Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Rock music on the radio

Things I have noticed being back this time:

- I now look at things like I am a foreigner. You know when you go into a supermarket in a different country, and everything looks totally different and the only things you really recognise are the fruit, vegetables, and meat? But everything else is different? Yeah, it's like that.

- Rock music on the radio. Real rock music. Some of it involves screaming, but it's real rock music. I miss this greatly.

- Portions are really, actually, huge. The bagels my Mum bought at the store the other day are about double the size that they are back home.

- You really can't walk anywhere unless you live in a city. My parents don't. I've been in a car more in the last week than I have in the last year.

- Do they add sugar to everything??


Thursday, December 18, 2008

The disconnect

Whenever I come home, one of the things that strikes me about America is the massive disconnect the average American seems to have from the rest of the world. The lack of international news coverage is striking - the Metro (a free daily magazine distributed on London's transport network) has more international coverage than most American newspapers.

I'd woken up at 5.30 am this morning (jetlag is always so much fun) and was sitting in my parent's sitting room watching the morning 'news'.

It's currently snowing in Seattle and the surrounding area. They kept going on about something called a 'convergence zone' and how this was causing the snow. Now, it doesn't snow very often in Seattle, and when it does, I'll agree that everything tends to go to hell. People can't drive, cars slide off the road, everything shuts down.


For two and a half hours, all the news talked about was the snow.

After an hour, I was getting a bit pissed listening to people talk about TEH SNO. Which was the worst snow ever. Ever to exist. The maw of hell was opening, and it was happening in Seattle, in the form of TEH SNO.

After another hour of TEH SNO (which clearly signaled the end of the world), a little bit of rage was developing. So far, we had covered TEH SNO, a guy getting married for the fifth time, and about thirty seconds of the conviction of one of the men behind the Rwandian genocide in 1994. But mostly we were covering TEH SNO.

It really worries me, this total lack of coverage of things happening in the rest of the world. I'd imagine that the 'average' American has no idea about what's happening with the Canadian parliment, the cholera outbreak in Zimbabwe, or anything other than their own back yard.

This can't be healthy for a country that, simply, thinks they have a righteous fight to wage in this world. I don't know how to change it, fix it, or try to focus more of America's attention outward, but it needs to happen.

Otherwise, I think the world is going to be in trouble.

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Monday, December 08, 2008

A breath

I went up north this weekend, to visit some friends.

Occasionally, it's really nice to get out of London and be reminded that my entire life doesn't revolve around five square miles. It can be really hard to remember that sometimes, especially as London really is the epicentre of Britain. It's where all the jobs are, it's were a huge amount of the culture is - it's the one place that tourists make sure not to miss.

I love the light in northern England in the winter. It slants so sharply across the landscape; it either blinds you entirely or you're walking outlined with your shadow stretched far in front of you. This weekend was beautiful. The weather's been bad lately, and it's been freezing and raining. Walking around, in a town where you can actually smell the difference in the air, just makes you pause for a moment. Look at the way the light hits a footbridge. Squint down at your feet, and see the way each tiny dip in the pavement and pebble casts its own shadow. Feel the warm air on your face as you open the door to a coffee shop with the most amazing smell that comes with it.

It was a very good weekend.

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Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Take it all off, baby

I finally sucked it up and admitted that I needed to get several pairs of shoes re-heeled recently, something that I’d been putting off for quite some time (mostly because I’ve never had anything re-heeled in my entire life thus far, and was paralysed about the possible cost. Also, getting me to don a coat and wander around looking for a shoe repair place on my lunch break, using up possible knitting time, is very similar to trying to tell a drunk to leave a bar when he’s standing there with a full pint even though it is 20 minutes past closing time. That second reason should maybe have gone first.)

Pleasantly surprised at the relative cost – it will cost me about the price of a new pair to get all five pairs that need doing done – I got the two worst offenders fixed and went on my merry way.

This morning, while going to work wearing the boots that I’d picked up from the repair place yesterday, I began to notice something a bit strange.

People were staring. More specifically, men. At my knees.

Now, I am willing to admit that I have fairly good legs. As Amy Gardner in The West Wing says, ‘I have legs that go all the way to the floor, my friend,’ but today I’m wearing boots that are about four inches from my knee and a skirt that, when standing, is around two inches above my knee. So grand total of skin on display is around six inches. (This might sound like a lot. It’s not. Let’s just say that mini-skirts look very, very short indeed on me.) This doesn’t merit the guy who did a double take, then did not take his eyes off my knees for three stops this morning.

I think it has to do with the scarcity. In the summer, women walk around in sundresses that are glorified bikinis. Men wear shorts, women short skirts, shoes that are barely more than a bit of something between the ground and your feet. In the winter, giant coats, voluminous scarves, hats, tights, boots, and women especially (as, sadly, I have not yet noticed a predominance of men in kilts at any time of year) wear more trousers. So that six inches between my skirt and the tops of my boots suddenly becomes the equivalent of seeing a lady’s ankles in Victorian England.

Now all I need to is harness this power, and I can take over the world.

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