Posted on Tuesday, January 29th, 2008
So I was digging through old files tonight, trying yet again to get to the point where I have one simple, neat hierarchy of the gigabytes of digital crap which I’ve accumulated in the last 10 years. During the process, I stumbled across a little cache of writing exercises which had never seen completion, and in particular, the effort reposted here. I think I sat on it expecting to polish it up at a later date, but (at least) a year after writing, it made me laugh, so what the hell; I guess it was ready after all…
In the vast pantheon of multinational corporations, few are more hell-bent on willfully causing international confusion and consternation than the Hershey’s empire.
Even after two years on the West Coast, as a Brit I am still not 100% sure what lies under any given tastefully-designed candy bar wrapper.
For example, let us take the American staples “Milky Way” and “Three Musketeers”. Both fine blends of sugar, fat and various unnatural syrups for sure. But for me, years of childhood wonder must be suppressed in order to remember that, in fact, what Americans call “Milky Way” is marketed in my homeland as a “Mars Bar”. Meanwhile the American “Three Musketeers” is, in the Land of Tea and Questionable Dentistry, a “Milky Way”.
(A note for the pedantic: “Three Musketeers” is not exactly the same as the British “Milky Way”. The British version has denser nougat, but there’s a definite shared design ethic going on.)
The transposition of these names is particularly, egregiously confusing, but they’re not the only Hershey’s confections to suffer from odd transatlantic translations.
Posted on Friday, November 24th, 2006
I posted this first on flickr, but it’s been far far too long so I thought I’d reproduce it here. There are a few other things I have half-formed posts on. Maybe this week. Maybe…
My earliest memories of America look like this. I must have been 4, and it would be another year before I’d actually visit the US on a holiday in Florida, but I had an overwhelmingly strong image of America that I’d picked up from the television.
Even though it was deeply American to its core, we got a lot of repeated 70′s episodes of Sesame Street on TV in the UK, and one of the features I remember most clearly were the filmed segments about aspects of the “real world” beyond a neighbourhood where the most esteemed resident was a freakishly gigantic talking canary.
I imagine that most of these segments must have been filmed in LA. The difference of it all from the semi-rural English “housing experiment” I grew up in was startling. I dreamed of big, chunky vans and beige garages. And the light (the thing that really made today a “Sesame Street day) – it was startlingly clear, almost painful, but somehow optimistic and beautiful.
My dad was always a big fan of America and all things American, and I think that some of his enthusiasm rubbed off on me. I never imagined though, right up until the moment the offer was presented, that I’d end up living here.
Like any society which is attempting to balance the prejudices, fears, hopes and dreams of millions of people, the US is far from perfect. Too much of the “culture” is based on conspicuous consumption (although the UK suffers from that malaise too); too many people talk of “making their peace with God” whilst failing to make their peace with themselves.
But somehow there’s space here. Space to be what you want to be; just a little more space than I ever found in London. It’s those “Sesame Street” days which really bring that home to me and marry my childhood dreams with my life as it is now. And they make me glad, at least for the time being, to call America (and San Francisco in particular) “home”.
Posted on Tuesday, August 29th, 2006
I wrote this a while ago, and then forgot to post it. Although I’ve since switched to commuting by train, I do occasionally carpool when I have errands I need to run. And meanwhile, the situation on the Bay’s busiest freeway remains the same…
I never get tired of watching the rush-hour drivers toiling in 3 lanes of traffic on 101.
Every day there is a sea of perplexedness, frustration and boredom stretching 40 miles, endless hands dangling out of their car windows or fingers drumming on the steering wheel.
I’ll admit, I’m a little smug, but then I’m habitually sitting on a bus or driving with a passenger and I’m in the relatively supersonic carpool lane. At least until I hit Redwood City.
Posted on Monday, October 31st, 2005
I have a confession to make and I feel awful about it, but the truth must out.
I’ve been hiding from your children.
For the last couple of nights, lights off, quietly extracting a baking frozen pizza from the oven, I’ve been living stealthily and ignoring knocks at the door.
I guess, much as I’d love to, I still just Don’t Quite Get Halloween.
Posted on Sunday, May 22nd, 2005
It’s been a nagging feeling I couldn’t quite put my finger on for months, but the process of food shopping had become less and less appealing since I arrived in California.
I’d followed the same patterns as I had at home – approximately one weekly supermarket shop to get all the basics in, and then maybe one more run to pick up specific needed items later on.
And the supermarkets are convenient: large, situated every half-mile or so in every direction, and (for the most part) open until 2am or later. So why my increasing reluctance to enter?
I finally worked it out a couple of days before Mark Morford wrote his piece Is Safeway Sucking Your Soul? in the San Francisco Chronicle.
In a nutshell, American supermarkets (and the food they stock) are a bizarre, freakish world of depressing clinical blandness interrupted only by day-glo “half price!” signs in the aisles. For all their convenience, they are not pleasant places to shop.
Posted on Sunday, May 1st, 2005
More than any other, one object in the known universe has the power to instantly and completely transform a man. In seconds, the merest contact with the keys to its power can alter the most unassuming, mild-mannered guy into a leering, tea-swilling, Page 3 ogling brute who acts like a maniac and swears at everyone and everything around him.
I am speaking, of course, of the Great British White Van.
Posted on Monday, March 14th, 2005
So, I had my first Royal conversation on Saturday (by which I mean a conversation about, not with British royalty…) I wasn’t expecting it to take place in a “mildly famous blues bar”:http://www.sanfranciscoblues.net/GrantGreen/GG.html but hey, that’s life’s rich tapestry at work.
My co-conversationalist in all this was a woman in, I would guess, her late 40s. She was the Godmother of my friend’s flatmate, which is how I came to be talking with her. Unfortunately, it was all a bit awkward.
Posted on Thursday, March 10th, 2005
Today, dear friends, I want to touch upon a marvel of American engineering. Sadly, for all of us, I’m not here to eulogise the beauty of a Jeep Wrangler or the elegant engineering marvels of the Golden Gate Bridge.
No, I’m afraid this is nothing but potty talk.
Posted on Tuesday, March 8th, 2005
If I believed everything I read then I’m almost certain to die of cancer after siring several three-headed mutants.
I say this because wherever I go; at almost every doorway, parking lot entrance, public building and so on, I’m confronted by these words:
bq. This area may contain chemicals known to the State of California to cause cancer, birth defects, or reproductive harm.
Posted on Monday, March 7th, 2005
And no, before we get started, this is not a dylexically titled political rant regarding European feelings towards Mr President. Although, admittedly, the weak link was irresistible.
No, this is a post about an absolute fundamental of life. As Homer Simpson would say, Mmmmm. Beer.