Saturday, February 28, 2009

It Makes Us Happy

Yes, I had tequila last night. It was... fine. And no real aftermath today, which is good. I had a g&t at a bar, and really, really felt it, so had a couple of pints of water. Then, a marg, another (2nd made by SS who is a marg-making genius, so it was much the better one) and a corona - which is effectively water, anyway. It was fine, not the wonders of a cold beer at the end of a hard day, but it was fun, and definitely revived a flagging me after catching the redeye back from CA on Thursday night.

So, slowly reintroducing myself into the world of booze, and I'm ok. I really am looking forward to a glass of red wine and a steak tonight. Just need to take it easy again.

In honour of the margarator:

Friday, February 27, 2009


Will it feel so good? Tonight marks the start of drinking again and this weekend's activities are probably just NOT what the doctor ordered - a night with the margarator and a night with the biggest boozers I know, which will doubtlessly descend into a bar somewhere after a civilised supper.

Because what I have discovered about myself is that I can, weirdly, cope in the boisterous, big social situations that I thought previously would be horrendous - work dos, parties with dancing, etc. It's not ideal for me, but it's doable. You say you're not drinking for the month, people think you're weird and that's it. And you get to watch the madness of the drinking of others which can be mildly entertaining. I don't miss the huge nights - well, I particularly don't miss the mornings after. Sleeping alcohol-free is glorious.

What I have missed are the small pleasures that it brings. A glass of good red wine with a good Italian meal. A beer and a takeaway on a Friday night while watching multiple episodes of 30 Rock. That sort of thing. The message I'm taking from this month has been that I don't automatically have to have alcohol, and being more considered about my intake is a really good thing. But I really am not prepared to give it up entirely - I enjoy it far too much.

One thing that I must note, however, is that I really have done this mostly to say that I have done it. I couldn't bear the thought of caving, and so I didn't. But it was often predominantly a pride thing, rather than being convinced in the project's inherent worth. I don't know what to think about that. What I do know is that February will be dry from hereon. If I can. So it must have done me some good.

Tomorrow: Report on the aftermath of Pass # 3.

Passes used: 2/4.
Days without alcohol in February: 23.
Consecutive days without alcohol: 19.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Sunday Selection: The Thursday Late/Pre-Emptive SF Version

So, I didn't do one last Sunday on the way back from DC, but today, in San Francisco, looking over the bay, was struck by a shameful, but true, longing for Chris Isaak's Can't Do a Thing (to Stop Me), from his San Francisco Days album. So that's the start of Genius...

  1. Love Comes Quickly - The Pet Shop Boys. I downloaded Discography, their greatest hits, about six months ago after a real yen to hear them again. This is one of my favourite ones although, to be fair, I love almost every single equally, other than West End Girls and Rent, which are my all-time faves. I just love the line "It may seem romantic/but that's no defence." His voice is so compelling, in such a weird way.
  2. Who's That Girl - Eurythmics. Thanks to my mother, I know almost every Eurhythmics song ever. Unlike some of our other 80s, more naff stuff that I know off by heart but am embarrassed to be so familiar with (Queen, Simply Red, basically), I utterly love them and have no shame in proclaiming that. This song is miraculous - the way it switches from this soft, cheesy sounding song, to the more strident, demanding bit, and then she changes again to the beseeching "Who's that girl?" over choppy synths and beats. Her voice is spectacular, and I think extremely understated - no frills, no warbles except used sparingly. It blends so well with the synthesisers, it's remarkable.
  3. Everybody Here Wants You - Jeff Buckley. One of my desert island discs because it is so utterly, utterly perfect: longing, pretty, and the sparse instrumentation lets his voice soar and honestly always send chills down my spine.
  4. Before Today - Everything But the Girl. Generally, I found their stuff pretty drippy, but I love this album, Mirrorball. It's the one dance album they did, inspired by Missing. It's wonderful for running to, so long as you're running outside. I used to run to this all the time over Blackheath during my masters. This is the opening track, and just brings back such clear memories of running down the hill into the village. When my knees worked. Sigh.
  5. Hit - The Sugarcubes. I love this - the jangly guitars, the crazy little Icelandic man screeching incomprehensible madness over the break in the middle. The best bit, of course, is Bjork lamenting her falling in love - alternately upbraiding the object of her affections for doing this to her, and describing in detail exactly the effect of this undesired obsession.
  6. Badge - Cream. Fine, but not exactly exciting, and I think Boston definitely borrowed part of the guitar from this for More Than a Feeling.
  7. I Wanna Be Adored - The Stone Roses. The beginning build up to this is magnificent and, thank goodness, the rest of the song doesn't let it down. I didn't get why everyone was so into this album for such a long time, but then, for a long time I didn't get anything Manchester-sounding - this, the Smiths, New Order, Electronic, and then all of a sudden it happened. It may have been an Oasis-inspired awakening, but it had to happen somehow, better late than never, right?
  8. Skin Trade - Duran Duran. DD are my favourite 80s band - barring # 10 here and Culture Club - and I just fricking love this song. It's them trying to be all slinky, and utterly ridiculous, but I love it. It really shows the versatility of SLB's unbelievable voice. For all the ridiculousness of the decade, DD show us how awesome that silliness could be, but that often hides how fab they were.
  9. Getting Away With It - Electronic. This is ace - the combination of Neil Tennant, Johnny Marr and Barney Sumner was bizarrely a supergroup that actually worked. This is my favourite song off that album.
  10. Head over Heels - Tears for Fears. TFF were my favourite, favourite band of the 80s. Full stop. I had videos, all the songs, and when I was 6 I was convinced I was going to marry the bass player, Curt Smith. I'd not listened to them for ages until Donnie Darko came out and people were going on about Mad World, and then I realised they were actually referring to the TFF song, just not their version. That reignited my interest, and I now listen to them quite a lot, but particularly this song, which I think is brilliant. I love the use of this in Donnie Darko in the first high school scene, it just fits wonderfully. But they were everything that's silly but kind of cool about the 80s - took themselves far too seriously, it seemed, but good pop tunes.

So near and yet...

Saturday is officially my last day of abstinence. However, those that have read my previous post on The Month of Living Abstemiously will know that I had two passes remaining as of last week and, indeed, I still have them. They are to be used tomorrow in a reunion with The Margarator and on Saturday at a very generous (and belated) Bar-Passing celebration at a restaurant with a steady and cheap wine list. So although Saturday is the last day of February, my final day of no alcohol is today.

It's been... strange. I have wanted to cave but haven't really been that close to doing so. I did have a couple of (disgusting) non-alcoholic beers on Sunday after footie, but that's it. Never again - it's going to be full throttle next year, no substitutes. I'm going to reflect more fully on it this weekend, but just to let you know what I have survived/struggled through without le booze, I have compiled a list of some notable occasions:
  • Three days with work people at a retreat surrounded by free booze.
  • One birthday party which ran lateish and had serious dancing, with a ton of people I didn't know - and my partner in abstinence using one of his passes. Luckily, though, the birthday girl and her husband are both seriously off the booze (since October, the nutters), so it wasn't too much pressure.
  • A Pure Romance party. NOT what I had imagined we were doing when a friend invited us over for cocktails. But that's for another day. Note: "Romance" means the down and dirty. Interesting how and when the two are conflated thus.
  • Valentine's Day.
  • A day of guitar hero at my house on the long weekend (Presidents' Day).
  • Schmoozing on the west coast with tons of local, yummy wine at my disposal. Sigh. Thank God we haven't attempted to get to Napa. I'd cry.

Passes used: 2/4.
Days without alcohol in February: 22.
Consecutive days without alcohol: 18.

Friday, February 20, 2009

The Month of Living Abstemiously

Several years ago - probably about seven, so in fact considerably more than "several," I decided to give up drinking for the month of March. I had read a newspaper article in which the author regaled us with tales of glowing skin and happy, interesting people. It was the skin that really sold it to me, unsurprisingly.

It was miserable. I didn't change my lifestyle at all, and London was still a fully smoking place, so I learned that half of feeling terrible the day after drinking could be atributed to a) cigarette smoke and b) lack of sleep. So I didn't enjoy it, and gave up giving up on March 29, a cold night in Glasgow over an Italian meal that cried out for a glass of montepulciano (although now I'd probably go for a Nero D'Avolo, Sangiovese or Barbera D'Asti - hurrah for wine snobs in training(TM!).

Last year, a dear friend MC challenged me to 14 days without alcohol, caffeine, red meat, cheese. We were to do 7 cultural events and 7 pieces of exercise in 14 days. I refused to fully embrace it - only denying myself spirits, coffee, and cheese. I refused to give up tea (the year before's Lent without caffeine had taught me that was generally fruitless), and could not face no beer as there was the Super Bowl to be navigated. Even so, I broke that after three days when I had a mojito, cuban sandwich and then multiple maker's marks (in for a penny, in for a pounding headache), and had to recover with a boatload of coffee.

Therefore I was concerned when MC asked me to take part again. Yet for some reason I decided to go with it and try again. Starting Feb 2 (Super Bowl people, Super Bowl!) I decided that February would be the month - not just a fortnight as originally considered, but a whole month. MC came up with the "pass" options, namely that on four evenings, I could drink what I wanted (he got a pass for his dates). And so that's what's happening in February. I'm going to muse on it in the next week or so as my time comes to an end. It's been... intriguing. But just so that it wasn't a surprise.

Passes used: 2/4.
Days without alcohol in February: 17.
Consecutive days without alcohol: 12.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


Yesterday was the third workout of my new weightlifting regime. Inspired by Zuzu, I bought the New Rules of Lifting for Women and have been really enjoying the lifting. I've kind of ignored the protein/diet requirements, I must confess, but I think I might take a look and get on that part of the programme, too. But the main part has been lifting again. I loved it last summer - absolutely loved it. Mainly, however, I benefitted from a friend who was ex-military and who was happy to come and help me work out. I honestly think it helped keep me sane for the Bar exam.

Anyway, I've had a couple of weird experiences that made me think about why I can now deal (or not) with weight rooms. On Monday, TOH and I went to NYU for some squash and, I hoped, weights. But the weight room was full of 20 year old guys sweating and getting in my way and aggressively hustling for benches and it made me realise how zen and calm my gym is. I couldn't handle it and left asap. But yesterday morning I went to my gym and was able to fairly easily get my swell on (and no, I don't grunt to show everyone how jacked and tan I am). It's been great.

But yesterday still had a few low points. Some Random decided he needed to go round and make comments to various women who were working their arses off. One he told was doing things the wrong way round and it just jarred me. Would he be saying the same things to a guy? I thought to myself, bringing back memories of my helpful swimming buddy from a couple of years ago (I can't find the post but, basically, felt patronised and irritated by some guy who had to keep offering me advice). The advice was probably good; she may have appreciated it. But where did it come from? A genuine desire to help, perhaps, but because a woman can't possibly know what she's doing? I really didn't see him offer any advice to any man working out.

Anyway, working out was this unbelievable looking woman who was in incredible shape - tall, muscular, and not a spare ounce of flesh. But not skinny - firm and tough. Exactly the body type I'd be if I could (think a less bony Venus Williams). The same Random decided to joke to the guy working out by her, "I don't know if she's trying out for Scores or to be... I don't know what." First: Really? Second: The woman kicked arse. Barely blinked, and then said that she simply didn't jiggle enough to work at Scores. Awesome acknowledgment of how ridiculously in shape she was and a good putdown without getting into a fight. There's no way I'd have handled it that well. She ruled.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Sunday Selector: Terminally Tardy Tuesday Version

This is unsurprising, but I was busy trying to get everything ready for a guitar hero monster session at our place on Sunday featuring the talents (ahem) of the mighty Bootleg and our groupies.

It was... interesting. Anyway, no Sunday Selector or, indeed, Monday - farting around trying to get work done and get house ready for our disappearing for two weeks, essentially - DC for work, CA for more work but in a sunnier setting (if all that stupid rain disappears).

I also managed to almost complete my reinstalling of my iTunes library with all the stuff I thought I'd deleted but somehow managed to find. It's taken forever, but... there is still stuff missing, but that's from my pod, rather than the library, and I've also now got to delete the duplicates (have 2 or 3 copies of most songs, don't ask me how). So this Genius is, hopefully, a more complete genius. And in honour of finally getting back some of the music I've been missing dreadfully, this starts with Slow by Kylie Minogue.
  1. Justify My Love - Madonna. Genuinely one of my favourite Madonna songs ever. I know it's her "trying to be sexy," but in this case it really works - she looks spectacular in the video, which can't be ignored when you hear the song, but I love the song as well. The beat (sampled from Public Enemy) works, and I just love the line "You put this in me. So now what? So now what?"
  2. Number 1 - Goldfrapp. I adore her voice, and I love the album this is from (Supernature), but this is not my favourite from the album, although I like the reverbing bass, almost like a too loud sound in a club. I just think the melody of the synth over the top is not great. I do like their more folksy stuff, but this throbbing disco is also a lot of fun.
  3. Erase/Rewind - The Cardigans. My favourite song by them full stop, I reckon. Her voice is spectacular - I think I failed to appreciate it at the time they were big because it seemed bland and too easy for her, but now I just realise how pretty, nuanced and remarkably perfect it is.
  4. Girls & Boys - Blur. Oh SWEET this is the live version - which comes from the Mile End gig, which I attended. Many, many years ago. I was gutted to not be able to go to the reunion gigs in the UK this summer, but actually I now think it's a good idea not to - just to keep perfect the memories like this.
  5. I'm a Slave 4 U - Britney Spears. This is the Neptunes at the height of their powers - using the best aspects of Britney's voice (yes, there are some), and all the typical Neptunes touches that are genius.
  6. Lovelight - Robbie Williams (Soulwax Ravelight Dub). Yeah, there's not much Robbie in this. Which is probably a good thing.
  7. The Real Thing - Gwen Stefani. Meh. There are a couple of good songs on this album, and even then I prefer the Franz Ferdinand cover of What You Waiting For?
  8. Come into My World - Kylie. I didn't like this when it first came out, but I absolutely love it now. The woman is a genius. I don't know what happened, but my inner pop goddess appears to have emerged...
  9. If - Janet Jackson. I love this. Janet Jackson singing about fantasizing and masturbating over some unnamed, unobtainable person. Brilliant.
  10. Listen Up! - The Gossip. This was the first Gossip song I ever heard, and I utterly fell in love with her voice. But what drew me in are the basics - bass, cowbell, and not much more. They just let the beat and Beth's voice steal the show. It's still my favourite on this album.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


It's Wednesday, I have to work late, so to entertain myself during my supper (yes, Chinese takeaway in little paper boxes - TOH reckons that is "so lawyerly") I have been watching old "Even Stevphen" bits from the Daily Show.

This one is from 1999. Weirdly, Carrell and Colbert don't look that different, but take a look at Jon Stewart... wowzer.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Sunday Selector: The Monday Edition

Yesterday was a blur of activity. Well, not really. I watched West Ham v. Man Utd., then I went to a baby shower, bookclub and watched (after several fumbling attempts to utilize modern technology) two further episodes of Battlestar Galactica, my newest obsession. Goddamn it's tense. Essentially, it was not as relaxing a Sunday afternoon as it should have been. I was also recovering from a very late night out in BK watching Little Boots on Friday (my well-documented obsession of late).

So I wasn't sure what to go with for a starter for ten. Genius is still refusing to acknowledge Little Boots' presence. Two of my favourite songs of recent times got played at the club - the Aeroplane remix of Paris (originally Friendly Fires) and William's Blood by Grace Jones, but Genius doesn't deign to allow them a go either. So, in honour of a great night out (and great food although TERRIBLE drinks at Relish, first) we were going to go with Shove It by Santogold. But, of course, Genius doesn't like that either. It really is annoying that so many songs just don't work.

Right, inspired by one of my favourite concerts ever in BK, and her amazing performance last night (and I do mean the outfits), it's Bamboo Banga by MIA.
  1. Fancy Footwork - Chromeo. I've heard this called "Stripper Music," and I sort of get it. Still, it makes me shake my arse, it cannot be denied. Although Bona Fide Lovin' is the one that worms inside my brain like almost nothing else. I have great memories of bopping around Pasadena to this album last spring break.
  2. Earth Intruders - Bjork. I find her equally annoying and yet compelling to listen to. I can see why people loathe her as I listen to her, but the music, particularly the later, crunchier and more abstract stuff that has so much more electro and heavy drums and bass... it's brilliant.
  3. DVNO - Justice. This whole album is pretty special, and has really grown on me (although the weird kid-singing ones are still slightly annoying), but this definitely makes a case for my favourite. What the hell it means, I have no idea.
  4. Hustler - Simian Mobile Disco. This copy is actually from the Spank Rock Fabric Live (which is one of my favourites). I love the way they mix it in with big euphoric trance and then that sludgy bassline comes in, and then the euphoric comes over the top.
  5. Touch It/Technologic - Daft Punk. This is from Alive 2007, one of the albums that confirms in my mind that 2007 was one of the best years for music that I can remember (1994 being another GENIUS one). The particular genius of this is that I loathe Discovery, the second Daft Punk album, yet this manages on each track to mix a song from the amazing Homework with a song from Discovery and it just works.
  6. In the Morning - Junior Boys. Somehow I missed Junior Boys first time around, but again it's that crunchy bassline and I love the vocals so much. It really reminds me of someone else... can't work it out. But will do.
  7. Don't Stop - Brazilian Girls. I went to a rather interesting concert of theirs that took far, far too long to get going. But the singer being highly preggers and wandering around in a body stocking was pretty awesome.
  8. Galang - M.I.A. This was responsible for the most amazing bit of her concerts at Terminal 5 last year (or whenever it was). That "ya ya hey" bit - spinetingling. And everyone goes mad. Shame it was on those stupid car ads.
  9. Hearts on Fire - Cut Copy. I downloaded this but haven't really listened to it yet - I think I bought it just because it was $5 on amazon's end of year sale, and heard various good (albeit generic) things about it. It's ok. Meh.
  10. Sad Sad City - Ghostland Observatory. This is by far my favourite of their tunes. Funny how Genius does manage to find that sort of stuff... maybe it's not that bad after all. Then I remember how many songs it won't let me start a playlist with - LCD Soundsystem? Really, Genius? But I do love this. I'm so torn. Gah.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Lovely, Dark and Deep

The scenes from snowy London make me yearn to be at home. I've been following the somewhat snarky comments about London's inability to cope with the snow, and, as always, reacted defensively. Then today, I attempted to buy a halfway decent birthday card for my stepmother and, as always, was horrified by how bloody awful the choice of American greetings cards is. So I'm going to think about this and blog on it, in the coming weeks. After all, this is a blog about going abroad and I frequently have wanted to get back to its roots. In the meantime, read this frank and lovely article about the innocence of London in the snow.

Monday, February 02, 2009

2009: January's Update

Happy Groundhog Day! Honestly, I just saw Mayor Bloomberg getting the groundhog from Staten Island and couldn't quite believe it - it's not even Punxatawny Phil (who disagrees with the Staten Island groundhog, apparently)! My dear Pat Kiernan did, at least, see the ridiculous side of it.
  1. Use this blog as a forum for really thinking about what I have resolved to do and actively maintain my resolutions, monthly. Well, I suppose so. Hmm. Not sure I've done that, but I have at least blogged and I was worried last week about various things I hadn't done because it was nearly time to update...

  2. Lower the body fat. I have no idea if this has happened because my scales have sadly died (new ones en route), and I can't find the body fat calipers - plus, it seems weird to change measuring technique right now. Still, I might try and find this. I have a feeling that nothing good has happened to my body fat level after a rather indulgent couple of weeks, but I plan to get back on track, starting today. I've really not been going to the gym, which is just wrong. I've been enjoying my squash and football and swimming, but not weightlifting, and that's really what I need to start doing again.

  3. Run a 10k with TOH by the end of the year. Yeah, I've done nothing on this. I need to contact a physio. Will do this week.

  4. Have one night a week where TOH and I sit in the house but do not turn on the tv. Yeah, not sure I've done this, but we did have one Sunday where I just sat and read an amazing book without watching tv.

  5. Read at least six books from the Observer 100. Well, I have one out from the library! I have to finish my bookclub book, but as I have a Sunday deadline for that, I think I'm going to end up reading it next. Yippee!

  6. Watch at least twelve movies from the IMDB top 100. We finally finished The Hustler, but otherwise nothing. We have out from netflix The Wire at the moment, and maybe I should put another, comforting, movie at the top of the list for when TOH gets home tomorrow... hmm... Note, the film can't be from the current year - you can't trust the current movie assessments.

  7. Not go onto the internet for recreation until midday every day. Well, I've not been great at this. I've started deteriorating, although never back to the previous levels. I have, however, been much better than before and seen a bump in productivity, so it's time to get back to even more disciplined.

  8. Cook a new recipe twice a month AND (to make different from last year) recount the successes/failures on the blog. Well, I've barely cooked at all. I've really been feeling the lack of homecooking and control over my life. I made a pie with TOH last week - who made a fantastic crumble - and I made a baked brie for a party, but neither of those is new. Sadly. But I am going to have something cooked for tomorrow night. Actually excited about choosing the food.

  9. Eat one piece of fruit a day every day I'm at work. I've actually been pretty good at this. I think I've only missed about 3 days in all of January, and that's including working weekends.

  10. Win a game of squash! Well, I've won one or two games against each of the three people I play regularly. I'm definitely improving, although of course annoyingly the people I'm playing are also improving. I've sent off my ladder application and am going for a lesson hopefully this week. Yay!
And that's it. Time for a shower and work. Huzzah!

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Sunday Selection: It's Just This One Ting...

Just got Ting Tings tickets for March, so in honour of that, a Genius playlist from That's Not My Name... It's silly, but it has a feeling of the Kills about it, and we bopped around to this a lot in South Africa last year.
  1. Black & Gold - Sam Sparro. Goddamn I still love this song. I've been playing it tons for about a year, now (my 13th most played track of the past twelve months, according to and I still think it's utterly gorgeous every time.
  2. Warwick Avenue - Duffy. Of the rash of the Wino-clones, she is my favourite because I think her voice is the most interesting, with her Dusty Springfield-esque tones. Live, she is not - barely moves. But lovely voice. This album was the biggest-selling last year in Britain. Weird - I mean, it's fine, I like it, but in comparison to the Wino, not really up there. Mercy, of course, is genius.
  3. Singin' in the Rain - Mint Royale. I hate this. Hate this. What is the point? It's such a gorgeous original, and I loathed the stupid car advert for which this was used, when they piss around with Gene Kelly. I love that film so much, and this is just pointless.
  4. Wow - Kylie. I really do love me some Kylie. #15 on my listens for the last 12 months, bizarrely. Above Springsteen, Daft Punk, the Pixies... allsorts. Weird.
  5. Ready for the Floor - Hot Chip (Too Many DJs remix). I know everyone loves hot chip, and I know that the Little Boots stuff I really love is produced by one of them. I have friends who yell at me about this. I do like the music, the production, it's just that guy's voice that irritates the crap out of me. I can't help it. Yet it's not that different from your man from underworld, Karl Hyde, but it's just so annoying.
  6. Fluorescent Adolescent - Arctic Monkeys. This is TOH's favourite from the album, and it's one of mine too. I too think he has a remarkable gift for lyrics - seemingly very youthful in terms of energy, wit, yet sort of old before his time, jaded. It's an odd mix, but his voice really does lend itself to that mixture.
  7. Electric Feel - MGMT. This is by far my favourite from that album. It's a grower, definitely - I didn't get the fuss at first, but it's increasingly growing on me. Like the Fleet Foxes album. Bon Iver I like, but remain still rather untouched by it.
  8. Please Don't Stop the Music - Rihanna. I think Genius is mad - but indeed, has a touch of genius to put this all together. I do love Rihanna, and sampling one of my favourite Jacko songs of all time - Wanna Be Startin' Something - works absolutely brilliantly here, just as in that Mint Royale song it seems gimmicky and unnecessary.
  9. Naive - The Kooks. They seem to engender a tremendous amount of hatred in British music critic circles, but I quite like this song. I just like that line "I know she knows that I'm not fond of asking."
  10. Fans - Kings of Leon. I went through a period of really loving them - around Aha Shake Heartbreak - but haven't really listened to them for a long time. A lot of my friends are nuts for them, so I feel like I'm missing out on something. I should get back into them.