Friday, March 30, 2007

That Friday Feeling, again

I spent most of yesterday thinking it was Friday, so I'm looking forward to the weekend all over again.

So, once there lived a man called Hyman L. Lipman. I guess being named Hyman, he had something to prove. Today in 1858 he patented his idea of attaching an eraser to the top of a pencil.

He was probably called Rubberhead after that.

Check out the wizard to see the name's inexplicable burst of popularity at the turn of the twentieth century.

In other news, today is Paul Reiser's birthday, like we needed a reason to rewatch Diner:
"You know what word I'm not comfortable with? Nuance. It's not a real word. Like gesture: gesture's a real word. With gesture you know where you stand. But nuance? I don't know. Maybe I'm wrong."


Thursday, March 29, 2007

A whole other world

I realise I'm probably the last person on earth to notice this, but here goes...

I kept confusing The Illusionist and The Prestige, and went online to differentiate the two. And I found them both - the actual movies. Both of them.

And so led to the underworld of movies and tv online.

With movies, everything is there, and it's not like it's hidden away: Miss Potter is on Google videos for heaven's sake. There's stuff that hasn't been released yet: 88 Minutes (the new Al Pacino film, which is awful) and The Number 23 and Frank Miller's 300 (which I just refuse to see except on the biggest screen available).

The stuff appears and disappears constantly. The guys who upload them disguise the contents, so you probably couldn't search for 300 and find it (for example, Lost is labelled as Not Found). You can only get to them via portal sites, like this one.

Forget the threat of youtube; that features only snippets of things. The problem is with brilliant streaming sites like where you can put up an entire movie in one go. What a copyright nightmare: it's like trying to control the music someone plays in their home when they have friends over.

And so for the lady out there who is addicted to House, you can find Season 3 here or here or here or here (some will break episodes down; some post entire episodes as a single link).

As for me, I took advantage of this discovery to revisit The Tick. What a hero, with his mighty battlecry of 'Spoon!'...

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The Question Bug

This little fellah has taken up residence on my bedroom wall, where he muses on imponderable philosophical questions.

Time to get the hoover out.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

A pastry high

As a special treat, here's the pastelaria van.

This van is often seen going from snack bar to snack bar around the neighbourhood, delivering fresh pastries and breads. Scrummy.

But once upon a time I had a visitor; let's call them The One Who Sees Conspiracies Everywhere. I got up in the morning to find them staring out of the kitchen window, checking up and down the road. They'd seen something very strange. A van had pulled up about 7am, queer-like. A man had got out and crossed over to the place across the road. He was carrying something. The other man waited in the van. He was smoking. It was probably a drugs drop-off.

Or a pastry delivery. Cuck-koo!

Two things happened after that:

1) we happened to hear on the radio that there was a massive drug-smuggling ring whose leader lived in Portugal. Which means there is no convincing TOWSCE that the pastelaria van is innocent.

2) every time I see the nefarious pastelaria van I either start laughing, or take a photo, or both. I tried to take this one surreptitiously from my kitchen window, but they noticed me. So the end result is that I'm the one everyone thinks is bat-crazy.

Monday, March 26, 2007

A lemur by any other name

Over coffee with the Codebreakers this morning, we got on to the subject of lemurs. As you do.

One of the most famous kinds of lemurs is the indri lemur. Scientists are always setting up camp in Madagascar to study them. Locals guide them through the jungle, point up at the lemurs and say "indri, indri".

It turns out that indri is not the Malagasy name of the lemur. Indri actually means 'Look! Up there!'

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Inbetweeny Stops

Pictured is another type of bus stop: it's not real, but not quite imaginary.

It's across the road from a real bus stop, so theoretically there's a reason why a bus might stop there.

It's wafer-thin reasoning, but there you go.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Hidden laws

Sitting in my third café of the day, pondering imaginary bus stops.

They’re different from the actual bus stops, which give themselves away by having a sign or timetable or even a shelter. These imaginary ones don’t have any of that stuff, but they work nevertheless. They’re probably on ley lines or something.

What makes them interesting is they aren't just for getting on the bus; they work both ways. If you press the stop button, the bus might continue on to the real bus stop or it might stop at an imaginary one (at a blind corner, for example, where all you can do is step down into the halted traffic and try not to look sheepish).

I'm currently in a nice café round the corner from home: if you order wine the nice man brings you over a little snack with your drink. The brilliant advantage of being out is that if you take away tv and the internet, it turns out that I write happily for hours. [I'm just on a little break to write this.]

Later: He’s just given me the password to log onto the café’s broadband connection, which may scupper the whole dedicated-writing-biosphere. Perhaps I'll just log on to post this...

Thursday, March 22, 2007

The jittery down side

It would appear the disadvantage to hanging out in cafes all day is that one drinks significantly more coffee than normal.

And if once upon a time you happened to order an extra strength coffee, that's what the nice man behind the counter thinks you want, every time. Even when you clearly order the normal version, he defaults back to the super strong stuff.

The obvious solution is to switch to beer or wine...

Another glorious rationalisation.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Choose weather words carefully

Sometimes there's an awkward moment to phone conversations, when people ask what the weather's like.

I never know whether to play down the sunshine. Sometimes I mention storms, but storms here are so dramatic they don't come across as very negative. It's more obvious when skyping, when I have to scout out the darkest corner of the apartment so the webcam can function.

I've learned not to say that I feel chilly. We get talking temperatures and people, well, they scoff.

In other news, congrats to Dennis on his Ronnie Scott's nomination for best trombone! Superb :)

Aah the hammering has just started again. Off to sit in a cafe for the afternoon.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Barmy block

Mayhem reigns in the apartment block.

German Porn Man has been to see his lawyer about the noise of the building work. He's been writing letters to Landlady, which is causing her stress. And she can't have stress.

Three guys have just left having technically 'fixed' my terrace door. They put on new hinges and drilled it back upright, but they planed the warped door without sealing the wood so as soon as it rains it'll bloat up again. About as far-sighted as a short-sighted thing.

And the Codebreakers had a little flood, which has now abated. We're just waiting for a plague of locusts now...

Monday, March 19, 2007

Can I get extra mice with that?

Perfect evening for pizza and red wine.

I might try the Dom Carlo tonight.

They'd need to hold the mushrooms though; they have a tendency to make the dough go grey.

And that would be yukky.

Later: a close up of the special ingredient. This is probably way too normal for a Royston Vasey pizza...

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Codey Capers

In another eclectic conversation with Mr C today, we somehow roamed from the Battle of Thermopylae to Rennes-le-Château. Who doesn't adore madey-uppy conspiracy theories!

At a conference seven or eight years ago I met an archaeologist who was all mysterious innuendo about a place called Rennes-le-Château. The name rang a bell, and I wondered "That's not that loopy Holy-Blood-and-the-Holy-Grail place, with the bloodline of Jesus traced through King Clovis and the Merovingian kings, ooooh creepy..."

I wondered this aloud. It turns out it was Mr Archaeologist's life work. Ahem. I made my excuses and went to be somewhere that was away.

Anyhoo, part of the R-L-C myth is that super-secret 18th-century parchments were 'discovered' by a cleric in 1891. They were in code, but the cleric managed to decipher it; they hinted at hidden treasure yadda yadda yadda.

It turns out that Mr C was consulted about these parchments, to get a Codebreaker's point of view (which was that they were madey-uppy).

Of course, since The Dastardly Da Vinci Codswallop the conspiracy is more popular than ever. Can you imagine if everyone who has read that book also read Foucault's Pendulum? The world would be a smarter place, and we'd all smile more.

Off to read this book in the sunshine now, and appreciate a day without apartment-gutting noises filling the air.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Hammering home

They're gutting one of the apartments in the building, which involves continuous staccato hammering noise from 8.30am-6.30pm.

It finally got to me today - took refuge in the cinema (The Good Shepherd - a packed house with five other people there).

Hoping to get some work done over the weekend.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Bunch of utter rot

Yesterday a cryptic note was pushed under the door: Have you ever had Noble Rot?? Join us tomorrow for lunch. It's from NZ.

The Codebreakers strike again.

The world of noble rot was all news to me. Apparently if you let vines become infected with some fungus called botrytis cinerea, and then you harvest the grapes, it makes a fabulous wine. Mr C described in detail the furry manky grapes that go into it, and seemed surprised that I was begging to be left in ignorance (I explained there's no such thing as botrytis in Orlaith-Land).

So (having had a bottle of wine with lunch) we then opened up the noble (semillon) rot. It smelled like nectar of the gods. And it tasted just like it smelled.

Almost time for my nap now. May be able to squeeze in an episode of Boston Legal beforehand. I'd never seen it before - for the first few minutes I was thinking 'a legal West Wing' until James Spader says "I can't speak that quickly". Brilliant.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Music to watch girls by

I's a very stare-ey culture here. I mean, everyone stares, but guys really stare, as though each female biped was the first one they'd ever seen.

It's the kind of place where if you're waiting for the bus, a car might stop to have a good look and make some remark. Just stop - in the middle of the road. I know many guys believe that women are secretly flattered by anonymous unprovoked leery attention. Not so much. You quickly learn to keep an ipod on at all times.

But today made up for all. I was wandering along to the new fabulous fresh veg shop when a car pulled up on the other side of the road. And it was the local postie, waving an Amazon package (should be Boston Legal).

In other news, it is a glorious day.

PS - Obviously I won't open the package until after I've done a day's work. Because that would be wrong.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Lost for words

This morning Landlady appeared well, early. When I answered the door she demanded to know why I wasn't wearing any shoes. The fact that I was in my dressing gown and brushing my teeth would have been a giveaway for some people...

Anyhoo, so began a whirlwind adventure of a day.

At some point I asked if 'orla' meant edge here (I didn't even start on flaaaange). It doesn't; Landlady said it might mean something in Lisbon, but not here.

It struck me how uncurious people are about words here. One night I was out for dinner and when the waiter brought over the pepper mill I asked him what it was called in portuguese. He had no idea.

How does that work? How do you spend your days in a room with objects and not have words for them. Even makey-uppy words, like 'the wooden pepper thingeydoobewhatzit'.


Monday, March 12, 2007

If only it was lost in translation

Why does bad music sound so much worse in a foreign language cover version?

You'd think no matter what you did to it, Have you ever really loved a woman couldn't get any more dreadful. I was in a store this morning and a Portuguese version of it was blaring without mercy. After a few minutes I realised it was on a continuous loop. It was on its fourth iteration by the time I fled.

There's got to be some EU working-conditions-directive that deals with this...

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Global market

Stunning weekend. Yesterday I was sharing a bottle of wine with the Codebreakers (it being after 11am, oh and Mrs C is technically a Keybreaker rather than a Codebreaker; I could try and explain the difference but my brain has just stopped hurting) - anyway, wine with the Codebreakers: so we got talking about China, jade, carving, and onto stone name seals.

So I showed them my little stamp of 'Orlaith'. My brother bought it in Stanley Market, Hong Kong - where coincidentally, Mrs C had bought the cardigan she happened to be wearing. The world felt small.

Weather's been fabulous - everyone's starting to look tawny again.

Friday, March 09, 2007

A bit of skirt

In Irish, 'Orlaith' translates as golden-haired princess.

In Brazilian Portuguese it means border, hem, rim, skirt, web and worst of all flange.

Few words are more ill-sounding than 'flange'. Flaaaange. Euchk.

Luckily here, 'Orla' means nothing at all - Madeirans waver between 'Ola' (which means Hi) and 'Orrrhhhla'; Germans add a few more 'rrrrrs' and the English start with 'Oila' and graduate to 'Awla'.

All of which outshine flaaaaaange. What a word.

Anyhoo, must go write something before sitting-in-the-sun time commences. For those who asked what the plaits were like, here's a picture...

Thursday, March 08, 2007

The spaghetti is out there

One religion on the rise is the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. The Pastafarian faith began as a protest - when the Kansas schoolboard ruled that the theory of intelligent design was to be taught alongside that of evolution.

Basically, it claims that the creator of the universe is, well, a big flying spaghetti monster.

Instead of the 10 Commandments it has the Eight I'd really rather you didn'ts.

But its crowning glory is that those representing the faith should dress as pirates. That's gotta be winning over converts by the thousand.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Caption Competition

Well, 'competition' is probably the wrong word.

However, the Codebreakers got their Christmas photos developed, and are smitten with this pair.

But they're looking for a suitable caption...

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Monday, March 05, 2007

Approach with caution

In between films yesterday I got a nice lady from Senegal to do a few beaded plaits in my hair.

I guess there's a knack to brushing mostly-unplaited-hair. Some technique that involves being very slow and careful...

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Going through the motions

Aah the games we play. The cinema ticket guy spends ages going through where I'd like to sit - refers me to little schematics of the theatres I'll be in - what row would I like, whereabouts in that row...

As though we don't know perfectly well that I'll have the place entirely to myself (for both Scoop and Hollywoodland).

Weather's been fab all weekend - there are some dramatic clouds just rolling in now.

Friday, March 02, 2007

A case of ignorance equalling bliss

Landlady appeared in a flurry of anxiety (something about that medical condition of hers - the one that I haven't translated yet, the one that pure lemon juice helps to alleviate).

Anyhoo, her doctor said she wasn't to be alone anymore because it causes her stress. Would I like to come for coffee?

Man I am so easily guilted into things.

So over coffee she talks about the panicky condition. The doctor told her that she's not to suffer any stress at all, she just needs total calm in her life. Total calm.

I listen and nod and make the right condolencey-sounds.

And while I'm doing that, I try to gauge when and how I should tell her that the terrace door was ripped off its hinges by the last storm.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Words for every occasion

Aaah the Hallmark™ Journeys range. For every situation in modern life. Is someone you know getting out of rehab? Feel you should send a card? Then this is the range for you. It covers eating disorders, hair loss from chemo, going through IVF, and my favourite - getting fired:

I'm sorry you lost your job, but please remember that your job is not who you are. You have many great qualities, and that's what really matters.

So until someone appreciates your unique abilities, I hope you'll take pride in all you've accomplished and realize how much you have yet to give.

I don't question that there's a need for people to demonstrate support in these circumstances; I just wonder what people write on the card that already says it all, often in rhyme.

I think it's such a cop-out when someone signs only their name, with no actual personal message. If they left the card blank altogether at least it could be reused...