Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Great Fish & Chips Map

Some of the comments about my blog post, The Quest for Fish & Chips, led me to realize that there were probably some great places to have fish and chips in the US. I just had not found them yet. I also recalled American friends of mine who had visited Britain and told me that they had tried fish and chips while they were there, but unfortunately found a bad place to have them.

Inspired by this, I came up with The Great Fish & Chips Map, an interactive world map where you can add your own favorite places to have fish and chips or find a place to have a good example of the dish.

View Larger Map

You can center the map on a different area by clicking and dragging. You can double click to zoom in on an area or double-RIGHT click to zoom out again. The pushpin symbols are the locations of good places to have fish & chips. Click on one to get details.

If you want more control, or you want to add a location, click on the View Larger Map link underneath the map.

How to add a location - Note: you will need to have (or create) a Google account, since the map is hosted at Google Maps

If you do wish to add a location, please keep it positive. Remember, this is a map of good places. Feel free to enter any comments or other information about a location.

I would love to hear what you think of it, so please do post a comment here. Likewise, if you have any problems using it let me know, so I can perhaps make improvements.

Friday, January 30, 2009

The Quest for Fish & Chips

One of the first things I do whenever I visit my family in England is to treat everyone to fish & chips. Invariably, I am craving them weeks before we go. My parents always warn me that the local "chippy" serves huge portions and not to get too much. I still end up with loads left over, even after we all have heaping plates. The chip shop near my parents' house is not the best, but it's not bad. They're nice people and it's close, so the food stays hot. They also serve mushy peas, the smooshed up processed peas, most often consumed in the North of England, that my Wife has inexplicably developed a taste for.

Since moving to the US, I have often been "tricked" into trying meals posing as fish & chips. My Wife was very excited when a fast food joint close to where we lived changed to a branch of Arthur Treacher's Fish and Chips. The food was about as authentic as the premise that Arthur Treacher (an English character actor known for his portrayal of "The perfect English Butler" in movies of the 1930s) had anything to do with fish & chips. Encouragingly, they had malt vinegar, the best authentic condiment, on each table. However, the chips seemed to be made of extruded potato, and quite bizarrely, the meal came with hush puppies (fried cornbread balls) and coleslaw. I have frequently seen my favorite listed on menus, and just about every time I have been disappointed. The best fish and chips I tasted here were at O'Halloran's, the Irish pub I wrote about recently.

Nevertheless, the best fish & chips are British, and a little over a week ago, Chef Simon Rimmer announced the best of the best. Anstruther Fish Bar in Fife, Scotland, beat off about a thousand competitors to win the 2008 title National Fish & Chip Shop of the Year. The shop was frequented by Prince William when he was at university and has also been visited by Robert de Niro, Robert Duvall and Tom Hanks. Organizers Seafish said, "one in every £100 spent on food is in a fish and chip shop" and that chip shop profits are increasing as the economy gets worse. Chippies are caring about sourcing food responsibly too. The winner of the 21st annual award "serves ethically sourced North Sea haddock, Pittenweem prawns and Shetland organic cod from the world’s first sustainable solution to wild cod fisheries."

I'll settle for cod (or the more responsible choice, pollack) and chips at my parents' local chippy. How about you? Do you know a great place to have fish & chips? Please post a comment and let me know.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Only in America

It's like arriving late for a party, I know, but I am so naive that I've only relatively recently discovered that with a little common-sense and a bit of searching I can find (not always legitimate copies, of course) British TV shows available on the web. I was very happy to find a copy of the return of Friday Night With Jonathan Ross that aired on the BBC last week. For those who don't know, The BBC suspended Ross for three months following a stunt when he was a guest on a BBC radio show. Jonathan returned with a great line-up - and an apology for the prank. Tom Cruise, British comedian Lee Evans and one of my favorite Brits, Stephen Fry were his guests.

Stephen is always an interesting guest. He and Jonathan talked about Twitter (Fry and Ross are both Twitterholics), and how Fry had been trying to lose weight by walking long distances (his recommendation: walk while listening to audiobooks). They joked about what it would be like if Stephen had played Tom Cruise's part in Jerry Maguire: "Would you be kind enough to exhibit the money?" Perhaps the most interesting things I thought he had to say this time, however, were about America and Americans.

Fry recently made a series, Stephen Fry in America, where he visited each of the fifty states. He explained to Ross how he loved America, visiting often, and even having an apartment (flat) in New York City for a while. He said that, generally speaking, he had found Americans to be "honorable, polite, kindly, well-intentioned, thoughtful" and that any ideas of the British that Americans were a "morass of pig-ignorant fools" said much about a British superiority complex (ultimately an inferiority complex). He contrasted the American attitude, "Let's try it!" with the British attitude, "Oh,"

I had a moment of recognition when he talked about the phrase "Only in America." He explained how in the US, the phrase was often used to describe something extraordinary happening. It's an optimistic phrase. He said that if there was a phrase "Only in Britain", it would bring to mind things like queues, rain, incompetency - "no, no you can't!" Of course, he omitted another use of the phrase "Only in America", oft used by Brits when they see some of the outrageous stories about America and Americans in the news. Things like frivolous lawsuits, someone leaving their entire estate to a cat, and so on. I find it fascinating how, depending on where it is used, one phrase can mean completely different things.

Can you think of any similar phrases that have different meanings like this? Please do post a comment and let me know.

Previous post about Stephen Fry

Saturday, January 24, 2009

In Search of the Perfect Pub

English Diarist Samuel Pepys apparently wrote that the pub was England's heart, while the church was its soul. Not being much of a churchgoer, I can't say a lot about the state of religion in England, but I do know a good pub when I see it!

Pubs have been part of the British culture for hundreds of years. Most Brits are used to having a local pub within easy walking distance. We usually call this our "Local." Whenever we walk in, we know there will be someone there who knows us. We can "put the world to rights", drink to celebrate, drink to "drown our sorrows" or just be with friends. We'll meet our neighbors, old school-friends, and a selection of pub-poets, pub-politicians, and people who will help you fix your car, paint a room, or offer to get you anything you want, no questions asked.

When I first moved to the US, my dear Wife B. told me she'd spotted a place called "Polo Pub" on her way to work that might be worth checking out. I think she had visions of English gentry in jodhpurs talking about horses. Actually, the people who owned the Chinese restaurant next door also owned this particular establishment and there was even an open doorway joining the two places. It was not particularly British!

On a walk down to the nearest strip-mall (small arcade of shops), I discovered "VW's." In front, it was a liquor-store (off-license); in the back was a bar. A little rough-and-ready, it did however contain an array of regulars, and the bar-staff were very friendly. I spent quite a few evenings there. I even took my brother when he came over on a rare visit. When they stopped selling the draft beer I enjoyed there, I started going less frequently.

We moved to a different area of town and I discovered two pubs within walking distance. One was quite close but a little unfriendly, the other much friendlier but quite a hike.

Then, a wonderful thing happened - an Irish pub, "O'Halloran's", opened up within easy walking distance. Catherine, a Dubliner, ran the new pub, in what had once been a restaurant. It was a magical place. They had good live music, and the regulars were the kind of intelligent people with whom you could have interesting conversations. The food was tasty too. You could have real fish and chips with malt vinegar, or bangers and mash (sausages with mashed potatoes), for instance, and wash it down with great draught Guinness. There was rarely any trouble there.

Unfortunately, the business began to struggle financially. It's traditional in our area of New Jersey for people to go to the "shore" at the weekend during the warm months, and a quiet summer put the final nail in the coffin. Catherine, very embarrassed by the failure, said little before the closure, although a fine party took place on the last night!

The pub became a "sports bar", and encouraged the very young. I have been there a few times since O'Halloran's closed, but it's not a patch on its predecessor. There is one other place reasonably close by, and a local band I knew from O'Halloran's plays there sometimes, so I pay a visit occasionally. Now there isn't a good bar within walking distance, so these days I am content to stay in with my family on a Friday night, and they are glad that I no longer come staggering back at 3 O'clock in the morning.

Do you have or remember a favorite bar or pub? Leave me a comment and tell me a little about it.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Welcome President Obama!

Not one normally for pomp and ceremony, I was prepared to quietly welcome incoming US President Barack Obama without watching the Inauguration. But my Wife asked me to record the ceremony for her to watch later, and I realized that BBC America was also covering the day's event.

So, I had the pleasure of watching the momentous American occasion live, together with British commentary - perfect! I got to see a largely black audience at the Bernie Grant Arts Centre in North London, excitedly preparing to watch the historic proceedings. It's interesting watching British commentary on American politics, since they not only talk about the international effects and implications, but also are able to be a little less restricted by the need to be completely unbiased in their reporting. So they were talking quite a bit about how unpopular outgoing President George W. Bush was, and seemed a little surprised at the fact that any booing when he appeared was fairly muted.

I noticed that the BBC did not pass any comment when Obama stumbled a little over the oath of office (the error was, I believe, the fault of the Chief Justice). After his inaugural speech, they observed that although it did contain some soaring oratory, it had a businesslike tone. As if he wanted to prove that he wasn't just a good speaker; that he knew there was serious business to attend to immediately. And I agree with that observation.

Some wonderful moments for me were the mention of "non-believers" and "...know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy."

One BBC commentator mentioned how similar the speech was to John F. Kennedy's inaugural speech in terms of theme. They talked about America dusting itself off and rebuilding, and restoring the right balance between liberty and security. A correspondent spoke from Kogelo, Kenya, mentioning the excitement about "their son."

Controversial author and commentator Christopher Hitchens was invited to say something, but I have to say it was instantly forgettable. Coverage after the inauguration included Bush arriving by helicopter at Andrews Air Force Base - commentary of this included comparisons to a departing Richard Nixon and how unpopular Bush was.

The BBC America team, stationed outdoors at Washington DC, did give their audience a laugh when they had the camera pull back to reveal how they were all covered up in blankets!

At Noon precisely, the White House website was given a make-over: - it now has a blog!

Here's the complete text of the inaugural speech.

Let's hope that the positive change that the new President wishes to achieve is achievable. It's a momentous day in history, the day the first black president took office. But it's also the first day of a long haul. Now there are some major bridges to rebuild.

What did you think of the ceremony and coverage in the media? Please do leave comments.

Monday, January 19, 2009

AMC Frees Prisoner!

Following on from my recent article about the sad loss of Patrick McGoohan, I've learned that AMC has made the entire 1967 series The Prisoner available for free streaming viewing online. AMC is behind the remake of the series starring Sir Ian McKellen. There's also lots of interesting information about the classic and new series.

The Prisoner Classic Series 1967-1968 - Watch Online

Whether you've seen The Prisoner before, or want to find out what made it the cult hit it became, please do post a comment to share your thoughts here.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

TV Artist Tony Hart Dies aged 83

Just recently, following the deaths of Patrick McGoohan and Dai Llewellyn, I referred to the world being a slightly less colorful place. Hearing the news today of the death of Tony Hart at the age of 83, brings that phrase to mind again, quite literally this time.

When asking most people for the name of artists, TV artists Rolf Harris and Tony Hart are most likely to be mentioned. Tony was best known for his role on children's show Vision On and later in his own series Take Hart and Hartbeat. He was well known for inviting viewers to send in their own artwork, and some of his methods were employed by school art departments. Most people will also remember him in association with Morph, an early creation of Aardman Animations, who appeared on Take Hart, getting in the way of Tony's art projects. In fact, Tony wrote what amounted to an Obituary for Morph, when Aardman Animations' storage warehouse was destroyed by fire in 2005.

Unable to join the Air Force when he left school because of poor eyesight, he went to India to join the Gurkhas. Always having a love of art, after finishing his service, he went to art school. A chance meeting with a TV producer at a party, drawing a fish on a napkin, led to his employment in TV, where he worked until his retirement in 2001. He would work in his Garden studio "until 4pm when I would change my shoes and set forth on a four-mile Gurkha-pace jog through the Surrey hills".

He continued to work on his art until two strokes resulted in him not being able to use his hands. He said "Not being able to draw is the greatest cross that I have to bear, for it has been my lifetime passion. But I endeavour to stay cheerful, as there is nothing to be done about my condition." Even though unable to sign autographs, he frequently made public appearances.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

John Mortimer - A Great British Treasure

So here I am again, reporting the loss of another great British treasure. Friday saw the death of author, raconteur and lawyer Sir John Mortimer, aged 85. Although I remember the TV series Rumpole of the Bailey, starring Leo McKern being very popular, I only started reading any of Mortimer's books very recently. I thoroughly enjoyed Summer's Lease(1988) and Felix in the Underworld(1996), and made a mental note to read more, especially the Rumpole books.

Working as a practicing lawyer, and known as a defender of free speech (because of this and his association with publisher Penguin Books, it is often mistakenly thought that he was involved with the famous Lady Chatterley's Lover case), he started writing as a kind of retirement plan. He would often write in the morning, before going off to court.

There have been some great pieces written about John Mortimer today. Among my favorites are this one by Tony Lacey, Viking Editorial Director, and this one by Valerie Grove in The Times of London.

And if, like me, you want to read more Mortimer, check out these
John Mortimer books on

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Myth of American Exceptionalism

I listened to a very interesting piece on the Diane Rehm radio show yesterday. Godfrey Hodgson, Associate fellow at Rothermere American Institute at Oxford University, talked with Diane about his new book The Myth of American Exceptionalism.

"Almost from the nation’s founding, Americans have thought of their country as having a unique role in the world. A British commentator explains why he believes the U.S. is not as exceptional as it often believes."

Don't think that this is simply an outsider's view. Professor Hodgson spent many years in the US, as a reporter for The Washington Post, working in 48 of the 50 US states.

The piece is long, but worth spending the time to listen to in its entirety.

Godfrey Hodgson: "The Myth of American Exceptionalism" (Yale) - Diane Rehm show, Thursday January 15, 2009

Here's a link to the book: The Myth of American Exceptionalism

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Farewell Patrick McGoohan and Dai Llewellyn

We hear news today of the deaths of two characters, the loss of whom leaves the world slightly less colorful.

Firstly, Patrick McGoohan, who died at the age of 80 after a brief illness in Los Angeles. I first remember McGoohan in the British series Danger Man, known in the US as Secret Agent, but it was as "Number 6" in the cult TV series The Prisoner, for which he became most famous. Produced by McGoohan, who later contributed to the writing and directing of the series, and filmed in the Welsh village of Portmeirion, The Prisoner was thought to be "too philosophical and difficult" by many critics. The final episode, deliberately ambiguous, and containing a lengthy section completely without dialog, was considered so controversial that McGoohan and his family left Britain for the US and relative anonymity for more than 20 years. He continued to appear in movies, famously appearing as King Longshanks in Mel Gibson's Braveheart, but turned down many parts recently due to ill health. Here's a treat for those who have never seen The Prisoner, or those who dearly remember it, for whom this clip will bring back many memories:

Known primarily as a "Bon Viveur", Dai Llewellyn has also died aged 62. I find the contrast between the obits from British newspaper The Daily Telegraph and the BBC to be rather interesting, "The Torygraph" presenting rather a heroic story, while the Beeb seems to be less sympathetic somehow. Sir Dai (sometimes referred to as "Dirty Dai" by the tabloid press) was certainly notorious for chasing women, and for drinking a huge amount. Talking about his huge appetite for alcohol, he once said: "I do recall one particularly heavy night on my own when I consumed eight bottles of wine, one bottle of vodka, one bottle of rum and one bottle of port. People look unconvinced when I say this, but at 6am I was totally lucid." He became most well-known for revealing to the press his brother Roddy's affair with Princess Margaret.

Although aware that it was probably his own excesses that resulted in his recent ill-health, he nevertheless said that he had "no regrets" about the life he led.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

And Finally, ESTA!

I dearly remember those forms I had to fill out on the plane every time I flew into the US from England, before I moved here permanently. As Britain is one of those countries not required to apply for a visa in order to travel to America, you nevertheless had to complete a short form to hand in when you landed.

Yesterday, the Department of Homeland Security implemented a new electronic system known as ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization), which replaces the aforementioned form. Travelers from Britain (and a number of other visa-waived countries) are required to complete the on-line form 72 hours in advance of flying. Once completed and approved, the (free) application is valid for two years.

There were problems anticipated on the day of implementation, with predictions of Brits being sent home, big delays and so on, but so far that doesn't seem to be the case. The biggest problem seemed to be confusion about the new system, and panic about the 72 hour period. The Department of Homeland Security allayed fears somewhat by assuring people that they should be able to process an application made from an Internet connection at the departing airport if necessary.

I do have a few concerns about this system. As the child of computer-illiterate parents, I'm worried about people who have never touched a computer in their life being able to fulfill these requirements. Somewhat related to that, Google searches for ESTA reveal several companies offering to complete the (free) ESTA applications for a hefty fee. No doubt there will be businesses springing up on the high-street (and probably in airports) all too willing to take money from the unwitting. I was also shocked by the scary 219 word pop-up disclaimer from the US DHS on the ESTA page at the oh-so-catchy address: - as one person summarized it: "We own you."

But the biggest problem at the moment is ignorance about the requirement. This story warns travelers that those who have not completed the ESTA form and are turned away by the airline before the flight, or at US Customs, and are thus unable to take their US Holiday (vacation) will not be covered by their travel insurance.

If you're in the UK, I'd be interested to know whether you were aware of this. Also, if you have computer-illiterate friends or relatives who travel to the US, who might be affected, I'd love to hear your comments.

(Bonus Points if you recognize this entry's title as a play on one of the catch phrases from classic British TV show "That's Life!")

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Passions (oo-er Missus!)

Now that I've been writing this blog for a few weeks, perhaps I should take you into my confidence about why I'm doing it. At first I felt driven to start writing about some of my experiences before I started forgetting about them. But there's more than that, as I've discovered as I've felt my way around.

I imagine that you and I are sitting in a pub, and that you have engaged me in conversation. You discover that I'm English, and that piques your interest a little. You may be a bit of an anglophile. You may be curious as to what I miss about "home." I'd love to share some of my experiences with you.

You may be another Brit in the US, and over a pint we could exchange some funny tales, some probably at the expense of America and Americans. But only a gentle bit of fun, mind you. Like me, you probably really like it over here, even if some things frustrate you from time to time. We might chat a bit about stories in the news in Britain.

Or you might be a Brit, one of those I meet when I pay a visit to England, probably in a pub, amazed at some of the things "those crazy yanks" get up to. You might want to find out if what you see in the newspapers, TV and movies is true. You've heard that "in the US everyone carries guns, it's really violent and Americans are arrogant." You might suspect that this is not the entire picture, and I'd be happy to paint a bit of a better picture for you.

But wherever we have our little chat, I'm going to be talking - and blogging - about things that I'm passionate about. I love politics, both UK and US (when I can fathom it out), but only certain aspects of it. I'm what they call over here a "bleeding heart liberal", often with a sneer, but I wear my bleeding heart on my sleeve and I'm proud about that. I love people, and I want us all to live in peace with each other and with the earth, to be healthy and happy and well-fed. I like to do my part to help that happen.

I love food. I love eating and cooking it. I enjoy all types of food. I feel driven to dispel some of those cliched views that "all British food is bland." While I don't have much time for it these days, I derive a great deal of pleasure from growing something myself, then cooking and eating it. And I love drinking good beer, wine and spirits (hard-liquor).

Books make me very happy. Since I was a child, I've always read. Whether it's vicariously living the life of another, or learning a new skill, I find comfort in the written word. Film and TV too.

Music has always been part of my life. I learned to play as a child, considered teaching it at one point, but now prefer to preserve my passion for it by not making it my career. At its best, music is an international language that we can all understand. Music was what brought my Wife and I together, even though thousands of miles separated us.

And like many people, I love a good gossip. I love to poke fun at a celebrity's expense. But I can also poke fun at myself - heck, I might as well join in with everyone else who's doing it!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Library Love

When I first moved to the USA, I did not yet have a work-permit (it would take a few months to be approved), and I was worried about becoming bored being home all day, while my then fiancee was at work. I desperately did not want to be vegging out in front of daytime TV. I was not driving at that time (for the reason why, please see my entry: Cops, Cars and a Cuppa - my first visit to the US (part 2)), so there was a limit to where I could get. I discovered that my nearest public library was within walking distance, so the first thing I did on my very first day by myself in the US was to visit my local branch, apply for a library card and look around.

Not being used to the way these types of organizations work in the US, it was a little confusing at first, especially as the first librarian I encountered was a little less than helpful. Fortunately, I got through the ordeal, and before long, I was the proud carrier of my first US library card.

Although I've been a book lover all my life, I didn't spend a lot of time in public libraries in England, with the exception of the mobile library (bookmobile) that I spent a lot of time in as a child. That was to change once I moved to Edison, New Jersey. I became so involved with my local library that I soon became an active member of my local Friends of the Library group, a nonprofit organization formed to support the activities of the library by supplementing the dwindling public funding they receive. I'm now proud to be the President of that group.

Libraries can be a great source of information, education and entertainment for new US residents. English as a second language (ESL) classes, information about immigration procedures, help and resources for finding jobs, computers with Internet access, expert reference librarians, as well as programs, newspapers, books and movies are among typical library offerings. Our libraries are especially important in times of economic hardship, the very time when public funding is usually reduced. There was a great piece recently on the Diane Rehm radio show about this.

I was alarmed to read today about the imminent CPSIA laws, which looked set to prevent us from selling used children's books at our annual fundraising book sales. Fortunately, a public outcry to the ambiguously worded and poorly publicized laws resulted in a clarification by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, and it looks like it will not affect our sales after all. Still, there may be implications for libraries because new books do seem to be included in these regulations.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Secret Identities Revealed?

The British press has been buzzing with possible revelations of "secret" identities.

Firstly, just days after announcing the identity of the actor to play the eleventh Doctor in Doctor Who, the Sun reports that singer-songwriter Lily Allen is a front-runner to play the Doctor's companion. The writer of BBC America's Anglophenia blog doesn't seem to think that's terribly likely. The Stuff On TV blog not only thinks that the rumor is a publicity stunt, but comes up with its own list of possibles to play the assistant. Still, Allen's name was linked to the part some years back, before it was given to Catherine Tate.

The Daily Mail revealed that that the "hunk" recently pictured cavorting on a beach in the Caribbean with self-destructive singer-songwriter Amy Winehouse was 21 Year old aspiring actor Joshua Bowman, a friend of rugby international Danny Cipriani.

And finally, this is reported that photographers at a Bristol, UK company learned the secret identity of the helmeted driver known as The Stig who is the "tame racing driver" for the British show Top Gear, but were sworn to secrecy. Apparently, the person in question came to them for a set of publicity photos. The article mentions that one rumor is that The Stig is really Bristol stunt-driver and racer Ben Collins.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

I Love Your Accent

In a comment she made about an earlier entry, my Wife said:

"When people hear Graham's accent generally one of two things happen: 1) They ask if he's from Australia; 2) They ask where he's from and he deadpans... "New Jersey. Can't you tell by the accent?"

Those are definitely common reactions that people have when they hear my accent. There are others too.

My accent is both a blessing and a curse, as they say. Mostly a blessing. Occasionally a curse. In true British fashion, I'll start with the negative. I recall chasing a "sales associate" around Target trying to get him to understand what I meant when I said I wanted "batteries." Again and again I carefully said the word. Again and again he said he had no idea what I wanted. I wondered whether there was a different word that Americans used - I was sure there was not. I pronounced it carefully and slowly. Still no luck. In the end, my Wife took pity on me, and said the word "batteries" - I swear she said it exactly the same as I had done, but magically, we were shown where the batteries were kept. This kind of thing happens from time to time, and it can be frustrating.

But mostly, my accent is a good thing. It gets me noticed, and in a good way. It opens doors, and sometimes gives me an unfair advantage. For some reason, unlike many other accents, an English accent sounds very attractive to American ears. They seem to think it indicates sophistication. For the record, my accent, from my home town of Luton , is quite similar to a London accent, and to English ears is more likely to be associated with lack of education - certainly not sophisticated.

But over here, many people go to great lengths to tell me how much they love my accent, and I've heard similar things from other expat Brits I've encountered here. I've had people in stores - and before my Wife chimes in and points this out, probably pretty equally divided between women and men - cooing over my accent, telling me they could listen to me talk all day.

When I first moved over here, I often would pick up on an English accent if I heard someone in the vicinity. One of the first expats I met over here was a gentleman who has made a career out of recording talking books for the blind. Apparently, they really love their stories read with an English accent. I remember him recommending that I try doing this myself some time.

But these days, my Wife is more likely to hear a British accent than I am. I've become quite deaf to the differences between American and British accents. As for my own accent, people over here say that my accent has not changed. My Wife thinks (and I agree) that whenever I talk to family back home, which I do most Sundays, my accent gets even more pronounced. Occasionally, the folks back home think that I'm sounding more American.

As an added bonus, I thought I'd share this lovely resource with you: How to Speak in a British Accent

Sunday, January 4, 2009


Following on from my last entry in this blog, the BBC announced on Saturday that the eleventh Doctor in the series Doctor Who would be played by 26 year old Matt Smith. As far as I'm aware, Smith had not been mentioned at all as a possible contender for the part. Here are two great BBC news articles about the announcement:

New Doctor actor is youngest ever
Who on earth is Matt Smith?

Friday, January 2, 2009

The Doctor Will See You....Tomorrow

Just a quick entry today, since I'm getting ready to leave this evening for a quick road-trip to Maryland, where my nephew is having his Bar Mitzvah. I just saw a BBC Article that mentions that the name of the new Doctor will be revealed tomorrow (Saturday).

What on earth am I talking about, you ask?

Well, as a long-time fan of the Doctor Who series, I'm eager to find out who will be replacing David Tennant to be the 11th Doctor. For those who don't know, Doctor Who is a long-running (it started in 1963, the year I was born) science fiction series featuring "The Doctor", a "Time-Lord" who travels time and space. Russell T. Davies revived the series after it had been off air for a few years, and the new version was just superb.

Davies recently announced that he was stepping down as producer and main writer, handing the baton to Steven Moffat, who has written some of the strangest and most compelling past episodes. David Tennant is stepping down to pursue other acting opportunities. Fortunately, the show long ago got around the problem of actors leaving by creating a plot device of the Doctor regenerating every so often.

There have been rumors of a black Doctor, or even a woman Doctor (GASP!) - we'll know after the BBC airs its special "Doctor Who Confidential" episode on Saturday.

Sci Fi seems to be have been getting first dibs on new Doctor Who episodes here in the US, then BBC America has been showing past episodes. As far as I'm aware, Sci Fi has not yet made an announcement about showing the special episode that aired at Christmas in the UK.

Update Friday January 2nd 2009 1:45pm ET: This article shows some of the favorites to play the new Doctor, as of October 30th, 2008.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Waiting For The Other Ball To Drop

Anyone with family in a different time-zone will be familiar with my situation last night, New Year's Eve. I ended up celebrating New Year twice, firstly at 7pm Eastern Time, which is the equivalent of Midnight in England, then at Midnight Eastern Time. At 7pm I attempted to call my parents. International calls, especially using a calling card (which I use to reduce costs) can often be tricky at major holidays, because of the sheer volume of people attempting to call at the same time. My call was certainly a little confusing, because while I was attempting to call my Father, my Father was trying to call me. So, I got a busy tone (we call it "engaged" in England) and my Dad was leaving me a New Year message on my voicemail as I was trying to call back. Eventually I got through and my Dad picked up immediately, since he was right by the phone. Dad has sometimes been so sweet as to wait until 5am his time to call us to wish us Happy New Year also, but last night he said he was exhausted, so wouldn't be doing that.

Shortly after the call, I headed off to my computer to check on New Year stories from the BBC. I discovered that it had been very cold across Britain, but frozen revellers in many parts of the British Isles still went out to party. In London, there were fireworks, Elton John performing in the O2 Arena (formerly the Millennium Dome), and actor Michael Caine said that while he would usually wish for a "prosperous" New Year, "This year I think what we really need is luck, so good luck everybody."

Those of us Brits of a certain age will remember New Year's Eve on TV used to consist of Andy "Donald Where's Yer Troosers?" Stewart with a traditional Scottish Hogmanay show. The last time we were in England, I greatly enjoyed Jools Holland's "Hootenanny" New Year's Eve show. Not a kilt in sight.

Of course, here in the States, we have dear old "Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve." Dick Clark, who for years has hosted this live show watching the giant illuminated ball drop in New York's Times Square, had a stroke in 2004. Regaining his speech and movement somewhat, he's returned to the show, although his slurred speech does unfortunately give him the delivery of a drunkard, which I guess is somewhat appropriate for the occasion.

But I can't leave this subject without talking about The Ball. This huge illuminated orb, built from Waterford Crystal, has been redesigned using Light-Emitting-Diode technology designed by Philips to use 20% less electricity. Let's hear it for green technology! In fact, instead of turning the ball off once it's done its job, let's leave the ball illuminated all year round so that people can see how green we are! It's the American way.

Happy New Year!