Tuesday, February 26, 2002

My colleague, lunch companion, mp3 sharer, occasional driver home, and fellow Peter Cook devotee, Iain Johnstone died suddenly at home last Thursday night. Cause as yet unknown, it is impossible to digest such a shocking event. Words fail me.
I have been in Colorado Springs for one week, and have worked every day since arriving. I find the focus of being away from such ephemera as my favourite newspaper and radio channel very energising, and feel a genuine enthusiasm for my work and warmth towards my colleagues. This is reciprocated - they feel like old friends, and there were even "welcome back" gifts for colleague E. and mysef waiting on our desks. I am surrounded in my workplace by people and machines I find fascinating and want to learn how to work with.

To a Briton, the scale and form of this place is hard to identify - the sun is turning my skin ruddy while the mountains remain snowcapped and there were even drifts blowing around like smoke from lava this morning. Every few blocks the same names repeat themselves - there are more MacDonalds than in the Aberdeen phone book. I'm eating well - Agilent Technologies' lunchtime burritos and Ruby Tuesday's sublime salad bar being good opportunities to avoid those staples, beef and cheese. And I've consumed 2 glasses of wine and 3 pints of cider (cider! yes! at Jack Quinn's Irish Pub) and no more in the last week.

All this vocational and epicurian distraction leaves little room for immersion in the cultural bivouac I packed, although I was adequately entertained by William Boyd's Armadillo (although it's very much in the Charlie Higson or David Baddiel mode) and am presently being drawn in to The Rotter's Club by Jonathan Coe, which I bought solely because it contains a fictional review of Tales From Topographic Oceans.

Speaking of music, currently on heavy rotation in my brain (and occasionally on MP3) are

  1. Trey Gunn - Raw Power
  2. Suzanne Vega - Songs In Red and Gray
  3. Tony Levin - World Diary (and I've just ordered his other two)
  4. JS Bach - Goldberg Variations
and of course, always, the music of King Crimson and Marillion, men who do it because they're good at it.

I have been saving all my quarters to use in the laundromat at the place I'm staying, and left them in a neat pile in my room. Whoever cleaned my room today assumed they were a tip and took them. Try doing that in Britain.

Thursday, February 21, 2002

Sunday started cloudy and then got rather sunnier. Around 18 hours of G'n'T consumption in great company made for a relaxed day, surrounded by nice people. Went for a meal with a bunch of old on-line friends who are still a bunch on-line friends, but I was acepted back into the fold for the evening, very touchingly. I had around 2 hours sleep, and awoke in my lovely balcony room to find it full of sunshine. Musing on the fact that I was unlikely to be surrounded by so many friends again for a long time, I packed and listened to King Crimson's Waiting Man. A civilized journey to Denver was followed by a generous ride from colleague E. to Colorado Springs

The last two days work have been draining and satisfying. I really wish I worked here. Just as well. Two days down, 48 to go. I miss my Helen, but she sounds happy!

Sunday, February 17, 2002

On Friday, I returned to Universal Studios and conquered my fear of the Jurassic Park ride by going on twice. Having seen most of the attractions before, the stars were the weather and the view of the valley. A better evening than Thursday followed. Saturday was unsettled. I'm not really at this convention with anyone, so there's more time for solitary gym use or outdoor swimming, but it's quite an effort to find someone to lunch with. Throughout the day, I kept returning to my room to learn and practice my turn for the cabaret. By evening, I had delivered it to the mirror around forty times and got it right about once. At the last minute, I decided that my character would probably have a clipboard. I met Dan Freedman from the BBC in the bar, and then rehearsed Papaerback Writer with the paperback writers. Immediately before the cabaret, MC Cornell was having kittens and I wasn't far behind him in the feline maternity stakes. I stayed stage-left throughout, and as requested, composed supposedly witty bon mots for Paul to introduce each act with. He credited me from the stage, which was incredibly nice, as was his tongue-in-cheek praising me to the skies (I'll be reviewing his new play in a few months). I got the monologue spot on, and managed to glance at the clipboard while riding the laughs. My admiration for Ronnie Barker's flair with words and timing of delivery is absolute. The cabaret ran for over three hours and the hotel closed the bar 70 minutes later. But we had a good disco, which was raiding by the local cops who didn't realise it was a private function and demanded all alcohol be removed, including the 18 beers I'd bought at the 7-11! I had to keep sneaking back the the room for a quick chug. Thanks LAPD - you have elevated beer to class A status!

Four hours sleep later, I was in the first panel of Sunday morning. I am getting a cold, probably due to lack of sleep. All the gin and tonics probably may have some impact too. Off downstairs now for the Dead Ringers panel. And a drink.

Friday, February 15, 2002

Shortly after I retired on Wednesday night, the framed Dali melting clocks print in my living room commited suicide, by severing itself from the picture hook and plummeting noisily to the floor, where the glass shattered. This startled me considerably, and I was at a loss to attribute the sound until the morning.

I got a bit weepy when being waved off by Helen at Edinburgh airport. Met some fellow Gallifreyans at the departure gate at Heathrow, and enjoyed a pleasant flight - 51st State being great fun, especially Robert Carlyle's brave but doomed Scouse accent. The journey then demonstrated Zeno's paradox perfectly - the closer we got to the destination, the slower we moved.

Maybe I was just wiped out from the journey, but after speaking to Helen at 2am her time, the night went downhill. One or two loud, pissed-up, or over-flirtatious Brits really spoiled the atmosphere, and the convention not having started, they had an empty canvas to defile. Being quickly brushed-off by a former on-line acquaintance when I introduced myself to him for the first time was a bit crushing, too. However, Maggie Stables is enchanting, and Mark McDonnell engagingly down-to-Earth.

An unsatisafctory night, neither civilized nor riotous, but having the worst aspects of both. Retired at 11pm but woke again at 3:30 and have stayed up to unpack, and am feeling far less unsettled now that I have imposed some order on my lovely large third-floor room.

I think I may press ahead and learn an edited version of one of Ronnie Barker's monologues for the cabaret on Saturday night - Getting Your Wrongs In The Word Order. In the meantime, I am joining a massed visit to Universal Studios today. Just time to go and forage for high-fibre food (a brave objective) and maybe have a swim if it's nice at 8 o'clock. I'm glad to be here. Bath time.

Monday, February 11, 2002

Gosford Park was worth the wait. I look forward to enjoying the parts I didn't follow on second viewing. Cinema still packed. Trudged around Haddington and environs on Saturday. I could live there without being pushed too hard. It's worth it for the funny man on the junction sign who has a no-entry symbol for a head and four roads for limbs. As you approach the junction from different directions he assumed diffent postures. I think he's a distant relative of Bertie Basset.

Cycled in this morning against fierce wind. And the weather was a bit blustery, too. I have still not recovered from 30 lengths of the pool on Thursday. Hope I can find somewhere to swim in Colorado Springs.

I will have enough mp3 music and drama with me to run a medium-sized radio station for a month or two. None of the sodding DVDs I have ordered to take with me have been despatched. Arse.

Monday, February 04, 2002

A full weekend nestles warmly in my memory. Managed to complete both reviews by 2am Friday morning, although Invaders From Mars took some combing on Saturday before being submitted. With a six-week stay in Colorado Springs looming, I'm trying to squeeze in as much quality home time as possible. I managed some passable Indian cooking on Saturday night, as cooking while listening to Loose Ends before settling down to dinner over Casualty is tradition which greatly soothes my obsessive/compulsive soul. I ploughed through 60 breadths of the Commonwealth Pool on Sunday lunchtime, having finally realized that you can use your legs in breast stroke too.

Helen and I attempted valiantly to get in to Gosford Park on Sunday night before giving up and going to Pizza Express in Stockbridge, where the pizzas are getting smaller and less pleasant with every visit ("not as good as yours", said Helen; the kind of bare-faced lie that endears her to me ever more), and we were the only couple without a designer baby. We consoled ourself with another Richard E. Grant appearance, specifically, Withnail and I, with DVD commentary my Paul McGann and Ralph Brown. They talked so much that I'll be able to watch it again soon and find the dialogue relatively fresh. Grant's absence from the voice-over booth is a bonus, since McGann and Brown discuss his nature unselfconciously.

Only ten days left in the UK until April.