Squirk's Overseas Experience

The tales of one Kiwi returning to Mother Britain and exploring the Big Wide World... without being eaten by a shark.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

I saw the sign

Sing it with me now:

I've got a new room.
You'd hardly recognise it, it's so large.
How could a person like me pay for this?

I'm not sure if it's just a side-effect of living in tiny little boxes for several months, but my new room is GI-HUGOUS. Enormous. Cavernous. Wicked-big. In addition, the bed feels like a king-size, though it could just be a double for all I know. I guess I'd better find out before I buy sheets and stuff for it—and I'd better buy sheets and stuff quick-smart. I don't want to have to sleep in that scary sleeping bag again.

This is the sleeping bag I chose out of the three bags I had back home in Christchurch. It was the mystery one that stayed with me since my 48HOURS team from 2004 shacked up at my flat in Auckland, leaving behind a trail of destruction... and a green sleeping bag. When I packed up for my Big Trip, I thought I was taking my unused reserve sleeping bag, and didn't give it a second thought until I used it for the first time. More importantly, before I sniffed it for the first time.

Suspicious stains

This sleeping bag has a sort of bright cyan lining that is splotched with unsightly, unidentifiable stains. It also has a lingering smell reminiscent of cat urine, which might go some way to identifying the unidentifiable.

Update (2006-12-05): Added a picture of the infamous stains. I've long since washed the odour out, but the marks proved a tougher foe.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Fun links

In line with my policy of only blogging about boring and irrelevant stuff, I'm not going to tell you about the amazing week I've had. No mentions of the crazy random Finns, no tales of mistaken sexual orientation or the very public dares incited by the messiah of ketchup. I shan't even tell you relevant stuff about moving flats or preparation for a job interview.

Instead, here's a list of useless Intar-Web links.

The lesson to be learned? Cursing is very rude, very mean and the sheriff will beat you up, my friend.

Update 31-Aug-2005: Fixed a little grammar.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Lessons learned

They tricked me into going to the cinema by myself!

The plan seemed simple. Meet up with some random people, watch cheap movies then enjoy the social dining experience known as Dim Sum. I still don't know precisely what that entails, but apparently it's something like Yum Char where there's lots of dishes everyone shares (but probably wouldn't if they knew what creepy crawlies the food was made from).

In hindsight, I probably should have asked for a more specific meeting place. Or the name of the restaurant. Or distinguishing features of the organiser. Or something.

Although the schedule said 1.00pm, arriving at 1.05pm allowed me to buy my £1 ticket from the ticket lady, buy my £1 sweet popcorn (they offer two kinds of popcorn here!) and my £1 soda from the food and drink man, consider buying £1 beer from the alcohol man but decide against it and still catch about half the ads before the movie starts.

The Machinist was a likeable movie with several cringe-worthy bits of nasty in there. I'd give it three stars for independent cinema or four stars for Hollywood. It had an American cast (including a very thin Christian Bale) and was set in America, but the credits indicated a Spanish production. It's one of those movies almost impossible to discuss without giving spoilers, so that's all I'll say about it.

It was a pleasant surprise to walk out out of the auditorium after the movie to hear New Zealand musicians The Finn Brothers' Everyone Is Here gently warming Tarantino's Bar with its comfortable smoothness. Ahh.

I glanced around the softly lit room, eyeing the crowd for possible strangers. I guess I was hoping to see a guy with a nametag talking loudly about Dim Sum and the Gumtree to a small bunch of friendlies. Sadly, the closest I got was an interesting book of local poetry including a diary of a chap that masturbates to stereo manuals and the book of Genesis.

The second film, Ray, was a classic biographical film. I say classic in the sense that it obeyed all the expected rules, pressed all the right buttons—I had little to no prior (or consequent) interest in Ray Charles or his music, yet I was still moved by the film, almost to tears.

Sadder still was my total failure to find my new companions. I may never know the sweet(?) taste of Dim Sum.

Friday, August 19, 2005

The Wiggles have nothing on these guys

It's official, Fred Grisolm's web comic Hate Song is bad for you.

His MP3 of the Week introduced me to the Kids of Widney. From Fred's site:

For those of you who are unawares, The Kids of Widney are a group of Special Ed. students from California who have been releasing albums for about 10 years now. Their music is like pure gold for the soul.

After listening to the vocals and lyrics, I have to agree—pure gold. If you do a web search for them, you'll find that they've made a music video or two and even appear in some films!

Thanks, Fred Grisolm, I'll never forgive you.

This happens to me all the time

Your mother warned you there'd be days like these.

I note with interest that this guy is from Alabama, but appears to buck the stereotype by not only being literate, but being at most two degrees of separation from a black person!

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Ooh, my first proper blog-meme!

There's this thing that most of the Real People in my blogroll do, at least on occasion. It's called propogating a meme. With LiveJournal people, it seems to be mostly posting the results of quizzes that try to identify you with the most unlikely of things. They have titles like Which Power Ranger are you? and cheese-worthy results like:
You are RED RANGER! With a strong will and fearless leadership, you are always ready for action! However, your military efficiency can sometimes leave you blind to your friends emotions.

I guess that there's some social understanding of one another that's meant to be deepened by this kind of thing, but I never really got the appeal. Which period of history are you? Which martial art are you? Which mindless quiz are you?

It's not all quizzes though—often it's chain e-mails from the 90s making a comeback. Replace my answers with your own and forward to everyone on your address book! These ones I understand a little better—at least you get some qualatitive data about your friends so that you can pass judgement on their taste in movies or what big softies they are.

I blame Kate for this.

  1. Grab the nearest book.
  2. Open the book to page 123.
  3. Find the fifth sentence.
  4. Post the text of the next 3 sentences on your blog along with these instructions.

Kate's message had an additional step that told Richard not to cheat by pulling out a special reserve book that would make him look interesting.

Here's what I got:

One hallucination in particular took a strong hold on his credulity. The neighbour harkening with white face beside his window, the passer-by arrested by a horrible surmise on the pavement—these could at worst suspect, they could not know; through the brick walls and shattered windows only sounds could penetrate. But here, within the house, was he alone?

My book was the Wordsworth Classics edition of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde with The Merry Men & Other Tales and Fables by R. L. Stevenson.

I don't intend to make a habit of this, but there could always be a slow news day when I just can't resist.

Update: Fixed some broken HTML.

Moshwit awareness week

Using the London Bloggers to explore the thoughts of the people around me, I discovered Darren Beale's call for more moshwits. My own experience with Moshwits has been positive, and I would like to share that joy with others.

For those that don't know, a Moshwit is an animal that looks like a small rhino with a softer hide and no horns. The Moshwit was once worshipped by the pagan Celts as a protective spirit but now has been hunted near to the point of extinction; today, there are only two Moshwits in the entire British Isles.

A Moshwit is a terrible thing to waste.

Public service announcement

The Prince Charles Cinema movie listing for this week has a helpful note for Londoners more affected by July 7 bombings than I:

The Interpreter

Please be advised that The Interpreter contains scenes of terrorist violence including a bomb explosion on a bus

Gee whiz. I'm heading along on Friday for a double feature and a shared meal. I know precious little about the movies, and even less about the meal—what is Dim Sum, anyway?

The cinema is hosting Sing-a-Long-a Sound of Music, which got my hopes up for a local Rocky Horror group. Can you tell I really want to go along to a proper, full audience-participation Rocky show? Well, it seems that Sing-a-Long-a do a stable Rocky Horror show, but their tour dates show that August 9 was the last show in the London area until late November. The elusive treasure escapes me again!

A home among the gum trees

I've placed a flat wanted advert on the most-recommended classified site in London, The Gumtree. I had to post it a few times before it was accepted — I think their site could do with a little love and caring behind the scenes.

I started writing a serious ad but then I came across Joe Richards' advert and realised I needed a competitive edge.

Thinking back to when we tried to raise a flat from 785's ashes (and completely not learning from what happened there), I put the following together:

I'm looking for a flat, but simply a room and facilities is not enough for me.

Actually, I've already kidnapped your puppy and/or parents and will hold them hostage until I have a suitable home.

Here are my demands:
  • Double room
  • Furnished (with double bed)
  • Zone 1 or Zone 2
  • Less than 30 minutes from Tottenham Court Road station by public transport (they have my favourite burgers)
  • Reasonably social flatmates (2 to 5 of them)
I am willing to pay around 100 GBP per week for this. If your flat is right next to the Red Veg burger bar in Soho, I will pay much more and also have your babies.


The theory is that only sufficiently awesome people would respond to an ad like that. Maybe I should put up a normal one as well?

Afterwards, I noticed an ad for a kissing group in the community section. Some sort of entry-level swinger's group, perhaps?

Update: Fixed some formatting on the ad

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Traditional Indian plastic bag

What does it mean when an Indian man gives you a warm, squishy bag of organic matter? Is it some kind of fertility rite?

It sure creeped me out, either way.

Keeping up with He Tangata

Wow, it's been a big week for Kiwi Catch-Ups!

My good friend Bob has just moved to this hemisphere with an aim to work in Germany. His German is a heck of a lot better than mine, so he actually has a chance at this. He's based at his parents' home in London while he organises everything, so we've had the chance to Be Awesome Together and take a day trip to faraway castles in the countryside, courtesy of the lovely British Rail system. We saw jousting, torture equipment and the world's largest trebuchet (big catapult thing).

Another friend of mine, Nic, has taking a month off working in New Zealand so that she can spend time with her friends in Europe. After the long, 24 hour flight from Christchurch, she was more interested in bed than tourist attractions. I still managed to show her shopping on Oxford Street and a tasty dinner from The Ultimate Burger. That was all we had time for; she stayed in London for little more than a day before jetting off to Dublin.

Jo and Mel are looking for flats, just like I should be doing. The elusive (but always lovely) K-Money has joined the blogosphere, and Gozu is renewing his membership. Or something.

Corran's making movies again, Brad is pitching Punchline's potent profits to potential producers. Potatoes.

Not strictly a Zealander, but the intriguing Swedish-Danish grrl from my hostel days is swinging by London in a week or so. Sadly, it appears that there are no Rocky Horror shows over here, either.

Home is where the filth is

Our French flatmate has flipped out and posted a list of untidy things on the fridge.

I wish I'd taken it so I could copy it verbatim; some of the translation errors were gold. The toilet cup is covered in piswee every morning. The living room has not been broomedsweep for at least two weeks.

According to the American guy, she caught the cleaning bug from Sabrina the Teenage German who lived here before I did. It seems that we all hoped she'd grow out of it or something, but evidently she's training for a Good Housekeeping feature or something.

Dan Brown run-down part 1: Angels and Demons

I'd heard about Dan Brown's bestselling novel, The Da Vinci Code (the book with a light brown cover). I'd heard about the prequel, Angels and Demons (this one has a light blue cover). Long before I left the shores of my native Aotearoa, my friends and colleagues were talking about these masterpieces. In fact, one of my friends went so far as to renounce his pagan ways and convert to Catholicism as a result of reading the Code. I couldn't imagine it being that powerful, but I believe in the adage: Never judge a man before you've walked a mile in his shoes. (you'll be a mile away and have his shoes)

When I started my UK book collection at the Waterstones sale, I thought I should take the opportunity to see what all the fuss was about: I bought Angels and Demons.

Boy, did I feel cheated.

Angels and Demons is the only book I can think of that has made me want to throw it down in anger. I wasn't angry at the grotesque torture inflicted on men of the cloth, nor was I angry at the accusations of immoral conduct by Popes. These were more likely points in the book's favour. No, I was angry at the way Dan Brown talked to me. Talked down to me. Maybe it's just my background, but I think even someone who's never studied a periodic table in his or her life would only need a few paragraphs to convince them that the superweapon created by renegade scientists was Bad News. I felt like I was reading a science book for 12-year olds.

The technology wasn't the only thing amiss in the writing, or even the worst. The novel read like a screenplay, with Hollywood-style explanations of concepts: always have a confused character ask a knowledgeable one. Not to mention the irritating and unnecessary foreshadowing:

He never suspected that later that night, in a country hundreds of miles away, the information would save his life.

Luckily, I pressed on and made it past all the horrible parts. The story itself was reasonably interesting, and the layers of deception were worthy of a Mission: Impossible! film. Still, I wasn't going to pay actual money for the sequel.

Friday, August 12, 2005

House of less than a thousand corpses

Although it is often misused, and loading times can be horrible, Flash can be creepy too.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

More video gamery

After completing the Flash game Grow I posted about earlier, I decided that I should play through a few Japanese-style console RPGs. I thought about the game series that I'd already played: Final Fantasy, Phatasy Star, The Ys, Breath of Fire — but couldn't find one of those quickly enough, so I started playing Dragon Warrior through the handy (and legitimate!) online emulation service, ConsoleClassix.

Frankly, I'm quite disappointed.

After reading through The Grand List of Console Role Playing Game Clichés, I was all geared up for some thick syrupy fantascifi story with timeless morals like science is evil or everybody needs friends. Instead, what do I get? An early Ultima (complete with faux—Old English utterances like Thy hit point is decreased by 1!) where the only thing that's Japanese is the monster design.

I know it's meant to be the first Japanese entry to the market, and I'm sure the next one will be better, but I'm still disappointed. (That won't stop me from playing it through to the end, though.)

Saturday night at the movies

Saturday night was the outdoor Stella Screen showing of one of my favourite films, Donnie Darko. Sadly, Alex was in Croatia and Carly was working, so I went out to celebrate my neighbour's birthday instead. There was a bit of a fiasco around money machines, and the birthday girl was viciously assaulted by a dangerous speaker stand, but all the insane bus driver sending us hurtling down the road and past other buses made up for it all.

We regret to inform you

I had a second interview at the little media agency on Thursday. I thought it went well, but obviously not well enough: I didn't get the job. In the mean time, I've had an overly enthusiastic recruiter trying to convince me to take a permanent job in Leeds. Thanks, but no thanks. My plan is to take short-term contract work in London; I'm willing to be a little flexible here for a suitably awesome role, but I'm not throwing the whole plan out the window.

I really do need to ramp up my jobseeking efforts, though. My savings will only last so long over here—especially when I'm spending £200 in one shot at Marks & Spencers—and I need to find a place to live that isn't far from work. Of course, without knowing where my workplace actually is, it's difficult to choose a residence. Sigh.

Lesson of the week: Flapjacks are not pancakes.