me to Newcastle, ASAP!

Ryan and I took the train up this weekend to look at flats in Newcastle. As soon as I stepped out of the train station into a reasonably dry and windless city, I was immediately swayed.

Not only was it sunny all day Saturday, but we saw two flats that WITHOUT: broken freezers, holes in the kitchen floor, single-paned windows, or moldy showers! I was on cloud nine. We talked with Geordies, the lovely people of Northern England renowned for their friendliness (so long as you're a Newcastle United fan, they were sadly killed by Manchester on Saturday night 6-0). We strolled quaint neighborhoods with real live Jewish people (the first we've seen in Europe) and an actual deli! How I've missed delis!

Newcastle has the unique distinction amongst the British cities that I've seen thus far of having architecture that works together. Downtown is an amazingly cohesive set of minimal bridges, old castle walls, and Neoclassical streets. We walked along the river Tyne on Saturday night taking in the panorama before having a delicious dinner at a restaurant called Marco Polo.

Ryan and I decided on the first flat we viewed. One bedroom, which means we'll actually be living by ourselves-- no roommates! And thank goodness, because each new day that I'm living with Tequila is a day too long.

We returned from Newcastle pleasantly surprised that Angel had actually put gas on the card, but she quickly redeemed herself by having a marathon of loud sex last night. Tequila was lying low until this afternoon where she has been exchanging yells with her boyfriend for approximately 5 hours. She took a break to make tea whilst Ryan and I were having dinner in the kitchen. (I guess all that yelling hurts her throat) She was trailed by two moderately ugly guys like dogs in heat. She proceeded to take one of our mugs out of a stack of dirty dishes, pour tea in it , and then add a large sprinkling of the ginger that I had been using while cooking stir fry. I sure hope she enjoyed drinking it as much as I enjoyed imagining her drinking it.

P.S. for your further enjoyment please review this list of Geordie slang, courtesy of wikipedia.
  • Gannin Hyem - Going Home
  • Snottercloot - Hankerchief
  • Y'areet - You alright?
  • Bairns - Children
  • Divint - Do Not
  • Ha'way - Come on!
  • Canny - Nice/Ok/quite
  • Charva - Chav
  • Claarts - Mud
  • Hinny - Honey/Darling
  • Aye (pronounced I) - Yes
  • Deein - Doing
  • Gan - Go
  • Wor Kid - A friend
  • Kets - Sweets
  • Yee - You
  • Wey Aye (pronounced wey i) - Of Course

Thursday, January 10, 2008

This just in, Katy changes her blog name to "Sluts Who Love Sex!!"

OMG, my brother Caleb raved about the new movie "Juno." Then my husband showed me this CNN article http://www.cnn.com/2008/SHOWBIZ/Movies/01/09/film.diablo.cody.ap/index.html?iref=newssearch
about the screenwriter and how she got discovered. Apparently it was "...Mason Novick, who stumbled across Cody's racy blog while surfing for porn and ended up becoming her manager."

Thus I'm changing the name of my blog so I will become rich and famous and move back to America or buy a huge jet and travel back and forth across the Atlantic as much as I like.

A Smooth Criminal

I'm taking a break from recounting our holiday trip to give you an update on the house mate situation. Yesterday Tekla (aka "Tequila") officially won the title of "worst roommate ever." I know that previous complaints about Angel's unannounced parties and loud karaoke might have seemed bad, but nothing compared to the hooligans Tekla invites into our home.

I'll begin at the beginning. Wednesday is my day off from work. All afternoon the doorbell was rung obnoxiously. Ryan and I have stopped answering since it's always for Tequila and she seems to need a butler service we're unwilling to provide. Her friends trickled in and the volume went up. Someone with a baby came over, parking the stroller across our tiny entryway. Then the door shut and they commenced hot boxing with a baby in the room. The baby obviously didn't like the smell of pot smoke and started crying.

Next thing we heard was shouting in the hallway. Angel was yelling at Tequila's party to give back her purses. Apparently, she was cooking in the kitchen and when she came back to her room her designer purse collection (and they actually are designer, not knock-offs, I know waste of money, but still...) had been taken. Angel was demanding that Tequila's friend give them back or she'd call the police. Tequila swore to have no knowledge of the person Angel was describing, but Tequila's latest boyfriend promised to get them back (from the "absolute stranger") in 24 hours as long as she didn't call the police. They were returned today, with all Angel's cell phone contacts deleted. Ryan and I told her she should call the police and cancel her credit cards, but we'll see.

The party briefly left and then returned to the house at 2am, yelling, running up and down the stairs, and smoking more pot (the smell comes under our door). Ryan got up to tell them to be quiet, and they are very friendly and apologetic to him, but I doubt they'd treat me that way if he wasn't here.

Anybody have any revenge ideas? Whilst lying awake last night I came up with a list and finally decided that I should put hot sauce in her douche (which she keeps in the shower). I am so glad we are moving in 2 weeks!

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Nudes abound!

I know I'm not writing about the glory of l'arc de Triomphe or the spookiness of Pere La Chaise cemetary. Frankly, see them for yourselves. They are what you'd expect and wonderful to experience. What I find most interesting are the bizarre cultural differences I never expected to find.

France is very relaxed about nudity. Ryan's grandmother wasn't thrilled. At one point after a few days' hiatus from museums we walked into a gallery full of nude sculptures, she dryly stated "ah, I was going through naked people withdrawals."

Even the postcard vendors on the streets proudly display vintage nude photos. This lead to one of the funniest moments from the trip, as we were walking along the Seine, casually looking around, Ryan actually WALKED INTO A POLE, being so distracted by naked pictures. It was pretty hilarious.

When in Paris

Paris is an odd place. A beautiful place, as I mentioned, but very different from the US or UK. In America, police walk around in snazzy uniforms with guns discreetly in belts. English bobbies don't even carry guns, and wear silly hats. Several times in France we saw police dressed in full camo carrying huge, scary, automatic weapons. I guess they're protecting us from terrorists? As we cued outside the Eiffel Tower we waited for these trigger-touching police to turn and waste one of the obnoxious souvenir sellers (How many times do I have to tell you "Non, merci!"?)

These scary police patrol train and metro stations, the Eiffel Tower, and other major tourist sites. They are not on the trains, including the crowded one we took to the Crypt, on which Max was pickpocketted. Lucky for Max, he doesn't have any money. His mother suggested that this pickpocket was obviously not very bright as Max was dressed "like a homeless person." Nevertheless, Max remained calm while someone rummaged through his pockets, confident they would find nothing. I hate crowded trains, if that had happened to me, I'd have grabbed that pickpocket's hand and yelled "Arret, vouleur!" ("Stop thief!") This was one I practiced.

A phrase I was thrilled to learn in Paris: "C'est moi qui fabrique le miel bon." A brilliant slogan from Miel Pops, honey pops a la Francaise. Made by Kellogs. It was delicious and, while not Lucky Charms, pretty damn good. For real, check it out.

The Epic Journey pt 1- Paris awaits

As our tiny plane made the short jump from the East Midlands airport to Charles De Gaul in Paris, my expectations were pretty high. Even filling out our customs form filled my head with delusions of grandeur. The customs official would be stunned "Americaine? But you speak French so well!" I'd modestly turn away my gaze "No, no, you are too kind." And saunter confidently into Paris and my new Parisian lifestyle.

We were in Paris for less than a week, and it was every bit as beautiful as every romantic has described it. The whole lifestyle of a Parisian seems aimed at living a life of high quality. The corner boulangerie has fabulous non-mass produced loaves every day. The apartment buildings are not built beyond 6 stories and all are done in an architectural style befitting this gorgeous city.

I had hoped my basic knowledge of French and "excellent ear for pronunciation" as my high school teacher had put it, would allow me to blend in and pass for one of the gorgeous locals. Apparently this requires more than two years study in high school and a thin French phrase book. I became very grateful to the random English-speaking customers who would come forward at the wine shop when I would stammer in French "C'est vin-- doux ou sec?" Because, of course, as soon as I uttered the phrase I'd forget which meant sweet and which meant dry. But, contrary to all American propaganda, the French were very kind and did not laugh at my mediocre grasp of basic French.

Funniest moment of the first two days: the ever-adventurous Ryan orders steak tartar for lunch. (For those of you who have missed out, this is basically raw beef, eggs, and onion) And the waitress asked "Are you sure? Do you know what this is?" He nodded and she said "No, a lot of Americans don't like this. Are you sure?" He was, but this left a little concern with the rest of the table and our already growing suspicion of E. Coli contamination. However, he seems to have survived thus far.