Posts from 19th August 2004

Aug 04

The great UCI sandwich wars of 2004

Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 199 views

The great UCI sandwich wars of 2004 — well, said wars aren’t going to erupt fully for another month or so, probably more. But they are incipient, as there are now three different places within walking distance from my office space that will provide at the least good if not always truly spectacular sandwiches. But in the kingdom of the tastebudless the slightly functioning tongue is king (or somesuch), and so I must consider my options.

On campus itself is a small franchise for Einstein Bros, part of the vague bagelwich bubble of the nineties that somehow has entrenched itself reasonably enough here. Not perfect, no, but it’s a good basic option that beats the usual generoburger fare, and at the least you can get a perfectly filling hummus and bagel combo, combine that with an apple and some unsweetened ice tea = a fine little lunch.

Off campus, though, is the grand survivor of a few restaurant wars, Le Diplomate. Small, often impossibly cramped during peak hours such as lunch — I’ve had to wait almost up to twenty minutes at a time at its worst, though thankfully that’s not a common situation — it’s still a good cheap way to get a mighty fine range of baguette-based sandwiches. As much of the staff are Vietnamese in background, the results are a good range of not only French-based combinations, but a few Vietnamese ones as well, plus a slew of other styles. Just had a small Brie melt today and remembered that the bread they bake on site is most tasty, a good base for what’s inside.

However, their particular approach is in for a tough challenge — taking over an old Denny’s (yes, somehow a *Denny’s* failed, located next to a college campus — I can’t believe it myself, I refuse to believe that somehow there weren’t enough haggard students at 2 am needing coffee) is Lee’s Sandwiches. An up-and-coming California chain with increasing aspirations, its site in Garden Grove is already a local legend — with a take-away window open 24 hours and spectacularly cheap but ridiculously good Vietnamese sandwiches, it was no surprise to me that fellow food freaks had already discovered it, and that the line the one time I went late on a Saturday evening was pretty reasonably long. I admit I’m already drooling at the prospect of their sandwiches here — they’ll have to be a touch more expensive to meet Irvine rent rates for the place as a whole, I’m sure, but it’ll be worth it.

I sorta hope none of them emerge the victor in that I like the idea of variety. I must practice a considered rotation over the weeks to come when lunch comes around.

“You are a very handsome man.”

Do You SeePost a comment • 268 views

“You are a very handsome man.” — yesterday as part of that odd film series I mentioned in this post I ended up seeing the sometimes okay sometimes pretty damned draggy Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (they’re showing the fourth one in two weeks but the main organizer and host of the pre-movie dinners hates that one, so we’ll give it a miss). Went with a good mix of folks (I missed sitting next to Yen, who I knew would give her usual venting of brilliant spleen during anything that wasn’t entertaining enough, though she quite liked the film in the end).

But it wasn’t so much the film as the experience this time around, more gentle chat and random sharp comments during the screening, not to mention the somewhat failed attempt to try and do a pre-show trivia contest of some sort. The host was game for it but was somewhat foiled by the sheer lack of numbers in the theater — Wrath of Khan had a decent turnout but not this one — and the presence of three on-the-verge-of-teens dudes in the back, one of whom responded to a question about the hairs on Vulcan beards (or whatever the trivia question was supposed to be) with the quote I used to start this piece. I was sorta expecting that the entire screening would consist of little but snark, but once the film started it was all quiet back in their row. Maybe they were just really impatient to see 1984-pixelated computer displays on 23rd century ships.

And a Nelson reigns over them all

Blog 7Post a comment • 163 views

And a Nelson reigns over them all — to this day I’m not at all sure what borders Trafalgar Square. I’ve seen the buildings enough times and all, but they just seem sorta there, you know — big slabs of marble that I’m sure are important and were pointed out to me accordingly (isn’t one of them a university? do they fit universities into one building any more?). I suppose I should genuflect if I really cared, but I’m American, so no.

My dad, however, was quite happily entranced by the major distinguishing feature of the Square in the eyes of many, namely that big ol’ tall monument with Nelson up top looking out into the middle distance and cursing himself for not having ducked at just the right moment. Or perhaps that was just the wind playing a trick with my eyes. My dad’s a Navy man, y’see — ours is not a Naval family by any means, he was the first person to join the service to anyone’s knowledge and quite possibly he’ll be the last for a while yet. But he graduated from the Naval Academy in 1962 and served a long and distinguished career in the fleet, retiring with top honors just a hair’s breadth away from the admirality — had he really wanted to push for that job, he would have, but at the same time he knew he’d be doing so almost on his own as a mentor in the service had died of a heart attack some time beforehand. So he set aside internal office politics and squabbles in favor of finding other pursuits in life, to my mind an admirable goal in and of itself.

He’s visited London a number of times due to his Navy work, but mostly that was to do with finding a place to stay to talk NATO business and the like. But in 1991 he and my mom took an extended vacation to London, and he got to unwind and see a number of things, and the column was near the top of the list. As my dad liked to say when it came to public monuments that he noticed in the city, “It’s great — you’ve got your local merchants, then higher up in other places some barons and dukes and bishops, bigger monuments still for princes and things, then some kings and queens, and then tallest of all, Lord Nelson! That’s how it should be!” And hey, who could blame him?


FT + New York London Paris MunichPost a comment • 396 views


I recently got a little toy to play with at work – a handy excel tool for analysing data. I want to put it to work on the Square Yable but the data I’ve got from that so far is a bit patchy thus far, so in the meantime I’d like some test data.

What I’d like YOU to do is email me – freakytrigger at gmail dot com (or click the ’email’ link below). The subject should be “ROCK STATS GEEK” and the contents of the email should be the following list of 20 singles, cut and pasted with a mark out of 10 next to each for quality. 0 to 10, 0 being diabolical, 10 being genius, integers only please. Don’t bother including comments, just the marks. Then email me when you’ve finished.

That’s enough stats help, thanks! Exciting graphs and tables to follow.

FT Top 100 Films 44: COOL RUNNINGS

Do You SeePost a comment • 985 views

FT Top 100 Films 44: COOL RUNNINGS

Tom Says: The traditional sports film comes in two varieties – sporting hero(es) win and sporting hero(es) lose. Either is a banker; neither is sad. Losing at real actual sports is often sad but tends to be accompanied by a feeling of deflation or irritation, neither of which are emotions that mainstream (or frankly ANY) film is keen on evoking. My suspicion is that this is true even for the plucky underdogs who populate sports films, but you’d hardly know it – their heroic trouncing on the field is generally accompanied by plenty of life lessons/personal triumph/free sex off it.

Cool Runnings deals with a sub-class of loser-as-hero: the sportsman who never had a chance in the first place. Its (true) story of a Jamaican bobsled team at the Winter Olympics is a producer’s dream – Jamaica? HOT COUNTRY; Bobsled? WINTER SPORT!! – k-ching! The drama is clearly not going to arise from whether the JA crew are going to win or not – it’s going to come from whether they’ll even be able to race, and from the various personal crises these people go through on the way.

As you would expect it’s a totally manipulative film: I cheered and cried helplessly in the right places. I also suspect that its portrait of Jamaica is heavily sanitised. But for all that it’s a very funny movie, it takes its setpieces well and is as charming as Hollywood gets. I feel quite strongly that ‘feelgood’ films should get their critical due and I’m glad this list has a fair few of them: anaesthesia is one of the things cinema is very good at, and worth celebrating when done as gently and well as this.

Don’t try this at home…

Proven By SciencePost a comment • 1,063 views

Don’t try this at home…

“These people have no televisual persona, do they? They just should not be on television!”

Do You SeePost a comment • 391 views

“These people have no televisual persona, do they? They just should not be on television!”

A Quiz:

a) Who said that?

b) About whom?

c) On which programme last night?

Answers in the comments box please. All shall be revealed later today…

VANISHING LONDON: The W1 Logo Outside The West One Shoping Centre

Blog 7Post a comment • 345 views

VANISHING LONDON: The W1 Logo Outside The West One Shoping Centre

Why would anyone bemoan the loss of a brass insert logo on a piece of paving on Oxford Street. There are other things more worth of missing on Oxford Street, before you get to this rather manky shopping centre. Bournes & Hollingsworth f’rexample, a vague memory of my youth of being a shop entirely made of of concessions and ropey wooden escalators. Or the surgical removal of all the C & A’s (recently spotted in Bruges though: alive and fueling cunt and arse jokes in a whole new country). Or how about the lane of road which meant that buses might occasionally be able to overtake each other rather than travel at the pace of the slowest one*

Let me describe this logo to you, since I have no picture, and it has vanished. The West One Shopping Centre is a mini-mall plomped on top of the Bond Street Tube Station which has a Burton’s, Dorothy Perkins and other less fashionable stores (!). It is opposite the HMV at that end and is, truth be told, a little bit low rent. Not so when it was built in the late eighties, when malls and glitzy curved typographical logo’s were all the rage. This is what I remember the logo looking like:
Why do I remember what it looks like? Well I made it. No, I did not design it, someone overpaid even by eighties standards did that. And I did not physically bend the brass into shape so that someone could poor blue concrete into the black bits and grey into the outside. My Dad did that. My job was trying to work out how to scale a five centimetre squared logo up to four metres squared. This is a father/son bonding session where I get dragged in to do work, and we bond by default. You know what, it worked. There was much freehand tomfoolery as my scientific eye met the almost intractable problem (though a photocopier helped at a key point). Everytime I got a bus past the West one Shopping Centre I looked fondly back on that day, and also smugly felt “I made that”.

Until abotu a year ago it vanished. For no obvious reason, the centre still has the same logo. But my piece of architectural heritage, my make in stone (cement) has been removed. It was not much, but it does remind me that everything in London is made by someone – good or bad. Its their memories we thoughtlessly knock down and remove. But someone elses we replace them with.

*The one that has just broken down

An Office Debate

Blog 7Post a comment • 451 views

An Office Debate:

Colleague: “I saw some dogging yesterday in Green Park!”

All in office: “How do you get a car into Green Park?”

Colleague: “You don’t need a car! I was walking by and saw two people having sex on a bench, and there were people spying from behind three separate trees! It was obviously prearranged.”

So my questions – if it doesn’t involve a car, is this still dogging? And if not what is it called? Your question – what has this to do with Blog 7? But think on this – do we Londoners really want the provinces, with their multiplicity of lonely car parks and so-called ‘beauty spots’, to steal a dogging march on us?

I’m Only Human

I Hate Music3 comments • 1,155 views

So Phil Oakey said on the Human League song Human and handy it was too to know that he was not the kind of man-machine that his eerily synthesized music suggested he was. Eerily synthisized in the way that all crap things are eerie, redimentary knives and pots made by neanderthals which remind us that we have ancestors that were nothing more than animals. Now I am not suggesting that The Human League were cavemen compared to todays modern electronic music. One look at Moby and you will agree that he is as much of a genetic throwback as Oakey was, but looking at it from this angle – Phil’s claim for humanity might even be a boast.

He is, according to the song, “flesh and blood – a man”. Well it’s good to know he bleeds I suppose. But futhermore the other aspect of his humanity he seems to stress is his ability to make mistakes. Indeed he said he was “born to make mistakes”. Well at least he got that right. Being Boiled was a nice idea (if the idea was boiling the members of ver League), but as a song it was amistake. Don’t You Want Me always had the resounding answer of NO! round my gaff. And as for The Lebanon. If any song could be described a mistake, wrapped in a disaster hidden in a balls-up, it would be the Lebanon.

Which makes me wonder, if there were a real actual Human League, where would Phil Oakey be placed. Hmm, pretty low down I think. Possibly above Dave Gahan, for services to employing people who have no talent – oh – actually. I think all the musicians are clumped near the bottom, awaiting relegation.