Thursday, April 28, 2011

MidWeek Mention - Toni on the Telly

A day late, sorry.

Here's a live link to Toni's appearance on "Chicago Tonight", talking about yes, you've guessed it, The Wedding.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Rubbish Rules

This week, we look at the rules of rubbish.


There are quite a few rules in the USA, like not being able to get out of your car and pump your own gas/petrol in New Jersey (what’s that all about?) and Arkansas State Wine being the only brand of wine allowed in Arkansas supermarkets (yes, it exists). When it comes to rubbish/trash however, no one seems to care that much. Here in Chicago we have huge black wheelies for most of the stuff, and bright blue wheelies for all recycling. Yes, all recyclables go in one receptacle, and we only got that a year ago. Apparently, the City Hall web site is offering $50 off garden rain catchers, but this seems to be a closely-guarded secret. Despite the fact that we live right next to the largest body of fresh water in the world (Lake Michigan), our water’s not free and by golly those water people don’t want you saving the free stuff.

Not like this.

When we first got the blue wheelies, the City basically delivered two to every house and didn’t bother taking any black ones away. Chaos and much gnashing of teeth. No one could get their bloody cars out. Apparently you could phone the relevant city office to have extras removed, but who wants to spend all morning trying to get through? Instead, I lay in wait for the trash guys and asked them to take a few black ones away. No problem at all. None of that “more than me job’s worth”, or “you have to fill out a form” malarkey. They just chucked them in the back of the garbage truck and destroyed them. Ironic since they were embarking on a new recycling program, but – baby steps people.

Like this.


Strange, yet fortuitous, that this subject should come up. When I am not entertaining my fans with humorous vignettes of my adventures in Britain, I work as a project manager for a software company that installs systems for local councils to help them track their trash pickup. It’s true; I even go to rubbish conventions. It’s a laugh a minute.

But we take recycling pretty seriously over here (at least some of us do) and the system I am working on at the moment is the most comprehensive of all. This particular council has three types of bins: green for organic waste, blue for dry recycling and the standard black bin for everything else. And there are rules, oh yes. The recycling teams go around in the morning, and if they find a bin that has not met the criteria they punch a code into our system and this tags the customer with a “contamination.” When the customer gathers enough of these misdemeanours (sort of like a football player earning yellow cards) they are labelled as a “serial contaminator.”

Now, at this point, my job is done, so I don’t know what happens to you if you are awarded the title of “serial contaminator” though I don’t think that’s’ something you want to see in the local papers. I can only imagine the miscreants being ceremoniously stripped of their green and blue bins and summarily shunned by their neighbours. Since denying them the privilege of recycling would be counterproductive, I can only speculate that some sort of mandatory rehabilitation is imposed—community service at the local sorting depot might be a suitable chastisement.

Whatever the case, be aware, if you live in one of these districts, that they do not take kindly to you putting unauthorized items in the bins. Just look at what happened when that lady binned the cat.

And what, pray tell, do you put in this?  Discarded bouquets?

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Who's Your Daddy?

Now that Donal Trump is threatening  thinking about running for the White House next year (I know, I know - don't get me started), the birther question has arisen again. It could only happen in America.


We have a bunch of ignorant racists over here who claim that Obama wasn't born in Hawaii (the 50th state) and therefore, he legally cannot be President. Quite where he was supposedly born is not clear, but you know, his father was Kenyan and Barak did a lot of traveling when he was growing up, so he must have been born outside of the States. Oh, and he has dark skin.
The argument centers round the certification of live birth that proves his birthplace. Despite the fact that many people in the US have these, and the originals are kept in official offices, The Donald and his minions are calling for the long form birth certificate. CNN and many other news organisations have viewed and verified the original document, Hawaiian officials have all confirmed Obama's story, but that's not good enough. He still wasn't born in Hawaii.

Here's a fine example of their twisted logic. The Donald is asking why no one at the hospital remembers delivering Obama. Hmmm...let me think. They probably deliver quite a few babies every day, and back in 1961 Obama didn't come out as a president in the making; he was just another baby. And given that he turns 50 this year, many of the staff on duty then have probably gone on to that big delivery room in the sky. The current governor of Hawaii however, was a friend of Obama's parents and claims to remember the birth and the celebrations. Not good enough for Trump, who doubts the governor can remember because it was 50 years ago. What? 


Birthers?  Apparently my former countrypersons have gone barkers.

That said, the fact that the British are, as of this writing, happy to limit their speculation of Prince Harry’s heritage to a handful of “Harry is the love child of Princess Diana and James Hewitt” conspiracy theorist, is likely due to the fact that, as of this writing, it doesn’t matter.

If the unthinkable happened, and Harry was suddenly in line for the throne, would the British public rise as one and demand to know if he was really king material?  Or would they yawn and go back to complaining about the new tax on alcohol?

I’m afraid all we can do is speculate.  While there is a small, but practically unnoticed, group who think that this is, perhaps, likely, they have no reason—and, apparently, no real desire—to make a lot of noise about it.  It would stand to reason, however, that should the occasion arise, their numbers might increase and they could rouse the rabble enough to cause a constitutional crisis, or at least get a few more people bothered about who might, or might not, be ascending to the throne.  But would these people be so rude as to demand a paternity test on the Prince?  Again, we can’t know.

But assuming they did, and assuming the Royal Family complied, it would, as in the States, do little good.  Those who did not believe would continue to scoff even in the face of facts, so proving it one way or the other, in either the US or the UK, is totally moot.

Besides, the UK, like the US or any other self-serving government—would cover up any and all evidence that would prove the detractor’s to be correct.

That’s not to insinuate that they are right, I’m just saying…
Like daddy, like son?  You decide...

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Royal Wedding - Buzz or Bust?

With THE wedding looming, we're taking a look at reactions on either side of the Pond.


Well they’re all going bonkers about the Wedding over here. At least the media people are. Although I’ve been booked to do a TV segment on April 27th talking about the wedding and all things royal, not one of my friends or acquaintances has actually sought my opinion.

And of course, everyone’s cashing in wherever they can. Take British Airways with its Royal Wedding Package. (Now then, get your minds out of the gutter.) and their promise -  “Share in the excitement and splendour as a nation and the whole world celebrates the Royal Wedding”. Well then.

And for American Royal Watchers who can’t make the trip over, the TLC tv channel has it covered: Starting early morning on Friday, April 29, TLC is culminating the network's week-long event of Royal Wedding programming (89 hours of coverage) with a live production event and viewing party from Times Square. …Starting first thing in the morning, guests will join TLC talent and celebrity contributors to celebrate the big day, as they watch the wedding live on jumbotrons and take part in various on-site activities including a SAY YES TO THE DRESS fashion show featuring past favorites from the show and the on-site weddings of three lucky couples.

(I may get up just to see if they're wearing fake tiaras and ermine.)
"This is without question the most widely anticipated wedding in a generation," ITV Studios America President and CEO Paul Buccieri commented.

So there you have it. If they’re not feeling the lurve in the UK, the happy couple can always hop the Pond and get it in shed loads here.


I wouldn’t say there is overwhelming apathy for the Royal Wedding, but there is a certain lack of pizzazz associated with the event.  The idea that the streets will be closed for neighbourhood parties and that everyone will string up bunting and celebrate the day along with the happy couple seems to have been conjured up by people who remember such things happening on V-E and are na├»vely over-optimistic about them happening again.

Plus, I believe a percentage of people (or a certain demographic) feel they are being manipulated:  the economy is crumbling, pay is down, costs are up, unemployment is rampant and suddenly a wedding conveniently materializes.  Was this to take people’s minds off the state of the Nation and/or to avoid a conflict with the Olympics and the Queens Jubilee?

People celebrated V-E Day a bit more enthusiastically
than they are likely to celebrate The Wedding

But it is here, and ubiquitous.  It’s in the papers, on the telly, in the stores; I just don’t find people talking about it quite as much as on our recent visit to the States.  While we were there, everyone wanted to know about the upcoming nuptials.  But then, we had just arrived from Britain so we might have the latest gossip.  Sadly, there was little we could tell them; we’re not invited, and that’s about all I know about the event.

So, come the day, there will be some celebrations and bunting stringing, but frankly, most people are simply looking forward to the day off.  

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Midweek Mention - Oceans Apart: Stories of children evacuated overseas

If you're in or around the Manchester area between now and September, don't miss this fascinating (free) exhibition at the Imperial War Museum North. (Recommended for children age 8 and up).

As many know, over a million British children were evacuated out of danger during the Second World War. Toni's dad and uncle were sent from Tyneside (where the Germans were trying to bomb the shipyards) to a farm in Yorkshire.

Can you imagine having to send your children away during such a scary time - even though it's for their own safety?

What you might not know is that a significant number of these children were sent overseas through the Children's Overseas Reception Board. Sadly, about 70 children were killed when the liner transporting them was sunk by a German sub and the program ended.

"Imagine the overwhelming dilemma parents faced when deciding to send their children thousands of miles from home and see how the children themselves reacted. Hear the personal stories of children like Joan Zilva from Croydon and Donald Mitchell from Colne in Lancashire as they dealt with homesickness and the difficulties of adjusting to a new way of life in a strange home in a far away country."

If you want more on this subject, author and historian Julie Summers gives a talk "When the children came home" on April 17th at 3.15pm in the museum. She has also written a book with the same title.

(No relation to Toni but they were friends at university!)

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Hair Today...

This week, thanks to The Donald and Oprah, we take a look at politicians and their hair.


You may have heard that the Donald is considering a run for the Presidency in 2012.

Not content with everyone laughing at his hair, they can now laugh at his gigantic ego too. One person who has voiced her horrification publicely is Oprah Winfrey who apparently said "You can't run for President looking like that?" and has offered him a makeover (on her show of course) in May. What that woman won't do for publicity is hard to imagine, but that's a whole nuther blog post.

I, on the other hand, am thinking that he'll fit right in with American politicians. In the recent past we've had the coiffed locks of disgraced wannabee Prez, John Edwards......

As well as that of disgraced former Governor of Illinois, Rod Blagoyavich.
(Yes, it's real and usually doesn't appear to have any "product" on it either.)

Not quite sure where it all went wrong as Abe Lincoln was seriously rocking the original bed head look

Indeed, the only one who seems not to have become too pre-occupied with his "do" is the President himself. Oh wait, I think I spoke too soon!


Politicians?  Hair?  Two words...

Boris Johnson:
'nuff said