Thursday, June 28, 2007

Still rainin...

...albeit with the odd break of sunniness. The staircase at home smells very peculiar, but the lights at work have stopped fizzing and flickering.

But I have to wonder if the friends of the Židovské muzeum v Praze, aka the Jewish Museum in Prague know something I don't. They appear to be building what looks like either an ark or a greenhouse around the back of the Pinkas Synagogue.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

It's raining...

...rain, mostly.

We are flooded downstairs. This is fun. Lucky I bought that new mop, eh?

Monday, June 18, 2007

Some like it...

Prague is still here, but it is hot, thundery and I am using a Czech keyboard which frustrates me far too much to type for very long.

For one thing, I cannot find the apostrophe key and hunting for it using combinations of Alt+letter has only produced a string of Polish letters and made me post this unfinished by accident. Three times. Besides, the novelty of typing đ, Ł, ř, ý ś & co. rapidly wears thin, to saz nothing of the annozance caused bz the waz that the "y" and "z" kezs are swapped around.

To fill in a very necessary gap which would otherwise be postless, here is a list of reasons why I picked up and bought or cruelly spurned certain books in a recent fleeting visit to Charing Cross Rd. It is of course absolutely nothing like a list I did a while back which may at first glance bear a striking resemblance to this list. It's a different bookstore. They are different books. In the interest of discretion, some of these are lies. And of course it's written on a Czech keyboard. Aka a Cyech kezboard. Backwards.

1. Back blurb refers to "magick". I have an unreasonable prejudice against this sort of spelling. It gives me hives.

2. Front blurb states perkily, "Fans of Laurell K. Hamilton and Jim Butcher will enjoy this fascinating tale..." I am conflicted, but eventually the other bit of blurb which mentions "biting wit" persuades me to take the glass half-full approach. I decide that the reviewer in question has probably not read an LKH book since Circus of the Damned.

(Upon reflection, a small quaking part of my mind now wonders whether the reviewer perhaps saw the more recent LKH efforts as mining an ironic vein of hitherto unsuspected profundity. And that "biting" pun? On a book with a vampire in it? That scares me witless.)

3. Front blurb states proto-perkily, "I adored this wonderful book! - Connie Mason." Eeek.

4. Hardcover copy of All Together Dead. Half-price because some of the pages are a bit damaged. I'm not picky. Woohoo!

5. Blurb states, "Fans of..." This means that the reviewer hated the book, and is desperately seeking a sub-genre to despise. (see 2)

6. No reviews, but 4 pages of extracts from gushing fans' letters. The more generous view might be that a cult is forming. I look terrible in robes.

7. Author was tragically eaten by crocodiles while researching/writing this book. It has been pieced together from bits of paper found in the dissected animals' digestive tracts. I wish.

8. How does author X find time to review all these books by authors A - Z? Ambivalence about author X teeters a bit more towards the maybe.

9. Cover. Aaak. Nobly, I rise above this, because the writer? She is da bomb.

10. Tom Waits.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Le portable est mort! Vive le portable!

Big. Heavy. Grey. Metal. Smelling faintly of those cinammon-candied almonds from the sandwich shop 'round the corner from work. These are just a few of the words people used to describe Della, my long-time laptop and dare I say it? Friend.

Yes, friend. For Della was always there for me through long hours of mortal toil. Through untold explorations of the wilds of the internet. Through sleepless nights tapping away to unravel the dark secrets of an essay-setter's heart. Spurned by burglars for her unwieldy size and loathed by baggage handlers for the same.

Very early she developed that endearing quirk of typing multiple letters in random order when her battery charge dropped below 60%, locking me out of any password-protected accounts. It started with the odd repeated comma, then a trickle of extra "V"s and "f"s became a flood of "£${{mTb99q]]"s. The half-bowl of butternut squash soup that was tipped over the keyboard in offering did little to appease her wrath.

Almost immediately after that, the mouse would stop working at the worst possible moment. The pointer would hover, frozen on the mysteriously-streaked screen while I frantically rolled the mouse over surfaces with varying degrees of roughness, and people commented helpfully on the smell of cinammon and almonds. Desperate banging-on-the-desk attempts to shake the pointer loose and free the fifteen-page unsaved document hidden by a randomly-opened folder directory were met with implacable disdain and sneering references to dog slobber on the power leads.

Then the USB port software began to reject all but the most carefully honed requests for retrievable disk access. The CD drive began to make horrible grinding noises when activated. My email began to freeze when opening anything above a certain size, or any attachments. And after the long three years that Della and I were together, she began to look worn. Bits of plastic and rubber would drop off, seemingly unimportant until she wobbled to a new equilibrium on the next flat surface. Small pits and dents appeared from nowhere, and the hinges were never quite the same after she fell out of a first- (ie. second in North America) floor window onto a passing café table.

And finally, Della is no more. She has gone to the gigantic computer superstore in the sky. There at last freed from earthly pain and flying condiments, she is one with the stars, her hard drive lobotomised by a great big mallet.

Requiescat in parts, Della. I'm sorry I had to hit you with a hammer.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

It's either this, or a review of property hotspots in the Balearics.

The other night I was trapped on the runway at Heathrow for about 2 hours in a tiny plane behind a male model (allegedly) while thunderstorms raged above Belgium (apparently). He had very nice arms, but wasn't much for talking.

Anyhow, I ended up messing around with ideas for SBTB's competition to write a Hoff-poem, (check out the links, especially the comments because some of the poems are bluddy brilliant) which probably didn't help with the conversation, since I ended up muttering a mantra along the lines of "Hoff?, Cough? Doff? Fer-goff? umm... Proff?" I think at this point he pretended to fall asleep.

Alas, I left it too late to enter, and then posted it in the wrong comments section (I think - I'm easily confused at the moment). Being lazy, I thought I'd just dump it here as well. Basically, it's either that or well... male models. Without the pictures. And besides, I need to go get dinner.

Haff a Hoff! Haff a Hoff!
Hoff a haff-hass-ter!
Hoffnapped by villains in vests,
Forced to eat pasta!
"Eat refined carbs!" they cried,
"Or fluffy bunnies die!
"You won’t be so stallionesque,
"Puffed-up by pasta."

"More refined carbs!" they said.
Mac and cheese was he fed.
"Deep-fried white eggy bread
"Makes waistlines vaster!"
Carb load was their vicious plot.
Carb load that in vain Hoff fought.
Carb bloat gave him Hoffin-top.
Not quite so stallionesque,
Now needs a basque...(er...)

Hoffin bulged o’er speedo trunks,
Hoffin’s not for Hoffly hunks,
Hoffin shades the Hoffly junk,
Damn all that pasta!
Faded the perma-tan,
Wobbles like custard flan,
Vision of Hoffliness,
Ruined by evil plan.
Who is this b-*bleep* it’s a kid’s show, dammit-astard?

Hoff knew those eyes that flashed,
Knew those veneers that gnashed
‘Neath caterpillar ‘tache
Sneered Hoffelganger, the
Evil Hoff-master.
"See my thick, chestly hair,
"Gold chains do nestle there,
"Mine is Hoff-power!
"Oiled leather pants I wear
"Tighter than plaster!"
Then he strode out and left --
Left Baked Alaska.

Hoffin speedo’s seams divide
Hoffins' awkward cracks cloth rides
Who runs with Hoffins, wedgified.
How to move faster?
Stolen stretch lamé thong,
Morally may be wrong
But thigh constriction’s gone.
Thus minimally dressed
He hoffled-poffed through dawn.
Hoff-power not denied,
Even by pasta.

Honour the Hoffliness!
Greater than any threats
That villains venture.
All evil plans foiled best,
Same time each week, an ex-
-citing Hoffenture.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Going, going, gong.

Last week, I went to several concerts as part of the tail end of the Prague Spring music festival As is the case with most things, there are many people out there far more qualified to review such events than yours truly, including the Visiting Music Teacher On A Half-Term Holiday (VMTOAHT - 'tis catchy, n'est ce pas?) who went with me. So what follows is definitely not a review of the concerts. Critics who have a better grip on their contrabassoon fingering technique than me can wrestle with the tricky nuances of mezzo-soprano soloist's coloratura passages.

An important thing to consider when arranging any concert is the whole ugly business of spectacle. After all, if there isn't something to look at, the more cynical members of the audience may wander off at the interval, grumbling about the price of tickets and beer before they can buy any of those commemorative T-shirts and limited edition socket sets. More performers in the world of pop/rock than you can chuck a scale model of Stonehenge and malfunctioning wardrobe at(,) know this to be true.

In the world of classical music, things are a tad more muted, spectacle-wise. That's how any fule know it's posh. Kinda like the way tastefully abstract visual metaphors rather than flowing tresses, lasers, pouffy gowns, muscular definition and elves with blue skin indicate respectable literature. (Note to self: Is it possible for a scantily-shirted humanoid with a well-defined chest, blue or not, to be an acceptable visual metaphor for a Great Narrative Theme, or does cleavage immediately sound the death knell of Great Art? Unless you're Richardson, of course, exploiting said bounteaous cleavage for your own nefarious purposes. Pamela Shmamela, apparently.)

Anyhow, a dearth of revolving stages and sparkly replica helicopters (although oddly enough, not necessarily straining bosoms) is usually a giveaway for the sort of concert where the audience is expected to assume either an earnest expression of restrained rapture (eyes-gently-shut-with-periodic-appreciative-inhalations-through-the-nose-during-emotional-passages) or intense concentration (eyes-gently-shut-with-a-slight-frown-and-periodic-small-yet-vigorous-nods-of-approval-of-that-rather-eloquent-rubato-leading-into-the-andante-passage). Tapping along is optional and should always be discreet. No one is allowed to wave their arms vigorously but the person with the stick at the front of the orchestra, or the occasional trombonist with sinus troubles. If there is no one with a stick, the person who most looks like they ought to have one usually wins the conducting free-for-all. Iron-grey hair and a dark suit help in this case.

Luckily for me, all the venues that featured as part of last week's whirl of concert attendance were equipped with bling in spades. Even at the gig where my view of the performers from the cheap seats was entirely blocked by a pillar, the obstructive column was liberally bedecked with ecclesiastical roccoco-a-go-go and a big picture of the Pope. Better yet was the view from the back of the rather stupendous bobbing combover we had when sitting underneath a big flag in the organ balcony at another gig.

But the most memorable was the music-from-the-kitchen-sink concert, which featured most of the instruments and orthodox novelty techniques from the western canon (but no canons or other light artillery, although there were some fugal passages). Audience members could happily debate the Hammond organ and flute duet during the interval, as well as thorny issues such as, "Was that a vibraphone in the last bit, or were they just happy to see us?"

Me? I was just waiting for someone to take advantage of the enormous gong propped up at the back of the percussion section. Something so large, brass and circular clearly was crying out for loud crash at a moment of high drama. Except it didn't. I don't know if it was a cunning ruse to maintain a thread of suspense through the event, or if I failed to appreciate the way some composer had counter-intuitively written a passage of extreme suspense where the instrument was stroked lightly with a paintbrush. But as the final note of the concert sounded, there was still nary a big bong to show for the whole two-hour musical extravaganza. And somehow, I still feel the lack.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Howl's moving


The curse of the drinking classes has cursed me bigtime. Something involving lead tablets in the walls of a cemetary probably.


Visitors with PLANS. They looom.


Essays due. Immediately.


(New) flatmates to find. Slightly less immediately. But I fear the cupboard-opening madness.


And the bathroom tap still squirts water in wholly unexpected directions when left unsupervised.

Probably the coffee isn't helping. And I really wanted to think about that poem too.

Gotta go.