Before i Forget : Simon Jones's blog

December 2006

GeneralWednesday, December 20th, 2006, (9:12 pm)

Shock horror, the current Miss America, 21 year old Tara Conner, may not be a little angel. Instead, as shocking as it might seem, she may like to party just like any other 21 year old American girl.

I’m not entirely sure why the BBC chose to run a report about Miss Conners. Cynically I wonder if it wasn’t just so they could legitimately post a picture of a pretty blonde girl in a bikini on their website. I, of course, don’t need a reason to post such a picture on my blog, but if it’s good enough for the beeb, then it’s good enough for me. Heaven forbid we should become distracted by real news or any such thing!

Interestingly enough I notice that the Fox News website used the same picture of Miss Conner on their site but they cropped the picture just above her boobs. Presumably they felt a bikini clad 21 year old girl was just way too liberal for their audience. Maybe then they are the same people who were shocked at the news that Miss America behaves just like any normal 21 year old American girl. She drinks, dances, and though this can’t be confirmed, she may even kiss boys!

Yes it’s deeply shocking news I know! But there you have it. Tara Conner from Kentucky is normal and because of this she was nearly stripped of her Miss America title. After all, what kind of example is she setting to all the other 21 year old girls she meets at bars and clubs in New York!

After reports that Miss Conner liked to drink and party (she was under age drinking in New York) she was summoned to a meeting in Manhattan with the owner of the Miss Universe contest, Donald Trump. It was expected that Conner would be de-crowned for her transgressions into normal behavior.

It wouldn’t be the first time a reigning Miss America would have had to pass her crown the the runner up. In 1983 Vanessa Williams was crowned the first black Miss America, but after pictures of her showing of her ‘Janet Jackson’s’ surfaced she was forced by an unforgiving America to give up the tiara. This time, however, Donald Trump was more forgiving declaring instead he has “always been a believer in second chances.”

Presumably in the wake of the recent stories about Miss America being a ‘party girl’ she will be in a string of public appearances with old people, recovering injured animals, and sick children. I can’t say I’ll post any of those picture here any time soon.

US beauty queen to keep her title
Miss USA may not deserve her title and tiara
‘Out of Control’ Miss USA Tara Conner’s Crown Safe … for Now
Miss America. The official site

TravelTuesday, December 19th, 2006, (1:14 am)

Sometimes life has other plans. You have a schedule all planned out and everything in place, then something happens and your best laid plans are shot to hell. That was the case for me on Friday. The plan was simple enough, catch a flight to Chicago do a quick change then fly on to Portland, Oregon. But some kind of technical problem with the plane delayed the flight by 5 hours and that meant that I missed the connection to Portland. Life had other plans, and you know what, I’m can’t say that I’m in the slightest bit annoyed that it did.

When my flight eventually left Manchester, England, it was already dark. We had several hours of chasing the sunset ahead of us. From my window there was nothing to see but hour upon hour of darkness over the North Atlantic Ocean.

The usual chicken or beef offerings were duly served in plastic wrapped containers on a tray that was big enough to fit on the seat back table, but not big enough to accommodate the micro-meal itself. I made a ‘flying friend’ of the guy sat next to me, an American called John on his way home to Seattle. Together we put the world to rights from our cramped cattle class seats above the oppressive low noise of the engines which were busy undoing all my efforts to save the planet.

Upon our late arrival in Chicago I learned that I would be spending the night in ‘the windy city.’ The airline had made hotel arrangements for those of us who had been marooned. They were also going to pick up the tab for our evening meal and breakfast, so I checked in then enjoyed a big bowl of linguini and a cold beer. The airlines sins were forgiven.

Despite the fact that I had now been up for some 24 hours I decided that there was simply no way that I would spend a night in Chicago and not go into the city. Chicago is one of my favorite cities and I couldn’t be so close and not walk its streets bathed in the glow of the street lights and fairy lit trees.

I wrapped up warm then went outside to get a cab. It was already nearly ten o’clock and I had it in my head to go into the city and the observatory at the top of the John Hancock Tower. It was one of those crazy ideas that really defies all logic, but I had to do it, I just had to!

Waiting for a cab was taking too long so I walked up to a nearby limo that was parked and tapped on the drivers window. “Can I hire you? Are you available?” I asked. “Actually, I think so. It looks like I’ve been stood up, where do you want to go?” Asked the driver. “Downtown, how much would that be?” I replied. “Fifty six dollars my man.” And with that I said “Done” and jumped in. “Take me to the John Hancock Tower as fast as you can!” I said as I sank into the plush black leather seat stretching my feet before me and smiling broadly to myself. “I’m in Chicago!” I thought to myself as we set off toward the glittering skyscrapers of downtown.

About a half hour or so later the limo pulled up outside the Hancock Tower. I jumped out and hurried toward the observatory entrance. The skydeck closes at 11pm and it was now 10:40pm. The entrance to the observatory was completely empty as one would expect at such a late hour. A single girl sat at the desk looking bored and somewhat puzzled as I ran back and forth between the zig zig fence that presumably controls the long lines that form in busier periods.

“Sir we close at eleven.” She said in a tone that revealed her level of boredom. Still running back and forth I said “Yeah I know!” Arriving at the desk with my wallet open I said “One please.” She looked at me smiling and shaking her head with a look of on her face that clearly communicated that she thought I was nuts, and in this very moment she wasn’t wrong, I was nuts! But I was in Chicago for one night, and despite my early morning flight the next day and my already elongated day, I wasn’t going to pass up an opportunity to gaze out of the windows of the 94th floor at a view that would be worth every penny of the $80 it had effectively cost me.

Franticly pressing the elevator button as if this would somehow hasten it’s arrival, I paced up and down the lobby anxious to get to the skydeck as quickly as possible. With ear popping speed the elevator launched me to the observatory. The doors opened and I rushed into the wide open space and right up to the window. Chicago stretched before more, its lights twinkling like the hot embers of a fire. “Chicago!” I said to myself. “I’m in Chicago!” My reflection smiled back at me broadly as the thrill of this crazy notion lifted me much higher still.

I eked out every last moment of my 20 minutes of city gazing pleasure before being the very last person to leave, hurtling to ground level alone in the elevator. Once outside I strolled up Michigan Avenue as if it were a slow summers afternoon enjoying the symphony sounds of the city that filled the air. Sirens, cars, people whistling for cabs that honked their horns as they jostled for position on the busy streets.

Eventually I hailed a cab myself. “Take me to the blue line please.” I instructed the driver who pressed a few keys on the meter without saying a word and only very briefly snapping a glance at me in his rear view mirror. Once at the Blue line station I jumped a train back to my hotel and as it rattled along the tracks I sat there feeling satisfied that I had taken one of those opportunities to feel alive in the most unplanned and exciting of ways. If I hadn’t done this, although I would have undoubtedly had a better nights sleep, I would have regretted my decision in the morning. My memory of this night in the bright lights of Chicago will far out live the tiredness that I felt the next day.

Chicago at night [A very short movie I made]
The John Hancock Observatory
Video of the John Hancock Tower
Flying over chicago at night

GeneralFriday, December 15th, 2006, (3:21 pm)

So I’m sitting here looking out of the window at a miserable rain drenched afternoon here at Manchester airport. My flight to Chicago was due to take off hours ago, but there was a problem with the plane so along so I found a quite part of terminal 3 where to sit and relax while I wait for someone to bolt the wings back on the plane.

This delay does of course stuff up my onward connection to Portland. I was due to touch down in Portland tonight at around dinner time, but if I manage to get a flight to Portland from Chicago today I won’t be in Portland until around midnight. Bearing in mind I got up at 5:45am today and UK time is 8 hours ahead of Pacific time, that is one long day, especially to be on a plane.

Now… who wants to take a wager on whether my luggage gets lost in transit also?

GeneralWednesday, December 13th, 2006, (10:30 am)

Where the hell do last years unwritten Christmas cards go? You put them away for safe keeping, fully planning to use them this year but now they’ve just disappeared!

Like most people, at Christmas time get a selection box of Christmas cards to send and I usually end up with a few leftover ones. Ordinarily these are the ‘rejects’ of the selection, or worse still the ones that feature religious scenes that represent Mary, Joseph, and the three kings as blue eyed white folk looking down upon the newborn Jesus who curiously appears to have a glowing head.

Nonetheless, last years rejects would come in handy to send to this years B and C list friends. But despite the fact that I put them in a safe place that I was sure to remember, come Christmas time I can’t find the damn things anywhere.

I scour my apartment like a cop in a drugs raid, but it’s a fruitless effort, the bounty is nowhere to be found. So I buy another selection of cards and just as last year I have a few leftovers which I put in a safe place.

While looking for a suitable place to store this years leftover cards what do I come across… last years leftover cards! Cursing I collect the cards together flicking through last years wondering why it is that anyone would make such bloody awful Christmas cards. Somewhere an artist turns in his grave at the thought that his carefully crafted picture of the angel Gabriel appearing to the shepherds has now been reduced to a cheap Christmas card that nobody wants to send.

After storing them away safely for next year I stand there for a moment and address myself in my mind with my sternest voice. “Simon. Remember this! This is where you have stored those bloody awful Christmas cards you can palm off on your B and C list buddies next year… Remember this place!”

Okay, job’s done. They’re at the bottom of this draw over here and there’s no way that I can possibly forget this when Christmas comes around again, no way at all.

A year later, and guess what I’m doing…

PoliticalMonday, December 11th, 2006, (3:20 pm)

Open letter to the home secretary for the United Kingdom John Reid.

Dear Mr Home Secretary,

In the run up to Christmas I’d like to know something. Explain to me and everyone please, why you feel it’s a good idea to tell everyone in Britain that a terrorist attack is “highly likely” this Christmas? Exactly what are you trying to achieve in doing that Mr Reid?

You’ve given no specifics in your statement, rather you’ve just covered all bases by saying that a terrorist attack in Britain is “inevitable.” Well thanks for the heads up Mr Home Secretary. That ‘warning’ is of absolutely no use to anyone anywhere in the entire country.

I note that you’ve told us all that we need to “unite” against the unseen terrorist, but again, you haven’t been specific as to what that means. Maybe you could tell us exactly what you think being “united” against terrorism should entail? Support for ID cards maybe? Support for more CCTV’s? Support for more rights restrictions and more surveillance in the most surveilled country on the face on the planet perhaps?

Perhaps you could give us all few tips on how we might avoid getting caught up in this attack you’re already excusing yourself for not stopping? Maybe you could publish a list of do’s and don’t for the people of Britain this holiday season. Don’t go out shopping. Don’t use public transport. Don’t go to any place where large crowds might gather like sports events, concerts or plays. Don’t drive on major roads. Don’t fly anywhere. Don’t use the internet. Don’t enjoy or exercise any of your freedoms at all, stay at home, lock the doors and be afraid of everything, right Mr Reid?

I don’t doubt that there are evil people out there with evil intentions, but in telling everyone that there are hoards of terrorists planning multiple attacks in the UK that are “inevitable” aren’t you playing right into their hands? It seems to me like stripping us of the liberties you tell us they hate us for having, is handing them a victory they can sing from the rooftops about is it not? You tell us to all be afraid then in the next breathe to instruct us to “unite.” Well Mr Reid, call me a cynic, but that rather looks like you’re just trying to heard the sheep with a barking dog. And while you might rather like to think of yourself as a good shepherd Mr Reid, I rather see you as a wolf among the flock.

If there are credible threats out there then quit telling us all to be afraid and just do your job. I don’t think the people of Britain need to be told time and time and time again that we’re going to die at the hands of an angry terrorist at any moment. The majority of us can understand that such a threat exists, after all we’re busy fighting a pointless war in a far off land that is as unpopular there as it is here, so I think most Britons can understand that there will be people who are angry at us.

It seems to me that you’re already excusing yourself for failing to catch any terrorist who might be lucky enough to slip through the increasing net of surveillance. Should nothing happen then you can hail a victory for our security services, congratulate them all publicly and sing the praises of the overzealous systems you have put in place to closely monitor all the ‘free’ people who live here.

Terrorists seek to cause widespread panic and disruption. It’s not without a sense of irony then that I note that warnings like those you issued yesterday seem to achieve much the same effect.

If our security is dependent on giving up much of our liberty then what is it you want us to unite to protect? While Briton may well be under threat from the actions of a very small number of terrorists who seek to cause as much havoc as possible, I think that there are two enemies of freedom in this picture Mr Home Secretary.

Christmas attack ‘highly likely’
Liberty UK
Heightening Fear of Terrorism

GeneralMonday, December 11th, 2006, (3:59 am)

Let me just say, that was a bloody good night! I’ve not had that much fun at work in I don’t know how long! My ears are still ringing

Lately I’ve kinda gone to work at the club to take pictures because I have to not because I want to. I usually have a good enough time when I’m there, and I always smile brightly and greet everyone like they’re long lost friends of course. But it’s work, and I’m paid to be there and sometimes that’s the only reason for the big smiles. But not tonight. Tonight was bloody excellent!

We had a U2 tribute band called ‘Elevation’ playing and they were really great! Not the usual kind of band we might have play, so it was interesting to see how they would be taken. But the crowd loved them with people singing along and in really great spirits!

Maybe it’s just because it’s December and Santa came to the club, I don’t know? But it was a really excellent night. Elevation were damn loud, REALLY damn loud! It was funny to see our bar staff dancing on the bar to U2 songs!

At one point I shouted in the the owners ear “These guys are great!” He shouted back “What?” So I repeated “These guys are great!!” “What?” He said again. So at the top of my lungs right into his ear I shouted “This band is really good!!!!” He looked at me blankly and said “I can’t hear ya mate.” So I pointed at the band then gave him two thumbs up to which he realised what I’d been saying and nodded enthusiastically. “Lets have these guys back in the new year!” I shouted. “What?” He said. I laughed and gave up trying to have a conversation of the blaring music which I’m pretty sure was breaking all kinds of noise restriction laws.

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