Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Passion Première: Travel Diary

The informal rule I've adopted over blogging my travel diaries has been to keep work-related ones over on the NT Gateway blog so I am blogging my brief journey to London and back for the première of The Passion over there. So far I have got as far as Charlotte airport and hope to be in London by the morning.

For those not familiar with my academic blog, here's the address: NTGateway blog.

Friday, 15 February 2008

How good is British TV at the moment?

News of the anticipated end of the WGA (writers guild of America) strike finally came this week, and I suppose I am looking forward to the resumption of some of those series that have been off the air, especially Chuck and Desperate Housewives (I wish they'd renew Bionic Woman -- we were fans). But I don't think it's affected us as much as it has most because there is so much good stuff on British TV at the moment, especially in the second half of each week. First we get Torchwood on Wednesday nights, and this week was a double, even a triple treat. There were back to back episodes for the first time, on BBC2 and BBC3, they were probably the best two yet, and the second of the two, Reset, marked the very welcome re-introduction of Martha Jones to the Whoniverse; here's the trailer, with Martha at the end:

In the episode, did you notice Martha's theme (from Doctor Who) playing in the background? And what was Jim Robinson from Neighbours (Alan Dale) doing in this episode? First we had Kylie, and now her Dad! He gets around a bit -- he was the Vice President in one of the series of 24 (the second?).

Then on Thursdays, it is Ashes to Ashes. Two episodes in and I am already enjoying it as much as Life on Mars. It's fabulous. One of my favourite lines so far was Gene Hunt's "Sorry, come again, I don't speak Hindustani". One possible anachronism last night: Alex Drake used her remote control to find four channels, the first of which was clearly BBC1, the second BBC2, the third presumably ITV, but the fourth? Channel 4 was not launched until 1982, a year later. But perhaps anachronisms don't matter in this universe since, after all, she keeps talking about this as her own construct.

Friday's treat for us is the double-bill of Moving Wallpaper and Echo Beach, already compulsive viewing, and perhaps the only way I was ever going to find myself watching a regular soap, one which only makes sense with the comedy that comes straight before it. Actually, come to think of it, I did watch one episode of another soap recently, the Alan Bennett-style episode of Eastenders featuring the brilliant monologue from Dot Cotton (June Brown). I heard a feature on it on Front Row on Radio 4, which is what made me watch this one, and it was great.

Oh, and tomorrow, it is Paul Cornell's episode of Primeval, which should be well worth watching. It's a fun series, and I'd be surprised if this episode doesn't turn out to be the best yet since Cornell's episodes of Doctor Who are among the best ever.

So we're coping fine with the limited menu of American TV at the moment. Apparently DVD sales and rentals and computer game sales and rentals have gone up during the WGA strike. But for us, it's a case of tuning into the Beeb, ITV and Channel 4, and there is plenty there to keep us happy.

Saturday, 9 February 2008

Our Green Cards have arrived

Earlier this week, I pulled a couple of thick envelopes out of our mailbox from USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services). One contained my Green Card, the other Viola's. We submitted our paperwork just over a year ago (Green card application filed), and it is pretty good going to get it in this time frame. Others have to wait years. We had an idea that they were on the way because we heard recently that the application to be recognised as an "Outstanding Professor" (!), a prerequisite for a successful application in the category we were pursuing with Duke, had been approved.

The questions that people tend to ask are (1) So is the Green Card actually green? and (2) How does this change things? The Green card is actually white, with a photograph and a fingerprint, but with a green strip on its reverse side. So yes, there is some green on there, but it's not all green. Our status has changed now from being "non-resident aliens" to "permanent resident aliens". We can't vote, but we can stay in the country and my visa is no longer tied to my job at Duke. One plus is that I am now allowed to accept pay from outside work like lectures at other institutions. And when we are next travelling back from England, we will be able to join the other queue (line) with the US citizens.

The girls are still waiting for their green cards. It turns out that their birth certificates are not adequate because they do not have our names on them. So we have ordered fresh certificates from the UK so that we can submit them and the girls can be resident aliens too.