tiaras optional

"My only argument is with those who do not view the world as cynically as I do." Michael Korda

Friday, May 27, 2005

Bits and bobs

This morning

I am in the bathroom, putting on makeup, when I notice a drop of blood in the sink. At first, I think I have cut myself, but I can’t find a cut. I look in the mirror and realize that the blood is coming from my nose. Not a full-blown nosebleed, but still really gross. My allergies have been really bad this month, and my nose is a stuffed-up, dried-out mess. I am now paranoid that my nose will spring a leak at work. I may have to do the old-lady-who-keeps-a-tissue-stuffed-up-her-sleeve routine for the rest of the day.

For shame

I am embarrassed to admit this, but the other evening, I couldn’t face another night with Stephen Hindley’s A Short History of the Crusades (great book, but I needed something a little lighter weight), so I bought this week’s issues of US Weekly and In Touch. Yes, I know, it’s bad, but sometimes you just need that kind of fix (I did feel myself getting dumber as I read them). It was unnecessary to buy both of them, since they are virtually the same magazine. I think In Touch came later, so I guess it has completely ripped off the US Weekly formula. You can’t argue with success, right? They both had big stories about the alarming slimness of Lindsay and Nicole. Ho hum. Thin, marginally talented starlets, whatever. They both had the requisite Angelina-Brad-Jen story (In Touch: “Brad wants to adopt?”; US: “Jen to have sexy makeover so she can be more like Angelina!”). Mentions of Bennifer 2 in both (“Jen buys baby clothes!). Lame Star Wars stories (“Ewan and Hayden are hot!”). Not much on the Nick and Jessica juggernaut (that phrase works on so many levels), but these issues came out before the faux divorce story hit the internet. Plenty of pics of badly dressed celebrities, the part I like best. One problem with these magazines is that in order to fill 80 pages or whatever, they inevitably turn to the B and C list stars. Supporting cast members of CSI spin-offs: definitely B list. Jenny McCarthy: totally C list. Stick to the A list, people, that’s what we all want. Well, me at least. How sad is it that I am actually considering getting a subscription to US?


Last weekend, they replaced some carpet down the hall from my office. The toxic fumes are still really bad. They’ve been making me light-headed all week. The smell is only just starting to dissipate. My big concern is that sooner or later they are going to want to do this in my office. I don’t think I can stand being in such close proximity to all that toxicity. Maybe they will let me work at home for a week or two.

This weekend

I’ll be getting my bbq on at least once. I’ll hopefully catch up with some friends in from out of town. Other than that, not too much planned. Hope everyone has a great weekend. I leave you with this celebrity gossip tidbit. It’s not for the faint of heart (or stomach).

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Odds and Ends

All sorts of important things going on in the world these days. Newsweek causing riots in the Middle East. Something about filibusters. New advances in stem cell research. But thinking about these topics gives me a headache, and let’s face it, there are way more interesting things happening right now.

For example:

1. Are they or aren’t they? E! Online reported Nick and Jessica’s imminent divorce, then quickly retracted the statement. Jessica issued a stern denial to US Weekly. Ok, honestly, I don’t care about their marriage at all, but I am hoping that if they divorce, they will stop being everywhere.

2. Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes. I don’t really know what to say about this one. Real or not, the whole thing is way creepy. Actually, it’s mostly Tom who is creeping me out these days. What’s up with him? And did you hear those nasty things he said about poor Brooke Shields taking Paxil for her crippling postpartum depression? As a Scientologist, he doesn’t believe in the use of psychiatric drugs. He recommends vitamins instead. Like he has any idea what postpartum depression is like. When will this PR blitz end?

3. These fascinating celebrity tidbits from the Scoop: Britney gave away one of her dogs because the dog doesn’t like K-Fed (i.e., the dog has good taste?). Celebrities have wacky entourages. Hayden Christensen may give up acting for architecture. Funny, after seeing Episode III, I thought he had already given up acting.

4. My ongoing sick fascination with Sienna Miller. I ask, once again, why anyone thinks she’s a fashion icon. Exhibits A and B. (For the record, I once had a very similar hat. In 1992). To be fair, Jude isn’t really living up to his “best dressed” status either in these photos.

5. Last night’s season finale of House. Am I the only one who watches this show? Anyway, it was really great. If you haven’t been watching this show, you definitely should be. Hugh Laurie is amazing.

Monday, May 23, 2005


Today, I’m tackling a topic that you probably won’t expect to see in my blog: Star Wars. Brian and I went to see Episode III over the weekend. Since Episodes I and II were so awful, I didn’t really have very high hopes for the final installment, but deep down, there was a small part of me that hoped that I would be proven wrong. Unfortunately, this didn’t happen. The movie isn’t totally awful, and it’s definitely better than the last two, but it’s still not good. I really loved the original Star Wars movies, even the slightly silly Return of the Jedi. Maybe Episode III suffers from the fact that the audience already knows what is going to happen: Anakin Shywalker is going to go over to the Dark Side and become Darth Vadar. However, even with this foreknowledge, theoretically, the transformation should be interesting to watch, right? Well, not so much. His journey from noble Jedi to evil servant to the Emperor is just way too fast and the motivation just doesn’t really seem to be there. He’s such a whiny pain in the ass that him suddenly becoming big bad ass Darth Vadar just doesn’t seem plausible. A big part of his transformation has to do with his supposed great love for his wife Senator (formerly Queen) Amidala, but these two characters have zero chemistry together. Remember Han Solo and Princess Leia? They were a hot couple. Anakin and Amidala are about as exciting to watch as Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes. The movie has all sorts of cool action sequences and nifty CGI tricks, but it all left me cold, because I couldn’t help thinking that if George Lucas has spent a little less time on the gee whiz stuff and a little more time on characterization, this would have been a much better story.

Last night, we watched the first half of the original Star Wars. I felt like I had to do that, to remember what I liked about these movies in the first place. It still holds up. Yes, it looks dated in some ways, and the special effects aren’t much in terms of what we are used to today, but the story really works, and that’s the most important thing.

On other movie notes, we also watched Napoleon Dynamite over the weekend. It was cute and pretty funny, but it didn’t blow me away. People have really raved about this film, and I’m wondering if I missed something. Is it one of those movies you have to watch over and over again?

Last weekend, we saw Kingdom of Heaven, which I loved. I’m a huge history dork, so this movie was totally my kind of thing. I’ve been reading A Short History of the Crusades, so it was very timely for me. The reviews haven’t been very good, but I was pretty impressed with it overall, and I thought Orlando Bloom was really good in it, and I haven’t been bowled over by him in the past. I don’t want to be too unfair to Orlando—part of my not thinking he’s such a great actor was based on Troy, and it’s not like he was the only one in that movie who wasn’t good. Pretty much everyone sucked.

Another movie recommendations for me? We finally joined Netflix (still holding out on cable though), so I’m trying to catch up on stuff I’ve missed in the last year or two. I tend not to see a lot of movies during the summer, since it’s not the best time for thoughtful or subtle movies. Before Episode III, they did show a bunch of previews of blockbusters, all of which seemed to have lots of stuff blowing up.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Poor girl

In a previous post (third one down), I discussed celebrities that annoy the heck out of me. One of them is Sienna Miller. One of the many reasons she annoys me is that she has been cast as my high school idol Edie Sedgwick (I no longer call her my idol, because I am now a mature adult who does not find the lives of rich, stylish, WASP drug addicts/Warhol muses glamourous--well not most of the time anyway). However, Sienna has apparently been relieved of her duties. Her camp says it was "scheduling conflicts," but the other sources indicate that they decided to go "in another direction." Sadly, that other direction may be Katie Holmes, but I don't have any major issues with her, since she was actually famous before she began dating Tom Cruise.

The Big Trip, Part 3

I have been really lazy about getting to next part of the London trip. No excuses here, but I read back over the first two London posts, and they are just ridiculously long, so I will try to make this next one a lot more concise.

Getting up Sunday morning was pretty ugly, but we made it to the dock in time for the 9 a.m. ferry and caught the 10:40 train to London. That was definitely the longest train ride ever. When we finally did make it to London, the weather was really warm, probably the high 70s, which is not usual for London I think. We got to our flat in Notting Hill, which was adorable. Two bedrooms, a fully equipped kitchen, and a the cutest little balcony from which to enjoy the lovely weather. Downside: it was the top floor of the house, so there was a lot of stair climbing, which is not the most fun with 18 suitcases.

Our new friends from the wedding, Emily and Brian, came over that evening and made up dinner. They are the kind of new friends we want to keep around.

By Monday morning, I was not feeling so well. I came down with a massive head cold and had managed to do something weird to my right leg so that it hurt whenever I moved it (perhaps too much dancing on that unforgiving slate floor at the fort on Saturday night?). However, despite my ailments, I kept on moving, figuring I could recover when I got back. Here’s a brief rundown of what we did in London:

Monday: Walked through Notting Hill area and Holland Park. Went to Lord Leighton’s House (Victorial painter whose amazing house has been preserved and contains a lot of interesting paintings). Went to the Victoria and Albert Museum, where I saw a great exhibit of Queen Maud of Norway’s dresses, which ranged from the 1890s to early 1930s (she was the daughter of King Edward VII of Great Britain). Also checked out the plaster cast and a few other things. Picked up some food and cooked it at the flat.

Tuesday: Spent morning in bed unable to breathe. In the afternoon, we went to the National Gallery to see the Caravaggio exhibit, which was absolutely worth it. He is one of my favorite artists, but I have not seen many of his paintings in person, and at this exhibit, I got to see 16 of them. Also checked out some Renaissance and Baroque paintings. Took a walk down Charing Cross Road and wandered around a few bookstores. Again, stayed in and cooked in the flat (there’s a Marks and Spencer Simply Food in Notthing Hill, which has all sorts of great food that just needs to be heated up).

Wednesday: In the morning, we went to St. Paul’s Cathedral. Really beautiful, although I think that more interesting people are buried at Westminster Abbey (St. Paul’s has a lot of military dead people, and Westminster Abbey has more literary and artistic dead people). Around lunchtime, we grabbed yet more great sandwiches from Pret a Manger (a staple of my visits to London and the best sandwiches ever) and then moved our bags to our hotel, the Royal National. The hotel is a little dreary, but it’s in a great location, right above Russell Square and about 100 feet from the British Museum, where we spent the afternoon. For a history and art dork like me, the British Museum is like Mecca. Among the things we checked out: Lindow Man (a 2000-year-old preserved Celtic burial found in a peat bog); the Sutton Hoo hoard (a Viking burial); lots of Celtic, Viking, Byzantine, and other jewelry; the Parthenon marbles (never know when they might have to give them back); loads of Egyptian mummy cases; and the Rosetta Stone. This place rocks. I picked up a new biography of Anne Boleyn and a short history of the Crusades, something I’ve been wanting the read about for a while. That evening, we went back to the flat to see Ann. Colin made fettucine carbonara, which was great, but I had pretty much lost my sense of taste at this point, so I didn’t get as much out of it as everyone else.

Thursday: The morning began rather badly when we got trapped in an elevator at the hotel right after breakfast. We were only in there for about 10 minutes, but I am seriously claustrophobic and was about one minute away from a panic attack by the time they got us out. Even though we were on the seventh floor, I insisted on taking the stairs for the rest of the trip (luckily, my severe leg pain was mostly cleared up by this point). We spent the morning at the Sir John Soane’s House. He was an 18th-century architect who designed the Bank of England. His house has been preserved exactly as it was in his lifetime. It’s an amazing collection of Roman artifacts and lots of interesting art from his time. After that, we wandered around the Inns of Court and Temple Bar, the British legal district. I really wanted to see the Temple Church, which was once the headquarters of the Knights Templar in England during the Middle Ages. This kind of thing is gravy to a history dork like myself. It was really hard to find and we wandered around in circles for a half-hour before finally stumbling upon it. Unfortunately, it wasn’t open, but I got some good pictures of the outside. It’s one of the few medieval buildings to survive the Great Fire of London in the 1660s, and it’s one of very few circular churches left in Europe. There were a bunch of other tourists trying to see it too, so I think its appearance in The Da Vinci Code has made it a popular destination.

In the afternoon, we went to the National Portrait Gallery and looked at portraits from the 16th through 18th centuries (and a few modern ones). Again, this is a great place for history dorks! After that, we didn’t want to sit in our hotel room until going out for dinner, so I suggested we find a pub nearby and have a drink. The pub we ended up going to, the Bloomsbury, turned out to be one we had been in on our last trip to London. It was really cute, and we relaxed over a couple of drinks for the rest of the afternoon. That evening, we had dinner at a very cool Chinese restaurant called Poon’s (I know, I giggled too). Then we went back to our hotel, packed, and watched the election returns (that will be its own post).

Friday: Finished packing, checked out of the hotel, and hung out in Russell Square enjoying the beautiful day for a while. Then we took a cab to Paddington, where we caught the Heathrow Express and found our way back to the airport. We were so early for our flight that we couldn’t even check it yet, but that was fine—I would rather be early than worrying about missing the flight. We spent a few leftover pounds on silly stuff at the airport (magazines and chocolates). The flight was long and we hit turbulence for about four of the eight hours we were in the air, but it wasn’t too bad. The film selection wasn’t too exciting, and I watched Analyze This! and a few History Channel documentaries. Brian’s parents picked us up at the airport and we told them we were engaged. They were very happy. Eventually, we made our way home and I collapsed into bed. It was a great trip, but pretty exhausting, and I still had my cold.

Well, it's another long post, but at least I didn't do 1000 words per day.

Monday, May 16, 2005

I think my head is about to explode

Seriously, wedding planning is giving me that head-exploding sensation a lot these days. What is wrong with me? If i were a true, red-blooded American bride, I would be excited by all this. Instead, I look at bridal magazines and feel like I'm hyperventilating.

My mother just told me that she had to tell my grandmother that we're not getting married in a church. My grandmother didn't take it all that well. It actually never occurred to me that this would be an issue since, although I was technically raised Catholic, we only ever went to church on Christmas or when my grandparents were visiting, but I guess she is just used to the whole tradition thing and think it's weird. I have never really practiced any religion except in the most nominal sense. I never go to church except for weddings and funerals. Brian was raised Catholic but stopped going to church in high school. He is very much against any kind of religious ceremony, and frankly, I am too. I feel like it would be hypocritical to get married in a church that I have no intention of worshipping in. (As an aside, my mother also said, "I didn't know Brian was an atheist." This information apparently came from Colin. Thanks, man. I had to explain to her that he was more of an agnostic, but whatever.) So, my grandmother isn't too happy, but she did tell my mother that at least it would be easier for me to get an annulment later on. Thanks for the vote of confidence, Nana.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

The Big Trip, Part 2

Now that we were at our hotel, and I could actually put my ridiculously heavy bags (note to self: learn how to pack) down and flop on the bed, I was beginning to feel much better. I took a shower, and I began to feel almost human again. I want to sleep more than anything, but I know I need some food. Brian and I go out to wander around for a while before dinner. It’s raining really lightly and my glasses keep fogging up, so I can barely see anything. I really should get contacts, but I haven’t bothered yet, since I don’t wear them that much. We walk down to the beach, but it’s really foggy,. so you can’t see much. The rehearsal dinner is being held at a restaurant called the View, but apparently, there wasn’t much of one. After giving up on siteseeing for the day, we head back to the inn and settle in for dinner. They were’t serving yet, so we had drink. I am wondering at this point if I can handle a glass of wine on my empty stomach and no sleep, but it actually made me feel much better. Maybe my theory of wine settling your stomach is actually true.

Dinner was really amazing and a lot of fun. I think I had lamb chops, but in my sleep-deprived state, the evening is a bit of a blur. A guy walks up to our table and asks if he can join us for dinner. We say yes, and I am thinking, wow, the locals are really friendly. After a few minutes, I realize that he is a fellow wedding guest who recognized us from the trip here. What can I say, my brain was just not functioning at full capacity. His name is Richard and he is from New Zealand. I restrain myself from asking any questions about hobbits and elves.

To my surprise, I actually stay awake until around 11, when I toddle off to bed. I sleep like a log. When I wake up in the morning, I find that sometime during the night, I removed my earplugs (yes, I know it’s weird, but you try living with a heavy sleeping snorer). I have no memory of this. In the morning, we have breakfast at the inn. I have the full English breakfast, which is amazing—eggs, fried bread, sausage, bacon, beans, tomatoes, and mushrooms. I also add several slices of toast loaded with butter. Hell, I’m on vacation.

After breakfast, Brian and I pull ourselves together and do some exploring. We are staying in Cawsand, which is right next to another tiny but beautiful town, Kingsand. There really isn’t a demarcation between the two. While we are out wandering, we run into various other wedding guests. This is a pretty remote area. Everyone is staying with a mile radius. The two towns are really beautiful. We are right on the coast, and everything is very hilly. Here’s a picture of Kingsand. I actually walked on the steps that are in the middle of the photo, although it was high tide and there were a lot fewer of them. This picture is our inn, which is no longer called the Smugglers’ Inn. It gives a good view of how narrow the streets are. This one and this one give you an idea of what the coastline looks like.

We headed back to the inn around 1 to get ready. The damp climate had pretty much killed any hope of styling my hair, so I dunked my head in the sink and decided to go natural. The same van as the day before (with the lovable Smitty at the wheel) picked us up around 1:45 and took us to the wedding, which was held at Polhawn Fort. This is a 19th century naval fort (Cornwall was a strategic naval area back in the day. I guess it still is, but they aren’t as worried about warding off an attack from France these days). The wedding ceremony was held in the main hall. To get there, you have to climb down a circular staircase. Part of the banister is rope. It’s a little scary and I figure it will only become more so after a few drinks. The ceremony was longer than I expected for a civil ceremony. It seemed very British—very legal, crossing every “t” and dotting every “i.” Maria looks beautiful and Mike looks very dashing. The bridesmaids dresses are really cute—something you could actually wear again. After the ceremony, we climbed back up to the top of the fort for cocktails. They had a tent set up, but the weather was beautiful, so most people were outside. I wanted to do some exploring, so we figured out the way down to the garden, which gives you the most amazing view of the coastline. There are only a few of us down there at first, but eventually everyone wanders down and they start bringing around hors d’oeuvres. They have these tiny fish and chips wrapped in little scraps of newspaper. They are adorable (they no longer seem so adorable when I find the greasy remains of the newspaper in my pocket a few days later). Eventually, we go back inside for dinner, and then they clear the tables away and the dancing gets started. I was in heaven because the bride and groom have similar taste to mine—it was all 80s and britpop. I danced for hours.

At some point during this part of the evening, Brian and I start talking about marriage. Somehow we end up deciding to get married. I wish I could remember the exact wording, since the story doesn’t really sound all that romantic, but it really was. But basically, we were talking about weddings and marriage, and he asked me to marry him and I said yes, and that was that. We didn’t tell anyone right away, since it seemed like that would be stealing the wedding couple’s thunder (and I really doubt we could have gotten anyone’s attention at that point of the night!).

Eventually, we made it back to the inn. The pub was officially closed, but still sort of open to us since we were staying there. The landlord gave us all drinks, and we ended up telling the staff that we had gotten engaged. They were very excited. The evening got sort of weird at that point, as one of the waitresses went off on a long harangue about how awful Americans are. Her main complaints were that we all voted for Bush and we all eat McDonalds. I can understand how obnoxious Americans can seem to the rest of the world. We are obnoxious a lot of the time, especially when travelling. But I try to be a good tourist and accept that I am not at home and things are different. I am definitely not one of those tourists. We all objected to her stereotypes. I didn’t vote for Bush (and neither did 49% of us) and I don’t eat McDonalds (except in rare cases of severe hangovers, but we’ll keep that just between us, ok?). After she had a few more drinks, she decided we had all changed her opinion of Americans and kept trying to kiss us all. Then a friend of the landlord shows up and gives me this whole speech about he loves Blair and Bush (I haven’t told him anything about my politics), and that the war is Iraq was essential because it’s our job to bring down tyranny. Really? Because if that is the case, sir, I have a long list of tyrannical dictatorships we should be worrying about. Of course, we won’t do anything about them because those countries don’t hold any strategic interest for the West. But I kept my mouth shut, because I really want to go to sleep and I just got engaged, and everything is right with the world, so just shut up, mister right wing idiot.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

The Big Trip, Part 1

The trip started out well. Brian and I had both taken Thursday off from work, so there was no last minute rushing around. We were totally packed and ready to go hours before our flight, so we decided to load up the car and go out to lunch. I was craving Mexican and we needed to go somewhere with easy parking and a drugstore nearby (a few last minute toiletry needs), so we decided on Cactus Cantina. We were in and out of there really quickly, which enabled us to stay way ahead of the schedule I had set for us. Yes, I am *that* person on vacation. I can’t help it—I really need to be at the airport way ahead of time, just in terms of my sanity. Not surprisingly, we made it to the airport pretty far ahead of time, which is totally fine, because I would rather be at the gate reading a book than sitting in traffic worrying about missing the plane. (Have I mentioned that whenever I travelled with my mother as a child, we were always running through the airport, minutes away from missing our plane?)

The flight was fairly uneventful. I like British Airways. You get your own little movie screen with lots of choices and the food isn’t too bad (at least in the realm of airline food). A baby in the next row over screamed for about three hours, but I just turned the volume on my headphones up. I find that I watch movies on planes that I would probably never watch at home. For example, Two Weeks Notice with Hugh Grant and Sandra Bullock. It was pretty dopey, but it’s perfect airline viewing, because it requires very little attention and the outcome is exactly what you expect. I also finished the mystery I was reading. I didn’t sleep. I may be short, but coach is still too cramped for me to get comfortable. I don’t know how tall people take it.

When we arrived at Heathrow, we had to wait in line at passport control for an hour and a half. It was ridiculous. This was my third trip through Heathrow, and the previous two times, I waited maybe 5 minutes in line. I guess all the international flights were arriving at 7 a.m. Friday morning. There were about 1000 people in line and only three people working. Everyone was really grumply including yours truly. Once we finally got through that mess, it was on to the lovely Heathrow Express to Paddington. This is a really nice train ride—clean, fast, scenic. We got to Paddington around 9:30. Then the waiting began. We had to meet Jenny and Colin to buy group tickets for the train to Plymouth(to get a huge discount). They were flying into Gatwick, and I had no way to reach them. I started to get a little worried when they hadn’t arrived by 11:15 (we had to be on the noon train to make our other connections). They showed up a few minutes later and we made it on the noon train with no problem. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get seats together, so we were split up for the first few stations, but I did manage to relocate next to Brian. We were in the so-called quiet car, which was anything but. The two most boring people in the unverse were sitting across from us. They talked about cats for 45 minutes straight.

The first half of the train ride was kind of dull. The terrain looked just like Virginia (yes, Virginia is very pretty, but I was looking for something new and different). As got closer to the coast, it changed, and we were riding along the water for much of the trip. When we arrived at the Plymouth station, there were approximately 20 of us heading to the wedding. I can’t tell you much about Plymouth, since we just hopped in a taxi, which took us to the ferry dock. The taxi driver give me shit about not getting my bags in the cab fast enough. I just gave him a dirty look. I haven’t slept in over 24 hours, buddy, give me a break. While we waited for the ferry, most of the crowd popped into the pub for a pint, but after being awake for about 30 hours and traveling for about 20 hours, beer was the last thing I wanted. The ferry ride was short and the view was great. When we arrived on the other side, about 18 bundled into a van that was supposed to hold maybe 12 people. We had a slightly terrifying ride through twisty, hilly roads, all the while being entertained by the comedy stylings of our bus driver (all very much in the Henny Youngman “take my wife, please” vein; one joke was “my first wife died. my second wife won’t.” yuk yuk). We finally arrived at the lovely Cross Keys Inn in beautiful downtown Cawsand.

More later…