Friday, December 21, 2007

yeah yeah yeah (but not how Usher says it)

Note- I am typing on a German kezboard for the umteenth time so excuse the typos!!!

So last night, after driving through the length of Eastern Austria we arrived in Salzburg, which begs the question - Why is Salzburg still called Salzburg in German but Vienna is called Wien...if I knew how to type a question mark on this keyboard, I would.

We found a cute little hotel that I will proudly advertise... www.stadhotel-salzburg.at

This morning's breakfast buffet was out of this world with about 15 types of cheese and even more varieties of ham and bread and chocolate. For that alone, this place was worth the 120 euro room.

Then, we took the famous Sound of Music Tour, and now I can't get the songs from this movie-musical out of my head, which means I should probably go see it in London next week or something. My mother told me I had to take this tour, so I did, and her advice didn't let me down.

After strolling through Christmas markets and cute little streets, we booked it to Vienna, where I have just arrived.



RETICENCE

The British are reticent in times of trouble or frustration, and I've been worried lately that in situations where I should speak my mind, that I too am keeping hush and turning my head the other way- Today in Salzburg, for the first 10 minutes of my Sound of Music bus tour, a passenger sitting directly behind me would not get off his mobile phone...it was rude and irritating, but as I was surrounded by Brits, I wasn't shocked at all that nobody would speak up and say something...and now having adopted many British cultural attributes, I, formerly a loud-mouthed New Yorker said nothing at all in response to this behavior. But just now, waiting for the lone computer in the hotel lobby (I decided to leave the laptop at home)...a German woman was using the computer for some 30 minutes...I asked her how much longer she would be on, and she said 10 minutes, after 20, I was fed up enough...and then I politely said something and she left...but I feel like my Brit friends would be waiting here for hours before they spoke up (if ever at all)!



England: Urban Socialite in the Sticks Part 3

OK, so attending a 12-person Christmas dinner with my classmates two nights ago at a decent Indian restaurant in town. Before any food arrived at our table, and when my wine-partner and I had each poured the first class of a bottle that we had split, our waiter decides to shake things up a bit...literally, and he moves our table over 8 inches to make room for another unexpected group of guests. But in the process of moving this hunk of oak, he completely spills our bottle of wine, and until I can turn it upright *thankfully without any damage to clothing* at least three glasses have been lost. In America, a new bottle would appear on the table within seconds of a staff member committing such a faux-pas, no questions asked. And one could also expect a free dessert or discount on the bill as a result of such a calamity. However, in England, this apparently isn't the case. The waiter never bothered to bring a new bottle, or even acknowledge that he had massively screwed up. After a significant amount of BEGGING, I was given two replacement glasses of wine, filled with the crap house wine that probably sat in an opened barrel for years before...I was astonished by this experience, as my British friends wrote this off by saying, "Welcome to Britain. You're lucky you got any replacement for the wine at all." WOW!

So many flurries: It's a blizzard out there!

ENGLAND - PART OF SERIES: Urban Socialite in the Sticks

Attending school at UEA in Norwich has informed me of life as a rural hick for the first time since five years ago when I tried and failed to be a student at Cornell University, stuck in the heart of upstate New York wastelands. I have realized that in many ways I am living in a backward society....this could not have been more true today when I boarded the train that was supposed to take me to Stansted Airport, but the conductor decided that such a stop would not be necessary, forcing me all the way back to Norwich from a place called Brummel (luckily I made my flight...) So in Brummel, I see that there is actually a man who has the job of opening and closing a gigantic wooden gate that covers the train tracks before each train passes by...this is a bit absurd, given that America and presumably the rest of the 1st world have had the technology for ages to have electronic barriers that open and close automatically as trains approach - what century is this place called Norfolk stuck in?



SLOVENIA:

I am reporting live from Slovenia, it is 5am, and the clubs are still rocking strong...with my cousin (a film industry prof.) and a friend from the UK we are taking this small town by storm...tonight we wound up at a club called BACCHUS where we intermingled with the Slovenian Elite (this phrase is not an oxz moron I assure you) - once again I am having the same keyboard troubles I had in Germany as the Y and Z key are switched making life hellish at best...tomorrow we are off to Lake Bled, but on a whim, we have decided to spend the night in Salzburg, Austria...more updates on this adventure soon.PS - tonight we were taken under the wing of an American Air Force Major who has a Slovenian wife, and despite her cheating on him, we learned that he is one of the world's foremost world war 1 experts...lots more cool stuff to come.

REQUIEM FOR A SWEATER...ALMOST

After arriving back from a hard night of clubbing and general debauchery *read...I went out with my cousin Lindsey and my friend Travis last night, and each of them quickly found a candidate to make sweet Eastern European love to early in the night leaving me to get way too drunk while I had to try not to barf from watching them make out with their respective new friends...enough of that...so we are staying at this crazy hostel that becomes a bar all night and is generally overflowing with random people, mostly locals, 24-7...so this morning, after I woke up in a sloshy mix of hangover and sweat I realized that I had forgotten my sweater *aka my jumper* on the seat beside the very public computer that I am using to post right now...I first chastised my cousin for making me take my sweater back when at 4AM I told her to part from her new lover as we had a big day ahead of us causing her to throw a typical drunken fit that she would obviously forget about in the morning...the sweater has been through a lot with me, making it my number one travel companion, and I knew that surviving the night in a very open area of an Eastern *believe me this is not Central* European Hostel...but alas, as I sprinted out of my room in my boxer shorts, upon dreaming the loss of my sweater, there it was, hung over on the chair where I left if four hours before. Phew...


Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Retrospective from December 8th...

Last night, circa 7pm, I'm dressed to the nines on my way to the end of the year Christmas dinner for the UEA Concrete newspaper, and I get no further than the roundabout 2 minutes from my house when...a nice driver, gives me the brights and waves for me to cross the street. As I am riding across, some crazy chav woman fails to slow down and barrels into the front of my bike as I come to a screeching halt, slamming into her car. I was dazed, I was confused. But I didn't need to be hospitalized...it was insane though, my first ever motor vehicle accident...I think the adrenaline shot through me like never before in my life, and I was mumbling sweet nothings for about 30 minutes....in the end I made it to my dinner, and my bicycle should be fixed by next Thursday...now I'm seriously considering riding with a helmet and one of thosy dorky neon reflector vests. I'm lucky to be alive, and thus took the day off today to really enjoy the simple pleasures of life: grocery shopping (for the dinner I'm cooking for my housemates tomorrow) and cleaning my room (to procrastinate writing my end-of-term paper)...life is good.

Another grandiose flurry.

Flying home on Xmas...some Freakonomics of my own.

Cost/benefit analysis.That's what I'm constantly running inside my head. Ever since taking a basic economic course in high school my ways of thinking have been transformed. I'm flying home on Christmas Day, saving £90 over the next cheapest flight. However, I failed to realize that public transportation in this country does not exist on December 25th, meaning that I will have to make the journey from Norwich to Heathrow on the 24th. So as not to really financially screw myself by spending a night in a hotel, I will be camping out in Heathrow with my IPod, some reading material, and my laptop (to document the experience). It's been done by me before - once in Brussels, once in Pisa (where the airport closes at midnight and reopens at 5am, forcing me to sleep outside) and once in Rome (where I built an elaborate fort out of luggage with some friends). Luckily, for novices sleeping in airports (or other transport points), the good ole internet has made life much easier. Sleepinginairports.com is my go-to-source for all things necessary to make a budget night a truly magnificent experience. If you ever find yourself with an early morning flight or tight on the budget, please take this site's advice first.

I'm probably not a criminal...but maybe I am.

Ever since TVLinks was taken down a couple of months ago, a void was left unfilled for other similar sites to take its place. Well kids, I've found the answer: www.sidereel.com. I feel ok about myself watching episode after episode of Entourage (I watched six episodes yesterday and now I'm completely up to date with the series), because I know I didn't download anything. I just watched a streaming video, as I would on YouTube. Is it moral to do this to the broadcast companies? Probably not. But until I've got a significant income to purchase every DVD I could ever dream of, Sidereel takes the cake in terms of cost, effectiveness, and ease of use - as I don't even have to get out of bed to have whatever entertainment I want on demand.

Good food in Norwich? Nah

The struggle to find good food in Norwich has really been getting to me. A friend told me a great theory: For every mile you travel outside of London, the food is equivalent to British cuisine from that many years ago. Thus, Norwich is 115 miles from London, so the food is about as good as British cuisine was in the year 1892. I have found but a few standout places to dine at thus far. None offer British cuisine. All offer tapas (meaning if you don't like one dish you can easily get over your flawed decision-making). So, when you want to take that trip to lovely Norwich for a weekend out of the city, stop by Torrero (Spanish Tapas), Baba Ghanoush (Mediterranean fare), and Shiki (Japanese).

Limited, Darjeeling that is.

The Darjeeling Limited and I got along great. I still have that song stuck in my head - Peter Sarstedt's Where do you go to my lovely?

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

A mini-series of blogs=Longest post ever!

AIM+GCHAT=PROCRASTINATORGASM

They said it couldn't be done, but I knew the geniuses at Google were capable of anything short of achieving fission...and it's finally here: GCHAT has now officially been integrated with AIM. Goodbye Adium! Hello hours upon hours per day of employees jerking around while they're supposed to be doing work...the net loss to the global economy from this invention will probably be something like billions of dollars per day. Ah, maybe they'll create a sequel to Office Space too!

ADDICTED TO CHARITY

There have been many games that I've wasted hundreds, if not thousands of hours playing during my life. Luckily, my parents never allowed me to own video games, otherwise it could have been much worse. But between Sim City 2000, Flight Simulator '98, Snake, Slingo, Scattergories and more, games will inevitably hold some place in my leisure time (read: procrastination time) for years to come. I came across the website freerice.com, and I am amazingly impressed. Not only can I improve my vocabulary, but I am giving to charity (though 10 grains of rice per correct answer, even at high levels, seems a bit silly). This is the first good thing that has come out of the United Nations in decades.

AMENDMENT: Good thing's come from Penn too.

Yesterday, I bitched and moaned (albeit in a lighthearted way) about bad press that the University of Pennsylvania was receiving...But, when I woke up today, there were two shining stars above my head. First, a New York Times article about how writers find a haven in the middle of a large University where they are many times overshadowed by the Wharton School of Business. The second gem, this one is REALLLY cool to me, especially during the holiday season was an op-ed piece written by a columnist at my former haunt, The Daily Pennsylvanian. Jim Saska enlightened me by writing about a marvelous program that enables people to purchase laptops for a mere $200, so long as they donate a second laptop of equal value to a child in an impoverished nation. So for $400 - that's less than £200 - you can get a new computer AND open up a new world for a poor kid.


CNN and Brookings are SOOOO DUMB!

CNN decided to publish a list of America's Most Walkable Cities based on a study created by The Brookings Institution:

WALKABILITY RANKINGS

1. Washington
2. Boston, Massachusetts
3. San Francisco, California
4. Denver, Colorado
5. Portland, Oregon
6. Seattle, Washington
7. Chicago, Illinois
8. Miami, Florida
9. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
10. New York
11. San Diego, California
12. Los Angeles, California
13. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
14. Atlanta, Georgia
15. Baltimore, Maryland
16. St. Louis, Missouri
17. Minneapolis, Minnesota
18. Detroit, Michigan
19. Columbus, Ohio
20. Las Vegas, Nevada
21. Houston, Texas
22. San Antonio, Texas
23. Kansas City, Missouri
24. Orlando, Florida
25. Dallas, Texas
26. Phoenix, Arizona
27. Sacramento, California
28. Cincinnati, Ohio
29. Cleveland, Ohio
30. Tampa, Florida

IN WHAT WORLD IS LOS ANGELES A WALKABLE CITY? WERE THE AUTHORS OF THIS STUDY SMOKING CRACK? DID GENERAL MOTORS AND FORD CO-FINANCE THIS COMEDIC PIECE OF RESEARCH? As a former resident of Philadelphia who never once needed a car (and usually walked everywhere), I am shocked that this study was even published.


Penn in the news.

It always makes you glad when your reputable alma mater produces a fair share of criminals. Last year, I tracked down convicted sex offenders on campus. In the year prior to that one professor was convicted of rape and another of sexually abusing kids. But in the past week, the University of Pennsylvania has produced some new names for the FBI's 10 most wanted list: A Bonnie & Clyde-like duo as well as a worldwide computer hacker. I can only imagine what gossip I will hear next...

Monday, December 3, 2007

Deep Space


For the first 21 years of my life, I feared outter space. I feared the unnkown, and I feared black holes. But most importantly, I feared the fact that I am just some inconsequential little twirp, a mere spec, barely even a blip on the radar, in the grand scheme of the Universe. But then, I read Tom Wolfe's book, The Right Stuff, and all of my thoguhts began to change. (I have never seen the film, as there have been too many occasions in my life when brilliant books have been ruined for me as the films don't even come close to capturing the same level of emotions as the original piece.) I now view space as a valuable, beautiful entity, full of stories and adventures waiting to happen. So when the documentary In The Shadow of the Moon came to my local theatre, I made sure that I was first in line to see it. And I was not let down, but had I not read The Right Stuff, the film would have been meaningless, and incredibly scary for me. Go see this film, but give Tom Wolfe some credit first.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Wagamamanomics and more!

Don't get me wrong, I like Wagamama just as much as the next guy, but only when I have one of their ubiquitous 2 for 1 coupons. And by ubiquitous, I mean that they're usually readily available at the UEA library, but today they were out. I know that simple capitalism dictates that Wagamama must still be making a profit even when people eat there with the coupons, so I see no need to further fill these noodle genius coffers by paying double for a meal. I decided to take matters into my own hands. Using ingredients from my kitchen, I cooked up some ASDA Ramen Noodles (prawn flavored) that cost me 8p, some shrimp, and grilled vegetables. I mixed said ingredients in the Ramen broth and like magic I had a recreation of a classic Asian-fusion meal for under £1, costing me a mere fraction of the price to eat out. That's Wagamamanomics for you.

Tagged with:

Wagamamanomics

Call me Gossip Girl but don't say that I didn't warn you!

OK, this may qualify as gossip, but a few weeks ago, I posted about the dangers of partaking in housecest. Then today, as I was cooking my egg breakfast, I noticed a note written in blue marker next to a pile of condoms. I figured they were giving them away free somewhere and one of my housemates brought some home to spread the wealth. Boy was I wrong. The note, written by my Spanish female housemate reads as follows:

ALEX, FUCK OFF.

I WOULD LIKE NOT SEEING YOU ANYMORE, BUT WE ARE HOUSEMATES. I WOULD TRY NOT SEEING YOU, I DON'T WANT TO KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT YOU YOU. YOU DEMONSTRATED ME YOU ARE NOT MY FRIEND SO, FUCK OFF.

THIS CONDOMS ARE YOURS

Ouch! Really dramatic, but in the back of my mind I'm saying told you so, because I really warned them both about the danger of their situation numerous times...

Tagged with:

housecest

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Snippets

Please excuse the funky fonts and perhaps lack of links...these were quickly posted.
Turks
Turks are to Germany what Mexicans are to the USA, though it's not quite the same. In Germany Turks were specifically invited as foreign workers in the 1960s, when the economy was booming and workers were greatly needed. However, times have changed, and whereas Turks formerly assimilated well, they now (in many cases) live in Turkish enclaves, go to Turkish schools, read Turkish newspapers, and don't even make an effort to be German. It saddens me when I see little Turkish children who can't even understand the people around them though they were born in this country...
Want to go to Harvard?
please excuse my funky punctuation as i a mwriting from germany and the keyboard is weird!I hate Harvard, but not because i did not get...but if you want a taste of life at Harvard, Yale, my alma mater Penn or any other elite American institution of higher learning, you need not plunk down $40,000 per year for your education. For merely $1 at a time, you can purchase lectures from world renowned professors at iTunesU - so now I can finally make up for all of those lectures I slept through or missed for reasons that in retrospect are quite bad!


Democratization of Talent
In America, it's all about who you know - that's it. You can write the best script in the world, but if you are a random nobody sending it to an agency on spec, it will probably never make it beyond the mail room. I've been pretty impressed with the UK's efforts to recruit talent through the various talent schemes that the BBC and Channel 4 operate. As I now qualify for UK residency, I submitted a few ideas to the Channel 4 TV Pilot competition. I'll know in a week whether or not my pilots are worthy of being considered acceptable for a British audience. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Catching up

These posts are syndicated reproductions...little blurbs for the other site I'm working for:

I was fortunate enough to attend the grand reopening of Cinema City in Norwich a few weeks ago where I somehow found myself alone speaking with Shekhar Kapur while Geoffrey Rush eavesdropped on us, pretending that I'd seen Elizabeth, which at the time, I hadn't. Fast forward to yesterday...As Food/Drink editor of UEA's student newspaper, I make it my bizzzzness to acquire as many free meals as possible around town. Last night's escapade brought me back to Cinema City to eat at their amazing restaurant. This is an amazing concept that must be expanded worldwide: Movies with reasonably priced high quality restaurants. Especially when the weather is shit, the one stop shop is second to no other. And MICHAEL CLAYTON is a must see film.

The Guardian thought they had me beat by suggesting a trip to Slovenia, but little did they know, I booked my trip months ago. I'm going in mid-December, the day after I hand in my papers for class - but the thing is, I don't ski. However, the "night tobogganing" sounds like the most fun ever - and I'm getting to and from Slovenia for less than 50 quid. I've heard only great things about this gem at the crossroads of Austria, Croatia, Hungary and Italy - except for my friend Evan's incident where he was stuck on the side of the road for many hours last summer waiting for a replacement rental car. But that's part of the excitement. Central Europe would be Western Europe if you didn't have the spontaneous Communist-leftover failures.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Start spreadin' the news

My beloved New York Yankees are falling apart, and I don't think Jorge Posada can save them. Within the past few weeks, the team that I grew up with through good times and bad have disappeared forever. During the late 80s and early 90s the Yanks were absolute shit, but Don Mattingly was still my idol, especially during the 1994 season, where the Yanks posted their first decent record in years...but that season was abruptly cut short by a player's strike. In 1996, a year I will never forget (in part because of the awkwardness of the early stages of puberty), the Yanks won their first championship in years with Joe Torre at the helm, and they never looked back. My favorite pitcher during this era was the young Andy Pettitte, and now he's gone too. Good bye big money A-Rod, goodbye to my childhood.

Monday, November 12, 2007

I'm no rocket scientist but I'm in love.

I love the movie Rocket Science.

I am not usually the person who will see a movie twice, but I loved this flick so much when I saw it in Philly this summer that I knew I just had to see it again when it came over to the UK. And watching it a second time was just as rewarding, as I picked up on many new concepts - for instance, the guy from Superbad has a small part.


And the film is doing really well on Rotten Tomatoes too, which in my humble opinion is a very accurate indicator of the overall strength and quality of a film.



Oh, and I'm in love with the female lead, Anna Kendrick. But I guess Ben Stiller is also in love with her too.

But Stiller is married and I am single, so mark my words, I will find Anna Kendrick, and I will go on a date with her, as I've been dreaming of her for three months already...hopefully she's just like her character in real life. If anyone of my readers/fans know how to contact her and can hook us up, let me know!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

This is so high school!

After catching a 1:40am bus out of Norwich that allowed me to sleep quite nicely thanks to National Express's reclining seats, I found myself in London at 5:30am last Sunday. I was poised to become a Superstar.

When I arrived on set, all I noticed was the cliquishness of the extras. I like to think of myself as cool/doesn't take shit but treats people with respect type. Luckily I found Marc (he rocks London 5 nights per week with his cover band, The Lizard Kings), and Rory a burnt-out Econometrics guy from the business sector, determining what financial job he'll take next. Within an hour, we were the three musketeers, committed to taking long smoking breaks (because we literally had to stand around for hours waiting for women to get their hair done once we were in costume), eating grotesque amounts of bacon/eggs/sausage, and making fun of everyone else around us.

There was one woman, whose name I will not mention, who I was informed was a former "Page 3 Model." I didn't know what that was at the time, but I knew that this woman had so many damn facejobs and other surgeries gone wrong that she couldn't arouse me if she were the only woman left on earth.

Surprisingly the wannabe actor types weren't as dominant as one would expect, but they were still there, talking about nonsense and superficial subjects, while fantasizing how close they could get to Dustin and Emma.

I never realized how much down time there would be as an extra, and in one day I plowed through Philip Roth's "Prague Orgy" and Thomas Pynchon's "Crying of Lot 49." (This ain't light reading either.)

We were ordered time and time again by Runners and people who deserved titles no higher than 8th or 9th Assistant Director...oftentimes they would command, "OK if you are seated at Table 13, we need you now" only to scream again and retract their statement four seconds later...

Near the end of the day, I said to my new frat-brothers in Chi Rho Alpha (XRA) Rory and Marc, "I think we should make a sitcom about life as an extra..." At that point I was informed that I was two years behind, because Ricky Gervais had beat me to the punch. When I returned home, the first thing I did was order a copy of Extras, Season 1 from Amazon.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

DJs and DJs on set

It should be duly noted that thanks to Mr. Flatow's computer prowess, I am now able to type the £ symbol rather than writing out the word pound.

Last week, I was under the impression that I would only be permitted to work as a wedding guest in Last Chance Harvey if I owned my own tuxedo. Unfortunately, I left mine in America.

However, while at the Salvation Army picking up some Halloween goods, I came across a black tuxedo, that fit me almost perfectly, save for an extra inch on the waist that could use some suspenders to hold the pants up properly. The cost was £10, a real bargain.

Little did I know how much of a bargain it was until members of the film's costume department told me that my DJ (as they like to call it, for dinner jacket) was made in the 1960s of incredibly high strength cloth, and that this was the type of item that upper-class Brits pass down from generation to generation to generation. Looks like my kid's got his first tux, so long as he's blessed with having the same body shape as me.

Now, not only was I happy to be the proud owner of this tux, but I also learned that I was granted an additional £16 per day for supplying my own costume. Sweeeet!

Unfortunately whereas my DJ is looking good, this DJ, the one from Full House, isn't so hot these days. (Link courtesy of Lisa Friedman)

Monday, November 5, 2007

Minimalist No Longer

NOTE: THIS WAS WRITTEN 3 DAYS AGO PRIOR TO DEPARTING FOR LONDON... new posts regarding my experiences from filming LAST CHANCE HARVEY on their way.

Most people decorate their bedroom. I am usually most people, but upon arriving in the UK, i decided I would be a minimalist and resist even putting one bit of time/energy/money into decorating the room I am living in. Fortunately it is a HUGE, sun-filled room in a brand new house, so it's not like I'm staring at fungus growing from the walls. But this morning, a friend commented that I had the most boring room ever. I wanted to reply, "It's the the man that makes the room, not the room that makes the man" but I knew deep down she was right. As I was riding my bike through Norwich, I stumbled upon a store called Artique that was liquidating their stock of prints, originals, and everything in between because they are undergoing massive renovations starting Monday. I siezed this opportunity to turn my room from prison cell to shrine in a matter of minutes. I've now got more spunk than I'd ever dreamed of - a Roy Lichtenstein on one wall, a couple of Patrick Ciranna's works, and a Chris Bennett glossy piece. I even have some huge African themed pointilist work featuring a native woman rowing a raft along a river. And though these prints were valued at more than 20 pounds each, every one of them was marked down to one pound! For a fiver, I made out like an all-star. Oh yeah, and I picked up a copy of Simon & Garfunkel's Greatest Hits record at the Salvation Army for 50p and used the album cover as a piece of fine art. This is a fanciful tribute to my one of my favorite musical artists and the guy who rode his wave to stardom.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

First Chance Harvey

When you've only got class one day a week, and you're in a foreign country where everything costs double what it should, you think to yourself, maybe I should get off my ass and earn a pound or two every now and then.
So you think to yourself, what job is ideal for this situation? Ideally, you would want the following traits:

1. Enough flexibility that you could scamper off to Brussels for a weekend without anyone noticing or caring that you were gone.
2. A job that is cool enough that you aren't ashamed of how you're spending your time, and possibly even proud.
3. Pays a heck-uva lot better than minimum wage.
4. Gives you the opportunity to interact with creative professionals, and perhaps even some celebrities.
5. Isn't so intense that you can't be reading/doing other work while on the job.

When I refer to "you" I clearly mean "me." And the job that I've taken on for the first time is work as a film extra. I arrived at 10AM yesterday morning on the set of Last Chance Harvey, starring Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson, though the latter was not present for the scenes we were shooting.

My cousin Lindsay, a film industry professional in New York gave me the following caveat: We treat extras like cattle. You will be cattle.

But for 86 pounds per day as my base pay, I think I can handle life as cattle.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Man vs. Machine: A Pre-Halloween Debacle

Riding our bicycles into town the other day, Weinstein insisted on weaving in and out of vehicles, a practice that I am generally opposed to. He may have been slightly under the influence of an unnamed substance during this particular ride, but the long and short of it was, that I screamed out "I don't think we can fit" just as he rode between a mini-bus and a small coup, resulting in his handlebar smashing into the rear-view mirror of the coup, completely breaking it off. I was in awe, and could not stop laughing, despite the gravity of the situation, because this is the first time I've ever heard of a motor-vehicle/bicycle accident in which the vehicle sustained damage and the bicycle and its rider were left unscathed.

Weinstein followed protocol and asked the driver to move to the side of the road, and after her husband phoned the car dealership it was determined that he would pay her 75 pounds to fix the mirror...

1. American mirrors are generally not made of plastic except on Kia's.
2. I will no longer weave between traffic or even take the chance of coming within inches of a rear-view mirror.

Many Norwich cyclists where these crazy reflector vests, and now I see why. It's dangerous out there, and even though the vests are just about the dorkiest creation ever, they probably save lives, and my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives. Thanks Jack Nicholson.

PS - I was pulled over on my bicycle outside my home last Tuesday for not having proper lights on my bicycle by two Norwich police officers walking the beats. I informed them that I would purchase and install proper lights at once so as not to face the 30 pound fine if I am caught in this situation again.

Monday, October 29, 2007

It's getting wild! 48 hours to Halloween!

Note, it is not getting wild. The weather in Norwich has been the perfect fall weather I love since I arrived on September 3rd, nearly 60 glorious days. I am knocking wood, and then knocking wood some more that this trend continues and I haven't just jinxed it.

POLITICALLY INCORRECT HALLOWEEN COSTUME SPOILER ALERT: Do not read the following paragraph if you are interested in seeing how I am dressed on Wednesday for Halloween.

So Weinstein and I decided we'd do some type of costume extravaganza in tandom. In addition to Halloween, October 31st marks Weinstein's 23rd birthday, so I was very willing to go along with whatever mischevious plans he wanted to carry out on this day.

After contemplating some less fruitful, and less funny ideas, we turned our eyes, hearts, and minds toward pop culture, and more specifically tabloid news. The question we asked ourselves was: Who is the most frequented figure in the news these days who can also be depicted in a smashing way for Halloween?

Our answer stands at 2 ft. 3 inches tall, and could be anywhere in the world right now. Brace yourselves, and yes, we are well aware that we are going to hell for this one: Madeleine McCann

For those of you who neglect to follow the news, Little Maddy, as we affectionately call her, ha dominated headlines in Britain during the past few months. While her story is tragic, perhaps, Weinstein's portrayal of her will continue to raise awareness for her cause.

To Americans reading this who are unfamiliar with the McCanns' plight: Think English version of JonBenet Ramsey, except the tabloids over here are much more nosy and thus brutal.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Quickie: Second Amendment? What the hell's that?

Note: I just heard loud booms, reminiscent of gunshots, coming from the rear of my house. I am comforted knowing that someone wasn't murdered around the block (as may have been the case in Philly), and there's a 99.99% chance that it was merely some Chavs experimenting with their firecracker skills. Yes, in fact, I can see a technicolor amateur Grucci-esque display in the backyard right now. No need to duck for cover. A world where it is illegal for citizens to own guns is hands down a better solution, and it's sad that Americans are so unwilling to accept this.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The Hitchhiker's Guide to Hitchhiking (in Belgium)!

The morning of Wednesday October 17, 2007 proved to be one of the most chaotic of my life. I woke up in Leuven, Belgium at 5:13 and my flight back to London was scheduled to depart at 9:15. It should have been simple, but here's why it wasn't:

5:13 AM: Wake up in Siegel's room. Get dressed. Apply copious amounts of deodorant. Brush teeth. Check CNN to make sure nothing crazy has happened in the world. Say goodbye.

5:47 AM: Depart for Leuven, Belgium train station on foot.

5:55 AM: Arrive at Leuven train station, and order an egg and tomato sandwich from Panos.

6:04 AM: Catch a train to Brussels. Try to read Bill Bryson on the train, but really stare blankly at the pages.

6:31 AM: Arrive in Brussels. (Note - everything to this point is quite normal)

6:41 AM: Depart Brussels by train for Charleroi, home of Charleroi airport.

7:24 AM: Arrive at Charleroi Train station. Walk to Charleroi Bus Station one minute away.

7:37 AM: Along with two Belgians I met, embark with about 50 other people on the bus specifically marked AIRPORT presumably headed toward Charleroi Airport.

8:10 AM: Note that many people have departed the bus, and though we have come within the vicinity of an airport, we never actually came close to anythign resembling a terminal. In general, we drove by many warehouses, factories, offices, etc.

8:15 AM: Realize that the Belgians and I who need to catch actual flights are the only people left on the bus, except for some ignorant woman who worked for the bus company, as well as the driver. The Belgians ask in Dutch when we are stopping at the airport. The driver responds that we already came close to the airport, and are now nowhere near there. This is a problem, we see the control tower of the airport in the distance. We tell him that we never went anywhere near a damn airport and that he's nuts, but can he please drive us to the airport, where the bus is supposed to go. He says no, and tells us to get off the bus, and walk along the road, and eventually it will hit the airport.

We get off the bus, and then realize that this driver really screwed us, because he was driving in the direction of the airport. And now we are running, as we are afraid we will miss our flights. Our run is somewhat aimless though, as we see some runways, but there is clearly no terminal for a few miles.

I try to flag down every damn car possible, but this is a French speaking area of the country, not Flanders where they are multilingual, and NONE of the drivers stop for us - even though we are well-dressed, respectable looking young adults.

I wave my arms like a wild man, and stand in the middle of the road, but the French are just unresponsive. I could have been having a heart attack but nobody would have cared.

I wave money in the air, but apparently people don't want ten euros and many more pounds.

So we continue to run toward the airport, flailing our arms trying to stop each car/truck/van that passes by to no avail. We are sweaty and running at full speed toward where we think the airport should be along fairly barren roads.

Yes I am bitter, but I keep it inside, and I don't give up hope that there is one goddamn good samaritan in this area of the world.

8:33 AM: Eventually, we come across an intersection, and I find a man in a BMW station wagon and he speaks English to me when he stops the car. He says we are about a ten-minute drive from the terminal and gladly takes the two Belgians and I to the terminal. he won't accept my money, and I appreciate this. I tell him that he will surely have good Karma and thank him again and again and again.

8:45 AM: I arrive at the terminal, only to be told by the Ryanair staff that my flight has closed. I beg a manager to let me on, explaining what horrors I've just lived through due to the incompetence/negligency/ill-will of one of her fellow countrymen. She makes a phone call, and given that I have no luggage, I am permitted through. In fact, the flight doesn't even board for another fifteen minutes, and I even have time to eat a tuna sandwich in the terminal.


9:20 AM (British time): Arrive at London Stansted Airport, and with luck on my side, run through customs to catch the 9:26 train back to Norwich!

This was nearly one of the grandest debacles of all time, as if I'd missed my flight I would have been stuck in the godforsaken hell hole of Charleroi, Belgium for at least ten more hours, and I likely would have had to pay an arm and a leg to get back to England, missing my class and really screwing up my day.

Moral of the story: If you throw enough wet toilet paper at the wall, eventually one will stick - as said to me by a drunk American businessman in Dublin during one of the most wacky nights of my life during the Summer of 2004.

I would not stop flailing my arms when my Belgian friends had long given up and were convinced that running a few miles in the unknown direction of the terminal was the only option.

And one day, I too will pick up hitchhikers, knowing that one saved me from great peril!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Leuven (reporting live from Belgium)

A long weekend in Nantes, France was not meant to be - it would have been too simple. When one J. Siegel was mysteriously robbed in Paris (and thus without a train ticket and hotel information to meet me in Nantes) as well as a malfunctioning (read: broken) mobile phone, I faced the choice of spending some alone time in the Jules Verne capitol of the world, or migrating West by Northwest to Belgium. I chose the latter option.

A land of 9% beers is already a good start, but the fact that English (as well as Dutch, French, and German) is spoken here really warms my heart. That's my biggest issue with France - they really stick to their guns when it comes to not speaking English. But here in the low country, the people are Quadrilingual (I may have made that word up) and are very willing to assist you in any of the four aforementioned languages. You need not even begin with the premise, "Do you speak English?" Anyone younger than the senior citizens from the Second World War generation has a firm, fluent grasp of the English language.

Fortunately, this change in plans was made possible by Ryanair - I will slip out of this land of waffles, chocolate, mussels, and textiles by early tomorrow morning, and ten minutes before I leave (yes, you read that correctly - due to gaining an hour in transit because of the time change back to GMT), I will be landing at Stansted airport, catching a train back to Norwich, and riding my bicycle straight to school where I will hopefully arrive just in time for an intimate meeting with the head of BBC Radio. So long as there are no airline delays, train delays, and presuming that my bicycle is still in one piece (it's been locked up at the Norwich station) these plans should be smooth as a coconut flavored smoothie.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Zing!!!!

I can't help but relive my glory days as a Food & Drink Editor - It's eternally in my spirit - and now, using the name Stevie Morse on my by-line, I will be editing the new and improved Food & Drink section for the UEA Concrete!

My course only meets on Fridays, so I am now primed for some fantastic Euro-Adventures - the first one which I will embark upon tomorrow! I am headed to Nantes, France tomorrow, and I shall return on Tuesday evening! Finally, I should be able to get my hands on some decent food at reasonable prices.

Yesterday, I helped improve Sam Walton's net worth by about $100 by going on a massive ASDA shopping spree. It was glorious!

My little bicycle is still chugging along quite nicely (don't want to jinx it). I've heard of some bicycle thives snooping around the Uni, and I pray that mine won't be next! According to Football Coach Doust - nobody would ever want to steal my bike - some may call it crap, i classify it as vintage! Speaking of football, I finally got my equipment yesterday - one word: GRRRRRRRR!

I was in the mood to have my head shaved, so my bad-ass roommate Bradley whipped out the clippers, and now I have my head shaved on a 0 (earlier this summer it was a 1, so this is just about as bald as I can be).

Time to pack and check up on airline regulations for the UK - hopefully I can get some full-sized toothpaste in my carry-on!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Settled, getting into gear.

Updates Updates Updates

1. So during the past 6 months, I could not decide whether to pursue the Creative Entrepreneurship or Creative Writing: Scriptwriting course at UEA. I wanted to enroll simultaneously in both courses, with the hopes of earning two Master's degrees this year, but I found out late last week that this was impossible. Because I feel that I should further develop my writing skills before I pimp myself out as a maverick entrepreneur, I recently elected to take the Scriptwriting course. I'm excited for this course, as I hope to pursue no less than four or five new projects this year. (Ideally, I'd like to create a sitcom, a musical, and hopefully a couple of new screenplays.) In only the first day of class, I learned many new strategies for writing that never crossed my mind in my previous ventures.

2. Tonight is the annual TOGA party at the LCR. Given that I only own one bed-sheet, and I fear that it may get drenched in a grimy mix of ale, Vodka, and the occasional Pims, so I proposed last night that we pretend we misread the invitation and thought it was a YOGA party, so spandex, mats, and a penchant for the word Tadassanah will be in order.

3. I only have class on Friday now, so I shall either find a job, or pursue numerous travels.

4. The New York Times is far superior to any British newspaper, especially in regards the in-depth level of feature stories. But I have one caveat:Whereas from 2003-2006 I loved the Styles Section, nowadays it makes me want to puke. Anyone written about in Styles pretty much makes me want to puke, as I think all of these people are leading fake, meaningless lives. Disclaimer: Occasionally, the Modern Love column is good though, especially this one from a few weeks ago.

5. On Saturday, I will be heading on a 72 hour adventure to Nantes, France. If anyone reading this has been there, please contact me at sidneymorsels at gmail.com.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Chavs and Dolls

When I ride my bicycle to school, I must pass through an area of working class inhabitants of Norwich known as CHAVS. Clearly, this is a rough (by Norwich standards, certainly not by West Philly standards) part of town, but it comforts me to know that these people don't own guns. Yes, I've been hollared a a few times, typically by kids in their early teens, and one went so far as to kick a rock at my bicycle, but there haven't been any major incidents. It saddens me to know that these kids will all probably drop out of school by age 16, when their compulsory education period is complete. What really baffles me though is their language. As I ride my bike, I cannot understand for the life of me the conversations that I overhear from these people. They have their own tongue, filled with slang words that are more foreign to me than Spanish, Italian, or French!

Never a fan of Noam Chomsky's political ideologies, I rebelled against studying linguistics in any form at Penn - also because I fulfilled my mathematics requirement with Math 170 - the best/easiest course ever, titled Explorations in Mathematics - that prevented me from having to fulfill the rigorous requirements of an Intro. to Linguistics course. I was searching through the library the other day, and came across Bill Bryson's book, Made in America. This work is nothing short of amazing, and I am only halfway through it. The purpose of Made in America is to discuss the linguistic differences between British English and American English as described through the historical origins of thousands of words. As a humorist, Bryson is second to none, and as a historian, he has debunked many myths that Americans take as fact (everything from Columbus discovering America to Goodyear inventing the tire). In short - I don't care if you are British or American or Chinese, add this book to your personal reading list!

Thursday was the birthday of my illustrious housemate and future pop star, Christopher Snape. Please listen to his catchy tunes here:
http://www.myspace.com/chrissnapemusic

Friday, September 28, 2007

Notes from a small island!

1. I received a leaflet under my door advertising the Norwich Green Party. I thought about Mr. Romanelli for a few minutes, and I shed a tear.

2. We were recently issued recycling bins, but we have not used them. I admire the way Londoners recycle: On every underground train, people leave their newspaper behind in a crevice between the top of the seat and the window. This allows one newspaper (most of them here are skanky tabloids, but I'm over that already) to be read by multiple people. In America, if you left a newspaper behind, you'd probably be yelled at by a transit worker or fined by a cop for littering.

3. The police in the UK can put you away for UK against eating and driving as well as smoking and driving. Apparently the fines are harsh too, up to a few thousand pounds. But at least they've decriminalized marijuana over here.

4. There is a good chance that I will be playing American Football for the Varsity equivalent team at the University of East Anglia. Expect me to gain fifty pounds of pure muscle within the next few months.

5. My new favorite beer is John Smith's. The days of only drinking red wine may have come to a close. John Smith's reminds me so much of Kilkenny, which was my favorite beer from the good ole days of working at Bruxelles in Dublin, Ireland.

*Note: The reason for my lack of updates is that I've been trying to get my act together in terms of settling into school. Prior to departing for the UK, I was deciding between taking two different courses (Creative Entrepreneurship and Creative Writing), but now that I have arrived here, I am confident that I can handle taking both courses simultaneously. The British Higher Education system is not used to someone requesting to take two courses at once, so I am hoping to do everything possible to become a maverick student at UEA. The Creative Writing program here is world renowned and the Creative Entrpreneurship course is new and highly innovative. I am hoping that I can have a chance to partake in both opportunities.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

On personal space, cycle laws, and supermarkets.

In the past few days, I have found myself in a bit of a quandary. On both of my National Express bus trips and today while waiting to catch a train back to Norwich, my personal space has been grossly invaded. In my first bus incident, I was trying to sleep, curled up next to the window and listening to my I-Pod, clearly on my half of the pair of seats. However, the man seated next to met bumped my arm, elbow, and leg no less than thirty times during a two and a half hour ride, causing me to never quite fall asleep. I didn't say anything, because I didn't want to cause trouble, but I wished I had. The following day, on my return journey, I was seated next to a fellow who insisted on reading his newspaper but clunking into me every time he turned the page, clearly extending his body into my airspace. This was outrageous, but once again, I didn't want to cause conflict. After today's incident of a similar nature, I have come to a conclusion: This behavior is curiously acceptable in the United Kingdom.

Perhaps Americans' strategy of mutually assured destruction (we never know who we are seated next to who's carry a nine millimeter handgun or a Glock or a Smith & Wesson revolver) prevents such infractions from taking place. But I am 100% sure that if I literally rubbed against someone the wrong way in Philadelphia, I could expect not only a verbal lashing, but maybe even some physical violence directed toward me.

Stay tuned for future updates concerning British Supermarkets and Cycle Laws!

Taser what what!

I woke up this morning and briefly read about a student who was hit with a Taser gun for asking some pointed questions to John Kerry. This absolutely apalls me. Putting politics aside, there were many ways that this student could have been supressed without arresting him and without using force. I identify with this fellow because just a few months ago, it could have been me, as I was protesting Norman Finkelstein's visit to Penn. Thankfully, Penn has open expression guidelines, that when followed correctly, enable students to protest against speakers while not causing an event to be ruined. May an incident like this never again result in such a blatant misuse of force!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Bums and degenerates running amuck!

OK, England, we need to talk, now! In general, I like your bums. They have pleasent accents and they aren't scary like many American bums (it baffles me that our bums still manage to be hungry AND fat at the same time)...nonetheless, there is one group of vagabonds who seriously irk me: The degenerates I see selling a magazine called THE BIG ISSUE.

OK, I have just put my foot in my mouth...I didn't understand why it seemed like every salesperson of this magazine was homeless with a mangy mutt barking at their ankles, but now I see, that indeed this magazine is designed to be sold by the homeless! Imagine that, and to think that I may have considered applying for an editorial position there!

If I do in fact need a job, I guess I can always throw on my rags and work for THE BIG ISSUE!

British Society Ups and Downs: I think it's really cool that you can have your bus ticket texted to your mobile phone. But when it came time for me to change my ticket the other day, from one time to an earlier time, I experienced my firsta true taste of British beaurocracy. When I arrived at the bus station, stating that I wanted to leave a few hours earlier than planned, I was told that personell at stations do not deal with tickets that are purchased on the internet or by telephone. This is absolutely ludicrous. I was forced to call a number (to the tune of two pounds for the call) to change my bus ticket. Not only did it cost 3 pounds to change my 10 pound ticket, but I was also charged 8 pounds fora new ticket. In essence, the transaction cost me 11 pounds plus 2 pounds to make the call for a total of 13 pounds. For that price, I could have purchased a whole new ticket, and an order of greasy fish and chips! How do Brits tolerate these kind of shinnanigans? For a spell, I even wished I was back at home riding the Chinatown Bus or Greyhound!

A first class lesson: I learned yesterday that the conductors don't really care if you sit in first class on the train from London to Norwich if it is an offpeak time, so from now on, I will be enjoying my free extra 10 inches of legroom and 8 inches of width while leaving all my plebian bretheren to suffer in agony in steerage!

Be a star in Iran, they need you!

In my hunt for a decent job, I was looking through The Guardian's web site and I came across this advertisement. I figured it was some new satellite news network that I'd never heard of, but after simply googling the company, I discovered it is some new outrageous Iranian propoganda network. Check out http://www.presstv.ir/

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Life is easier when you're on the dole.

Socialism. It's ubiquitous for me these days. And I'm not just talking about in McCarthy-era witch hunts and Eugene Debs biographies. Cradle to grave protection. That's how they define it over here. And since it survived Margaret Thatcher, it will probably survive until the destruction of the United Kingdom. I don't want to live on the dole though, a term I haven't used since I read Angela's Ashes back in Mrs. Antoinette's 9th grade English course. I want to make some pounds (while losing a few of the other type of pounds)!

Having now found a place to live (a palace of sorts) and acclimated myself with Norwich proper, it is now my duty to find some type of income-earning activity/scheme to occupy my time while I am neglecting school works and this very blog.

I've searched left and right, but in a city of 127,000 (according to the almighty Wikipedia) this isn't always easy.

I don't want to think of work as a job. I want to think of it as a learning opportunity - but I am faced with a paradox. One part of me, way deep down inside me wants to use this year to fulfill my occupational fantasies (read: become a fighter pilot, sushi chef, detective, war photographer, etc.) while the other part of me wants to find a temporary career that will further my more immediate life's goals (whatever they may be).

I know my strengths (ability with words and people skills) and my weaknesses (attention span), so now I only have to find the perfect job for me.

One option I've been considering is working as a pot washer at The Last Wine Bar, because it has a fantastic reputation, it's always crowded, and head chef Dory Masri was as enthusiastic and interesting in person yesterday as I hoped he would be having read about him on The Last's web site. I've been cooking up a storm lately, and quite frankly, I've realized that I can produce better tasting/healthier foods than many of the restaurants in Britain (this is not arrogance - the British are simply not known for their cuisine, but rather their ales). Working at The Last would be an exception to this rule as Masri's cooking is eclectic (Middle Eastern/Spanish influences) and healthier than the other menus I've checked out around town.

I've always been interested in food and drink, but I've manifested this interest since I was 14 by first writing the Morse's Morsels column for the Sider Press at Oceanside High School and then many food and drink reviews before being promoted to f&d editor at 34th Street Magazine.

Stepping into the kitchen has always been more of a fantasy. For Americans reading this, you may think that starting off as a pot washer is incredibly lousy. But in a country with socialistic virtues, there's very little difference between serving in a higher position and starting at the bottom of the ladder. For instance, waiters and waitresses would make the same 5.50 pounds per hour as me, and on top of that everyone (from head chef to head waiter down to me scrubbing the pots and pans and counter tops) splits up the tips equally, for a total of 7 or 8 pounds per hour. And this money isn't bad at all, considering bartenders in the UK make about 5.50 pounds per hour and rarely get a single tip!

But I wouldn't be taking this job for the money, rather for the learning experience, so I can first learn to cook in a style that I hope to carry with me for the rest of my life. I also hope to learn a thing or two about the operations of a successful restaurant and wine bar, with the hopes that one day, with a few angel investors, I'll be able to open one of my own too.

If anyone in Norwich is reading this and wants to hire a witty, hardworking, innovative, easy-to-get-along-with American chap, just contact sidneymorsels@gmail.com, and I'll have my CV sent over to you immediately!



Goal for tomorrow: Find the symbol for "pound" on the computer!

Monday, September 10, 2007

There's a New Sheriff in Town...Me!

Contrary to popular belief, I am not the new Sheriff of Norwich, in fact I don't even know if such a position exists, but I am the new Blogger for the Eastern Daily Press, England's largest regional newspaper, serving all of Norwich, Norfolk, and the rest of the East of England.

The basics for my new readers: I am a 22-year-old American, about to embark on a post-grad course at the UEA. I hail from New York and attended college in Philadelphia at the University of Pennsylvania, where I blogged for The Daily Pennsylvanian and 34th Street Magazine...

Now for the nitty gritty:

I am excited to jump back into the blogosphere, mainly because I've learned so much in the week since I've arrived in Norwich. The people are friendly, the drinks flow steadily, and the weather has been absolutely perfect (lots of sun and in the 50s and 60s). I've been riding my bicycle (a Raleigh classic from the 1960s) up and down the streets of Norwich, getting lost in every which way, even with my city map. But the locals always assist me, sending me to the "top of the road" "over the fork" "down to the bottom of the road" and back again, because I don't know what these terms mean, though it is a priority of mine to figure it out soon.

Slowly, the lingo from this part of the world is coming back to me, as I haven't been in England since a fine Thanksgiving Week in November, 2005 when a dozen or so of my friends were studying abroad in London.

Though I'd like to make my blog controversial, I haven't had the opportunity for much controversy, as I've been trying to learn all I can about the town - but here are a couple of thoughts anyway:

Drinking and Driving

I've heard from my housemate Bradley that while riding a bicycle, you must follow all traffic laws, otherwise you will be fined. If this is enforced, I'll be in big trouble, especially at midnight when the roads are quiet and Alex and I come zipping back from the bars down the hill on Dereham Road toward our house. (Yes, people ride their bikes to get out at night and it is fantastic: 1. The coastal wind in my face reminds me of the Long Beach Boardwalk back home as well as my former days as an amateur sailor in the Berkshire Cup Regatta. 2. A cold beverage tastes so much better after you've ridden two to three miles to get to the bar. And at the end of the night, you feel like you've burned off some of the calories that you've consumed while out.

My next mission will be to find PAM, or some other type of no-calorie cooking spray to prevent food from sticking to the pan. It seems that this product never made it over to Norwich, as the folks at Asda suggested I use olive oil, which I have been using...

To be continued - For additional posts, and some that may be a bit more opinionated, truthful, and raunchy, add www.sidneymorsels.com to your RSS feed for regular updates.

PS - My buddy Alex (who moved here with me) and I are looking for British young ladies to court. We love reading, writing, movies, travel, cycling, tennis, and baseball - and we'll even teach you how to play the latter. We're 22 and loads of fun, and we'd love for people to show us your favorite places around town. Contact sidneymorsels@gmail.com with any questions or comments.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Social Welfare 101

Today, Alex and I did a whole lotta shopping at Asda, the UK equivalent of Wal-Mart, which is in fact owned by Wal-Mart. There's one major difference between the two stores: Asda's employees are covered by the government when it comes to healthcare, whereas Wal-Mart employees are not. I've noticed that the Asda employees are generally much more friendly and knowledgable than their American counterparts too - and here in Norwich, the store provides aisle after aisle of organic produce, perhaps because this is what the citizens demand.

Having been in town for about 4 days now, it seems that most jobs in Norwich are paid around minimum wage (5.35 pounds per hour - the equivalent of $10.83 according to current conversion rates). This isn't too shabby for people, and it seems that people working menial jobs are much more content (rather than bitter, uptight, mean, or incompetent) as they tend to be back home. Perhaps this "living wage" actually improves worker productivity.

At the same time, Trade Unions haven't been popular in the UK since Maggie Thatcher killed them back in the day. And having watched construction workers in Philly lay about one brick on average per day on any of Penn's buildings, and having witnessed New York's MTA Strike a couple of years ago, unions make me sick to my stomach. How can token collectors at subway stations make $50,000 per year while police officers, soldiers, journalists, political aides, and so many other noble people make far less? It's a crock. The one exception I make is for teachers - the teachers need a union, or they would make about 4 cents per year and never be appreciated by the masses...

A less serious and more humorous post either tomorrow or the next day: To London Town tomorrow!

The Graveyard of Ambition

Mr. Weinstein and I have settled in to a 5-bedroom house (brand new actually) at Norwich's Whistlefish Court...it feels good to be settled at last.

Last night, I was out seeing a range of performers in town, ranging from spoken word poets to a crazy bunch of Brits in a string band with banjos - 8 acts in all, and very impressed by the local culture scene.

I've also been out and about meeting various people. One (who will remain nameless) referred to the University of East Anglia as "The Graveyard of Ambition." He said, "Everyone arrives there wanting to change the world, but sometime while they are there, they become happy and content with Norwich, and never leave, and end up working in a pub or at a restaurant." (Note:That's not verbatim, but as best as I ccould paraphrase.)

The above comment seems to be a mixed blessing. I only learned yesterday that in the UK, if you want to work more than 37.5 hours per week, you must give up certain rights etc. Full time is considered 37.5 hours per week, and that is that. There are no 80 hour work weeks or even 60 hour work weeks. They don't do overtime either. Just some horrid British food for thought...

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes (turn and face the strain)

Ups downs outs abouts. There's a movie out called This is England. I won't see this movie though, because for me, right now, my life is England. I've been forgetful about my experiences in this part of the world - since I was last here in 2005 for an amazing Thanksgiving week in London.

Food: I've been known as a foodie my entire life. In fact, this year, on our Royal Caribbean cruise ship in March, I coined the term "diagonal" to refer to my eating everything in a diagonal line that was offered on the menu. But, since then, things have changed as I have become much more health-conscious. It's so difficult to eat right here. For instance, at lunch yesterday, I ordered a salmon sandwich with cucumber. The packaging on the sandwich clearly said "No Mayo" - I was a bit surprised to see that despite the "No Mayo" claim, my sandwich still had butter spread along the inside. Yuck. And I succumbed to chips (french fries) with dinner two nights ago, after avoiding them for well over a couple of months.

Never again! That was my thought when I ate fast food pizza yesterday from some kebab place - by far the worst single pizza I've ever eaten in my entire life. I ordered a "seafood" pizza to get some protein and though it was supposed to consist of shrimps (prawns), tuna, and anchovies, all I could taste was the complete saltiness of the latter. I must move on, as thinking about this grease-fest is unbearable.

Goal for today: Find a place to live and start applying for jobs. Having hung out with some locals last night, they all discouraged me from bartending, and encouraged me to work as a waiter. Apparently it's easy to get both type of jobs at this time of year, but bartenders make minimum wage (5.35 pounds - I don't know where the pound key is on the keyboard), while waiters make about 8 pounds per hour because Brits tip about 10% of meals and 0% on drinks.

My goodness my Guinness. I succumbed to two Guinnesses last night as well. They were glorious, and the days of Wino-Me-Morse may have come to an abrupt end.

Has this turned into a British food blog? Uh-oh.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Norwich witch is which?

I've arrived in Norwich, UK safely. This was the first time that I've taken a transcontinental flight without a baby screaming at some point during the duration of the flight. Perhaps this was Divine intervention, or perhaps my luck is simply changing. I visited the University of East Anglia, referred to as "The UEA" though I've mistakenly been referring to it as simply "UEA" for the past few months, oops. I was inspired to go to this school because of Marc Lapadula, my first ever screenwriting teacher. I've realized that eating healthy foods here will be a challenge, but I am ready to face the beast. I am here with the indefatigable Alex Weinstein, who will be finding a job (the few bars we inquired at were all hiring). I am jet lagged, but not bitter. The future looks bright, except for the rain forecast for tomorrow...but that wasn't surprising. Fall is my favorite season, by far. I love fall, and it is already fall here, so I hope it lasts forever!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

WWND: What would Nader do?

We've got a real problem in America with cellular phones. There's clearly an oligopoly - thank you Freakonomics/Mr. Ehrman - and we, the consumers, are all victims.

When it comes to cars, we have many choices of what to buy: New, used, pre-owned, leased....and there are at least a dozen credible manufacturers and many choices of where to buy them (dealerships, ebay, craigslist, etc.) - but with cellular phones, we are slaves to a horrible, horrible system.

My only hope is that George Hotz will one day find a solution to my woes.

Today, I went into my local Verizon store in Rockville Center (the place is always overcrowded with people, so I arrived soon after the store opened) only to find an establishment that was in the midst of chaos. Order of events that lead to my madness:

1. Arrive at store and sign in to Customer Service section using fancy touch-screen.
2. Woman X arrives at store and signs in to Technical Service section.
3. Woman X is called to Technical Service only to realize that she intended to sign up or Customer Service.
4. Woman X signs up for Customer Service.
5. I am next on line according to the big screen and Woman X is directly after me.
6. Woman X (damn yuppy) decides that she's too good for the line and while I'm fiddling around with a Blackberry she bypasses the line completely, and only after she is already being helped by the unwitting service agent do I realize her offense.
7. I go over to her and say, "Excuse me ma'am, there's a line." I point to the screen with her name below mine.
8. She replies, "But I was here for an hour last week."
9. I am astounded. This woman has no concept.

SYNERGY AT WORK: Verizon's oligopoly + Verizon's inefficiencies + Yuppy Woman = Equivalent of a week spent in a state penitientiary in terms of how much aggravation this situation causes me.

Why can't we have indy phone companies to avoid the crap in the same way that we have indy movie theatres to avoid the crap?

Back after a brief hiatus...

As many of you already know, I cracked the screen of my laptop some time in May, and waited until now to have it repaired. I am very happy with the service that TechRestore provided, and I now have my laptop aka my baby back with me.

I am back in Oceanside for a few days before departing for the UK on Sunday, September 2nd. Two nights ago, I went with Koller to see Superbad. It was good. I understand the hype - but what I noticed (in a theatre where we were surrounded by 10-15 year olds, some of whom haven't yet achieved puberty according to the high tones of their laughs) was that some of the jokes were way too far above the plebians' heads. And for that, I appreciated the film.

I thought that with my retirement from 34th Street Magazine that my days as a movie critic were over. This is not based in fact, as I now find myself critiquing movies more than ever, only without an official audience.

I've totally transformed myself into the quintessential arthouse flick dork. In Philly, I had the Ritz Theatres and on Long Island I have the Malverne Cinema. For a variety of reasons including overcrowding, rowdy/uninterested audiences, and the poor/stupid quality of films, I've decided that from this point forward, I will no longer step foot in mainstream movie theatres or multiplexes. Radical, huh? Well, I've always been somewhat of a maverick.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

A Paul Simon Cover Band

Is anyone else interested in starting a Paul Simon cover band? I explicitly say Paul Simon rather than Simon and Garfunkel, because I've heard from numerous inside sources that Garfunkel is not a particularly nice man. And Simon wrote all of the music and lyrics anyway, so it should be ok.

But a major problem is that I don't play guitar. Maybe I can just manage said band.

There appears to already be an Italian Paul Simon cover band with the witty title, Graceband, but these Italian rockers are anything like the other Italians I've encountered in my extensive travels to the Old Country, then it's probably horribly disorganized and unreliable.

Please express interest to sidneymorsels at gmail

Monday, August 20, 2007

Words of Wisdom

A reader/fan fom California, Avital, commented to me: Did you know that there is a quote from Judaism which says, " Each person has three names: one our parents give us, one our friends call us, and one we acquire for ourselves." so there you have it...just more justification of the name change.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

A hell of a town...

Stephen Morse: Sidney Morsels
New Amsterdam: New York

Figure it out.

Some weekend ramblings:

1. I just ate pizza at 3:00am, and I would never have eaten this pizza at 3:00pm, because it would have looked to gross for words, but it was good.

2. Tip taxi drivers well, especially when they make it 40 blocks without hitting a single red light.

3. In Philadelphia, I've noticed that Market Street has been sub-named "Avenue of Technology" in an attempt to be like New York in that 6th Avenue is the "Avenue of the Americas" etc. There is no technology on Market Street in Philly except for the El that has been around for a hundred years.

4. Please add this establishment to your RSS feed, if you believe in RSS feeds.

5. I've drank my last beer, from now on it is only red wine for me (lots of flavanoids and reservatols according to Men's Health, the best magazine ever invented).

6. Perhaps the most interesting non-incident of the evening was observing a drunk bar attendee peeing on the door of what looked to be an Asian-Porno-Club, and when the bouncer stepped outside, he was unknowingly urinated on by the drunk clubber doing his bees wax.

To sleep, and beyond.

New York and Sidney Morsels will always have a paradoxical relationship. It may never be right, ever.

Friday, August 17, 2007

What's in a name?

For the first 21 years of my life, I have been known affectionately by variations of my name, SRM, SM Cool (age 6), Grandma, The Captain, and a variety of other names. But one nickname resonates with me more than the others. That name is Morsels, and I want to make the name mine. And now, i think I will. I do enjoy the name Morse immensely, but having the name Morsels gives me the benefit of retaining the Morse within it and also allowing myself to be called by another of my favorite nicknames. There are too many Morse's in the world, and not enough Morsels, so I'd like to differentiate myself from the pack.

Yes, I invented the surname Morsels. But Morse has only been in my family for 50 years, since my grandpa changed our name from one that is much more ethnic, Moskowitz. Thus, I have no obligation to live with Morse forever.

Though I haven't been overt about it with my parents, I was never really fond of the name Stephen. It is too commonplace for me, and I always had to contend with other Stephen's (even though they're usually spelled Steven) in my classes growing up. I don't like being just another Stephen, regardless of how it's spelled. I want to be me. So after many hours of research in the library of the Brandeis-Bardin Institute, I decided that the name Sidney fit me a lot more than Stephen. Stephen means"crowned" like a king, but I am not a king of anything, and I don't desire to ever be one. I'm an independent, not a monarchist.

Stephen Robert Morse is perhaps the most Anglo-Saxon-sounding name in the world. And I am neither Anglo nor Saxon, at least not yet anyway.

And yes, my ego takes a hit every time I Google the name Stephen Morse and some web-site designer is the first hit and the Professor of Law and Psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania is up there too and some genetics researcher at Yale and some poet from California who all had a twenty or thirty or forty year head start on me to make themselves known. And there's some rock musician from the mid-West named Steve Morse, but I never went by Steve anyway so it doesn't hurt me as much.


I'm not asking people I've already known to call me anything but the names they already know me by, but the grandfather clause is optional, and should you decide to call me Sid, Sidney, Morse, Morsey, or Morsels, I will answer.

On the bright side, if you ever are disappointed after googling yourself, check this out.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The age of me is now.

Sidney Morsels has arrived!