Monday, November 30, 2009

Medico, Medico...

Today, I finally got around to going to the doctor's to get something done. What that was is not the issue, but more that something that I could have done unbelievably easily in London was a nightmare here - my own doctor isn't trained in that procedure, and therefore I had to find one who was (there are fewer than 20 in NYC, apparently) and, of course, who takes my insurance. I was told repeatedly that certain places wouldn't, or certain doctors, despite those very doctors being listed on my insurance provider's website as being those magic words - "in network."

Finally, I found one, and rocked up at his office today. He was great - helpful, fun, hot - which always helps - and his staff and nurses were wonderful.

And, about 80% of my visit was done in Spanish. No, really. I had this wonderful Colombian nurse who spoke to me in Spanish. And it somehow helped to create this warm environment in which I felt well taken care of. Partly, I think, because Luz reminded me of some of the lovely women I taught in Spain, but also partly because this was a safe place for those who struggle in everyday life while surrounded by English. Everyone knows a story about an English-speaking person who tries to claim he's embarrassed at the doctor's in Spain but manages to say he's pregnant (embarazada being a truly false friend), or the Spanish speaker who took eleven pills instead of once (confusing "once a day" with once, as in the number - I believe this was in an episode of ER, once). But the doctor's surgery must really be a scary place if you're not sure about your insurance (I never am) and you don't have the linguistic skills to cope.

Undoubtedly, there are those for whom this is just more justification to harangue people about their lack of English, but really, this isn't a matter of principle, at least not there. I really, truly support speaking the language of a country not for Lou Dobbs type reasons, but because I think women particularly can get isolated if they don't speak anything that means they can be independent of their husbands or fathers.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

What a Gas

Well, last night was the Pixies at Hammerstein. The Hammerstein is not my favourite venue, at all, but it did reinforce two things:

1/ I need to get there early. I was trying to be blase about time, but it turns out, that was wrong, because as part of the Hammerstein rubbishness, it bucks the NYC trend and people actually go on early/on time. Dagnabbit. But if I'd followed my normal uptightness, we'd have seen a lot more because, of course, Doolittle is front-loaded with awesomeness.

2/ I am right to not leave concerts early. Did anyone who left last night really believe that they'd finish with Gouge Away? Or, indeed, after a couple of low key B-sides (and the utterly magical UK Surf Mix version of Wave of Mutilation)? No, of course not. Which is why they came back with U-Mass, Nimrod's Son, Isla de Encanta, and, gloriously, Where Is My Mind? into Gigantic. Absolutely spectacular.

That time we saw them in Barcelona was pretty special. This was fun, and I'm so glad I saw them, but it made Barcelona seem even more spectacular because then we were so close, and it was a much better venue. Not surprising, being open air and sunny and June in BCN. Which is a good place to be.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Gaping Holes

Some of the most disconnecting experiences that arise from not being at home occur when you go home. It is particularly noticeable when I go home at the end of the year, and we do those "what happened in 2009" quizzes that newspapers print around Christmas, and I have no idea what's going on. So I do try and connect with home - I listen to The News Quiz (my favourite podcast of the moment), I read bits and pieces from the Guardian, I follow British folks on Twitter, subscribe to The Spin and The Fiver, and occasionally do British crosswords, too. I listen to radio 1 and podcasts from home to make sure I'm down with the kids and what they're listening to.

But it's just not the same - I have no real idea who Jedward are, other than X-Factor contestants. I cannot share in that experience. I am not watching the transition from David Tennant to that young pup who is now going to be Doctor Who (and I've really not even tried to reserve judgment about what a letdown it's going to be without Tennant, btw). I wasn't at home for Nick Griffin on Question Time, or for the remarkable Ashes triumph.

Right now, everyone's running a "best of the decade" about this, that or the other. And I've probably spent 60% of the decade at home, 40% in the US, which really is affecting my polls. For example, none of the polls I've seen here for album of the decade put Original Pirate Material in the top 50, whereas I - SPOILER ALERT - would have it in my top 5. I cannot imagine my life without it - it was an essential part of being in London in the early 2000s. And people here sort of get it, but not really, I don't think. The best tv show lists feature The Office, but do not mention Peep Show - a ridiculous oversight - or State of Play, which I think are two of the best British TV programmes ever, let alone this decade. Or, indeed, the reborn Doctor Who.

It made me realise that I like being this mixture of British and American culture - I would never really have watched Arrested Development or How I Met Your Mother if I still lived at home, I don't think. But I'm acutely aware that however desperately I try to maintain my British cultural knowledge, the listen again function can't really keep me current with it.

Of course, this is also an announcement that December will see many best of lists from me, whether you like it or not. Ha!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


The Stupak Amendment has, unsurprisingly, filled me with rage. Rage at the amendment itself, rage at the framing of the issue... just rage. I have no real analysis for you, commentary. But I do recommend these things to read:

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Ceding the Day

Today is the day Dr. TOH and I celebrate as our anniversary.

But I realise that, in fact, there are other things celebrating anniversaries that might be viewed as a tad more important by some out there.

This is from a really, really beautiful blog called The Big Picture, that I highly recommend. It's utterly glorious - pictures from politics, science, and around the world - it's wonderful. They have a lovely post up about the twentieth anniversary of the tearing down of the Berlin Wall, from both before and since.

And happy birthday to Sesame Street! Joy and education to millions of children, all over the world.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

The Rules

Now, I know I swore off resolutions, etc. But some good friends of mine have instituted their "rules that make us happy," and, of course, I'm now desperately trying to work out what mine would be. Theirs include always ordering a pickle plate if it's on the menu, and no more than two martinis per person, per night. I like their style. So, here are mine so far:

  1. Don't go out drinking on Wednesdays. Nothing good ever comes of it.
  2. Always order hazelnut gelato if it's there.
  3. Never eat tomatoes straight from the fridge.
  4. Don't work in your dressing gown. It is not conducive to productivity.*
  5. When stalled/mentally blocked/frustrated, put on the Fatboy Slim remix of Because I Got It Like That by the Jungle Brothers or Tribulations by LCD Soundsyste and just dance.
  6. Make the bed every single day.
  7. Always order a cocktail that lists cucumber or cucumber-flavoured liquor as an ingredient.
  8. Always watch Coming to America, Trading Places, Airplane, Blackadder, or Ferris Bueller's Day Off if you happen to come across them on tv - at no matter what stage.

This is a work in progress, obviously, but it's shaping up nicely.

* Inspired by currently being in this position and about to go for a shower due to self-sabotage.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

What You Put Your Name To

I've had a few moments of late in which I've really been taken aback at what people are prepared to sign in protest or support of when they haven't really learned the underlying facts. It's so easy in the age of internet petitions to sign things you don't believe, haven't researched. I am certainly guilty of doing so. But a couple of things have given me pause in the last couple of months, and I hope from now on I will be less likely to do so.

First, I read the wonderful Rapture Ready. It really is worth your money and time. There is an awful part where the author confronts some kids handing out pamphlets that call children who were conceived by assisted fertility "abominations," or words to that effect. The author and his wife were unable to conceive without artificial assistance. His devastation as he reads it soon turns to absolute fury when he realises that the teenager handing him the pamphlet has truly no idea what it means or the implications of what he's saying. It was a lesson in really thinking through what one is standing for - the kid had no idea, and attempted to dodge the issue. Either you believe it, or you don't, but don't be ignorant and say that you believe it when you have no idea what you are, in fact, saying what it is you believe.

Second, the Polanski petition. As I have blogged previously, I am enraged by those who signed it: either they really do not think he did anything wrong, which is horrendous in and of itself, or they have no idea to what they put their names but blindly did so in ignorance of the facts. But that is why Emma Thompson has rebuilt some of her esteem in my eyes - of course, I'm sure that was pressing on her mind. Ahem. Anyway, a young woman had an opportunity to meet with Emma Thompson recently, and questioned her on her support of Polanski and wondered why she justified signing the petition. It seems to have had an effect, as Thompson is apparently going to retract her signature. I am impressed with Thompson's willingness to be open-minded and admit she was wrong. That is impressive. But it just emphasizes how celebrities have lent their names to something about which they know nothing - see Janeane Garofalo for another example.

So, the plan is to be a bit more informed. Because these things have shown me that you really should stand up for what you believe, but only if you actually know what those things are, or the impact of your signature on that piece of paper. Which, I suppose, is what a good lawyer ought to advise and practice.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

The 500

This is my 500th post. It is also the anniversary of the election of Barack Obama. It's so hard to believe a whole year has passed. Looking back on my post from the day after the night before last year, I think a lot of what I was thinking then is roughly what I think now. To whit: racism is this country should not be underestimated--and, in the past year has, frankly, been more than a little terrifying as well as disgusting; homophobia should not be underestimated (please Maine, please, show us your good side).

He's been in power only since January, of course. Since then, there have been great positives (the Lily Ledbetter Act, and the general pushing of women's rights to the forefront of foreign policy, as well as - FINALLY - the lifting of the ban on entering the U.S. with HIV/AIDS if you are a non-citizen, progressive judicial nominees), as well as negatives (the general stalling on DADT, the horrific continued bombing of Pakistan using the drones, and general assertions of executive privilege that displease me).

But there are always to be ups and downs, and often the details are forgotten underneath a general narrative. As always, I avidly listened to The News Quiz from Friday and got highly disgruntled when someone said Labour had ballsed up the country for the past twelve years. It's simply not true. They have made horrific errors. But I don't think the investigation into Stephen Lawrence's death, legalizing gay marriage, or the repealing of Section 28, are to be sniffed at.