Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The best of British telly

I watch very little British telly. Mostly cos it's really shit. The drama is rubbish and the comedy is no better. My current favourite shows are Ugly Betty and Grey's Anatomy. If I watch British telly, often it's reality television. Not the shit stuff, mind. I don't do Big Brother and crap like that. Stuff like Dragon's Den.

Through the magic of digital TV and the internet, you can now experience some of my favourite shows for the first time ever. I'll tell you about two now. First up: Harry Hill's TV Burp. It's a comedy show that's a bit like the old Talk Soup when it was hosted by Greg Kinnear (anyone remember that?): he takes the piss out of (British) TV programmes. However, Greg Kinnear's droll woe-is-us presentation is bypassed in favour of Harry Hill's sillier and ironic (obviously) take. The jokes will obviously be cultural, but hope you get the gist.

QI is a quiz show hosted by the actor Stephen Fry (the inspector in Gosford Park; part of the comedy double act Fry and Laurie of which Hugh Laurie was the other member). The point of the show is to say something "quite interesting". The more interesting, the more points. Anything dull and predictable gets points taken away. So the show's got that lovely penchant that British comedy quiz shows have of having an irregular scoring system.

NB: If these videos do not show up, then go to YouTube and search Harry Hill, QI or Dragon's Den there.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

The chat

I'm not sure how to describe the chat, but I feel that I must. Especially if you're coming to visit, you have to understand this concept of 'the chat'. See this as a lesson in how to get by in Scotland.

'The chat' is banter, witticism, the like. If you're told by a Scotsperson that you have 'good chat', that's very good. As well, if something you said has produced a guffaw of laughter and a "That's good chat," then you're in. It's awful to be known as a person with 'nae chat' -- it's the ultimate insult. 'Nae chat' means that you're boring -- never a good thing.

So chat is a big thing. My friend Turtle was told by her guy that the reason why he hooked up with another girl was because the girl had "better chat". No joke. I was talking to a guy in a club last night. He said he had met this girl and her first words to him was "What's your chat?" Which meant, "Say something to amuse me." I mean, no pressure there. Thankfully, not only am I a bletherer, I'm inclined to say silly things, mostly to amuse myself. My chat is always good.


Here are my predictions about the Oscars:

    Best Picture: Babel
    Best Actor: Peter O'Toole
    Best Actress: Helen Mirren
    Best Supporting Actor: Alan Arkin
    Best Supporting Actress: Jennifer Hudson
    Best Director: Paul Greengrass
Okay, now watch this space.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

First story about cultural differences

This past week saw me back at school, which can explain why my sudden surge of blogs went dry. Also, again, feeling a bit rubbish. I think I'm paying the price for an early proclamation of having the healthiest school year ever. I've not been feeling very well since Christmas, as regulars might know.

This very feeling led me to miss striking The Pursuit of Happyness off of my Oscar-seen list. Actually, I went to the cinema for a matinee, only to be told that the film was only showing in the 'Gold Class'. This Gold Class is a total con. You have to pay £2 more for a seat for the privilege of leather chairs and the ability to purchase booze while drinking. Shit, I can buy booze at the Cameo and the tickets are about £2.50 cheaper! I left, not seeing the film.

I would not, on the other hand, be detered from seeing Half Nelson last night. The only place in Scotland that I could find showing this film on my Oscar-seen list was in Glasgow. Tickets were £7 and the train fare was nearly £10 return. Okay, seems a bit hypocritical, but there was a principle involved in the first instance. I think.

It was an odd little film, Half Nelson. The first, purely superficial, thing I enjoyed about it was seeing and hearing Black culture. It's a beautiful thing to a parched man in a desert. But it made me wonder how much did these British audiences understand -- get -- of what was going on. Did they even understand what that dude said? Did they understand the motivations of the characters? The subtle race questions that arose from the film?

Many, many months ago, I saw the Penelope Cruz film, Volver. Maybe you know this, but I thought very little of it, to the point where Boy and I wanted to pretty much write-off Spanish cinema. The actions of the characters were so bizarre and silly as to make them unpalatable. So I asked my team-mate Timi, who is Spanish, what she thought of the film. She didn't like Penelope Cruz, as she thought of her as silly (at least I'm not the only one). But she thought it was a good film.

She said that, until recently, Spain was a very repressed country and the 80s were a very repressive time for the Spanish cinema. Fluff movies starring buxom blondes from Sweden were mostly being made. To her, Volver was a big signal that it was time for Spain to face their past.

The grandmother was truly repressed character (expertly shown, by the way) -- from her denial of her husband's behaviour with her daughter, to hiding in her sister's house, to even hiding from her daughter under the bed. The daughter, growing up closed off, had the hard task of trying break free from the past. The granddaughter, though not having the same restricted life, had to live with the effect of the inhibited lives before her. Now, as I see it, Volver is hardly the silly, easily dismissed film I thought previously. It is a metaphor for the history of Spain, especially in the 20th century. It could be a metaphor to the history of the world. How powerful and what amazing storytelling.

But does that mean Penelope Cruz should win the Oscar? Not on your life.

Friday, February 16, 2007

The joys of doing nothing

It's nine minutes past one. I'm in my living room, writing this blog whilst trying to enter a contest on a TV gameshow. Behind my block of flats, the warehouses are being torn down to build new flats. I feel the tremors when the big crane drops things.

I bought this mirror in the saleroom yesterday for £18. I'd been looking for mirror for over the mantel for ages. Isn't the shape cool? Now I remove the rug that I hung over the fireplace to have something in the space, which you can see in the picture.

Life is good, innit? She's got no complaints.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

My husband, and other videos

For the day, my husband surprised me with a present before going off to work: 2 Laurel and Hardy DVDs (our fave) and a card with a lovely, and what will stay private, message. Not naughty, but you know Boy: a lot more discreet than me! So, as I tribute to him, I made this video. I call it, Why I still love my husband.

NB: if you can't see this video (and for some reason, I can't either), then try this link.

I made this video ages ago after taking a course for school. I jazzed it up with some captions, blah blah. I wanted to show it to you cos, if you're anything like me, you might be a wee bit nosy about what my life is like here. Unfortunately, it's not my house, or even me, but it's my neighbourhood, about one block from the flat.

NB: again, try this

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The irony

Do not, my dim-witted American friends, let any British (or anyone else, for that matter) convince you that you don't have/do/get irony. Americans do. Americans are, however, incredibly inclusive and want to make sure that no-one is "out of the loop" and everyone knows that they were "just kidding". This is how I've become British: I don't give a toss if anyone knows that I'm kidding. [That, there, was an ironic statement, as I am such a goodie-goodie, I am desperate for everyone not to think I'm so self-centred that I wouldn't "give a toss"] Here are some stories for further illustration. I will probably be peppering my tales with loads of irony. But as I don't give a toss, you won't know if I'm telling the truth or not. [Irony]


I'm on myspace, in case you didn't know. It's for networking. Okay, it's for trying to hook up with underaged boys. [Irony] Alright, it's really only for the surveys. [You would think I was being ironic, but, alas, no]

I was doing a survey done previously by my sister. Here's how I answered number 43, "Have you ever had to use a fire extinguisher for its intended purpose?"

No, but I've used it to knock someone out. [Irony]

My sister sends me this frantic email:

You have GOT to spill the story about knockin' bitches out with the fire extinguisher. Give! Where (sic) you in a bar brawl or fighting off inturders (sic) at home? I can't even imagine you doing that. Please tell me.

I felt just awful for making her believe that I would ever do such a thing. [Irony]


This story is a bit unusual, as the recipient of the ironic statement was not only British, but English, who, according to Boy, are the ultimate authority in irony.

At volleyball training tonight, I was assigned a position (5, if you really wanted to know) and Chick beside me was assigned 1. However, she was told she had to pass the ball to the other side of the net from position 6, then scurry over to position 1. Just to make things more difficult. [Irony] Essentially, the two of us were doing three people's work.

Chick did very well with this challenge. Unfortunately, she was caught out of position once. I said, "What? Who was supposed to be covering position 1?" [Irony] She threw her arms up in incredulous frustration [not irony, but incredibly comical to me], so I had to reveal that I too possessed the superpower of irony and I had thrown my irony lasso round her. Then I hopped off in my invisible plane to hang out with my Amazonian sisters.


Now I leave you with a tale of questionable irony. I laughed heartily when I read this, but I mostly because I saw this in the middle of writing this blog about irony. Boy is convinced it isn't irony, and I'd have to concur.

A friend of mine stupidly posted her home address on myspace when another friend requested it. I sent her a private message to say I didn't think that was such a hot idea. Now imagine yourself as me. Scary to be sure, but do. Imagine, like mine, a life entrenched in irony. [Irony] Now read her response and experience the same joy I did.

You are right, I've heard someone got killed from My Space. Ding Dong.

My Rosewood, and my other films

Years ago, my mother saw the John Singleton film "Rosewood", which I, unfortunately, still have not brought myself to see. I don't remember her recount of the plot very well, but essentially the black residents of Rosewood feel forced to violently confront the oppressive white people nearby. After seeing the film, my mother said she left, feeling a rage against white people.

Well, in the last two weeks, I think I might have found my own Rosewood. With the Oscars being won at the end of the month, I am going through my annual ritual of desperately trying to see all Oscar nominated films -- by my count, 19 films. You can see which films I've seen and not seen:

Films seen
The Departed
The Last King of Scotland
Blood Diamond
Notes on a Scandal
United 93
The Devil Wears Prada
Little Miss Sunshine

Films not seen
Little Children
Pan's Labyrinth
The Queen
Children of Men
The Pursuit of Happyness
Letters from Iwo Jima
Half Nelson

I won't be able to see three of the films (Little Children; Children of Men; The Queen) and might not see a further film (Pan's Labyrinth). The last 6 films I've seen have been in the last two weeks. The two that were the most disturbing to me were The Last King of Scotland and Blood Diamond. Both films had a helluva lot of violence, but I'm no prude. I know that it had to be shown to tell the story properly. It still depresses me though.

Both of these films are set in Africa, but the protagonists are white. I know, I know -- that's the point of The Last King of Scotland. But Dr Nicholas Garrigan is a composite character and many people gained Idi Amin's trust in the same way, including black people. Also, the violence that both films depict -- though showing the horrors of black-on-black violence (which, I don't know about you, I've seen plenty of) -- is ultimately rooted in white colonialism. It's enough to send anyone into a Rosewood rage. I hope Boy's not too scared.

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Friday, February 02, 2007

My funk

I'm in the winter blues?

I feel a bit out of sorts. I was just on myspace, looking at all of my friends (I can say that with confidence as I've met about 93% of them and keep in touch with about 4% -- if that ain't friendship, I don't know what the hell is). Everyone's picture has changed! I feel old and tatty.

I'm sick again. Now I have some sinus thing. To use British words, I have catarrh (a sinus drip) which makes me feel all bunged up (stuffy). I started back at school by taking nearly the whole of the first week off due to a stomach bug. A week after recovering, I was still not eating proper meals, which I think brought this on. I'm in an illness rut too!

I need pity and lots of it. I promise later I'll give it back to you. I'll just borrow your sympathy. Anyone?