Dec. 16th, 2008

peterbirks: (Default)
I went to renew my season ticket yesterday. £968 thank you very much. I know that this is a mere snippet to the likes of you who travel first class from Dumfries to Penzance every day, or whatever, but it's a minor irritant to me, once a year.

Anyhow, there was one person being served at the till at Lewisham and, about six feet further back, a south-east Asian young guy, probably Vietnamese, was standing, looking up at the platform indicator screens, which are situated above the cashier windows. Behind him stood another man. Was this guy looking at the screens, or was he queueing? Or both?

So, thinking that communication is good, I asked him.

"Er, are you in a queue or are you looking to see what times the trains are leaving?" I asked.

He then (and this is the point of the story), looked at me, and laughed that nervous laugh that seems intrinsic to many people the second that they have been put outside their comfort zone. He didn't say anything. It was just a laugh as if I had gone up to him and asked him if he had seen my pet duck Goering. As if I was some kind of nutter.

I'm used to this these days. Even the most sensible question to strangers seems to generate the nervous laugh that is code for "Are you a nutter who is about to stab me?"

Indeed, I'm so used to it, that I know exactly what to do when the laugh happens. You just stand there, staring quizzically at the laugher, without saying anything.

This, apparently, is non-verbal code for "I am not a nutter; it's a genuine question, you plonker."

After about ten seconds, the laugher realizes that their previous non-verbal response was insuffficient, and that, shock of horrors, they are actually going to have to speak, and in English, to boot.

I don't know why he was worried; he was a Vietnamese American. He said; "it's a queue". And then I laughed and said "I guess you were looking for the yellow line that you have to stand behind", since these seem de rigeur in US airport check-ins. It's possible that he'd never actually queued up for a train ticket in the US, and so he was adopting the US default "six-feet back" position of the yellow line, as seen in their airports when queueing up to check in.


My quad helix was removed this morning, after two years in place. The braces remain (for another couple of months) but they are minor irritations compared to having a twisted lump of metal in the roof of your mouth and stuck against the inside of your upper side teeth.

To compound my joy, the dentist's receptionist looked at me curiously as I handed over my debit card for the monthly attack on my current account.

"I don't think there is anything to pay", she said.

She checked with the orthodontist and, apparently, I'm all paid up for the whole treatment. I thought that I still had about £650 to pay, and I'm still not convinced that I am wrong and they are right. Two more sessions to go, anyway.

I celebrated my sudden riches by buying a docking station from Morgan for my Creative Zen, only to realize when I got it home that it was the wrong type of Creative Zen. My one doesn't fit. Bleaagh. I suppose that I could buy the cheapo StonePlus Creative Zen, just to put it in the speaker dock....

And I picked up a Pure Move DAB portable radio, plus a Nikon 7600 as a prezzie. And, counting my win at the dentist, I was still ninety quid to the good. Excellent.


Watched "Elizabethtown" last night. Cameron Crowe is certainly an oddball director, but I remained a staunch fan of his despite the mixed reviews for Vanilla Sky.

However, "Elizaabethtown" was that rare creature -- a film deservedly mauled by the critics. Perhaps I am the wrong age for thee film, and guys in their twenties or early thirties will come out of the film saying "Man, that was sooo true...".

Unfortunately, it didn't really have a plot. There was no narrative. It was, as it were, a non-story. It wasn't so much not a page turner as not really a story with any pages at all. It wasnn't even a collection of set-pieces. And it reached its nadir with Susan Sarandon's widow speech at the memorial. For once, I blessed DVD and the fast-forward button. You can't do THAT in the cinema.

If you had to describe the film, it would be a kind of "rite of passage for grown-ups". And it has its moments. Kirsten Dunst is, I am pleased to say, bloody good. And Orlando Bloom's performance is also strong. But the rest of it comes across as a director trying to be Altman who, to be blunt, isn't Altman. Why is this character there? What's his or her part in the plot development? The annswer, I fear, is, "he's just there. That's it", as if to demand more is to be old-fashioned.

The problem is, you just end up not caring.


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