Friday, April 28, 2006

Vacation Report Card, Part 1

The Invasion recently snuck out of Romania to do some recon work in Western Europe. First stop was London and it was obvious that the luxurious living of the Brits has left John Bull and co. a bit soft, literally. Brits are getting as fat as Americans which is simply unacceptable. As an American it is our civic duty to be the most
gluttonous in the world, how dare anyone challenge our greed. In all seriousness, the English are packing on the pounds and no wonder why, every street and corner in London had a McDonalds, Starbucks and/or Pizza Hut. They don't have Taco Bell yet (to the OMI's chagrin), but when they do, the fat fest will be on.
Next stop was Gay Paree via the English Channel Tunnel. The 'Chunnel' was cool, but was no match for the filth of the Romanian rails. The OMI likes it dirty and the posh setting of the western trains was just too much. Paris, Gay Paree's lesser known nickname, was lovely. Unfortunately it was filled with French people (zing!). Listed below in chronological order are the sights seen in the aforementioned cities with a grade and comment.

London
Charlton v Portsmouth at The Valley: Charlton won 2-1 but didn't deserve it. Lovely field, nice stadium, Darren Bent for England...B
Picadilly Circus: Times Square of London, cool place, lots of action, a must see but not for too long...B+
Leicester Square: A short walk from Picadilly, another must see, simply lovely...A
Eating Fish & Chips: Classic Brit food, fried fish and fries, add lots of ketchup and enjoy...A
Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace: The Queen was there (as evidenced by the royal standard flying above the palais), soldiers in funny uniforms marched and played music, quintessentially British, another must see...A
Big Ben, Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey: big landmark buildings with limited access, nice pictures but that's about it...B
London Eye: a giant ferris wheel on the Thames, great views...B+

Trafalgar Square: scaffolding over Trafalgar monuments ruined it all...F
National Gallery: some super paintings so famous the OMI even recognized them, quality stuff especially the Van Goghs...A-
Blood Brothersmusical: below average musical, a must miss...D-
British Museum: simply outstanding, has to be one of best museums in the world and it's free (take that Louvre), awesome stuff...A+
Harrods: department store that spans a city block, the place has everything, super impressive, but still a store...B+
Paris
Tuileries Garden: beautiful and well placed, nice segue from Louvre to Champs-Elysees...B
Place de la Concorde: minus - poor man's Washington Monument, plus - actual ancient Egyptian artifact with heiroglyphics on it...B
Champs-Elysees - world's most famous street, jammed with tourists, nice walk/view to Arc de Triomphe, need to have a band playing the Joe Dessin song 24/7 on the sidewalk...C+
Arc de Triomphe - a must see, very impressive, charge to go to top...A

La Tour Eiffel - way bigger than you imagine, view from top is unbeatable, a must see, awesome...A+
to be continued with Moulin Rouge, Tower of London, Covent Garden

Blue Danube Evacuation


Heavy rain and melting snow has caused the Danube River to flood in several places with Romania being bearing the brunt of the flooding (natch). Tens of thousands have fled their homes and Environment Minister Sulfina Barbu told state radio, "The water flow is expected to remain high over the next 35 days and this is a permanent threat to defences and people." The cresting of the Danube every spring is nothing new to Romanians, but this year several waterlogged dikes burst and cracks are showing in the defences in the Black Sea Delta area. The present dikes are old, unreliable and simply inadequate. The OMI is shocked that a country that likes to see itself as a developed nation would allow flood defenses to deteriorate in such a high-risk area. It is an act of gross negligence bordering on the criminal. What kind of country would allow such a thing to occur? What? New Orleans, you say? Oh.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

If the Eagles Suck Again, Root for the Falcons

Contrary to popular belief, living in Romania does have its flaws. Chief among them being a crummy sports scene that lacks the nonsense and insanity of the American sports world. The Invasion has searched far and wide and we have yet to find people as annoying as Dick Vitale, as dastardly as Barry Bonds and as ingenius as Michael Vick. While the connection of genius and Vick may come as a surprise, the two will be forever linked in your mind after you read the Ron Mexico Saga. From Deadspin.com:

It was back on April 5 that Falcons quarterback Michael Vick was slapped with a lawsuit by a woman who claimed he gave her herpes. The suit alleged that Vick never told her he had the disease and that 'he had not known how to tell her about his condition, and that it was not something that he liked to talk about.' Of course, the real takeaway from the story was that Vick, to hide from the public that he was receiving treatment for herpes, used the pseudonym 'Ron Mexico,' which, as everybody now knows, is pretty much the funniest thing of all time.

A footnote to this is the fact that this is such an underground story. Vick is one of the marquee players in the NFL and this story should be all over the place. Why not? Anyone smell cover up? Again from Deadspin.com:

It was the perfect example of how sports media was hiding the best stories from us. ESPN, because of its contract with the NFL (Vick was/is one of the league’s most marketable players), completely buried the Ron Mexico story (the only place you can find a reference to Ron Mexico on the site is on the message boards), and just a month after the story broke, Sports Illustrated did a cover story on Vick without a single mention of the lawsuit, or Ron Mexico, or anything.

Here is the link for the Ron Mexico thread on Deadspin. Also you can stamp it that my fantasy football team for next year will be named the Ron Mexicos.
Finally, head over to the Ron Mexico Name Generator on GorillaMask.net to get your Vick-esque alias. The OMI got Jan Zambia, but we prefer Bernard Romania. Post your name in the comments.

Raking Some Muck

Another American living in Romania has been doing some serious lambasting of the Romanian Orthodox Church just in time for the Orthodox Easter. The Romer!can takes the church to task for its link to commies, homosexuality/child molesting and the Romanian classic...corruption. It's a long post, but insightful.

Pearl Jam and NBA

The NBA Playoffs have recently started and while the 76ers aren't in it and games are telecast Saturday evenings at 1 AM in Romania, the Invasion is kinda interested. Why? Sports Guy Bill Simmons recently previewed the playoffs with a Pearl Jam theme. Read the article, remember why Pearl Jam is the best band in the world (sorry Radiohead).

Friday, April 07, 2006

Del.icio.us

Taking a break from Romania to hit you, loyal reader, with some more tech tips. Since the Invasion began in earnest, we've found ourself tapping away in front of dozens of different computers while surfing the Internets. Unfortunately, none of the computers have been ours. Without our trusty bookmark menu a mouseclick away, the OMI would frequently sit and stare at the screen wondering where to go and what to read. Checking emails, fantasy sports, daily news are navigated to on autopilot, but what about our other faves that we don't think about right away and haven't memorized the urls to? Since we weren't on our own computer, we were w/out our bookmarks and were lost. No longer! 'Del.icio.us' is an online bookmarker and bookmark sharer that's easy to use and simply awesome. Just type it into your navigation toolbar and start it up. You can also put del.icio.us onto your Yahoo! toolbar. The other great aspect about it is that you can check out what other people are bookmarking. It's a collection of everyone's favorites, tagged and organized for your consumption. Check out my bookmarks and see what you like.

Dracula Returned

The Romanian government has agreed to return Dracula's Castle back to its rightful owner. Bran Castle, also known as Dracula's Castle, will be returned to NYC-based architect Dominic von Habsburg, the nephew of Romania's last king. Bran Castle was built by the Teutonic Knights in 1212, and in the 15th century it came under the control of Vlad Tepes of Wallachia, also known as Vlad the Impaler, the inspiration for Bram Stoker's Dracula.
Returning the castle to von Habsburg is just another step in Romania's plan to resolve the property rights of those who had land confiscated by the communist regime. The government is setting up a fund that will be used to reimburse people who lost properties, commercial and residential, that can't be returned. Many seized properties have been destroyed or now function as public buildings. The fund will be divided amongst people who make successful compensation claims against the state. The fund will be listed on a major European exchange and will be worth around $4.5 billion. Claimants will be required to provide proof of their ownership in companies nationalised in June 1948, but many records have been lost or destroyed.
The Invasion predicts this one dragging out for a long time in various and sundry courtrooms. Fascinating stuff, we're sure of it.

"I Could Eat a Knob at Night"

Currently playing at Invasion HQ is the first season of the Ricky Gervais Podcast. Unfortunately we had to shell out $4.95 to the man via iTunes, but to be honest it was well worth it. The true highlight of the podcasts isn't Gervais or righthand man Steve Merchant, in fact, the real gem of these audio recordings is Karl Pilkington. Pilkington, a producer for the show, is the subject and object of lots of laughs. From his monkey news to absolutely nonsense ideas, Pilkington can only be described as a genius-level idiot. Get your hands on these podcasts.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Death and...

With American federal taxes due soon, we here at the One Man Invasion are neck deep in papers trying to track our millions spread across the world. Between figuring out what bracket we fall into, capital gains tax and in what bar we're going to blow our refund, the Invasion craves more simplicity when it comes to the second of life's guarantees.
Thankfully we're in Romania, Steve Forbes' dreamland and home of the flat tax. Last week Romanian Prime Minister Calin Popescu Tariceanu said that the government would maintain the current flat tax rate of 16%. Romania introduced a flat tax on personal income and corporate profit in January 1, 2005 with one of the main aims being to stop tax evasion. The simplicity of tax filing encourages would-be cheaters to file.
Currently, the flat tax is all the rage in the former communist countries of Eastern Europe. The renaissance of the flat tax began in Estonia in 1991. Lithuania and Latvia jumped on the bandwagon in 1994. Next to join the team was Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Ukraine and Georgia. Funny thing is that the one of the first people to espouse a progressive (graduated) income tax was the godfather of communism, Karl Marx. It appears, once again, Marx's former disciples have turned their back on him, taking the Cold War score to USA=1,245, Russia=0. Unfortunately we also armed and financed Osama bin Laden the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks so that he could fight the Russians in Afghanistan, a mess we're dealing with today. Go America.