Monday, April 27, 2009

Well, yeah. If that was my name

Overheard on University of Cardiff campus:

Slightly camp bloke with pseudo-posh English accent: "...and she goes by 'Steph.' Can you imagine people calling you Steph all your life?!"

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Oh, well that clears it up

Here is an actual unedited response from the UK Home Office to a question that we had about visas:

"You cannot switch from a student dependant visa to Tier2 visa in the UK and require entry clearance from your home country abroad."

Huh?! Suddenly in my head I hear Samuel L. Jackson, screaming that iconic line from "Pulp Fiction"...

A requirement of the UK's immigration system is that the applicant have a command of English. Apparently, though, one does not need a command of English in order to work for the UK's immigration system.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Actually, my mother doesn't sound like this



I'll be honest and admit that the impersonation of my mother in this video is woefully inaccurate. Well, she does actually say things like this, but not quite as I've said them. Or something like that.

(Also, I'm not sure why you would want a higher-quality version of the video, but it can be found here.)

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Russell T. Davies, you hurt my soul

Here's an incomplete list of things that bothered me about Saturday's Doctor Who, in no particular order (Yes, I know I'm a geek):

- How lazy is the name International Museum?
- Why did the bus not pull over when it was being tailed by a convoy of police who had their lights and sirens going?
- The bus was a different model and in drastically different condition depending on what side of the wormhole it was on.
- Michelle Ryan's flying away in the bus was, as Elain pointed out, straight out of The Santa Clause.
- Why was everyone taken with the concept of a flying bus but not terribly shocked by a rip in the fabric of reality?
- That woman's Caribbean accent.
- How is it possible that UNIT could be so inept?
- The Doctor at one point dismisses the explanation for something as "spacey stuff," which is reminiscent of 10 years ago when Steven Moffat took the piss of the franchise in "The Curse of Fatal Death." In that comedy episode, the Doctor frequently dismisses things by saying "I'll explain later." So RTD is so lazy he is stealing from his replacement's piss-take.
- Why did the Doctor, upon getting in touch with UNIT, not simply ask them to drive a large tank through the wormhole to come pick them up?
- Giant flying metal stingrays things.
- Giant metal stingrays are able to create holes in space by flying about really fast. Huh?
- How exactly were the stingray things flying? They didn't have wings.
- The Doctor forgot UNIT's phone number on the first try. So, the Doctor, who knows every language that exists, can't remember a small string of numbers? Really?
- Lee Evans.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Well, that's next year sorted, at least

Just got this e-mail today:

Cardiff University is pleased to offer you admission to the programme detailed below:
School: Ysgol y Gymraeg, Prifysgol Caerdydd
Programme: MA YN Y GYMRAEG
Commencing: 21 September 2009
Attendance: Full-Time

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Here

The significance of purchasing a bed, a quality one, especially, is the permanence of the act. It implies that -- with my three-year university experience nearly complete -- I intend to stay here for a while longer. At least until I've used up the five-year guarantee on the bed.

I've been doing a lot of that sort of thing, lately. A new bed, an 18-month phone contract, an expensive hoover, talk of new bookshelves. These are the simple domestic acts of a person who isn't planning on upping sticks any time soon.

But have you ever had a friend who has gone through divorce? They will suddenly ramp up the praise for their significant other and then two months later it is mentioned offhand that, oh, Helen won't be joining us down the pub because, uhm, we've split up.

So I lie in my new bed and stare at the ceiling and find myself thinking about all the places I would rather be than here. London, Dublin, St. Paul, Chicago, Boston, Austin, and on. I picture my life in each of these places, walk down the streets that I know, eat at the places I know, hang out with the people I know.

This week Houston has been high on the list. Which is a strange one. No one dreams of Houston; people in Houston are reading this and wondering if perhaps I'm talking about some other Houston. The Scottish village near Glasgow Airport, perhaps. But the combination of longing for legitimately hot weather, of looking forward to my summer trip to the United States (which will entail a visit to family in the Houston area), and seeing pictures of Dani's back yard have all strangely combined to leave me thinking "Golly, I'd kinda like to move back to Houston."

This is similar to what I used to do when thinking about Cardiff, before actually moving here. I don't know if you do this, but I am always guilty of slightly altering my socio-economic status when picturing myself in different places. I have a bad habit of picturing a different me in that different place.

For example, let's say you're wherever you are and dreaming about life in New York City. Of course you place yourself square in Manhattan, and of course you assume that you will be going to art galleries and eating at caf├ęs and on and on. Conveniently ignoring that you do not now have the money to live in the poshest part of whatever town you're living in. And you haven't been to an art gallery since that time in high school when you went solely because you thought it would help in your effort to get up Emma Carrbridge's blouse. So, in fact you are imagining a physical move, a social/intellectual move and an economic move.

I do that. I play this ridiculous game of creating The Life Ideal in some other locale in which everything is already in place. Because it's the building that I don't like. Establishing is boring and challenging. And a part of me rebels against it. Some men can't commit to a woman, I can't commit to a place.

"Does unman yn debyg i adre'
Ond mae adre'n debyg iawn i chdi..."

But that said, I am establishing. Slowly. Not just in buying a load of appliances that would be useless in the States, but in real ways. There's the master's degree, of course. About a month ago I interviewed to do a master's in Welsh with an emphasis on creative writing, at Cardiff University. I've yammered endlessly about this on my Welsh blog but I'm not sure I've mentioned it here. I am still waiting to hear back on the decision. According to the university's website, the decision "can take anything from two weeks to a few months." And I wasn't really able to read the mood during my interview.

When I was talking about the whole thing with Owen, his general feeling was that it would be silly not to accept me. But then, Owen's my friend. And he had had a few pints. And, if you were part of the decision-making process, and perhaps Owen's line of thinking had occurred to you, wouldn't some part of you seek to deny me just to prove a point: "Ha, ha, Chris Cope. We are not beholden to the inevitable. We choose our destiny at Cardiff University and you, my Yanqui friend, are denied!"

The foundation of Owen's thinking is that I have a book coming out in summer. Arguably being a published author is good qualification to do a master's in creative writing. We'll see. Either way, work on the book carries forward. I got my contract about a week ago, which outlined all my rights in terms of how much money I get for this thing or that thing. If someone turns my book into a screenplay I will score the bulk of the profit. But in the world of reality, of advance sums and royalties on sales, it is not what you'd call amazing.

I'm not really complaining. A first book is a first book. That's what I'm most happy about. And with the existence of the contract there is an obligation for the publisher to print within six months. I don't really care about dates, simply that it is real. Assuming no major snafu, the book is going to be published. And that is really cool. As far as I know, however, we are still aiming to publish in time for Eisteddfod.

In the meantime, I have six essays due in less than a month. I have thus far only finished one.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

to rachel, my wife, whom i slept with*

There are probably all sorts of reasons to not tackle your wife with a running spear onto the bed -- not least of which being that if you do, it will likely snap five of the bed's support slats. You would think the average university-educated adult would be smart enough not to do such a thing. But, as Dr. Handy used to frequently point out, I just don't think. So, we found ourselves buying a new bed Saturday.

We weren't immensely upset. Our previous prison-like metal bed frame was too small for our gigantic American selves. And it had a tendency to squeak any time one of us moved, or when we breathed, or when the Earth rotated. Remember that I live in Britain, where all the houses are packed together and we do not have air-conditioning. Our windows are almost always open and I can hear when the woman across the road sits and has tea in her garden. You don't want a squeaky bed in that kind of setting.

Our old bed was accentuated by the shittiness of its mattress, an insufferable spring-loaded number that was not entirely unlike sleeping on a cooling rack. Its only positive came from the fact that when I went to visit people overnight, wherever they put me was sure to be more comfortable than what I had back home. Really. The night spent in Annie's back garden was bliss. For the next month I would lie in bed, metal digging into me, staring at the ceiling and thinking: "I wish I were sleeping in Annie's garden."

"Sleeping in Annie's garden" sounds like a euphemism, doesn't it?

Anyway, we decided that since we had to buy a new frame we might as well fork out the dosh (a) for a new mattress. A trip to Sioux Falls Newport Road (b) ensued, £600 was parted with, the delivery of a bed frame was promised, and a fancy rolled-up mattress was tossed into the back of our 306 (c).

But the whole reason I sat down to write this post is to sing the praises of Cardiff Council. No one ever sings the praises of their council. Go ask Dewi Prysor about his council's ability to replace doors in a timely manner. Ask just about any English person about their fortnightly rubbish collection. Councils get a bad wrap. And certainly Cardiff Council leaves room for improvement (who approved all those flatpack-trendy flats along the Ely?), but if you've got a bed (and old printer and busted vacuum) what needs gettin' rid of, Cardiff Council provides a lovely waste centre where you can chuck it all for free.

And if you don't have a 14-year-old French car in which to load all your junk, the council will come pick it up for free. How cool is that? Huzzah for you Cardiff Council.

Hmm, perhaps I am far too easily impressed.
-----

*The post title is reference to Bill Cosby's album, "To Russell, My Brother, Whom I Slept With," which contains a 27-minute story -- probably one of the best spoken-word performances I've ever heard** -- that tells of himself and his brother, Russell, jumping on the bed and then breaking it.

**I have long maintained that Bill Cosby is far greater a genius than people are willing to give him credit for.

(a) I'm pretty sure that is the first time I have ever used "dosh" in a sentence. It will likely be the last.

(b) Newport Road is possibly the most American stretch of pavement in Britain; it is about a mile of straight road with box stores and fast-food restaurants on each side. If I were a spy, I would tell Russia that Britain's nuclear weapons are stored on Newport Road and then try to provoke a confrontation.

(c) Best car ever made. We've got the diesel and it will not die. French cars for the win. Who would've guessed?

Friday, April 3, 2009

Overheard on Danescourt train

Early teens boy #1: "That's cool, though, like, that Obama is the first what-you-call, Arabic ever in the White House."

Early teens boy #2: "Jamie, you are a stupid twat."

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Beginnings

I find myself being challenged by beginnings. For example, I don't know how to begin this blog post; I don't know how to begin the six essays that want writing on or before 5 May. All of these things I feel a need to do -- in one sense or another -- but none of them can I imagine beginnings for.

This happens to me a lot under stress. I am not a multitasker. When faced with the need to do several things at once, I have a tendency to do none of them. If it weren't for my deep personal aversion to killing Native Americans, I would have been the ideal sort of person to serve under Gen. Custer.

I once saw a programme about the Battle of Little Bighorn that claimed many of Custer's men went into such a ridiculous panic upon seeing so many Lakota, Arapaho and Cheyenne coming to fuck them up that they simply started firing straight into the air. There were so many people to shoot at that the cavalrymen couldn't choose who to shoot at. And so instead shot at nothing.

So, here I am taking on the easiest challenge -- ye olde blog. It is insufferable to complain about modern life (oh, boo-hoo, I don't have rickets), but I will say that blogging can feel like a chore at times. It is because I have allowed to worm into my head that stupid line of thinking that sees a blog as a tool of self-promotion.

It can be, I suppose. Theoretically -- I'm not exactly sure how -- my blogs and Twitter and Facebook pages could all join forces, a la the Wonder Twins, and form a tremendous PR tool that would help me sell more books. But then, writing in English would help me sell more books. And there are few things I hate more in this world than selling or people who try to sell to me.

But every time I think of deleting my blogs (about once a month, these days) someone will insist it is a bad idea because they are good for self promotion. Bah. I don't care. But that idea has gotten into my head, see. So I start to feel that each post needs to have a certain quality to it. And then it all starts to feel like work. And the blog sits idle for several weeks while I consider deleting it.

Unless you're my dad

The song "The Final Countdown" is now playing in your head...
(Go ahead. Embrace it.)