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