Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Learning From Swedish YouTube Clips

Exams are Ivan "I must break you" Drago at the moment. It's yet to be determined whether I am Rocky or Apollo Creed. In the meantime, here's a bit more insight into what's going on in my head at the moment: My latest column is out.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007


This site will be pretty quiet until after I finish my exams. My last exam is on 9 June, after which I'll probably spend a few days weeping and drinking from the stress and fear that I might have failed.

Although, I am blogging occasionally over on my Welsh blog and my Spanish blog.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Another broken heart for Siân Lloyd

This video just about made me wet my pants with laughter. It is taken from a segment in the programme about me that aired Tuesday (and will air again Saturday at 21:15 on S4C). It was put together by consistently brilliant fellow Welsh blogger Dafydd. For the most part it's pretty self explanatory, but if you don't speak Welsh, "Pwy ydy hi?" means "Who is she?"

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Jose lleva tres dias comiendo paella.

For the most part, revising (FTYPAH: "studying")is a tedious process. At the moment, I am revising Spanish grammar and it makes me really sleepy. So, perhaps the sentence I just constructed is not as funny as I think it is: "Jose has been eating paella for three days."

Okey dokey, artichokey

I generally shy away from talking politics on my blog because doing so risks comments from nutjobs who feel the need to use extremist language in attacking responding to my blasphemous beliefs in ridiculous concepts like the social contract.

As I get older, I find myself trying to emulate my grandfather, who I've only heard discuss politics once. That was also the one time I've heard him use a profane word: "What the hell is so wrong with feeding a kid and giving him a good education?"

Anyway, I was amused by this video. It would appear that Hillary Clinton's people are already working on her biggest weakness -- her image. That's an uphill battle. As someone with conservative in-laws, I can tell you that there are few people the American right hate more than Hillary. She is probably in the No. 4 spot behind Satan, Bill Clinton, and Islam.

I'm not really sure why they dislike Hillary so much. It might be that thing of fearing women in power, but that doesn't explain why I dislike her. I have no problem with women in power. I think they are just as capable of fucking everything up as are men. But I can't say I've ever been a fan of Hillary.

When I was a member of the Global Media Conspiracy, spreading socialist lies and helping to kick God out of America's schools, I would occasionally come across a story about Hillary saying something about something and find myself agreeing with her.

"Hey universal health care. That's a good idea.*"

"Hey, not being dependent on crazy people for the stuff that makes the nation go. That sounds reasonable."

But I just can't get over the fact that I really don't like her. I don't know why. I just... don't. And clearly I'm not the only one who thinks this way. More than a year before the election, her team is putting her on YouTube in hopes of softening her image. I sense this will be her main problem in her quest for the presidency. I hereby predict that 75 to 85 percent of punditry focuses not on her issues, but the fact that she's, you know, kind of bitchy-lookin'.

-- Extra points to you if you get the reference in the headline --

*My feeling on this has strengthened since moving here. For all the problems with the NHS (and there are many), the absence of such a system strikes me as shockingly stupid and short-sighted.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Europe's Dirty Little Secret

In all the fun of having a TV programme about me (you can now catch it online, and it will run again with English subtitles at 21:15 on Saturday), a major European event went unnoticed on this blog.

Fortunately, I have made up for this by writing about it in my latest column.

Monday, May 14, 2007

I have many leather-bound books

I don't know how to put this, but... I'm kind of a big deal (1). As you can see on the left, that's me with Siân Lloyd. She is just one of the big-name celebrities who appears in the programme about me on S4C. Lloyd, Derek Brockway (2), Garry Owen, Gillian Elisa -- it's like some kind of Welsh-language version of a Dean Martin roast (3). Well, with only me drinking. And no Don Rickles.

The programme airs Tuesday at 21:00 on S4C and then again with English subtitles on Saturday at 21:15. Yes, I know I've told you all this before but I'm mentioning it again because I have news for those of you playing along outside of Wales.

I am told that the programme will be available via S4C's website. This means you won't have to buy a dodgy DVD copy from a Chinese street vendor (4). I'll put up a direct link as soon as one is available.

1) I once used this line around Geraint and he thought I was being serious. So, for him and the two other people who don't get that line, watch this.

2) I like to emphasize the word "rock" in Derek's name. If I were an anchor on "Wales Today" I would always introduce him by saying: "Here he is, Brockway like a hurricane..."

3) What the hell kind of a reference is that? I might as well draw witty allusions to "Hee-Haw."

4) Fact: More than 30 percent of the Chinese economy is fuelled by bootleg DVDs of Welsh-language television programmes.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

What $27,000 will get you these days

Occasionally people will tell me that they are envious of me because I'm actually acting upon a Sunday afternoon idea.

Sunday afternoons seem to be particularly conducive to "what if"-style thought. It's perhaps that mix of the relaxation of a weekend and the frustration of knowing that said weekend is almost over. So, if the weather's nice and you've got nothing to do, you find yourself lying on the couch and thinking: "I wish I had a boat;" or "I wish I could live on a big ranch on Montana;" or "I wish I could drop everything and scarper off about 5,000 miles from here and become expert at speaking a 2,600-year-old language."

People tell me that they admire me (excuse me while I knock down a wall to make room for my ego) because, after so many Sunday afternoons, I actually did that thing I was daydreaming about.

I'm glad that I did, and that I am. But there are certain realities that perhaps I didn't think all the way through. Debt, for instance. I chose to daydream about living in a place that is doubly expensive to live in as the United States. And, so, to get by, I'm having to take out loans that will eventually see the child bride and I owing about what it would cost to buy a lovely three-bedroom home in West Columbia, Texas.

When I feel like beating up on myself, I will bring this fact up in the constant internal conversations I have. I will try to work out exactly how much money I've wasted in eating a tub of Ben & Jerry's Chocolate Fudge Brownie Ice Cream, instead of writing an essay on how the work of Federico García Lorca foreshadowed the Spanish Civil War.

Fortunately, I am shit at math*, so I've never come up with any solid figures. But it's a good bet that this video cost much, much more than it's worth. That said, I am strangely proud of it. If there were any justice in the world, my "Hikky Burr" dance would become an Internet sensation.

*I suppose this is one of the factors that made it possible for me to act on my daydream of moving to Wales. I was able to allow myself to enter into so much debt because I am incapable of truly understanding what it all means.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

That's your Tuesday evening sorted...

If you've got access to S4C next Tuesday, here's what you should be watching at 9 p.m. One of the stranger aspects of my Welsh-learning experience has been the low-level and mostly unprofitable fame that's come with it.

I'm stretching the definition of "fame" here, of course. I am not actually famous. But I am well-known enough here that if there were such a thing as Welsh-language Celebrity Brother, I would probably get the call*.

I'm not the first American to learn Welsh. But I am the first one to do so totally on my own, using free stuff I found on the Internet, and then dedicate countless meg of web space to bigging myself up over it on two blogs. I can't help thinking that I am "famous" not because I am unique, but because I have no shame.

Whatever the reason, I found myself being followed by cameras, written about, and interviewed on radio. When I first moved to Wales, I had no phone or Internet but people were getting in touch with me by calling the BBC.

Next Tuesday's programme is the culmination of the BBC's following me around for 10 months, from before I left to the United States to the start of this semester. I got a chance to view the programme a few weeks ago and it was interesting to see all that time squeezed into about 50 minutes. I can only hope that when I die and my life flashes before me, it is as well-edited and treats me as kind.

My only complaint about the programme is that I'm in it. I am so skinny. I am sure people will lose track of what I'm saying in interviews because they will be too busy thinking: "Does he not eat? He says he's struggling financially, but surely he could go out and beg for enough change to get some chips or something."

Fortunately, my lanky frame wandering about is interrupted by intelligent things being said by Rachel, funny things being said (loudly) by Eric, quick YouTube clips that make it look as if I am not as boring as I actually am, and lovely scenic shots of the Twin Cities and Cardiff metro areas.

*This is a lie, by the way. I'm not that well-known, but I wanted to work in a Celebrity Big Brother joke.

Japanese boy in plenty hot water

Ahh, what passed for humour 60 years ago. I found this video (right) today on YouTube: a Popeye short called "You're a Sap, Mr. Jap." It is so, so, so, so, so wrong.

There are so many painful moments in this cartoon, I can't decide which is the worst. Obviously the bucktoothed portrayal of the Japanese ranks right up there. Along with the representation of Japanese music as nothing more than clanging pots and a car horn, and Popeye referring to them as "Jap-pansies." It's that sort of thing that's so terrible it's funny in that "Great googly-moogly I should not be laughing at this but I am and I hope no one can hear me because it's so very, very wrong" way.

For me, the most cringeworthy moment comes at the very beginning of the short, when a chorus sings:
"You're a sap, Mr. Jap;
You make a Yankee cranky.
You're a sap, Mr. Jap;
Uncle Sam is gonna spank ye.
Wait and see, before we're done,
The A,B,C and D* will sink your rising sun.

Spank ye?

Truly one of the finer moments in American cinema.

*Short for "America, Britain, China and Dutch" -- the powers the songwriters felt the Japanese should be concerned about. Personally, it strikes me as shoehorned to fit the rhyme scheme. The Dutch?

Sunday, May 6, 2007

I'm down with the kids, you yo

Dear God, why do I like Hootie and the Blowfish so much? I can't stop listening to their albums. It's like some kind of horrible porn addiction -- I know it's wrong, but I can't stop. I feel so dirty, so American Heartland.

I try listening to Arctic Monkeys, or something else that all the kids are listening to, but it's just that darn "Baby I'm Yours" song, and then I'm back to listening to the Musical Chairs album.

Damn it. Can't stop. Can't. Break. Addiction to. Hootie.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Making a case for the queen

That is a look of disdain, bitches. Dick appears to be withering under her stare.

Friday, May 4, 2007

And people ask why I moved to Wales...

Actual unedited response to this week's column:

"I was going to state that you should be proud to be an American and a United States Citizen. I was going to state that you should proudly speak up about our presence in Iraq; even if you disagree with it, you should not espouse your feelings in a foreign country.

But then I saw a picture of you, and realized that you are no better than john murtha, harry reid, or nancy pelosi.

I am glad, however, that I will not be around in 20 years when you will all be praising Allah – there is nothing wrong with that, our country WAS based on religious freedom – or face slaughter at the hands of the militant islamists.

Please believe me. It will come as long as people of your ilk, continue to massage the 20 percent of people that control the media.

If election coverage were military strength, the BBC would rule with an iron fist

I am sitting here watching election coverage on S4C. Normally at this point, I would have a quick "For those of you playing along at home" note. But voter apathy is rather high in Wales, so, for those of you not presently in my living room, Wales had Assembly elections on Thursday.

For those of you who read the South Wales Echo, Wales has a governmental body commonly known as the Assembly, or Y Cynulliad. It's kind of like Parliament except the opposition parties tend not to be as witty. The Assembly is housed in one of Cardiff Bay's myriad weird-looking buildings (FTYPAH: Cardiff Bay is an Easter basket of look-how-hard-I'm-trying architecture like the St. David's Hotel, the Millennium Centre, and the Assembly building).

The last time Wales held elections, only 38 percent of the voting population took part. This time around, the Assembly has more power (that makes it sound as if it is Haggar off Final Fight, gathering strength by kicking back a six-pack he's found on the subway), but that's not expected to have drawn a whole hell of a lot more people to the polling stations.

Despite this, BBC Cymru has deployed every camera it has to all corners of Wales so Dewi Llwyd can yell at several people at once. With the exception of Plaid Cymru, talking heads for political parties have a bad habit of putting forward boneheads with my level of Welsh. That is, the politicos can understand the question, but if placed under any pressure at all they crumble like Didier Drogba under questioning from the Mossad*. It's funny to watch. I'm sure Dewi's a swell fella, but there is no way in hell I would agree to talk to him on live television.

Along with cameras and reporters everywhere, BBC Cymru is also providing commentary from at least six pundits. It also has graphics that outdo most Sam Raimi films. But my favourite element is that they have dragged in two bloggers to keep tabs on the blogging-world reaction to the election. The thing is, I'm pretty sure there are no more than 90 Welsh-language bloggers. Of those, considerably less have discussed the election with any substance (I know I haven't). The two bloggers they've got in studio are probably the only two bloggers who really care -- effectively they're keeping tabs on themselves.

As I finish this entry, there is a man standing in some crazy blue-screen life-size Assembly chamber, he is standing on the edge of a hole in the floor that looks over the whole of Wales and he is narrowly avoiding being decapitated by walls of glass with charts on them.

And now there's a choir performing in the actual Assembly building.

All of this is being duplicated in English on BBC 1. Its scope makes election coverage in America look like a talent show at the South Dakota State Fair.

*FTYPAH: Drogba plays for Chelsea FC and seems to hit the deck pretty much any time someone in the stadium coughs; the Mossad, Israel's intelligence service, is notorious for its less-than-friendly methods of extracting information.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Problems With Looking American

My latest column is out.

My editor occasionally drops stuff to make the column comprehendible to people not reading my blog (I have a bad habit of narrowcasting), so a reference to My Chemical Romance and text-speak were dropped, as was use of the phrase "de rigueur," as in: "(Members Only jackets) have become the de rigueur jacket of German exchange students."

There are few things funnier to me than making fun of Germans.*

*Even though I have a German lecturer who is actually pretty cool.