Saturday, December 21, 2002

So I was in this toy store a few days back, looking around for a present for my brother, and some kid's mom and dad came over, and the mom was showing the dad what their kid had asked for--some Micro Machines, as it turned out. She was absolutely furious about it--"Just look at them!" she shrieked, half-histerically. "They're absolute rubbish! They don't do ANYTHING!!!" "What a complete waste of money!" her husband concurred, less animatedly but with the same level of outrage and disdain. Dude, what's with that? Okay, so the things were pretty overpriced--like 6 or 7 quid for a handful of tiny cars. And they don't have flashing lights or do fancy robotics or anything...the doors don't even open. But since when were kids' imaginations so limited that they couldn't deal with toys that don't need batteries? I mean, these things do what toy cars are supposed to do--they roll. And they're tiny and look cool. --I felt so sorry for the poor kid, with such snobbish parents, obviously so much into conspicuous consumption (flashing lights! cool sounds! make the neighbors' kids jealous, yeah!) that they were completely ignoring what their kid really wanted. Okay, so I wouldn't have shelled out for the things either--they are very overpriced--but I wouldn't be mad at my kid for wanting such a simple toy instead of something flashier. Actually I'd probably be thrilled, and suggest some similar but less expensive alternative. Your basic toy car tends to have a much longer life expectancy (we're probably talkin' months to years versus weeks--or days even, depending on the toy) than your average electronic toy in the hands of a small boy. And you can get more of them for the same cash. And you don't have to keep shelling out for batteries, or be annoyed by incessant flashing lights and electronic noises.

Anyhoo, gotta go and run some errands before heading off to the train station. Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 20, 2002

Heh, I have just thought of a time when obliviousness and politeness clashed horribly. I was walking back from getting groceries with one of my flatmates, and was telling her about the weirdness of Snow Crash, which I was then rereading. And I was trying, but failing, to think of the word "cyberpunk." It was on the tip of my tongue but I just couldn't think of it. Now, I am a fairly verbal person. Though I am often rather incoherent (I say things like "thingy" and "whositwhatsit" entirely too often), I do make an awful lot of noises. If something is funny, I laugh; if outrageous, I make a noise of outrage; if frustrated, I make little sounds like "Rrrr!" and "Muh" and "Hnnrgh!" This can get very interesting when reading involving books in public. If the hero is in danger, I will gasp and/or utter sounds of anguish, and attract strange looks; if something happens/the author says something I strongly disagree with or makes me angry, I make pained noises and attempt to argue ("Why you...!" "Dude, no!" "Oh, stop that!" "You can't do that!" "No, but see...!"), which attracts even more strange looks; the list goes on. I can't help it, really. It just sort of happens. Always has. But anyway, back to the story. I was desperately trying to think of the word "cyberpunk," and I knew it started with a "c," but the word that kept leaping to mind was "technothriller." And it was driving me nuts that I couldn't come up with the word I wanted, so I kept making small frustrated noises as we walked. Unfortunately, at one point I chose entirely the wrong moment to do so. While I was off in my own little world trying to think of the stupid word, we had come up behind these two couples who were going out somewhere together. Our pace was slightly faster than theirs, so the logical thing was to look for a way around them, which was coming up fairly soon. I, however, hadn't even registered their presence, and so was completely shocked when, in response to my noise of tip-of-the-tongue frustration, one of the women abruptly turned around, gave me one of the dirtiest looks I have ever received, and irritably moved off to the side so we could pass. Wow. Such beautiful timing, eh? I felt terrible--those people must have thought I was the most impolite, impatient and obnoxious person on the planet. I kept wanting to go back and explain to them--"No, but see, I didn't mean...look, I just couldn't think of the word...didn't even see you there...you didn't have to...so sorry!"--but had to settle for loud apologies to my flatmate for any embarrassment I had caused her. Fortunately she was too amused to be very embarrassed, I think...and really, it was pretty funny. Neither of us could stop giggling for quite some time after that.
Right. So I went to see The Two Towers today, and was planning on blogging about that, but that will have to wait for another time. Wouldn't mind a bit more time to ponder, in any case...however, I must now relate the adventure of the Italian...um, suitor. (Thanks for the word, Emily.)

So I was coming home from the movie--actually I was coming home from tea at Starbucks after the movie--and this guy at a crosswalk asked, "Do you know where King Street is?" Well, I probably do, but I don't know many street names, so I said no. At which point this Italian guy who was standing on the other side of me started talking to me. I had earphones and he had an accent, so I had no idea what he'd said. I removed the earphones (first mistake) and said "What?" (second mistake), realizing only too late exactly why it was he wanted to talk to me. Yes, he was looking to score. Well, he must have thought he'd hit the motherlode with me--hey, she's young, blonde and innocent-looking; alone, obviously foreign and doesn't seem to know her way around. Sweet!

"I am Giorgio," he said. "You are coming for drinks?"
"No, thank you," I said.
"Come on," he said. "You are coming for drinks, we are going dancing...or we get food, it is not a problem."
"No, that's alright," I said, and seeing a gap in the traffic I darted across the street. He followed.
"Come, come for drinks. Music, dancing...You are coming? Yes, you are coming."
"No, thanks. I am sick," I told him, truthfully. "I have a headache, I just want to go home."
"Okay. ...You want cigarette?"
"Gosh no!" I told him, thinking of my poor sinuses.
"No?" he said, incredulous, and continued following me. Aaand since he still wasn't taking the hint, I decided to play the sickness card as much as possible. "Come for drinks!" he said again, gesturing to some clubs. "Music! Dancing! Is only Thursday night!"
"Nonono," I said. "I am sick, my head would explode. I just want to go home." He gave me a knowing look, obviously thinking I was just pretending. "Look, I'm sick," I told him, more firmly, showing him my Boots bag of freshly-purchased decongestants and my pocketsful of Kleenex and cough drops. "You go and have drinks, I'm going home."
"But I am like you," he said, by which he evidently meant not that he was like me but that he did like me. Either way it was absurd, but he kept on. "I am like you! You are not liking me?"
"I just met you two seconds ago!" I told him. However, far from putting him off, this seemed to please him. He smiled.
"Yes! Now come to my home. We are having drinks! I am making you Italian food."
Wow. Did he think I was crazy or just stupid? I just looked at him, disbelieving; he continued the forward charge, however, evidently taking my incredulous expression to mean I was having trouble with his accent.
"You know, Italian food? Pizza! Spaghetti! --You are understanding what I am saying?" He kept trying to put his arm around me, with increasing determination, and I was getting a little alarmed. We were now getting very close to where I needed to turn off the main road to go home, and there was no way I was doing that with him right there.
"Yes, I understand what you are saying. You want me to go to your house. I don't want to go to your house. I want to go home, and go to sleep, because I am sick and my head hurts."
"I understand," he said. "I should go?"
"Yes, you should go," I said, tremendously relieved, and started to walk away.
And yet he did not go, but continued to follow me. "Come to my home," he said again, and slipped his arm around my shoulders, this time gripping firmly. "We are having drinks, and food, it is not a problem. And you can sleep." Sweet Jesus!
"Nonononono," I told him, pulling myself free.
"You are coming to my home? Yes, come to my home," he kept saying, pointing, much to my dismay, in the direction of my home. Hell's bells, I thought, he lives right by me!
"No. I am going now," I told him, with finality; whereupon I pointedly turned my back on him and marched purposefully away. The guy still wasn't giving up, and kept calling after me, but I kept going without a backward glance. I really wanted to look back, though, to see if he'd gone and it was safe to turn off and go home; but I didn't want to give him any openings to start hounding me again. (Also I wanted him to think I had set a straight course for some flat in completely the opposite direction from where I really intended to go.) As a consequence, I remained convinced he was still following me, and wound up taking a rather, um, elaborate route home.

To the casual observer, I'm sure I was a great source of amusement...everything I'd seen or read about the art of following and avoiding being followed came back to me, and for probably half an hour I dodged down random streets, stopped in doorways, popped into and out of shops, doubled back on my own trail only to branch off in some unexpected new direction, and even at one point reversed my coat (and put the hood up, so as to hide the incriminating blondeness of my hair). Was all of this necessary? Oh, probably not. No doubt the guy either just went home or wandered back down to the clubs in search of someone either more gullible or more intoxicated than I. Still, I really didn't like the idea of this guy knowing where I live, and I didn't particularly care to run into him again as I doubled back to get there. And when I leave the house tomorrow, I will probably be looking over my shoulder. But I'm going to London on Saturday, and leaving the country on Monday, so...

So I have decided that I'm really not very good at handling these random encounters. Part of this is obliviousness--when I'm wandering around alone, I'm generally so much off in my own little world that, unless they are obviously peddling something, if I some random stranger asks me some question out of the blue, I am so surprised that I don't know how to respond. I act confused and uncertain where I would like to exude an air of cool confidence. (I am also terribly dense when it comes to things like sex. "Random guy leering at me in club? No, he doesn't mean anything by it, he's just...happy! Lalala!") I also try to be polite and nice to people generally, and in some cases that just don't work. And so I get sucked into these situations. [Sighs] Maybe I should start employing the cop-father story. "Nope, sorry, gotta run, I'm supposed to meet my large and short-tempered policeman father for breakfast/lunch/dinner/whatever. And also...um...my boyfriend, a pro wrestler. Perhaps you've heard of him? They call him 'Bone-Crusher.' He's really a sweetheart, but terribly jealous...Haha, it's really funny, one time he almost strangled my cousin--'Knuckles' Santini, he's Italian too--for giving me a kiss on the cheek, isn't that hilarious?!? --He didn't know ol' Knuckles was my cousin, of course. *Sigh* If my big--and I do mean big--brother hadn't gotten back from prison at just that moment, I hate to think what would have happened to that poor cousin of mine!"

Well, anyway, is all over now, I made it back alright, and with any luck I will never see that scary man ever ever again. Now I will wear coke-bottle glasses for the rest of my life, and get the stupidest haircut I can think of, and walk around always pretending to talk on a cel phone. So hah!

Saturday, December 14, 2002

Right. So this'll probably be a massive post...but oh well, that's what I get for being lazy.

First off, Bath adventures. Yeah, so I'd been determined to go for a long time, but had never gotten around to it. At first I wasn't even sure I'd go on Sunday, but at about 3 in the morning I made a firm decision on the matter, and started looking up train schedules and such. I'd been having a weird week in terms of sleep schedules anyway (I had randomly stayed up all night a couple nights before), and wasn't at all tired at that point, so I just didn't go to bed. I needed the time to get things ready anyway--cleaned up a bit, gathered some things together, took a shower, listened to some music, washed some dishes (so I'd be able to take my thermos, see), made hot chocolate...and just generally puttered. I left the house at 8:30, slightly behind schedule as I'd initially been aiming to catch an 8:50 train. The station is a bit too far to get to in 20 minutes, so I decided to go in search of breakfast instead, and wandered around Broadmead in search of someplace that was open. There was absolutely noplace. Even the places that were supposed to stay open forever and ever were shut. Finally, a few minutes after 9, I found a McDonalds that had just opened, and got some pancakes, and they were warm and tasty, hooray. After I'd filled my tummy and warmed up a bit (it was cold and windy outside, and I'd left my nice warm coat in another flat and was having to make do with a couple sweatshirts and a rain coat), I headed over to the station, bought myself this sweet all day pass, and caught the next train to Bath. It's not far at all, only about 10 minutes down the line, and before long I was wandering around searching for the Roman ruins. They were quite easy to find, of course--what with all the tourists coming through to see them, they've got signs everywhere, and anyway they're in the middle of this huge shopping district that's only about 10 minutes from the station. It was quite chilly outside, so I took my time getting there, dodging into shops whenever I spied something that looked interesting. It was quite nice, really--I love just wandering around and exploring places, and there were many things to lure me into one street or another. Eventually I got to the baths and took the self-guided tour, which was interesting...they give you these sort of cel phone things and you punch in the number of whatever you want to hear about, and it tells you. Fascinating stuff, some of it...like, you always see pictures of the baths, and people say, oo, big awesome ruins! But in fact the ruins are in much worse shape than they look--the old Roman buildings are mostly rubble. The only reason there's anything standing there is because the Victorians came in and "reconstructed" everything, even adding in a few random statues of famous Roman people. (Such a Victorian thing to do!) So, yeah, I had a good time wandering around punching buttons and snapping pictures, though I did really really really want to jump in the water at several points--the baths were built on a hot spring, so the water was really super warm. Ooo, warm! It was kind of pathetic, really--I'd have liked to have stayed a little longer than I did punching buttons and such, but I really just got too cold. So I went and found another McDonalds to warm up in, and had a veggie burger and drank my hot chocolate. Then I shopped around some more and came home. That's about it, really. Gods, I was so freezing by the time I got home, though. I got back around 7, so I'd been mostly outside for like 10 hours straight. --The high that day was like 2 or something, and there was wind and cold drizzle for most of the day, so, yeah, I got thoroughly chilled. First thing I did when I got home was take a long, hot shower, after which I promptly fell asleep. I had a grand time, but I'm shocked I didn't come down with a horrible cold afterwards. --And this week I'm going to go in search of coldness and snow...but I got my coat back, so I'll be decently bundled up.

The rest of the week was pretty good. I did almost no work, and it was fantastic. Much flat bonding--Saturday (last) I got introduced to pantomime, which was fun...then Wednesday there was a big Christmas dinner for the whole house, followed by our own, smaller version on Thursday night. Both were highly tasty and wonderfully filling, though the two combined (all flats made some cooking contribution to the house-wide dinner) left our kitchen in a worse state than it's been all term...and that's saying something. It was quite an impressive mess, I must say. I spent a couple of hours cleaning and doing dishes, and I've only just begun.

We had a slight bit of excitement at the beginning of the week--2 flatmates were spotted making out at a club. Both were rather tipsy at the time, but it's been the source of much gossip, awkward moments and small bits of tension...it remains to be seen if Anything Will Come Of It or it was just a one-time thing. We'll see after Christmas, I suppose.

Oh, it's so sad! Everybody has gone/is going away! Only 3 flatmates remain, and 1 leaves tomorrow. --Another leaves fairly soon, but I'm not sure when...she's currently in bed, terribly hungover, poor thing. Even with 4 of us left, the flat's already really empty...and it won't fill back up for another month! I've got another week before I go home, and it's going to be so strange, having nobody to eat or hang out with in the evenings...aw! Come back, flatmates!

Tuesday, December 10, 2002

Whee, we got snow today! --Only for a little bit, and it didn't stick, but...snooooooowwwwww! I've decided I need to go looking for some before I head back home for Christmas in a couple weeks. Go up to Scotland or something. With that in mind, I went looking for some long johns and a scarf today, to no avail--long johns were not to be found, and though scarves were abundant I did not feel like paying the large sums of money most of them cost. I'm sure I could find one at one of the local Oxfam shops for not much money at all.

I finally made it to Bath on Sunday, and did some exploring around yesterday as well...details on that to follow in a couple hours or so--for the moment I am hungry, and must get dinner.

Friday, December 06, 2002

Wow, it's been a strange week. My computer decided, at around 5:00 on Tuesday morning (yes, I was up then...I couldn't help it, I had just re-discovered Chrono Trigger), that it was going to start making weird, sick noises and emitting unpleasant smells. Poor thing--the fan had gotten kinda clogged, and is now in the process of dying. As soon as I realised the problem, I of course grabbed my trusty screwdriver and made with the fix-it-ing, but it's still making the noises and stuff. So I'm trying to give the comp a rest (hence posting haitus--am in a lab now) until I can figure out where to get a new fan, lest the poor thing overheat and fry itself. And the reason I haven't done so yet? I keep getting back from class and falling asleep. And sleeping forever--I wake up and it's well past dinnertime. I guess is end-of-term de-stressifying, or something, except that it's not working because there's stuff I would like to do/should be doing during daylight hours, and it's sort of mounted up all week. Took care of some last night and today--re-tackled Sayers research, if briefly...read some stuff...took books back to library...got the room about half clean...booked an airline ticket...there are still countless things to be done, however, most of them small and easily forgettable.

Had the weirdest day in Medieval History. The last three lectures have been on women/gender/sexuality, and today he talked about chivalric/courtly literature. It was so funny/bizarre--he talked about this guy, Andreas Capellanus, who wrote three books on the art of courtly love--one on how to get somebody to fall in love with you, one on how to make sure they stay in love with you, and one much short one about how everything he said before was all evil and people should avoid this 'love' business altogether, cos it's horrible and sinful, and he only wrote those other two books about it because somebody who knows how to sin but doesn't is more virtuous in God's eyes than somebody who just doesn't have a clue. (Kinda weird, no? --Is naturally controversy about which bit of his 3-part treatise he's really serious about.) Anyway, the first two books are loaded with sexual puns--in Latin, no less. And our esteemed lecturer not only gave detailed examples and explanations of such puns, he even typed them out for us on the lecture plan. I didn't even notice until he referred to them--'One common pun is poenis, or punishment, for penis (which is the same in Latin as in English), and you will find this written for you at the bottom of the plan.' And I looked, and there it was, just above 'coitus interruptus'. The whole thing was so hilarious, especially since he was so serious about the whole thing...and only 3 or 4 (out of like 75-100) of us seemed to see the absurdity. I couldn't stop laughing--as quietly as I could manage, of course. My mirth, though, attracted the attention of a number of people around me, who (except for one girl, who was just as amused as I--an ally!) would turn to gaze at me in bafflement before returning to their diligent note-taking. A couple of people even gave me dirty looks. All of which, of course, only added to my amusement, especially given the contrast with yesterday's lecture...That was about sex and the church, and along with our usual lecture plan we recieved two pages of photocopied pictures, about 2/3 of which consisted of grotesque line drawings taken from fornicating and penis-waggling church carvings. There was much tittering throughout the lecture, as I recall. And yet today they all sat, stone-faced and solemn, listening gravely as Capellanus advised his female readers to make sure, when choosing a lover, to make sure he was of sufficiently 'upright' character, and not in any way 'slack'. It was all terribly absurd. And kinda bizarre, really, that nobody was reacting. Maybe they were all asleep, or hungover, or had their brains sucked out by aliens or something. (Capellanus, incidentally, was only one small part of the lecture--he was there to provide sort of a counterpoint to two...rather more respectable sources, the Lais of Marie de France and a couple stories by Chretien de Troyes.)

Ah, well. Time to head homewards. --I'm going to freeze my tail off, I walked out the door this morning without a coat or sweatshirt, and it's now long past dark and probably raining. Ah, well. Such is life. I'll just have to run--I'm sure I could use the exercise anyway.