Monday, April 17

More Shopping Confusion

And whilst the Gnome is on the subject of Manhattan shops, why is it not possible to buy wine and beer in the same shop?

Beer, but not wine or spirits, is sold in supermarkets. Wine and spirits, but not beer, is sold in liquor stores...

Is this some health conscious attempt to help Manhattanites avoid the disaterous consequences of mixing the grape and the grain?

Carrier Bag Wastage

Can anyone explain this to the Gnome?

When going to a supermarket, deli or indeed any form of food shop in New York, your purchases are placed inside a plastic bag, which in turn is then placed inside another plastic bag...

Would it not be more sensible, and indeed cost effective, just to make the individual carrier bags strong enough to withstand the rigours of carrying more than one soup can at a time?

Answers on a postcard please...

Photography Lesson

There is a delicatessen near to the Gnome office that is somewhat of a celebrity location. The 'Hello Deli' is located next door to a TV studio, where it attracts in-the-know tourists in droves. They come to have their photograph taken outside this televisual landmark for the Gnome understands a regular late night chat show often films a skit with its guests there. Cameras are certainly often seen there, with lines of patient fans and the occasional papparazzi throng surrounding them.

Now the Gnome is not by any stretch of the imagination a photography expert, but he has noticed a strange flaw in many tourists' technique. They generally leave one or more members of the party to stand in front of the shop and then cross the street to take the photograph from afar, presumably to get a decent wide angle shot of the shop frontage and family.

In the interests of research, the Gnome did exactly the same (although the blue anorak seen in shot is, he hastens to add, not known to him. One must maintain a certain level of dress code to be considered a part of the Gnomic Brotherhood...)

Can you see the problem? The blue anoraked figure is hardly recognisable - he remains a distant figure, forlorn almost, lost in front of the building. The Gnome is certain once the photos are developed back home in those areas of the country where all names are double-barelled, a huge sense of disappointment occurs when it becomes clear Bobby Joe and Mary Jane are all but unrecognisable.

Not one tourist to the Gnome's knowledge has taken the obvious approach to the problem. Take the photograph with your subject on the same side of the street as the camera. See how much space there is on the left of the Gnome's example? Frame it so the relatives are placed there and you can return to Montana or South Dakota secure in the knowledge even the poor eyesight of Grandpappy Billy Joe will be able to see you were truly there...

Failing that - learn how to use Photoshop...

Feline Frolics

Like the Gnome, you have probably been following a recent human, or rather feline, interest story closely. It has been front page news in New York, regular updates provided on television, and even the BBC picked up the story. It is of course Molly the cat and her fortnight stay within the walls of a Manhattan delicatessen.

The Gnome is delighted of course that Molly is safe and sound, but wonders a little about the sanity of the initial rescue attempts, when a 'pet communicator' was called for.

Strange though it is to relate, Mrs Gnome has actually met a pet communicator* whilst walking Gnome Dog. Apparently through powers unheralded in this age of scientific reason they can (for a negotiated fee) tell owners what their pets are thinking.

Now forgive a little cynicism here, but the Gnome has a pretty good idea what Gnome Dog and Gnome Cats are thinking without handing over any lolly. He would suggest 'walk', 'eat', 'sleep', and 'chase string/ball/stick', would pretty much cover it. Gnome Cats, generally percieved to have a higher intelligence level than Gnome Dog, may perhaps compose more detailed thoughts along the lines of 'eat then sleep' or 'sleep then eat', but even so, not really looking into the mind of Einstein here.

The pet communicator trying to rescue Molly played an audiotape of whale songs to 'give her inspiration'. Far from inspiring to the trapped puss, this would surely terrify it, for when in the evolutionary paradigm were cats ever exposed to whales? Surely the haunting sound of a mating humpbacked whale, so beloved by human beings of a certain sensibility, would be interpreted by the cat as a fearful monster awaiting them outside of their self imposed cocoon? Cats tend to look and act scared at the most innocent of noises, so one might predict their reaction to whale music to be a little on the skittish side.

When the whales failed, the next anthropomorphically induced, doomed-to-failure plan was to bring a small kitten to the hole to try and 'awaken the cat's maternal instinct'. Presuming the kitten was not actually Molly's progeny, how is maternal instinct going to be awakened? Most animals will happily kill any non-genetically linked offspring with nary a thought. Anyway, the Gnome had a female cat once and she displayed all the maternal instincts of Lucretia Borgia.

The BBC ends it's report by saying '...despite the traps, kittens and therapists it appeared it was the drilling through three layers of bricks that finally freed her.'

Really? How surprising...

* The Gnome hopes his restraint from engaging in any attempt to make humourous capital regarding Mrs Gnome out of this sentance is duly noted

Friday, April 14

The Professor

Sad though it is, there are many homeless people on the streets of Manhattan. Living in the same neighbourhood for any time means one soon gets to know them, or rather recognise them, for the Gnome doubts anyone in this busy metropolis takes the time to ask their stories.

Most are quiet, lost in a world no-one who does not share their experiences can truly understand. Perhaps as in Neil Gaiman's book 'Neverwhere', they are part of some underground fantasy world, unable or unwilling to be part of the 'real' world around them.

There is one regular on the Gnome's patch though who does interact with passers-by, albeit it in a rather unconventional and, to the uninitiated, frightening way. For somebody passing by this Miles Davis lookalike will immediately be screamed at, "What the fuck do you know? I'm the professor!"

The first time this happened to the Gnome, he readily confesses he jumped out of his skin and hurried away as rapidly as possible. However, more recent sightings have been less fraught, as it soon became apparent this was a standard response to anyone who trespassed within some invisible personal space boundry and once said, no further action or communication would be forthcoming.

Now the Gnome is prepared and, if timed correctly, he can have the semblance of a conversation with the Professor. On approach a seemingly innocent scientific question can be asked. Something along the lines of "Do you not think the Hawking's theory postulating the existence of zero space with gravity high enough to absorb all light clearly solves one of the paradoxes in Einstein's theory of relativity?" and get the answer "What the fuck do you know? I'm the professor!"

And let us be honest, he is probably correct in that assumption, for the Gnome has no more idea of the answer than the next man (unless one happens to standing next to Professor Hawking of course)

Tuesday, April 11

Milky Way and Mars

The Gnome has always considered the Mars bar a solid, reliable confectionary item. It's long-term advertising slogan of 'a Mars a day helps you work, rest and play' summed it all up nicely. It was reliable. Proud. Traditional. And, most importantly, suitably stodgy. Nobody ever finished a Mars bar and felt they could eat another until such time as they had completed another round of working, resting and/or playing.

The Milky Way on the other hand was the effete dilletante. Its mother-friendly advertising of 'the sweet you can eat between meals without ruining your appetite' did it no favours in the Gnome's mind. It suggested the Milky Way was an ephemeral pleasure at best, not to be trusted to satisfy a true chocolate craving. And anyway... what was the point of spending your pocket money on purchasing a chocolate bar your mother approved of?

So why the ruminating on childhood memories of chocolate bars, the Gnome hears you ask of him? Well, did you know that in the US, what the UK considers a Mars bar is known as a Milky Way?

Among the many things the Gnome has had to get used to in the States, the thought that eating a Milky Way of all things is the best way to satisfy an afternoon sugar craving has been one of the hardest to accept...

Monday, April 10

A Sad Farewell

The Gnome would like to wish a belated farewell to one of his favourite authors. Since his father introduced him over 20 years ago to the world of Ed McBain and his hard working detectives of the 87th Precinct, the Gnome has looked forward to each and every new chapter in their lives. Evan Hunter - Ed McBain was one of many pseudonyms - was amazingly prolific. One 87th Precinct book a year for over 50 years, not to mention all the other titles produced under different names.

Although he died last year, it was only last week when reading the back cover blurb about the author that the Gnome realised it had occurred. It made the pleasure of reading that final book all the more poignant, knowing he will never again be party to the lives of the characters whose ups and downs, romantic loves and losses, professional successes and failures he has followed over the years.

Ed McBain's death is obviously felt deeply by his family and friends, but to the Gnome, it is the death by proxy of Steve Carella, Ollie Weeks, The Deaf Man and the other characters he feels the greatest loss for. Incidentally, Ed McBain had a wonderful knack of finishing each section of the story with a pithy, ironic, funny one-sentence paragraph.

I wish I could do the same.

Actors and Astronauts

Manhattan is chock full of actors. Some are international superstars, slumming it in off-Broadway productions to convince their peers that their desire for artistic recognition has in no way been dimmed by their multimillion dollar paycheck earned for a leading role in 'Saving Private Jaws from the Lord of the Rings VII'. Some are honest journeymen and women, earning a crust twice a day in the chorus line of whichever copycat musical is popular with the tourists that month. Others are genuinely talented individuals, whom the Gnome admires for their ability to suspend his belief for the 90 minutes of a well written play.

But there is another category. A large category. Let us call them the 'almost-actors'. Often, at parties or other social gatherings, the Gnome will meet someone who proclaims themself to be an actor, but when asked to elaborate they become defensive and explain they have yet to be given the break. That their undoubted talents have yet to be discovered. That they remain, as yet, an 'almost-actor'.

Interestingly, this admission is always followed up with the statement 'but I've been to loads of auditions', delivered in a perky and up beat fashion. Somehow the 'almost-actors' feel as if that justifies their chosen path. But if the Gnome went to 'loads of job interviews' for a specific career and didn't get offered a position, he would rapidly come to the conclusion that he was... well... crap...

Never one to miss an opportunity for irony, when asked about his work by an 'almost-actor' (presuming they stop talking about themselves long enough to do so), the Gnome tells them he is an astronaut. An astronaut who has admittedly yet to go into space per se, but (and this is delivered in his most perky and upbeat voice) has been along to loads of mission control briefings.

Broadway Laxative

As one would expect from an address which includes the word 'Broadway', the Gnome's office sits adjacent to a theatre. A theatre currently performing 'The Color Purple', the worthy and Oprah Winfrey-approved musical version of the book by Alice Walker. On its gala opening night the Gnome could, by peering out of his fifth floor office window, see the stars slowly make their way up the red carpet, pausing for the paparazzi. This vantage point provided an excellent angle to view, in revealing detail, the decolletage of many a famous actress. But the Gnome digresses. For however tempting it is to dwell on past voyeuristic pleasures, this entry is about something else.

To advertise the show, there are four large video screens outside the theatre on a continual loop of TV coverage from the opening night (thankfully there is no mention of any fifth floor pervert) and interviews with the cast and crew.

Now by chance, it seems everytime the Gnome walks past these screens the director is telling passers by they will find the show a 'cathartic'. One must presume he means emotionally challenging, but the actual definition of a cathartic is 'an agent for purging the bowels', something no self respecting theatre afficianado would surely wish to do in their $100 seat, however much the director felt the show deserved it...

Friday, April 7

The Virtue of Patience

The Gnome is a patient man. It's a genetic thing, for his father was noted for patience too and so apparently was his father's father (somewhat confounding the usual stereotype of red haired Irishmen).

Further down the bloodline, Gnomic archers at the Battle of Agincourt who, when told to stay their arrows until the French knights got really close, shrugged contentedly and said 'fine by me'.

Indeed, any Gnomes who found themselves in Cardigan's Light Brigade, would no doubt have felt very disturbed at all that charging towards the Russian guns malarky, when history suggests their preferred strategy of waiting patiently for reinforcements was probably a more sensible option in the circumstances.

So, just to sum up, patience is a Gnome thing. We pause. We consider. We wait.

Maybe it is because of this patient attitude to life that the Gnome finds himself fuming at the average American office worker in a lift. Now his understanding of lifts is that by pushing the button representing the chosen floor once, and confirming it has illuminated appropriately, suggests all is well and in good time the doors will close and whisk him to his desired location.

So why do so many insist on stabbing the button repeatedly? It won't make the lift move any faster. Double-clicking does not override the wishes of all those people who have asked to get off at floors below yours. All it does is make their finger hurt and the Gnome's blood boil.

The Gnome does however reserve his highest levels of contempt for those who feel their work is so important that the extra two seconds they gain in the office by holding down the 'close door' button is worth the anguish caused to some unsuspecting co-worker who finds the doors closing in their face.

For them, there can be only one punishment... The Gnome rests casually against the panel and surreptitiously pushes all buttons below their chosen floor. The pleasures obtained by watching them grow ever more annoyed as, at each floor, the doors open to reveal an empty corridor is one that only a truly patient man can enjoy.