Green Card

In an instant message conversation today…

[insert moaning about low acceptance rates for international students in the US]

Alex: grr.. how does one become a US citizen?
Adrian: Easiest way: marry a US girl
Adrian: Just like Gerard Depardieu did
Alex: can I keep my european nationality?
Adrian: Course not
Alex: hmm .. not worth it.
Alex: damn americans
Adrian: Exactly
Alex: we should just bomb the crap out of THEM
Adrian: After you


Something that bothers me about the malls in America is the fact that you can’t look around freely. These otherwise pleasant and interesting places have stalls set up in the centre of their ‘streets’ which are invariably populated by mobile phone companies, and if you should even glance in their general direction, they’ll call out to you and say something like, “Hey boss! Have you heard about Cingular’s new special offer?” After a while, this starts to grate since I happen to value being able to walk around malls with my thoughts to myself and not be disturbed by loud vendors.

This trend went to ridiculous extremes last weekend, when I saw a Verizon vendor call out to a guy walking past tapping on his mobile phone, “Is that a Cingular phone?” The guy replied, “Uh, yes.” I paused, fearing some sort of altercation in which the Verizon vendor would start hurling abuse at the Cingular man. As it was, he just started extolling the virtues of Verizon to the increasingly uncomfortable passerby.

As a result, I’ve taken to walking in the malls staring fiercely ahead in the direction I’m walking, making sure that I never meet the eyes of the vendors. I understand they’ve got a job to do – sell mobile phones – but is it really necessary to be so intrusive?

American TV

Yesterday, I read an article at the Guardian about Big Brother 3 in the UK, which among other things mentioned that Channel 4’s editing of the primetime programmes results in a drastically skewed view of the contestants. I thought, “Well, obviously.”

Then last night, while watching Big Brother 2 here in the US (I see it as an ethological exercise) I found myself being driven into a frenzy by the apparent evil character of pretty much everyone on the show. During a break, I paused to ponder why there’d been such a reversal in the personalities of all the contestants who were seemingly nice the week before, and of course then I remembered the Guardian article.

It seems that Big Brother represents the ultimate in media manipulation; while many people including myself have had the misfortune of being quoted out of context in the media, if you’re careful about what you say, you can avoid too much unhappiness. However, when everything you do and say is being recorded constantly, it would take a phenomenal effort to prevent yourself from saying anything incriminating, or making any outbursts. I’m sure that if you recorded me for 24 hours a day, you’d find enough nasty stuff to fill a ten minute clip per week.

Another thing that I’ve noticed while watching US TV is the clever way in which they schedule advert breaks. Apart from being far more (and too) frequent, they’re scheduled so that the end of one programme and the start of the next are invariably not separated by a break. This happens pretty often on series where they show two episodes back to back. It’s quite a clever technique, and I imagine we’ll be seeing it in the UK before long.


There’s an interesting thing about food in America. I was expecting food to be quite a bit cheaper here than in the UK. Instead, the prices are essentially the same, but you end up getting an incredible amount more, maybe double the portions in the UK. So this means you end up with the somewhat unusual and sometimes unsatisfactory result of not saving any money, but just eating more (or perhaps leaving more uneaten food).

Of course, consumer goods and electronics are still a lot cheaper over here.