2. Meg is here! She has moved in safely; what was a very acceptable bachelor pad for one is starting to look like quite a cramped little nook for two. She will be popping back to GA to pick up the last of her belongings next week and will return for good soon afterwards with kittens in tow. Currently she is gently sleeping upstairs after quite a late night last night, while I quietly post down here. I should probably be showering and getting her up rather than posting because we have quite a lot to do today, so I shall try to make this snappy. (Heh, this post ended up taking 96 minutes to write. That's snappy for me...)
3. We went and saw The Vagina Monologues at the local theatre last night; I rather enjoyed Meg being able to walk to the local theatre and see a show by way of an evening's entertainment on her first full day after having moved into Middlesbrough. Last night's production was a lot of fun and far more fun for being able to see it with her. Different cast to last time; this cast was younger, hipper and possibly slightly more fun, but I think the moaning last time was a little better. The Middlesbrough crowd possibly weren't quite as into it this time as they were last time, if only measured by the metric of the number of requests for The Clit Fact. Idly I wondered whether anything special happens if the requester of The Clit Fact is male - has that ever happened? - but being the man to find out struck me as an act of audience participation too far.
4. Whisper it, but New York is in distinct danger of becoming even geekycooler a city than Boston. The Come Out And Play festival all around NYC this weekend (link indirectly through undyingking) celebrates the state of the art in upscale street games and I weep that I shall be working night shifts instead of attending. It also points out that as much as I have been saying "Ooh, Live Action Super Bomberman!" for years, I have done bupkis towards making it happen, unlike people who have real games to demonstrate and play. As many of the games on display really are blown-up (no pun intended) versions of video games then that strikes me as the most likely place for it to happen, plus the people there (with their experience of PacManhattan and the like) seem like just the right people with the right skills. Maybe next year.
5. Talking of New York, my most recent flight back from seeing Meg involved flying from there. I stayed up overnight at JFK's international Terminal 4 between a (very good) JetBlue flight in on Saturday night and a Virgin flight out on Sunday morning. I half-remembered posting here about having found a good place in the past where wireless might be leeched from El Al's lounge, but sadly that hot spot is no more; on the other hand, as intimated on this very handy chart of wireless access at North American airports (of which you probably really need to take an offline copy for full effectiveness, IYSWIM), there is legitimate $7.99/day wireless access there these days - and a few power sockets from which you can bogart juice overnight. I was really trying to get online to find out advice regarding sleeping in airports; really, it was solitude rather than discomfort that prevented me from doing so.
6. The flight back from JFK was fine, making up on lots of the sleep I missed. I saw over half of An Inconvenient Truth on the way and discovered a hypocrisy in myself. I am not fond of cynicism in public life and find cynical attitudes towards politicians positively unhelpful, but as much as I agree with the case for global warming and as much as my US political leanings veer far more Democratic than Republican, I have to say that I found the movie to be far less convincing than if the same evidence had been presented to me by some other person in some other way. It would be nice if I didn't automatically reject anything presented by a politician and anything presented by someone who had spent millions of their own money presenting it as propaganda and so automatically likely to be untrue, even when I previously believed it to be true. (See also Bowling For Columbine, which elicited very similar reactions.) Something's not right there.
7. Virgin remains a lovely airline, but I was a bit surprised to be asked to put my newspaper away about half an hour before landing. I later inquired whether reading a book would have been OK; apparently not - even picking up the in-flight magazine or the safety card to re-read would have been ill-received. This comes after the in-flight entertainment has been turned off, far earlier than most other airlines would. It turns out that the thinking behind this is that Virgin really want you not to be distracted for the landing - after all, if ever they really are going to ask you to bracebracebrace then that would be the time. Half an hour of concentration (and, deliberately devoided of stimuli, boredom) does seem excessive, but there isn't really a more logical time for flight attendants to get people to put their distractors away than on their last pass down the cabin and they can't tell in advance how many times around the Bovingdon stack the 'plane will have to go.
8. My recent trip to the US was excellent; I even wound up driving on four occasions (for a total of about three or four miles) when we had rental cars to pick up or return - two of us in one car one way, two of us in one car each the other way. This gives me some insight into what it must be like for Meg in the UK. Road positioning and mirror use, predictably, are the trickiest issues. We took a long road trip from Athens, GA down to Jacksonville, FL (and later Orlando, FL) mostly to see an aunt and uncle of mine. I do enjoy road trips; at some point I will have to start to contribute my share of driving on US road trips, but not quite yet as road tripping and scenery-watching is still at the "How different and so fascinating!" stage. Anyway, said relatives act as volunteers in the local arts world and so hooked us up with tickets to see Big Bad Voodoo Daddy at the University of Northern Florida, of whom I think I had only heard mention in lambertman's "I accidentally invented blogging in 1995" pre-LJ days.
Big Bad Voodoo Daddy are a nine-piece band composed of drummer, keyboardist, double bass player, lead singer (occasionally on guitar) and five horn players of various types (sax, trumpet, trombone...) playing what I understand is swing music. I would consider it "acid brass", mostly based on having heard the term "acid jazz" used in the past; it's jazzy big-band music with a very heavy beat. Most of the songs are to do with swinging in some sense or at least somehow mentioned swing; the only ones of theirs I at all knew from beforehand were their cover of the song that goes "I'm the king of the swingers..." (see?) from The Jungle Book and the old standard "Minnie The Moocher". Don't ask me how I am familiar with Minnie The Moocher - my best guess is one of those low-budget no-famous-named-character Disney shorts back from the days before they had invented Mickey Mouse. They also played their two apparently famous hits.
The music is almost incidental to the style, which is that of the zoot suit; really they appear to be a load of refugees from the "Guys-and-Dolls"-to-"The-Sting" axis in slightly faded, slightly pin-striped suits, with fedora hats de rigeur. There is much posing with the trumpets and spinning of the double bass. There is a great deal of using unusual mutes for the horns to create those really first-half-of-the-20th-century echoey timbres. There is a great deal of the lead singer referencing his fellow band members as Mr. This or Mr. That. Not much audience interaction, other than the call-and-response in Minnie The Moocher, and very little attempt at personalising, localising, temporalising or otherwise customising the gig. (They did play a swing version of what Meg tells me was Sweet Home Alabama by Lynyrd Skynyrd in the encore as a concession to Southernness, which got a good response.)
All told, they played a 75-minute set with no interval. They probably played something like a dozen or so songs during that time, but half the songs were super-extended so that each of the players had the chance for a big solo or two. The (rather plush!) 1300-seat venue apparently had sold 700 tickets up to the day before the event; I would estimate about 1,000 bums were on seats in the end counting comped tickets like ours. The audience were 50%-60% female and had a remarkably wide range of ages - a scattering of children, not many college kids (even considering it was a university gig with $10 student tickets) and a wide spread up to people clearly in their fourth score. People stayed sitting down, though there were a few dancing in the aisles in the balcony upstairs. Quite a lot of swaying and shuffling and the audience response improved as the show progressed, though I was rather surprised that there eventually was an 80%+ standing ovation at the end.
After the show, the band signed merchandise and there was a swing dancing competition; I'm not desperately familiar with swing dancing, but it seems to be moderately similar to basic jive steps with lots of very inventive aerial moves (swings and throws) in the mix. The judges seemed to be basing the result more closely on the quality and quantity of aerial moves than on the actual dancing, but I'm pleased to see that among the top two places, the couple that won actually chained their moves together with a variety of different intermissions and links, rather than just going from spot to spot to spot in the same way. (I will note that the second-placed couple had a "sit the lady on the man's shoulders and grind her groin into his face for a second" move, which got a fantastic reaction but doesn't seem quite Marquess of Queensbury's Rules, somehow.)
I found the show professionally and entertainingly produced and perfectly diverting, if slightly baffling, but would tend to agree with my aunt that there wasn't enough variety (and not really enough, full stop) to warrant the full ticket prices of $30 upstairs and $36 downstairs. C+.
9. Nice to see petrol prices coming down! I bought some here in the UK at 86.9 p/litre yesterday, which works out at around US$ 6.39 per US gallon. (Why the US and UK have different sizes for their fluid ounce, pint and gallon is beyond me.) Sure, this sounds a lot, but the last two times I worked it out it was at US$7.15 and US$6.80, so every little helps - and the price would be lower still if the US$ were not so weak against the pound at the moment.
10. On the other hand, the local Durham Tees Valley airport is losing most of its low-cost airline coverage, which is a shame - the two aircraft we had based here are being redistributed among bmibaby's other four (more profitable!) bases. You might recall how excited I was about bmibaby's arrival at the time, but if there isn't a business case to make it work then the aircraft must move on and we will have to go to Newcastle or Leeds-Bradford for our cheap flights. Perhaps if there had been less time spent prognosticating and more money spent flying then the enterprise might have been more successful.
11. You don't need to understand more than two of the rules of association ("soccer") football to find this clip of the world's greatest ballboy funny. For me, it's the clip of the original Brazilian commentator that you can faintly hear in the background towards the end that makes the piece.
12. Portsmouth are top of the Premiership after five games! Does this mean the long-underrated Harry Redknapp is finally proving his potential once he has been given the correct degree of funding or is it simply another case of a hot-shot English manager getting lucky for a string of games leading to a falsely flattering league position? I think the examples of Bryan Robson, Chris Coleman and even Steve Bruce would tend to suggest the latter. Arguably Kevin Keegan and Steve McClaren managed to parlay this clever (well, lucky!) trick into their England management careers.
13. I use Barclays as my bank and would tend neither to recommend nor unrecommend them; their branches are pleasant, their staff are knowledgeable, their call centres are variably poor and their interest rates are weak. rhodri reminded us some time ago of the existence their E-Savings account; if you use Barclays' (pretty good) online banking facilities then it's very easy to immediately shuttle funds back and forth between an instant access account paying 4.1% gross and a current account paying a whopping 0.1%.
The nice thing is that you can have many such E-Savings accounts and you can arrange standing orders between them, both in and out, so I can automatically redirect some money from each paycheck into an account specifically earmarked as a rainy-day repairs fund and other saving towards motor insurance, road tax discs and so forth. The very nice thing is that even though I get paid on the 20th of the month and pay my rent the next 18th, I can automatically redirect my rent money from the current account to an E-Savings account the day after I get paid and then redirect it back to the current account the day before it needs to be there for rent, but I think you've got to be very certain of your income source and your overdraft before you can leave something like that to automation!