Whatever happened to good old fashioned rudeness?

It seems that “have a nice day”, the much ridiculed US cliché is no longer sufficient for those in customer service. Yesterday, I rang my bank and was greeted by “Hello, my name is Lorraine, to whom do I have the pleasure of speaking today”. I do not believe for a moment that it is pleasurable to talk with many of the people ringing a bank. I was impressed with my self-control; as I did not giggle in response.

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Published in: on 29 November, 2007 at 20:21  Leave a Comment  

Thanksgiving

We had a Thanksgiving meal at our neighbours’ home. It was a thoroughly enjoyable experience; a four hour meal from 3pm.

Since Thanksgiving is always on a Thursday, the following day is generally taken as holiday. This Friday is a big day for shopping; a day for the sane to avoid stores at all costs. I was astonished to see one of the major department stores, JC Penny, advertising that it was open from 4am on Friday. 4am is not a time I wish to be awake, let alone in a shop; certainly not the day after a feast.

There was a tiny part of me that felt I should experience this crazy shopping experience first hand, so I could blog about how different it felt from the UK. This part was suppressed by the far more sensible parts that wanted to stay in bed and away from the crowds.

So here are a couple of links from those who have had first experience of shopping on Black Friday

http://lawhawk.blogspot.com/2006/11/black-friday-shopping-experience.html

http://blog.mlive.com/getting_in_your_business/2007/11/my_experience_as_a_black_frida.html 

Published in: on 24 November, 2007 at 11:06  Leave a Comment  

Geography 101

There are Americans whose grasp on world geography is a little shaky; possibly because so many never leave the country. I had a good example of that on Saturday when I saw a car dealership in Walnut Creek. The place was called “Cole European”, but not one of the marques on offer was from Europe. They sell Aston Martin, Jaguar, and Land Rover, all of which are built in the UK. I am sure the implication that the UK was part of Europe would be enough to cause serious distress to readers of The Daily Mail.

Published in: on 19 November, 2007 at 19:03  Comments (4)  

Freedom on the Line

There are certain rights that as an Englishman I take for granted; trial by jury, a punishment fitting and not excessive to the crime, and no taxation without representation. These are rights guaranteed to free men by the Magna Carta. There is however, one right that I have only become aware of now that I live in a country where it is apparently oft-curtailed. I speak of the right to dry, that essential freedom to hang ones shirts, towels and underwear on a clothes line for all to see.

In many communities it is forbidden to dry clothes by hanging them outside. These regulations are usually put in place by housing associations and written into the terms of purchase of a house. There is an environmental group pushing for legislation to override these restrictions and allow people to dry their clothes in the traditional way.

For details see this article

Published in: on 15 November, 2007 at 18:59  Leave a Comment  

1.2% of a Picture

Via Ilegirl’s blog, I found out that November is National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo for short. I am not sure how seriously one should take a literary organization that coins such a horrible neologism. However, Ilegirl’s post refers to the competition that NPR is running for the event. The objective is to write a story in twelve words. I have previously written Drabbles, stories of exactly one-hundred words, so this is a challenge I could not resist.

Gollum snatched the One Ring from Frodo and tumbled into the flames
(See you don’t need three books to get to the point)

Or

A bite killed her first time; second time it was a stake.

Published in: on 12 November, 2007 at 18:57  Leave a Comment  

Gangsters in the Afternoon

A day of winter weather, grey and wet, forced us to the cinema yesterday. The local cinema has matinee pricing until 17:15 each day, so early afternoon movie going is $7 a ticket, compared to the $9.75 regular cost. Back in the UK, the cinemas we frequented either had no matinee prices or ended them before 13:00.

The film we saw was “American Gangster”, a partial return to form for director Ridley Scott. It may not be “Alien” or “Gladiator”, but neither is it “A Good Year”. It has a fascinating story and excellent performances from the two lead actors. Although it runs to over two-and-a-half hours, it did not drag or seem overly long; although I am pretty sure that twenty minutes could be cut to the film’s benefits. I would be surprised if it did not garner at least some nominations in the major categories at next year’s Oscars.

The “Coming Soon” segment included a movie that looked promising, but it was when I saw the scriptwriter’s name that I knew it was a must see. “Charlie Wilson’s War” is about the covert funding and training of anti-Soviet fighters in Afghanistan. The results of that funding have, of course, had terrible consequences. The film stars Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, and Philip Seymour Hoffman. The scriptwriter is Aaron Sorkin, the man responsible for one of the greatest TV shows of all time; the West Wing. Oddly, the film is slated for a Christmas Day release in the US; hardly typical seasonal fare.

Published in: on 11 November, 2007 at 10:30  Leave a Comment  

Strike!

In Europe a strike by train drivers would have massive economic impact. In Southern California, few would notice if every public transport employee was involved in industrial action. There is, however, a strike occurring right now that may have a substantial effect on the local economy; the screen-writers are on strike. They are picketing TV and film studios, presumably with banners with the best slogans ever seen on a picket-line.

Already shows like Jay Leno have been cancelled. The drama shows will follow once the episodes that have already been shot and written are aired. We face a winter of endless reality TV and the very real danger that season two of Heroes will not run to completion; surely this makes the 1978-79 Winter of Discontent pale into insignificance.

Published in: on 10 November, 2007 at 20:00  Comments (2)  

No Original Ideas

The recent Simpsons’ movie opens with the family at the cinema watching the film adaptation of “Itchy and Scratchy”, a violent TV cartoon in the Simpsons world. Homer stands up and calls the audience stupid for paying to watch something they could see for free at home. The first Charlie’s Angels film has an flight movie of the big screen version of TJ Hooker and one of the Angels wonders out loud if there is any seventies show that they will not turn into a movie.

Hollywood has been keen on movie versions of TV shows for years; certainly since Star Trek: The Motion Picture. It is this franchise which has spawned the most film adaptations; ten to date with an eleventh in pre-production. There is a rule of Star Trek movies that says the odd-numbered ones are terrible and only the even numbered ones are any good. This does not bode well for the forthcoming prequel.

Generally, it is successful shows that are adapted for the big screen. There is one notable exception; the show Police Squad ran for just six episodes, but spawned three movies.

Despite the appeal to movie execs of taking an idea with an already proven appeal, making films is expensive. The tenth Star Trek movie cost an estimated $60m, compared to the $5m per episode cost of the last Star Trek TV show. If you assume that a typical movie runs to the length of three TV shows, then a film is four times more expensive per minute to make. Here in the US, our local cinema has a solution; don’t bother with making a movie adaptation of the TV series – just show a double episode story of the original series. Next week, the “Menagerie”, a two episode story from Star Trek:The Original Series is showing at cinemas across the country. The original cost of these two episodes was in the region $200,000, so this is clearly a lot cheaper than making a real movie.

I wonder how long it is before we see re-runs of “I Love Lucy” in lieu of new comedy films; although this would be preferable to more comedies in the spirit of Little Man

Published in: on 10 November, 2007 at 11:00  Leave a Comment  

No Flowers

Here in the US Sunday is Veterans Day; back in the UK it is Remembrance Sunday. In both countries this is day to remember and honour those who fought in the armed forces. It is officially a federal holiday on the Monday, although in common with many holidays here it is only observed by government offices.

Remembrance Day is not a holiday in the UK, but it is noted more widely and more visibly than here in the US. The wearing of artificial poppies is common in the UK in the run-up to Remembrance Day. It seems odd not to see people at work with the familiar red flower pinned to their lapels. The poppy became a symbol for those who lost their lives in the First World War as it flowered in the fields of Flanders, in which many of the bloodiest battles of that war were fought. The imagery of the poppy and the Great War was first used in a poem by a Canadian called John McCrae:

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Published in: on 9 November, 2007 at 17:01  Leave a Comment  

More Halloween and the Other Festival

A few short musings on matters seasonal:

This blog post announcing the results of a Halloween pumpkin carving contest caught my eye; further evidence of the fascination that the US has with this particular festival and the effort that they put into celebrating it.

I was working late on Halloween; by the time I was home all of the Trick and Treaters had gone, so I am still without my first proper Halloween in the US.

It is still early November, but already I find Christmas creeping up on me. I heard a Carol in a book-shop yesterday and my early morning coffee was served in a red and white festive mug. Please… wait until December arrives or at least until Thanksgiving has come and gone.

Published in: on 7 November, 2007 at 15:22  Comments (2)