Thursday, 31 July 2008

"See Ya Later Alligator" - Bobby Charles, 1955

I just heard an interesting story on BBC Radio 5 Live's news.

It seems, according to the BBC's report, that traffic was backed up for miles on Interstate 10 in the New Orleans area because of an alligator on the freeway.

I couldn't help but wonder what kind of vehicle it was driving.


What have I been listening to? Go see at Auditory Cortex.

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

"If I Fell" - Beatles, 1964

There's another coincidence to report today.

Yesterday, in Oxford - and near the flat where I lived when I first arrived in England in December 2002 - a building collapsed. It wasn't the size of the one in the photo to the right, which has been put there for entertainment purposes only. Luckily, no one was hurt in yesterday's incident. But the story especially caught my attention because of the location in Oxford; I used to walk right by that block on the way home from work.

Today, because I was on Sub Pop Records' website looking up information on Wolf Parade, I bumped into a list of their artists. Low and behold, there it was on the page - a band called Oxford Collapse!

Weird, huh?

The band's from Brooklyn, by the way.

Go see what I've been listening to at: Auditory Cortex

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

"Two Out of Three Ain't Bad" - Meat Loaf, 1977

My post today is thanks to my brother-in-law Paul, who introduced me to an online IT "newspaper" called The Register this past weekend. I highly recommend it and will be putting a link to it here on Lord Celery.

Well, one of their Sunday stories carries the amusing headline "Doctors: Third babies are the same as patio heaters".

To quote part of the story...

A pair of doctors have said that British parents should have fewer children, because kids cause carbon emissions and climate change. The two medics suggest that choosing to have a third child is the same as buying a patio heater or driving a gas-guzzling car, and that GPs should advise their patients against it.

So since John and I have no children at all, I guess that means we can safely buy two patio heaters?


Monday, 28 July 2008

"We Are Family" - Sister Sledge, 1979

(Click on the images for a full-sized version.)

This past weekend, in Swindon, John and I attended a family reunion - the celebration of his mum's 70th birthday. For the first time since I've become a part of the family, my mother-in-law and all of her 4 siblings (3 sisters and a brother) were together. That's not an easy task, either, as one sister lives in Australia and another lives in the US.

I thoroughly enjoyed myself...and being part of this remarkable family.


PS Read about what I've been listening to at my music blog, Auditory Cortex.

Friday, 25 July 2008

"Plastic Flowers" - Emerson Lake & Palmer, 2003

Funny what happens to you during a walk to the office sometimes.

This morning, as I walked south on St Aldates in Oxford, one of society's less advantaged old men walked toward me from the opposite direction. He was dressed in clothing that had clearly seen better days. He had a long, grisly grey beard and hair to match. His shoes appeared to be barely holding together. He did, though, have a big grin on his face.

But what made him really stand out was the huge ladies' straw hat he was wearing. It was covered with all manner of colorful plastic flowers.

My first thought was to feel sorry for the poor guy. Doesn't he know he's wearing something really ridiculous? He must be a little crazy, right?

Then I got to thinking that maybe, just maybe, he's actually having more fun this morning than I am. He's expressing himself - while protecting his face from the British sunshine!

And you know, I'm quite certain that I wasn't grinning as much as he was. (At least that was true before I spotted him!)

So that's how my day started. How about yours?


Thursday, 24 July 2008

"It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year" - Andy Williams, 1963

I'm feeling enough better to go back to work today.

Funny...I had just been thinking that tomorrow, it'll be 5 months until Christmas. And then I spotted this mail, for another tenant, in the lobby of the office building in Oxford this morning...

(Click on the image for a full-sized version.)

Sorry. I just can't even begin to think about Christmas yet!


Tuesday, 22 July 2008

"Haven't Got Time for the Pain" - Carly Simon, 1974

Since the end of last week, the pain got me by the head whether I had the time for it or not.

I've had the headache-from-hell since last Friday afternoon. I think it's finally fading away, and hopefully I'll feel like going back to work tomorrow. Anyway, that's my excuse for being a bit quiet here on the blog. I'll try to rectify that over the coming days!

Thanks, John, for taking such excellent care of me since Friday night!


Friday, 18 July 2008

"A Trip to the Library" - from the musical "She Loves Me", 1963

Don't you think that's the most beautiful library card ever? It's my new Oxfordshire County library card, which I got last night.

John suggested yesterday that we should join our village library. It was a great idea - and I really don't know why, in the almost 5-1/2 years I've lived there, I'd never joined. But I hadn't.

So after work yesterday, we took a walk over there and joined.

It's a terrific little library with a lot of resources. Man, have libraries changed since I last got a library card! For example, using your library card number, you can sign up for an online account with the Oxfordshire library system. You can then search all of the public libraries in the county; and for 85 pence (about $1.70, for my US readers), your local library will arrange to get any book located in any other Oxfordshire library. And for a little over £4 ($8+), they will get you any book located in any library anywhere in the entire country! Very efficient!

But one part of the application process really amused me. On the back side of the form was a section of optional know, the kind of things that county government would use to track the demographics of their users.

The first question was about ethnicity. Under the category of "White", I could tick one of the following boxes:

Other White

I don't recall ever being an "Other White" before!


Thursday, 17 July 2008

Part 2: "48 Horas (48 Hours)" - Mylene, 2003

As you'll be able to see from the photos which follow, the strike by public-sector workers in Oxford continues today (as planned). I took these photos this morning, around 7:30, in various parts of the city centre.

Isn't it a shame that the litter is spoiling some really nice views of this historic city?

Click on any of the photos below for a full-sized image.


Wednesday, 16 July 2008

"48 Horas (48 Hours)" - Mylene, 2003

I heard on this morning's news that public-sector workers in parts of Wales, Northern Ireland, and England have begun a 48-hour strike today, to protest the pay increase proposed by local governments. I wondered (to myself) if Oxford might be affected.

As soon as I got off the park and ride bus in the city centre this morning, I got my answer. I grabbed my camera once I'd gotten nearly to Carfax Tower and took the following photo:

(Click on either photo for a larger version.)

This was taken at around 7:35 in the morning. Cornmarket Street is generally very clean at that hour of the day. Looking at this photo, I realize that I didn't photograph the worst of it - in places, the trash was already overflowing from the bins.

As I continued to walk to the office, I passed the Oxford City Council offices. There were a couple of Unison picketers...

I can hardly imagine how bad this is going to get by Friday morning. Perhaps - if I dare - I'll take a few more shots later today and again tomorrow. Thinking of all of the tourists in town, the trash is likely to become really awful.


I carried the camera in my hand with me as I walked back to the bus this evening. I didn't see much trash...perhaps the merchants along Cornmarket Street did their own cleanup? But the crowds of tourists were so bad that I'm not sure I wouldn't see a trash bin anyway. (Note to my readers: I would suggest not coming to Oxford during June/July/August. Come before or after, when it's not so crowded. And the weather might be just as good anyway.)

Here's what Cornmarket Street looked at 4:15pm today...

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

"This Might Be Satire" - Propagandhi, 1994

I didn't hear about this story until late this afternoon, when John and I were waiting at the Manor Hospital's outpatient area for an appointment with his surgeon. (His latest MRI looks pretty good - and any residual neck/shoulder pain is due to scar tissue from January's surgery and should resolve itself over the next two or three months. Fingers crossed!) John showed me a newspaper article about this cover on the latest edition of "The New Yorker".

Here's the BBC's well as the thoughts of a columnist from the "Guardian" newspaper.

I also didn't really get the fist-bumping reference. But here's where I got my explanation - from the "Washington Post".

I've always been a big fan of "The New Yorker"...and their famous cartoons. But they've gone to far this time - in the name of satire.

To me, this isn't satire at all. It's offensive. And it's playing right into the hands of conservative Republicans.


"A Song for Richard and His Friends" - Chicago, 1972

Some time back, I was chatting with one of my co-workers here in Oxford. We were talking about British athletics. Richard told me that a lifelong friend of his is a triple-jumper, and that he (the friend) was hoping to make it to the Beijing Olympics this year as part of the British team.

Well, I've just seen on the BBC's website this morning that Richard's friend - Nathan Douglas - has indeed made the team, despite having some recent hamstring problems. That's really good news!

I've also found an interesting article about how Douglas' training has benefited from lottery funding.

It's going to be much more fun watching the British track & field team, knowing that there's a local guy - who's a friend-of-a-friend - on the team!

Oh...and for my American friends, of course I haven't abandoned support for the American team, either. Naturally, my special favorite is Tyson Homosexual.


Monday, 14 July 2008

"I Turned Out the Lights" - John Mars, 1999

I recently wrote here about the two-part episode of "Doctor Who" which was the finale for this most-recent series. And yesterday evening, John discovered that both parts were being re-shown on BBC 1. Of course we watched again!

I have found this interesting review of the series that just ended. I agree with most of what the author has written, although perhaps he's a little tough on the Daleks (suggesting they now give too many warnings before incinerating their victims).

My favorite episode of the season was "Turn Left". Perhaps it's because the idea of time lines - and the repercussions if a time line were to be altered - has always really appealed to me. It's one of my favorite sci-fi themes.

But there's no doubt that my favorite quote from the series has been: "Hey! Who turned out the lights?". It sends a chill down my spine just thinking about it. (But I don't believe that the storyline of that episode quite exceeds my love for the chilling episode called "Blink ", from the previous season. It's right up there with some of the best work Hitchcock ever produced.)

And I can't wait to see Professor River Song again - and I'm sure we will!

It's been a really terrific series this time. But I'm eagerly anticipating what will happen next, as Steven Moffatt takes over from Russell T Davies. Unfortunately, we will have a long wait - until Christmas. Reminds me of when I was a kid...


Friday, 11 July 2008

"I Keep Forgettin' " - Michael McDonald, 1982

I think I mentioned, earlier in the week, that I had done some unpacking and reshuffling in our garage over the weekend? Well, one of the most fun discoveries I made was a book packing box full of my life's collection of 45 rpm records! (I hate to think this, but some of my readers may not even know what those are...!)

I started acquiring music at a very young age. Thinking about it, I believe I was only about 7 years old when I began to spend my allowance money on singles. So it was with great eagerness that I went through them last night, putting each little treasure safely on a shelf in our study.

One of the picture covers especially caught my eye, and I thought I'd share it with my readers today.

(Click on each image if you'd like to see a full-sized copy of the photo.)

The first thing that stuck me when I saw this was how incredibly young they all looked. I guess they would. This single is - oh - around 44 or 45 years old, right?

Now, zooming in, you can see the second thing that caught my attention. Each of the four Beatles are labelled with their names! I suddenly remembered the story - I had asked my father to type each of their names on the cover, because for awhile I kept forgetting which Beatle was which. [You know the old Americans, all Englishmen look alike, right? ;-) ]

And thirdly, take a close look at Paul. He's holding a burning cigarette in the photo! When do you see that on a CD cover anymore?

Have a great weekend, everybody!


Thursday, 10 July 2008

"I Walk the Line" - Johnny Cash, 1964

Whether it's referred to as a "line" or a "queue" - and whether you're "in line" or, like in New York City, "on line" - there are different rules of behavior in dealing with waiting lines, depending upon where in the world you are.

I've learned pretty quickly that in England, queues are almost as sacred as they are in Manhattan. I learned that very quickly when I moved to NYC in 1986. But besides the line/queue difference, there's a big difference in the way the unwritten rules are policed in the two locations.

In New York, he/she who dares to break into an existing line will get verbally admonished first. If that doesn't work after the first or second try, he/she is then likely to be shoved out of their offending position. That's just the way it is there. Do not dare break the sanctity of a line...for anything.

In England, the people in the queue who are being bumped back frown and grumble and mumble to each but say or do absolutely nothing to the offenders.

So here's what happened to me after work yesterday. It was pouring with rain in Oxford. The queue for the two northerly park and ride buses is combined into one big waiting line, as both the 300 and the 500 buses depart from the same bus stop. There's a bus shelter there, but only about 8-10 people will fit underneath. I was about number 12, so I was standing in the rain (but under my ever-with-me umbrella). I was getting a little wet, but that's par for the course when you live in Britain.

I noticed a group of about 15 students milling around in front of a Border's shop two or three doors down. I remember vaguely wondering if they were going to try to crash the bus waiting line. Also, about 15 people (with umbrellas, I should add) were taking cover nearby in front of the box office of the cinema. I was thinking that was OK, as long as they waited for the end of the queue before trying to board the bus.

The 300 bus (not mine) came first. None of the students, nor the folks in front of the cinema, made a move. So far, so good. And a few of the people under the bus shelter boarded the 300, so I shifted up under cover. I was now the 7th person in the queue.

And then the 500 bus rounded the corner and approached. The woman behind me muttered something about how she bet all of the other people were going to try to move ahead of us waiting patiently in the queue. I was thinking the same thing.

The 6 people ahead of me must have been thinking the same thing, too, as we all shifted forward, very tightly, toward the curb where the bus would soon open its doors.

And here came all of the queue jumpers as well.

I said to the woman ahead of me the we should make sure we all got on the bus first. Another woman farther ahead heard me and said she agreed. I heard several "Yes, that's right!" comments coming from those around me. And we moved forward. And so did the queue breakers.

I think I must have said something, again, like "We should not let them do that." And the woman (British - as all of the women around me were) ahead of me said, "Oh, YOU should be the one to do something!" (Because I'm American, I thought!)

And so you know what? I did! I put on my best "New York" aggressive face and posture. I stepped out of the line slightly, spread myself out as wide as I could, and said to the interlopers that I wasn't going to let any of them on the bus ahead of me. I then sort of guided all of the people directly in front of and behind me onto the bus, blocking the path of all but one of the most aggressive of the students. One of the students (German? Dutch?) glared at me and told me that they'd been waiting "a long time" for the bus. I told him so had we, and we were waiting in the bus queue. "I didn't see a bus queue.", he said. I said something to him like what did he think all of us were doing snaked down under the bus stop cover and sidewalk/pavement behind the sign for the 300 and 500 buses. He shrugged and said something under his breath. And I made sure he didn't get on ahead of me!

When I boarded, the driver was one of the few female bus drivers for the park and ride buses. I told her we had a bunch of queue-jumpers out there - the drivers are usually very good about watching that people don't do that, but the crowd at the door of the bus in this case was really big and disorganized - and with a wide smile on her face, she said that it appeared that I'd at least handled some of them. I got a kick out of that.

I'm usually not that pushy. But I was "the assertive American" at that moment.

And this morning, one of the ladies near me yesterday smiled and said "Good morning!" to me for the very first time when we boarded this morning's 500 bus at the park & ride station!


Wednesday, 9 July 2008

"Knock On Wood" - Eddie Floyd, 1966

There's a theme developing this week.

Like yesterday, I have found a sign to show you. But rather than being on the front of our office building, this one is posted right on the door to our office suite this morning...


PS I've been listening (a lot) to The Ting Tings debut CD "We Started Nothing". You can read what I think about it by following the link to Auditory Cortex.

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

"Didn't You Notice?" - Jennyanykind, 1998

I just found this note posted by the front door of our Oxford office building...

Do you suppose the writer even noticed the humor here?


Monday, 7 July 2008

"I Am So Ordinary" - Paula Cole, 1995

It was a really interesting weekend...except for the unspectacular Williams sisters' final at Wimbledon on Saturday.

Lewis Hamilton won a rain-soaked British Grand Prix at Silverstone yesterday afternoon. There was a fabulous men's final at Wimbledon yesterday, between Nadal and Federer. Nadal won. I was completely neutral. But it was such an exciting match that it made me nervous anyway!

And, on a more personal level, I unpacked boxes in the garage and rearranged those that are left to be unpacked later. And you know what? One of our cars will now fit in the garage, for the first time since the day we moved in last year! For the moment, it's my car that's snug and dry in there overnight. Next step for me, when I have more time, is to make room for both of our automobiles in there. It'll happen some day.

But one of the big highlights of the weekend was the finale of this season's "Doctor Who" on BBC 1 Saturday night. It was quite a show. I've heard that about 50% of TV viewers in Britain were tuning in! That's quite an achievement, in these days of so much choice.

Lots of the show's recent loose ends were tied up. Rose has her "Doctor" in an alternative universe. Martha and Mickey would appear to have new jobs waiting for them with Torchwood. Davros and the Daleks are supposed to be gone for good. (But I don't believe that for a minute.) And once again, the Doctor returned to the TARDIS alone.

But there's an aspect to Saturday night's show which has stuck in my mind ever since we watched. And that's the resolution of the story of the Doctor's latest "companion", Donna Noble (played to perfection by the comic actress Catherine Tate).

This past season, the self-described "just a temp from Chiswick" has had the most fantastic adventures with the Doctor. She's been his best friend. She's shown incredible bravery, intelligence, and common sense. She's been quite an important woman to the universe.

But during Saturday's episode, Donna ended up with the Doctor's intellect merged into her own. It was a precarious situation. It couldn't last. And to save her life, the Doctor had to completely wipe her memory of everything that had happened since the two of them met.

So once again, Donna is just a temp from Chiswick. She's ordinary again. She may never know what potential she has.

And that idea saddens me enormously...perhaps because there are so many "Donnas" in the world.


Saturday, 5 July 2008

"Sisters Are Doin' It For Themselves" - Eurythmics & Aretha Franklin, 1985

Well, once again it's an all-Williams women's final at Wimbledon. I just can't get motivated enough to watch.

Perhaps I'm saving my energy for the season finale of "Doctor Who" tonight. I'm sure it'll be much more exciting that watching Venus and Serena.


Friday, 4 July 2008

"A Gozar (Let's Be Gay)" - Antobal's Cubans, 1932

Thanks to a posting on the blog called Dispatches from the Culture Wars, I've heard a story about something that happened last week in the States. My American readers may have already heard about this, but I doubt that my other readers have.

OK - so there's an ultra-conservative news organization in the US called OneNewsNow which had (has?) a policy of never using the word "gay" when they relay news reports to their readers. They censor out the word "gay" and always replace it with "homosexual".

But what if they happen to be reporting about a well-known American athlete - a very fast one - who happens to be named Tyson Gay? Well, when their handy dandy word-replacement software went to work on an article about that particular athlete, the headline came out...

"Homosexual Eases into 100 Final at Olympic Trials"

I don't know how long it took OneNewsNow to notice and fix their embarrassing error, but eventually they did. Until last night you could still find a cached version of the original article on the web. But now it's gone. Luckily for me, I printed out a copy before it disappeared...and here is a photo of my printed page (and of course you'll have to click on the image to get a full-sized, readable version)...

What I've photographed isn't the entire page, but it's the most relevant part. If you'll look at the bottom line of text shown in the photo, you'll see my favorite fractured statement from the article...

"Asked how he felt, Homosexual said: 'A little fatigued.'"

So this comical situation naturally leads to thoughts about the other substitutions of the word "gay" that OneNewsNow could come up with in future news reports...

The actress Marsha Homosexual Hardin

Homosexual Paree

From World War II - the (in)famous plane The Enola Homosexual

- and -

That famous (and, sadly, deceased) soul singer Marvin Homosexuale

But my officemate has come up with the best example of all. But be prepared - it involves questioning the sexual preferences of all-American Fred and Barney...

When you're with the Flintstones
Have a yabba-dabba-doo time
A dabba-doo time
You'll have a homosexual old time!


What am I listening to? You can go see at Auditory Cortex.

"Almost Independence Day" - Van Morrison, 1972

Happy Independence Day to my American readers!

Why did I pick the Van Morrison song as my title today, rather than one of the more-obvious "Fourth of July" song titles out there? It's because it doesn't really feel like "The 4th" to me, living in Britain. It's almost the 4th of July.

Now John will do his very best to help, because he knows my spirits will be a little low today. I love living in the UK, but days like this make me homesick for America. John has already sent me a Hallmark e-card (which I can't listen to until I get home...). Perhaps even more importantly - since he's a wonderful cook - he's letting me choose our American dinner tonight. What did I select? My mother's meatloaf recipe (not this) and John's own rendition of new-potato potato salad. Yum!

On the Park and Ride bus into Oxford this morning, I had a brainstorm. I went into the Sainsbury's nearest the bus stop. I found 3 boxes of "American style doughnuts" in boxes decorated perfectly for today's American holiday. Although baked in the UK, they aren't bad. The British here in the office will call them jam doughnuts. To me, they are jelly donuts.

So here's my contribution to office happiness here in Oxford today...and my little bit of Independence Day:


Thursday, 3 July 2008

"I Hope" - Dixie Chicks, 2006

My life has always been full of concidences...most of them intriguing and very positive. I had an especially interesting one this morning.

When John and I were in New Mexico earlier this year, we spent a few days in Cloudcroft. The Lodge there is where we spent our honeymoon in January 2006. Cloudcroft has always been a very special place for me, and I'm delighted John shares my love for the little town in the NM mountains.

At a shop on the Cloudcroft boardwalk, we bought a few little cookbooks to bring back to the UK as gifts. As you might imagine, most of the recipes are the New Mexico variations of the "Tex-Mex" food that I enjoyed during all of the years I lived in Houston. Besides the recipes, scattered within the cookbook were little proverbs, in Spanish. One of them especially caught John's eye.

John liked the quotation "La esperanza es la ultima que muere." - translated in the book as something like "Hope is the last thing to die." (As an aside, Babel Fish did the literal translation as: "The hope completes is it that it dies." Well, you get the drift.)

In fact, he liked the quotation so much that he's added it to the title section of his blog Lord Celery's Little Brother.

OK. Here's the coincidence.

During this morning's commute to work, I was listening to my recording of last Saturday night's Bob Harris music program on BBC Radio 2. Without any pre-announcement, he played a very interesting song. At first, I thought it might be a Steve Earle song I'd never heard before. But the vocal was too good for Earle (sorry, Steve). What an intriguing song, I thought. I wondered who is was.

When Bob eventually announced what he'd been playing, it turned out to be a song by an artist I don't know at all - Mark Erelli. It's from an upcoming CD release called "Discovery".

And the song title? It's "Hope Dies Last".

Now, isn't that an interesting coincidence?


What have I been listening to? Go see on Auditory Cortex.

PS Oh, and Murray lost to Nadal at Wimbledon last night. No big surprise, sadly. But still, good for Andy for making it that far! Meanwhile, I'll stick my neck out to predict that Nadal is going to go all the way to win this year's tournament.

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

"Bad Rhymes, Worse Puns" - Jim Hoehn, 2004

Like everybody else (I hope...), I get loads and loads of spam in my email inbox. Most of it has either really stupid-sounding or completely unmemorable titles/subject lines.

One piece of junk mail that came into my mailbox this morning really made me chuckle...before I deleted it.

The subject was: "Sperms of endearment".


What music am I listening to at the moment? Go see at Auditory Cortex.

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

"Baby Come Back" - Player, 1977

Talk about the comeback kid!

Andy Murray gave British tennis fans quite a scare last night, nearly losing to Frenchman Richard Gasquet at Wimbledon last night before pulling it out in the 3rd set. Murray was two sets down and nearly losing the 3rd - we had almost changed channels, John feeling quite vindicated for his early statement about no Brit going any farther in the tournament - when he turned the entire game around and won at about 9:25pm UK time!

Meanwhile, I think most of the people in the nation had lost most of their fingernails and much of their hair.

Murray is a charming, lanky young Scottish tennis player who will soon become better known in the rest of the world. It's about time, too. Somebody needs to fill Tim Henman's shoes...although we're hoping Murray will fill them with even better reliability.

BBC Radio 5 this morning commented that Murray's nailbiting performance at Wimbledon yesterday was right out of the "Tim Henman handbook of Wimbledon torture". Ahhhh...British humor!

Well done, young Andy. Unfortunately for you, though, Rafael Nadal awaits tomorrow in the quarter finals...


Listening to: "Dreams of Breathing Underwater" by Eliza Carthy. Feel free to read my thoughts about this fascinating CD over on my music blog (via the link I've just provided).