Thursday, July 31, 2008

Monday, July 28, 2008

Chris kills a chance to talk rubbish on TV

The last song was, of course, Space Pirates. That's totally obscure and only for people who sit around in the middle of the day trying to think up excuses not to write. I also watch a lot of Welsh-language children's television.

Which kind of segues to an e-mail I got last week from someone who works on the Welsh-language programme "Hacio." It's a current-events programme targeted at younger viewers. I have never quite bought into the "news for young people" concept. Does it really work? Do kids actually care? In my years as a member of the Global Media Conspiracy people were always trying this sort of thing -- I even once auditioned to be a presenter for such a show -- but I can't think of one that's ever really worked. It's all crazy camera angles and no desks and people with hip hair, but lacking in the quintessential element of content.

The content is produced by adults and feels like it. The camera angles and such make it feel as if they are trying to hide the information, the way you wrap a dog's heart worm pill in hamburger. But your dog can figure that shit out and so can kids.

On a tangent, am I old and busted that I never really "got" Current TV? Perhaps the problem is that I tried to watch it on an actual television. It works on the web.

Anyway, I have never actually seen "Hacio," so perhaps it is great. In their coming series they plan to do a little something on U.S. elections and somehow my name got passed along to them. The e-mail I got suggested that my name was about all they had and I was asked to "let (them) know a little bit about (myself) and what (I'm) doing now." Here is what I wrote:

"I am relatively well-versed in all the tedious details of how the presidential elections work (for instance, did you know that when Americans vote for a president, their vote doesn't actually decide who becomes president?) and stay more or less up to date on what's happening. I will be voting absentee (by post) for Barack Obama. I used to be a journalist myself, though (get out while you still can!), and so am capable of talking about the elections without showing a bias.

Do I get the part? I won't do any nude scenes -- unless they're tasteful, like. Or they involve that Lowri chick from 'Dwdlam.'

I haven't heard from "Hacio" since. I suspect it's that last bit that killed my chances. Ah well, there you are.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Behold, the magical hyphen

Quiz time! What words follow? (Last one's probably the hardest)

1) Na-na na-na na-na na-na, na-na na-na na-na na-na

2) Na-na na na, na-na na na

3) Na na-na na na

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Two random videos

- Minneapolis is fashionable. That vindicates me somehow. Even though I lived in St. Paul. I think it will be a while until Cardiff shows up in a fashion feature. Unless second-rate gothiness on slightly chubby girls becomes the new fashion rage.

- There's nothing special about this video. It just amuses me.

Friday, July 25, 2008

That's why sex-ed classes are important

The other day an old friend of mine told me that she and her husband were "trying for a baby." That phrasing amuses me. It makes it sound as if they haven't quite mastered the technique.

"We're trying for a baby, but Dave keeps falling off."

Thursday, July 24, 2008

When danger is near, we're surfing

One of the things that is always missed in talking about the Hurricane Katrina debacle is the fact that for many of the people who live in hurricane-prone areas, these storms are, in fact, lots of fun.

Take a look at this video of preparations for Hurricane Dolly near where most of my extended family lives and you'll see that people from the Gulf Coast of Texas respond to deadly storms by jumping into the ocean. I have never felt so much regional pride (a).

My cousin, Josh, is in their midst. You can see him in his shirtless glory at 00:45 in the video. Is he panicking? Is he fleeing? No, he's surfing.

"Intense," he says. "That's the one word I got for it. You're out there, it's like a washing machine."

On a side note, I hate Josh. Look at him. Strapping young fella. Bastard. Why didn't I get those genes? My cousin Shawn Jr. is the same way. And my brother Jon (b). I hate them all.

Another thing worth noting from the video is the way the reporter speaks. Similar to my recent attempt to annunciate clearly, she is forcing out the words and it shows. Her accent, or lack thereof, sounds affected. All reporters do this in the United States and I can't help but wonder why. It sounds fake and disconnects the reporter from the audience.

When you listen to everyone else in the piece they've got South Texas accents. But the people actually reporting on South Texas seem to be trying to pretend they're from Canada. Isn't it strange that the people who tell you about your world little corner of the world don't sound anything like you?

The child bride was the other day delighting in the fact that the reporters on Wales Today actually have Welsh accents. Welsh people reporting on Wales. That's novel. And it got me thinking about why American reporters all seek to sound as if they come from the same place. No doubt it is throwback thinking, harkening to the time when Americans felt the only people capable of delivering news were middle-aged white men with booming middle-America accents.

It is probably perpetuated by the ladder nature of American news. If you watch local newscasts in the U.S., nine times out of 10 you are watching a load of people who want to be somewhere else. They are telling themselves that after serving their time in wherever they are now, they will be able to move on to some other place that will sound more impressive to all their friends, and then someplace else, and then someplace else.

So all news, no matter where it comes from, ends up looking and sounding the same and not reflecting its place of origin. It becomes Motel 6 News, in the words of a reporter I knew in San Diego. That guy eventually left the news business. Many of the intelligent ones do.

(a) Although, I can't really claim to be a true Gulf Coaster. Most of my family lives there but I was born in Austin, several hundred miles from the coast, and raised in big cities.

(b) Whom Jenny once described as "the most American man in the world."

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

When The Neighbors See Your Underwear

My latest column is out
and as has become the custom I've decided to read it to you.

In listening back to it, though, I sound a bit odd. I sound angry. I am trying to annunciate, but it's not working. The traces of my Texas accent cause me to mumble and slur words (listen to me slaughter the word "generally" at the end of the recording), so I was trying to make everything clear. In so doing, I've made everything slightly bitter, as well.

Obviously, my career as a professional voice artist won't be getting under way any time soon.

One benefit to the audio version, though, is that I chose to read it as I wrote it. The published version is missing a sentence because my editor was concerned it would offend. That sentence is: "(I am) enjoying the fact that they show naked breasts on primetime television."

No hatin' on my editor, please. But definitely that goes into the "What's Wrong With America" file. I can't mention boobies. Clearly I got out just in time.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Road to hell paved with unbought stuffed dogs

One of my favourite exchanges in The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway:

"Here's a taxidermist's," Bill said. "Want to buy anything? Nice stuffed dog?"
"Come on," I said. "You're pie-eyed."
"Pretty nice stuffed dogs," Bill said. "Certainly brighten up your flat."
"Come on."
"Just one stuffed dog. I can take 'em or leave 'em alone. But listen, Jake. Just one stuffed dog."
"Come on."
"Mean everything in the world to you after you bought it. Simple exchange of values. You give them money. They give you a stuffed dog."
"We'll get one on the way back."
"All right. Have it your way. Road to hell paved with unbought stuffed dogs. Not my fault."

Sunday, July 20, 2008

They're giving him a PhD because he's smart, yo

Brilliant quote from my friend Paul:

"I find it harder and harder to make new (friends); and impossible to make new old friends."

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Tidbits electronig

An anonymous poster (why is it that I get annoyed when people post anonymously?) asked me the other day if I know Christopher Glamorganshire, a blogger in Wales who was sacked (FTYPAH: "fired") from his job in the Cynulliad because of his blog. FTYPAH: the Cynulliad is the Welsh legislative body -- a sort of toy version of British Parliament.

I don't think I know Glamorganshire personally; he is one of my Facebook friends, but that means nothing -- Al Franken is one of my Facebook friends. Welsh people are obsessed with giving themselves pseudonyms, but then strangely expecting you to know who they are regardless, so it's quite possible that I hang out with Glamorganshire all the time and he just hasn't told me. I don't think so, though.

According to Alwyn ap Huw (may or may not be his real name), Glamorganshire is at least the fourth Cynulliad member to get the boot for blogging. I'm pretty sure I do know at least one of those chaps.

What stands out to me about the whole business is the ridiculousness that this is occurring in 2008. There is a special term for someone who gets the axe because of their blog: "Dooced." So named for Dooce, who was fired from her job in 2002. Read that last sentence again: 2002. This shit has been done, Wales -- y'all behind the curve, bitches.

Especially so now that blogging is in a downturn. Some suggest that blogging is experiencing a sort of generational shift; our baby's growing up and no longer interested in dancing hamsters. Whatever the case, we're just not paying that much attention to blogs anymore, beyond those of people we actually know and women with nice breasts. For a member of Cynulliad to get the sack for blogging now makes Wales' legislators look even more out of touch than your average political body.


"Tidbits electronig" is my Welsh equivalent of "series of tubes." It is a phrase uttered by literary critic Hywel Teifi Edwards in the wake of the Y Byd debacle. "Nid mwy o tidbits electronig mae Cymru eu hangen. Papur go iawn!" he yelped, almost giving himself a heart attack in expressing his belief that the internet isn't a legitimate media and Wales needs a tangible Welsh-language newspaper. Despite the fact that tangible newspapers are going bust at an almost daily rate. "Tidbits electronig" obviously translates to "electronic tidbits."

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Cellweiriol, gonest, 'cranky'

It's been a while since I've written any sort of update on what's actually going on in my life. A fair number of this blog's readers are family members who check in occasionally to see how the child bride is doing, and who have no interest in "Doctor Who." Sorry, y'all.

Rachel's fine. She's been in better spirits since summer arrived and her Welsh course ended. I think the latter may have had more effect. The summer is typically British. Occasionally the sun will peak out and make you think: "Ooh, I'm a bit busy at the moment, but tomorrow I will go out and make the best of this weather. I'll make a lunch and bike out to Gelynis and pick strawberries and it will be lovely."

But then it will rain for three days.

The child bride is planning to carry on with her Welsh learning in the autumn; I wonder whether it will be worth it. I wonder that on multiple levels.

Welsh is at the heart of my minimal English blogging. If you read Welsh you'd know a little more about life in the Cope-osphere. But, of course, you don't read Welsh -- a nagging little fact that hovers in my mind as I continue work on the book that is occupying all my time at the moment. On my Welsh blog I have a quote from A.A. Gill, the man Welsh people love to despise because he once described them as "stunted, bigoted, dark, ugly, pugnacious little trolls." (a)

"Welsh is the only language you learn to be able to talk to fewer people," he once wrote.

It is a flawed statement, of course. We don't -- or, at least, I don't -- do things simply because lots of other people do them. Else we'd be learning Chinese. But there is a certain emotional truth to what Gill says (b). I am locked away all day in my little room and I wonder who will read this book. Not any of my old friends, not any of my family members. I worry it will be purchased only by that brand of Welsh learner who has become a farcical enthusiast -- buying stuffed dragons (c), seeing inherent value in anything written in the language and unthinkingly parroting Cymdeithas (d). They probably won't like my book.

But I carry on, trying to figure out why I feel at once drawn to and repelled by this place, its people, its language.

I suspect my mood will improve next year, once I am done with university. Uni makes me grumpy. Especially when I get poor marks for absolutely ridiculous reasons.

Such was the case recently when I earned an outrageously unfair mark in one of my exams. I contacted my department with a desire to appeal the exam's result and they put me in touch with the person who had marked it in the first place. How that situation could ever favour the student I do not know.

In essence, I was told, I had not written enough in my exam. I had not used up enough pages in my answer booklet. I pointed out that there were only two hours in the exam, but to no avail. I pointed out also that I have particularly small handwriting. That sounds like grasping at straws, but perhaps those of you who have actually seen my handwriting could back me up on this: I cram a lot of words onto a single page. I am willing to bet money that if you took the exam booklet of a person who scored 10 points higher than me and counted up each individual word, I would have the same amount, if not more.

I didn't ask them to do that. They would have just thought up another reason to have the grade stand. But the not-enough-words argument really digs under my skin. I am paying $18,000 a year to have someone criticise my penmanship. (e)

It makes you wonder whether people who earn first degrees in Britain are actually all that intelligent. Or can they just write really fucking fast?

And yet I want to carry on being educated here. Last Friday I drove out to Carmarthen to talk to someone at Trinity College about their master's degree in creative writing.

Trinity is a tiny place, small enough that it could probably be crammed into an IKEA, in a dingy little town some 60 miles or so west of Cardiff. Their MA programme would allow me to write a project in Welsh, which is more in line with the vagaries that are my plans for the future. For all my frustrations and desires to walk around Eisteddfod throwing bricks at people, I don't want to leave. I want to be a part of this thing. I want to be a Welsh-language author.

Why not English? I don't know. It's that mysterious connection.

Beyond all that, not much is happening. My third and final year approaches. Watching bad economic news on television is a strange solace because the child bride and I were already struggling. Misery loves company. Pundits claim the American frontier is closing in the face of rising petrol prices -- the great American road trip is becoming a thing of the past. I wonder how this will affect the plans of Llŷr and myself for next summer. There's nothing good on television. I wish the Olympics would start. I wish Strictly Come Dancing was on.

I am lonely. Days speed by.


The post's title translates as "joking, honest, cranky," which is how Asuka describes my Welsh blog.

(a) I would really like to read the actual article from which that quote came but I can't seem to find it online.

(b) There is also a certain truth in his statement that: "The Welsh... can take offence at silence, and nothing in the world has skin as gossamer-fine as a Welshman with a grievance." They are at times on par with American evangelicals with their desire to be offended by the world around them.

(c) "Plush toy dragons" for our friends in the Home Nations. If an American refers to a "stuffed" animal he is almost always referring to a cuddly little thing for children, not a formerly living creature that has been taxidermied.

(d) So, pretty much me up until about a year and a half ago.

(e) And in an age when few people ever write things by hand, for fuck's sake. I write in my journal, but I wonder how many times a year the average person writes more than 100 words by hand.

Monday, July 7, 2008

More random geekery

Why I ponder "Doctor Who" at night, I do not know. If it's worth anything, I also ponder public transportation networks.

Anyhoo, I figured out how to bring Donna back should the desire to do so ever exist. It was hinted at in the episode itself. Donna had a large ring on her finger when the half-Doctor was created. In the last glimpse of Donna that we see, that ring gleams. Also, when the Doctor returns ignorant Donna to her parents he inroduces himself as John Smith, the name he had used when he was human and hiding his time lord configuration in a watch in "Human Nature."

So, in your bringing-back-Donna episode, you simply have Donna experience a mild electric shock (that's what kick-started the change when fighting the Daleks) and suddenly the dormant Doctor in her mind comes to the fore. In the time that he's been floating in her sub-conscious, he's been able to work out a plan -- all inspired by when the Doctor introduced himself as John Smith. He simply stores his conscience in Donna's ring, which he is able to do because the Doctor's regenerative energy passed through it when the DoctorDonna was created. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

I am a freaking genius

Go me. Donna is a (partial) time lord. I called it. I am brilliant. It was kind of a weak out in terms of getting rid of Donna, but I suppose this way you can bring her back with ease. She's got a Doctor in her head. So, slowly, in her subconscious, he can work out some sort of route to return Donna to old Donna with all her memories intact.

I also like the setting up of who's the new Torchwood team: Martha Jones and that bloke Mickey. That leaves Torchwood without the tech whiz that Tosh was.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008


Frustratingly, my brain decided to wake me up at 2 a.m. this morning so I could lie in bed and ponder possible scenarios for this Saturday's "Doctor Who" finale. Really, of all the things I could have been doing, I had to spend an hour or so pondering Donna Noble's significance in the weakly-put-together universe of a man who enjoys 70s disaster films and a fair bit of camp. But there we are.

I am theorizing that Donna turns out to be a time lordess or some such thing. This would be another one of those things where a time lord is hiding in a human form that is totally unaware of being anything else. The Doctor did this last year, as did the Master. If this were the case it would validate all the "Donna is gonna die" stuff, because effectively she does die. Remember the emotional turmoil that John Smith (the Doctor's human form) went through in knowing that he would be giving up his life and the woman he loved and so on to become the doctor.

Here are random reasons I think this:
- Donna was saturated with Huon particles, the things that exist in the heart of the TARDIS
- Donna's godlike status. The Doctor is often referred to in godlike terms, but in this season Donna is also taking that billing -- something that didn't happen with Rose or Martha. Remember the Roman family that decided to worship the Doctor and Donna as gods. Remember the Ood talking of how "the DoctorDonna" would be remembered for all time.
- The coincidences of the Doctor running into Donna or her family multiple times
- The fortune teller proclaiming: "What will you become?!" before running away in fear
- Donna is sitting in the Shadow Proclamation and hears a steady beat -- a second heart?
- Donna's habit of being, albeit unwittingly, just as clever as the Doctor.
- Donna constantly refers to herself as "just a temp." A temporary human, perhaps?

Reasons I think Donna might become the Doctor:
- The crazy Dalek refers to the Doctor as the three-fold man, suggesting a multiple-doctor finale. I think Donna could be one of them.
- The Ood referred to the Doctor and Donna as a single entity: "the DoctorDonna." OK, they're aliens, perhaps their English isn't so good. But it's an interesting mistake to make for a race of beings that are telepathic. Perhaps they saw/sensed something.
- The names Doctor and Donna sound similar
- In the trailer for Journey's End Donna is the only one in the TARDIS.
- In one quick shot of all hell breaking loose on the TARDIS, you see Donna's leather jacket hung on one of the foundations -- flung there in the way that the Doctor always flings his coat when running into the TARDIS.
- In Donna's alternate universe, the Doctor dies and his sonic screwdriver falls from his hand. This shot was held for a strangely long time, in that "here's a clue" sort of way. Perhaps she picked up the sonic screwdriver and, thanks to the strangeness of flux universes, now has it on her.

Reasons I think Donna might become the Master:
- In the alternate universe in which she never saved the Doctor, all kinds of bad things happened, but conspicuously absent was any mention of the Master.
- That beat Donna hears could be the war drums that the Master hears.
- In the episode when the Master failed to regenerate, his body was ceremonially burned and a ring fell from the funeral pyre. Donna may somehow have that ring and it may be similar to the watches that held the Doctor's and the Master's true identities when they were human.
- The crazy Dalek refers to a Dark Lord returning. We assume this is a reference to the Doctor, but why would a Dalek refer to him as a Dark Lord? They also hate the Master and surely that would be a more appropriate name for him.
- The Master ran away in the Time War when faced with the Daleks' Cruciform. Now, suddenly that is being rebuilt. Who best to deal with it?
- Donna hates it when people underestimate her -- a trait one would expect from the Master, whose greatest weakness is his own vanity.

Other random thoughts:
- There is a consistent theme of maternity. Sarah Jane Smith is maternal toward her son, Captain Jack is maternal toward his Torchwood team (kissing them on the forehead when they think the end is nigh), Rose's mother returns in this episode and was always central to her life, when Martha Jones teleports she goes to her mother's house. But Donna's mother is not maternal in any way. The Doctor does not have a mother.
- The Doctor does have a gun-toting daughter out there somewhere.
- With his little wrist-watch thingy, Captain Jack can move through time again, right?
- I'm pretty sure that whatever the case, Donna dies. Catherine Tate isn't contracted beyond this season and there's no mention of her being in the Christmas special filming.
- David Tennant is in that filming, so this regenerating nonsense is a ruse.
- Almost certainly whatever actually happens will be hugely disappointing. Remember that last year the whole thing was resolved by having Martha get the world to believe in fairies (the Master was somehow defeated by having the whole world say the Doctor's name at once -- insufferably reminiscent of when we are all expected to clap to bring Tinkerbell back to life).

Cripes I'm a loser.