Friday, 31 October 2008

"Scared Away" - 1208, 2002

We are disappointed to only have gotten two knocks on the door this evening....with a total of only 5 trick-or-treaters. As Halloween is on a Friday night this year, we had expected a lot more young visitors.

Maybe the really cold weather had more effect than I would have expected?

Or perhaps our creepy friend Alan in the study window scared them away...

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


"The Wonderful World of the Young" - Sid Tepper, 1962

We at work were extremely lucky this week, as the son of one of my co-workers came to visit on Wednesday and made lots of Halloween decorations for our office.

William - who is a very charming, intelligent young fellow - made sure that each piece of Halloween art was properly personalized. So to the right, you'll see that he labelled the piece for me as "William & Janet". Awwwww!

Here's the bats decoration that he made for me - and that he helped me effectively place on the wall next to my desk...

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

Here's the young artist himself...

And, last, but certainly not least, is William and his little sister Iris all dressed up for Halloween. Too bad that none of us noticed that the handle of Iris' little pitchfork was covering her pretty face...

So that's a little view of Halloween here in Oxford - and of my new young English friends!


Thursday, 30 October 2008

"All Messed Up and Ready to Go" - Records, 1977

I'm really sad to report this morning that 2009 will be Scottish actor David Tennant's final year playing The Doctor in the "Doctor Who" series. I had wondered how long he would stay in the part, given his versatility as an actor.

I have to admit that I wasn't fully convinced when Tennant was first announced as the new Doctor. But I was soon won over, and now it's hard to imagine anybody else in the part.

So the search for a new Doctor begins.

Hey, I know somebody who has just resigned from a BBC position and is certainly full of personality - maybe he would be interested in returning to the BBC in a different role?


Wednesday, 29 October 2008

"Hard To Say I'm Sorry" - Chicago, 1982

This post is being written for my Brits-in-the-US readers, as I'm not sure when you might otherwise hear about this.

Comedians/broadcasters Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand have - just this morning - been suspended from broadcasting on the BBC pending investigation of an incident which happened last Saturday on Brand's BBC Radio 2 program. The two made highly offensive phone calls to Fawlty Tower's actor Andrew Sachs - who got their messages on his voicemail - involving Sachs' granddaughter. I won't go into detail here about what they said. If you're interested, you can read all about it on the BBC's website through one of the links I've given here.
I must admit that I like both these guys (Ross much more than Brand), although Russell Brand's humor can be way over the top at times. This was an incredibly insensitive, stupid thing for these two to have done. I'm not surprised by Brand's behavior. I'm really sorry that Ross participated, though. What was deemed as "edgy humor" was obviously anything but. And the BBC have received a torrent of complaints as a result.

As many of you know, Jonathan Ross is extremely popular (well, he was anyway...) and is one of the highest-paid entertainers in Britain. The BBC's decision to suspend him - and that includes his Friday night talk show also, by the way - wasn't taken lightly, I'm sure.

Looking at the timeline of this controversy, I see that this program was taped several days before airing. Surely some producer or editor at Radio 2 should have had the good sense to edit out this sequence before it went on air! You know, it's bad enough that Brand and Ross used such dreadful judgement with their "prank"; but it's possibly even worse that employees of the BBC allowed the program on the air at all.

And even the PM himself has torn himself away from the country's economic problems to make a statement about this situation.

There's much more to come on this subject, no doubt.


"Early Snow" - Tom Paxton, 2002

Since I arrived in England in late 2002, there has never been snow in October. But that changed last night. Here was our back garden around 8pm...

While this doesn't look like much, it continued during the night. Our grass was white this morning. Luckily, though, the roads were ok - although the outside air temperature reading in my little Audi was as low as minus 3.5 degrees C as I drove to the park and ride. Brrrrr!

Other parts of England got even more snow than we did, though. Take a look at this, from the BBC website.


Tuesday, 28 October 2008

"Right Name, Wrong Guy" - Rocky Showgram Allen, 1994

This is a portion of a screenshot of the BBC website's home page this morning. My officemate spotted the amusing name label below US Presidential candidate Obama...

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

Oops! I wonder if the BBC have noticed yet!


Monday, 27 October 2008

"You're Much Too Fat (and That's That)" - Louis Jordan, 1946

I've been a bit quiet because we've had weekend visitors - John's Uncle Mike, Aunt Eileen, and the lovely Maud. (You might remember that we went to Kent to see them a few months ago.) We had a terrific weekend together, although the weather didn't cooperate as well as we would have liked.

Yesterday afternoon, the four humans had Sunday lunch at a pub located right in the center of our village. It's a very nice place to eat, but it's made even nicer by the fact that it's located only about 5 minutes (on foot) from our house.

Something written on the menu tickled us. Take a look at the photo below - at what's written in the middle of the image...

(Click on the image for a full-sized version, if you'd like.)

We had visions of the pub staff sizing us up to see if we were, perhaps, already too fat - therefore, making it inappropriate for us to be served potatoes and any but the very lowest-calorie veggies!

As it was, we were rationed with only two small roast potatoes each. Hmmmm....


Thursday, 23 October 2008

"Here Comes the Sun" - Beatles, 1969

This is the type of post I usually reserve for my music blog. But this morning, I feel compelled to talk about Brian Wilson's "That Lucky Old Sun" here in Lord Celery. That's how much it is affecting me.

We're all having tough times right now...some of us much worse than others. Although I'm happier in my personal life than I have been since I was little kid, I'm really fighting to keep my spirits up right now. It's so hard to find any good news in the world, especially given what's happening in the world's financial markets. John's job search is taking much longer than it should. And, like many many other "Boomers", I'm watching the gradual erosion of the funds I've faithfully put away for what I always hoped would be a comfortable-but-not-extravagant retirement someday.

And although I feel very much at home and loved in the UK, the truth is that I'm a long way from my home country. As we approach such an important US election, I feel especially far away. Sometimes I think I sublimate how I'm feeling about being out of the US a bit more than is healthy, but I guess it makes day-to-day life a bit easier to deal with to use that defense mechanism.

So in the midst of this semi-funk I've found myself falling into, my officemate brought in a copy of Brian Wilson's latest release "That Lucky Old Sun" and played it for me. I've always been a fan of Wilson's work, but I certainly did not expect to be blown away by this CD. But I was.

I often tell John that my goal is to be the sunshine in his life. Well just as my own sunshine reserves were feeling a little depleted, here came the recharging unit! This CD is almost magical. It brings to mind the sound of the Beach Boys from back in the 60s (sorry - some of my readers won't remember the 60s...). Believe it or not, I've never been to Southern California. But I feel like I have when I hear this album. I can almost believe, as I listen, that I grew up there along with the Wilsons - that's it's my home as well. That's where the songs take my mind, as I listen to the CD.

So I know this one will be resident in my car's CD player for quite some time. It not only makes my commute go quickly, it makes my heart sing and my face smile.

How often can you spend around £10 and get that kind of feeling?


Wednesday, 22 October 2008

"I Got the News" - Steely Dan, 1977

I don't often post twice in one day. But something has come up which has inspired me to write again today.

When I first began blogging, one of the blogs I began to read regularly (and I think that it's because she was shown as a link on a music blog written by Greg Kline) was This Just In. Over time, it has become a big favorite of mine.

Well, This Just In's author Lori Stewart (Gnightgirl) recently posted a very touching piece about the cost of the drugs her mother is taking for her newly-diagnosed Altzheimer's disease. This blog post - plus some of Lori's blogging connections - led to the story making the front page of the New York Times today! Take a look. It's an interesting article about an important issue being faced by many, many Americans these days.

I'm not sure that I've ever before known somebody who made the front page of my favorite newspaper! Oh...wait. I don't actually know Lori, do I? It sure feels like it though.

Oh - and while you're visiting This Just In, see if you can do anything to help Lori with a wonderful cause she founded. It is called Toys for Troops.


"Soldier Boy" - Shirelles, 1962

Every weekday, I receive an email from a security company based in Houston reporting trouble spots all around the world - something really useful to people like me who might be called upon to make an overseas trip on short notice. At the bottom of each email is a rundown of public holidays and major events for each day of the year.

Last night, after dinner, I was reading through yesterday's email. I thought the items for Honduras and for "Worldwide" were very strange bedfellows for the same date. Here's a screenshot of that portion of the email...


Tuesday, 21 October 2008

"A Contest Featuring Human Beings" - Guided By Voices, 1996

John and I were hosts to John's brother Paul for a few hours last Sunday. The brothers - as usual - enjoyed playing with their computers together. (Paul's was a very cool new netbook, by the way.) Somewhere along the way, I used my little digital camera's zoom and took the following photo of them from across the room (hence the picture quality)...

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

Honestly, I don't recall saying anything to them as I took the shot. But here's the challenge for all of you - what might I have said to them to generate these fantastic expressions? (Keep it clean, please!)


Monday, 20 October 2008

"Jungle Juice" - Sticks McGhee, early-1950s

Last Friday, quite a few of my office colleagues went over to Oxford's Town Hall to sample the offerings at the 2008 Oxford Beer Festival. Needless to say, they all seemed to enjoy themselves enormously!

Several of them came back to tell me about an award-winning cider called "Janet's Jungle Juice".

I'm just curious if any of my UK readers have sampled any? Obviously, John and I must give it a try!


Sunday, 19 October 2008

"The Prediction" - Matt Ben Jackson, 2008

OK. I'm already prepared to stick out my neck and predict the winner of the current series of "The X-Factor" - Blackburn teenager Diana Vickers.

She is such a refreshing change from the typical X-Factor entrant. She's very talented but distinctly her own girl with her own voice and musical style. Even if she doesn't win the show, she undoubtedly has a fantastic career ahead of her!

She has a fan club page on Facebook, for those of you who also use that social-networking site. I joined as soon as I discovered it was there.


Thursday, 16 October 2008

"One" - Three Dog Night, 1969

Has anybody in the UK noticed anything a bit different about Google's logo today?

And just why is the Queen's profile portrait sitting in as the small "g"? Because one is visiting Google's UK headquarters today!


Sunday, 12 October 2008

"Bridge Over Troubled Waters" - Simon and Garfunkel, 1970

I'm writing from Greenwich tonight - the Greenwich that's part of London, not the one in Connecticut or the "village" in NYC. I'm running a one-day training course in Canary Wharf tomorrow, so this is a very short trip.

I got in early enough this afternoon to take a few photos in/around Greenwich, but I just don't have time this evening to post them all. I promise to do that during the week.

However, I did want to post one photo tonight.

As there was a disruption on the Docklands Light Railway today, I took a taxi down here to Greenwich from the train station. It was a fabulous day - a perfect day to take a driving tour through London!

The icing on the cake was that my cab driver took me across Tower Bridge. I don't get to do that often. And given the state of the world's economies right now, I think the title song is probably more appropriate than any of us would care to admit!

Here's a shot I took - using my "mobile" - out the back window of the cab as we crossed the Thames. It's a slightly different angle on Tower Bridge, isn't it?

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

More in a few days!


Friday, 10 October 2008

"She Drives Me Crazy" - Fine Young Cannibals, 1989

Having lived in Manhattan for just over seven years, I used to have some very unusual encounters with strangers while walking around the New York streets.

I had one this morning, here in Oxford, which was right up there in the same category.

I was taking my usual walk from the park and ride bus into the office, just after 7:30am. Along the route - and very near my office - is the main county courthouse.

Today's blog-post title was playing on my iPod. Looking back, perhaps it was an omen.

As I approached the front of the courthouse, walking the other direction was a middle-aged woman. I initially noticed nothing unusual about her. But as she got closer, she smiled at me and motioned in such a way as to indicate that she wanted to ask me a question. So I popped out one of my in-ear headphones, preparing for a request for directions or something similar.

To my surprise, though, here's what she said to me - in a very friendly, enthusiastic tone...

"Someone told me that three angels, the Queen, and a chimpanzee were all seen in the Botanic Garden yesterday."

And before I even had time to react, she finished, with another big smile, by saying...

"Habeas Corpus!"

Then she kept walking. And I could hardly believe what had just happened.

Yes indeed. It was right up there with the weird and wonderful world of Manhattan!


Thursday, 9 October 2008

"The Weight" - Band, 1968

I really have come to hate the wait for a pass/fail or yes/no answer.

I have realized that my patience for waiting for special events - like Christmas, vacation trips, family/friends reunions, etc. - has improved greatly with age. But not the yes/no sort of waits. I think I'm actually becoming less patient with them as time passes.

Maybe that's because John and I have had such a long sequence of them since I moved to Britain in 2002. Over time, they begin to weigh you down - and wear you out - no matter how hard you try to maintain a positive attitude.

We have another one of those waits going on right now. It's one of our final steps, as a couple. I hope the time will pass quickly - and that the answer will be in the affirmative.


PS And by the way, congratulations to Melanie & Brian in Houston - as their wait has ended, and they now have a third little boy! John and I can't wait to meet him!

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

"(I Wanna Be) Teacher's Pet" - Frankie Avalon, 1957

Coffee almost spurted out of my mouth this morning, as I heard the story about what Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has done as part of his birthday celebration. He's released a DVD called "Let's Learn Judo With Vladimir Putin"!

I began to think about DVDs that other world leaders (or those of the wanna-be variety) could release.

George Bush: "Let's Learn to Have a Huge Vocabulary" (except that he would pronounce the final word of the title the way my father used to, as a joke...vo-ca-BULL-airy)

Gordon Brown: "Let's Learn the Natural Method of Smiling"

The two US Presidential candidates could release DVDs with similar themes...

Barack Obama: "Let's Learn to Sound Like JFK When We Debate"

John McCain: "Let's Learn to Sound Like Ronald Reagan When We Debate"

And then there are the candidates for VP...

Joe Biden: "Let's Learn to Speak Very, Very Concisely"

And, last but certainly not least...

Sarah Palin: "Let's Learn to Hunt and Field-Dress a Moose Like a Good Ol' Alaskan Hockey Mom Would"


What have I been listening to? Take a look at Auditory Cortex.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

"Having My Say" - Bold, 1988

I may not (yet) get to vote in Britain - Indefinite Leave to Remain only grants me UK residency, not voting rights - but I still have the right to vote for the President in my home country. After all, I'm still paying US taxes. Way too much in US taxes, in my opinion...but I'll spare my readers this morning, and I'll save that rant for another post.

Anyway, I was absolutely delighted to see the envelope below when I got home from work yesterday...

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

Now I'll just have to be careful to follow the instructions carefully, so that my vote will actually count! This is such an important election, you know.


Read about what I'm listening to at Auditory Cortex.

Monday, 6 October 2008

"The Fifty States Song" - Eddy J, 2002

Hearing about Stephen Fry's visit to all 50 of the states of the US - and the subsequent book and TV programme - I began thinking about how many of the states I have visited. I suspect it's rare to find even an American who has actually been to all 50, but I'd be delighted to hear that some of you actually have!

So I downloaded an alphabetical list of all of the states over the weekend and began the counting process. Out of the total of 50, I was delighted to discover that there are only 14 that I've never been to at all. Here's that list (in alphabetical order):

Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

More incredibly, here's the list of the states that I have been to:

Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and West Virginia. (Hopefully, that list totals 36 states.)

Of those in the paragraph just above, I have lived in - in chronological order - Oklahoma, Illinois, Texas and New York (followed by Texas again - but even as huge as Texas is, I can't count it twice!). And although I've never actually lived there, John and I have a great fondness for the state of New Mexico - that's where we got married. in 2006!

It's an interesting exercise. Anybody want to join me?

And by the way, Fry's book is on the way to us (or so says Amazon UK), and we can't wait for the TV programme!


Saturday, 4 October 2008

"Say What" - Stevie Ray Vaughan, 1985

This is the kind of post I usually save for Alfie Lafalfi, one of my other blogs. But given all of the craziness in the world at the moment, I think we can all use a chuckle. So I thought I'd post a couple of funnies for Lord Celery readers.

Here are a couple of items that John and I found online which might amuse all of you.

First, here's something that appeared as part of an email I received today (and obviously they don't know my political leanings very well)...

And John found this second one. He's presently job-hunting, as many of you know, and this was at the bottom of the BBC's web page listing their job vacancies...


Friday, 3 October 2008

"C'est Le Debut" - 2 Source Sure, 1999

Yesterday, I wrote about meeting a blogger friend for the first time. Today, I'm going to write about another blogger friend - although I haven't met him yet (but hope to someday).

The 3rd of October 2008 is the first-day-of-sales of Stevyn Colgan's book "Joined-Up Thinking". The photo here is Stevyn (on the right) with another favorite "Steve" of mine...British author/humorist/actor Stephen Fry. (American readers will probably know him best as Jeeves from the "Jeeves and Wooster" series, which is often shown on PBS in the States.)

Stevyn is a very interesting fellow. Take a look at an interview he did recently with the Bucks Free Press. (I don't know how long this article will stay online, however, so read it quickly!)

I love Stevyn's own description of his book as being about the "interconnectedness of stuff". Great phrase, isn't it? His writing style and humor really appeal to me.

Besides the book, there are a couple of ways you can get to know more about Stevyn Colgan. One is the way I did - through his blog The Unbearable Oddness of Stevyn (linked in the first paragraph). And I see he's also launched a new blog called, appropriately, Joined-Up Thinking, where the kinds of connections he uncovers in his book can be discussed in blog-land.

Personally I'm very disappointed that my Amazon UK order of Stevyn's book won't arrive today as expected, although they promise it for early next week. Oh well. If I'm learning anything as I get older, it's to be a bit more patient about things that are important.

And maybe, if I get my wish for John and me to someday meet Mr. Colgan in person, he'll see fit to even autograph it for me!

Folks, go out and get copies for yourselves. I'm quite sure it's going to be a smashing read - as they'd say in these parts.


Thursday, 2 October 2008

"Big Event" - Pat Travers, 1990

There was a big event at lunchtime today. I had the very first in-person meeting with a blogger friend!

Now I was supposed to meet Kathy - What Do I Know? - for lunch in Oxford quite some time ago. But something came up for me at the last minute, and I had to cancel. I was really disappointed...but hopefully there will be another chance.

But today, I had the chance to meet Kris - A Quick Succession of Busy Nothings - for lunch in Oxford! And she's as lovely in person as she appears on her blog!

Kris and her husband Miles moved from Utah to Oxfordshire last December. Miles had gotten his dream job with the Williams F1 team. Kris found Lord Celery linked on another American expat's blog, and left me a comment here even before they actually got to the UK. And I've been following her blog ever since. It's been so much fun to read about their experiences settling in here. It's a brave thing to d0 - I certainly know all about that - and they seem to be getting along very well.

Kris has had a job in Oxford for awhile now. Unlike Miles, though, hers hasn't been her dream job. But that has changed. She's going to be working for an interior design firm near London beginning next Monday. So that's why I wanted to try to meet her while we were both working in Oxford.

We had a really good time at lunch. Here's Kris, before we both headed back to our respective offices...

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

Thanks, Kris, for taking the time today to be my first blogger-meeting! And a note to Kris' family - you can see how well she is doing!

Now I'm wondering which of my other blogger friends I'll get to meet next!


"Nobody Cared" - Paul Gold, 2005

I was just reading a British entertainment newsletter which contained the following piece:

The final episode of Who Do You Think You Are? ended with a relatively disappointing 4.95m (21.2%) on Monday night. The celebrity genealogy show had previously averaged over 6 million viewers every week of its eight-episode run. The final episode, featuring Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen, was moved from the show's regular Wednesday 9pm slot to Monday at 9pm to make way for Silent Witness. Overall, the third series has averaged a massive 6.3m (11.1%) for BBC One.

Now with all due respect to the double-barrelled-surnamed "celebrity" decorator, I didn't watch either. That's very unusual for me, as I've really enjoyed the various people featured on this programme. There's nothing more fascinating than family history...because, of course, it's the history of families which is the framework for a nation's history.

But I just didn't give a flying fig about Llewelyn-Bowen's background. And obviously I wasn't alone.

To be fair, I'm sure Laurence doesn't give a flying fig about me either.


Wednesday, 1 October 2008

"Snow Flakes on Mars" - Robert Fleischman, 2007

After reading this fascinating science article on the BBC's website this morning, all I've been able to think about is...

"Mars ain't the kind of place to raise your kids
In fact it's cold as hell..."