Archive for February, 2011

London, Part 8 (and done).

Monday, February 28th, 2011

Let’s look the leftover photos I have from the London trip.

Cricket and I were walking past the Millennium Bridge and we happened on this weird neat-o fountain. It looked like a ship with all kinds of wacky alchemy stuff attached to it. My favorite part was the figure in the back who looked like a giant-nosed Napoleon with an umbrella on his head.

St. Martin-in-the-Fields (real name) Church is one of the best churches you could have the pleasure of visiting. They turned their crypt into into a lovely tea room with stellar cafeteria-style food service (like lamb shank and roasted root vegetables, yummers) and you only feel slightly horribly guilty for enjoying tasty snakkies on top of the graves of people. You can also do bronze rubbings and listen to different kinds of live music. Cricket and I took the time to go up into the actual church-area and I was surprised at what I found. Their main window is clear glass, and in the center is a milky-white-stained-glass egg that is lit by special lights, so it looks like it is glowing. I think that is genius. Instead of having the whole bible story mapped out, they left a little to the imagination. And darn it if it doesn’t look ethereal.

London has a Chinatown, much like most other cities do. Theirs is much smaller than the one in New York. And they have a wall dragon as you walk in.

The lanterns are a really nice touch.

And their pharmacist has this great poster in the window. The tank illustration gave us the giggles.

We visited two major stores: Harrods and Hamleys. Harrods is one of the most famous department stores in the world, and I must say it is fancy. If you do go there, make a point to go to the food court. Holy Moses, it is glorious. They have every kind of food from anywhere in the world. It was mind-blowing. For example, here is a photo of a section of their terrines. Terrines are basically patés or finely ground meatloafs.

And that’s just one little corner of the magic. Another cool thing about Harrods are the 11,000 lights on the exterior.

Hamleys is a very old and very large toy store. Here is the lowdown on the floors:

5th floor: Boys — Action figures, vehicles, and an open cafe.
4th floor: Hobbies — Model kits, remote-controlled vehicles, model railways, Scalextric, etc.
3rd floor: Girls — Dolls, Arts & Crafts, Hello Kitty, Dress-up, etc.
2nd floor: Preschool — Toys for young children.
1st floor: Games — Board games, science, jigsaws; also a Build-A-Bear Workshop and Sweet Shop.
Ground floor: Soft toys — a wide variety of stuffed animals, and also a Marvin’s Magic section.
Basement: Interactive — Lego, construction toys, Red 5, novelties and GAME (retailer).

I don’t really care one way or the other about toys or games, but I did geek out really hard when I got to (wait for it) the Harry Potter Wand Store section.

Every wand for any character from the film. So exciting! It made me believe, just for a moment, that there’s a train that could take me to Hogwarts.

Now, everyone says the British are more elegant and reserved and classy, and I am inclined to agree, based on the fact that they made an opera of (not making this up) Anna-Nicole Smith’s life. Really. And it’s at the Royal Opera House, not some avant-garde experimental theater space. That’s pretty wild. (It got great reviews, by the way. I would have tried to see it, but it opened after I left.)

Two final random shots: One, an old ship with a terrified-looking deer as the figurehead which I found really funny for some reason.

And a men’s store’s spring window display. The smallest figure is spinning while only wearing underpants. You can almost hear him saying, “Whee! I’m nakee!”

That’s it. That’s my trip to London. If anyone has any questions or queries, feel free to contact me. I have 300 other photos that I did not share here which I would be happy to show you.

London, Part 7.

Friday, February 25th, 2011

OMG, museums! Today it’s the British Museum. But I’d like to start us off with some random shots.

The weather wasn’t always glorious. Some days were exactly what you would expect if you went to England.

Cricket and I split up one day: I went to the V&A and he went to the Churchill War Rooms and Buckingham Palace. Right next to the Churchill War Rooms is St. James Park, which has a lovely assortment of ducks and geese.

And whatever this thing is. Its legs make it look like it’s wearing a black unitard with a skeleton painted on it. Odd little waterfowl.

Doorknobs in the center of the door. Europe – things are different there!

Okay, The British Museum. I think when it was originally built there were a bunch of buildings in the Grecian style around an open courtyard, and it appears that at some point a large rotunda was built in the middle of the courtyard and a glass roof was installed over the whole thing, connecting all the buildings without having to go outside. It really is huge, the rotunda, so I tried to make a rough composite shot of the space. It’s very impressive.

There’s a lot of controversy surrounding the British Museum because a large portion of the exhibits are stolen or looted from their place of origin, like a goodly portion of the Egyptian section, or the stones off of the Parthenon (Greece really wants those back, they’re very cranky about it). But I was just excited to see all the historical things. For example, the Rosetta Stone.

And the plethora of Egyptian relics.

These ladies were terrifying. They’re about the same height as a man, and you can feel them silently judging you.

And they have so many dead things. Like mummified cats.

And a mummified ibis next to a mummified falcon.

And canopic jars for holding your internal organs.

And let’s not leave out Ginger, a seriously dead guy surrounded by his grave-goods. Ginger died in 3400 B.C. and is naturally preserved. And dead.

I really enjoyed looking at the hieroglyphics. I kept seeing this reoccurring slug hieroglyphic. I wonder what it represents. Or it could be a startled snake, with cartoon “startled” marks around its head. I also wonder what that would represent.

Aside from the Egyptian section, there’s a whole bunch of other neat stuff that we saw. They have an excellent collection of Assyrian wall art (probably stolen). I studied the Assyrian artwork in art history class. That’s where I learned something interesting about large guard-sculpture’s legs.

The stonecarvers wanted him to be able to look like he was guarding both to the front and to the side, so he has five legs. Go ahead, count them. Five.

I also had to study all these wall carvings with themes like lion hunts and battles and the like. Say what you want about the Assyrians, but they could relief-carve a lion and a horse like no one’s business.

Other things from the British Museum that caught my eye: The death mask of Napoleon.

An impression bead where the animals look like “Where The Wild Things Are” characters.

A Celtic helmet with horns.

And a Roman mosaic of a duck. I liked this especially because it used all kinds of random colors, but if you stand far away from it, your eye blends the colors correctly for you, totally anticipating Pointillism by 2000 years. Go Romans.

That pretty much covers all the musea that I hit up while in London. In the next few days I will finish up the remaining dribs and drabs of photos and then we can get back to business as usual (whatever that is).

London, Part 6.

Friday, February 25th, 2011

More museums! Can’t get enough! But first, a couple of random photos.

Pret A Manger (or Pret, as it’s often referred to) is from England, and I found this window cling very pleasing for two reasons. One, I like alliteration, and two, I happen to know (don’t ask me how or why) that the tool used to stir porridge, the one you see in the bowl there, is called a spurtle.

I mentioned earlier when I was talking about the play Warhorse how creepy I thought it was to have war stories for children. Apparently Warhorse wasn’t enough, oh no! Let’s have a whole freakin’ exhibition of traumatic tales for tots! Nightmares for everyone!

Did everyone read the book The Witches by Roald Dahl? If it’s been a while, let me refresh some points for you. The witches don’t blend into normal society. They have long claws, so they have to wear gloves. They are bald, so they have to wear wigs. They have blue spit, which makes their teeth have a bluish tinge. And finally, they have no toes and their feet end in blunt stumps, making wearing modern pointy shoes extremely painful for them. I used to love that book and read it over and over, and to this day every time I see super-pointy shoes, I think about how uncomfortable those must be for witches to wear. Imagine my glee when I saw these shoes in a shop in Greenwich, in the land that the book The Witches takes place in.

This proves it! The story is true! Witch shoes!

This is a poster from the subway for a drug exhibition. I didn’t go, but I loved the words chosen for the poster.

Now, the V&A Museum. The Victoria and Albert Museum of Art and Design is my most favorite museum in the whole wide world. If I lived in London, I would be there once a month. You simply can’t see everything, even after many visits. It’s a beautiful building in itself:

Which still has shrapnel scars all over from the bombings of WWII.

And inside is rooms and rooms and rooms of every kind of design you can imagine – architecture, garments, jewelry, housewares, armor, etc. Check it out.

You want a room full of Greek stuff? You got it.

How about Early Christian? Not a problem.

Medieval, perhaps? We have a room for that.

How about a long hallway completely filled with every kind of ironwork? Okeedoke.

Seriously, it’s intense. Here’s a picture of a giant super-snazzy Baroque wall of a house. You can’t appreciate it in the picture, But the red parts of the wall is transparent red glass over mirror shards, giving it that extra tackiness. Sparkly!

I decided to focus on the Japanese items on this visit (last time I focused on the art glass section). It was really dark in the Japanese wing, but I still tried to get some decent shots.

The Japanese traditional clothing did not have pockets, so the Japanese originally used little hanging boxes called inro, like little wooden purses. The toggle bead holding the cords of the inro together was called a netsuke. The inro and the netsuke were often exquisitely carved small sculptures made from ivory or hardwoods, accented by metals.

Often natural elements are used in the pieces, like wee beasties or plants. Here is a tiny curled-up rat netsuke.

And here is a snail on a leaf netsuke.

But my favorite, without a doubt, was this one.

A badger wrapped in a lotus leaf?! With a little rain hat? How effin’ cute is that? I totally squee-ed.

Interestingly enough, the thing that blew my mind the most in the museum wasn’t anything I expected. I was walking up to the fourth floor when I passed this enormous wall drawing. It had to be 10 feet by 14 feet. It was huge.

It was an isometric drawing of St. Paul’s Cathedral. Here’s the deal, though: Every single detail is in there. Drawn with pen. Probably a pen with a nib that you have to dunk in an inkwell. It might be one of the most humbling things I’ve ever seen. Since it’s so tall, I could only take pictures of the lower half, but you get the idea.

Woooooow. Here’s the info card next to the drawing.

I might have stood in front of that drawing for fifteen minutes. If you go to the V&A, make sure you check this out. It’s at the top of the stairs to the fourth floor as you enter the architectural section.

(And here’s a nice photo Cricket took of the Millennium Bridge with St. Paul’s Cathedral in the background.)

London, Part 5.

Thursday, February 24th, 2011

So Cricket and I were on the subway, and while he was reading the paper, I caught a glimpse of this article. I bolded the important part, the part that made me make a snorting noise in the middle of a crowded subway.

Mass murderer Jeremy Bamber today lost the first stage of his latest bid to overturn a conviction for the killing of five of his relatives. Bamber, who has always protested his innocence, has served nearly 25 years for the 1985 killing of his family in Essex. He has twice lost appeals against his conviction and remains one of 38 killers who have been given a whole-life tariff. The bodies of Bamber’s parents, Neville and June, his sister Sheila Caffell, and her six-year-old twin sons were found at White House Farm in Tolleshunt D’Arcy. All had suffered multiple gunshot wounds. A total of 25 shots had been fired, mostly at close range. At first, suspicion fell on Mrs. Caffell, who suffered from mental illness and was found holding the murder weapon. Then, attention turned to Bamber after a blood-stained silencer was found in a cupboard in the farmhouse.

Here’s what it sounded like to me: “At first, we thought it was Miss Scarlett with the lead pipe in the conservatory, but it turned out to be Colonel Mustard with the candlestick in the lounge.” I love England. They’re so…British-y.

MUSEUMS. We went to a lot of them. Let’s take the Natural History Museum first. If the museum was empty it would still be amazing, because whoever built it included natural history elements into the actual building all over, in both the interior and exterior.

It’s like going to atheist church. At one end of the giant hall, a dinosaur skeleton (see picture above). At the other end, a sculpture of Charles Darwin. I felt like there should be a choir singing hymns about evolution and survival of the fittest.

Once again, England kicks our American butts because their museums are free and you can take pictures. Here is a coelacanth (pronounced see-lah-canth) or, as I like to call it, the “Seriously, That Is Way Too Many Fins, No One Needs That Many Fins”.

Here’s the interesting story. This is an OLD breed of fish. Like, they thought it went extinct 65 million years ago. Then – poof! – someone fishing found one off the coast of Africa in the 1930s, and they’re back! This particular specimen is from 1964, so it has lost its deep-blue color. Also, and I found this adorable, it has little mushrooms growing on it.

They also have a phenomenal amount of dead stuffed things. My favorite last time I visited was the pangolins. My favorite this time was still the pangolins.

I will never get to see a pangolin in the wild, so this was thrilling for me. Plus, one of the pangolins on the tree looks like a zombie with his little stubby pangolin arms outstretched in front of him. Evil zombie pangolin.

Aside from more dead things than you can shake a stick at, they have a stellar mineral wing. I do enjoy a good mineral. Here’s a pic of the mineral wing.

Rows and rows and rows of neatly labeled rocks. I was so happy. I learned the difference between a pebble and a cobble. Here’s a cobble full of pebbles.

And did you know pumice is just frothy lava? It’s like lava meringue.

I want these agates. I want them real bad. Especially the one on the right.

The Natural History Museum has a terrific insect area, but I didn’t have time to visit it. However, I did get to enjoy its entrance. It has that great big ole beetle over the door, but I love how the many-eyed spider looks like he’s welcoming you in. “Oh hello!” he says. “Come on in! I made crumpets.”

Museums have specialty exhibits, and those you have to pay for. The Natural History Museum has an exhibit on right now called “Sexual Nature”, about the sex lives of animals. Really.

I couldn’t take pictures in there because it was dark in an attempt to be romantic (really, they had Barry White playing in the background), but I don’t know, seeing taxidermied animals posed in states of copulation doesn’t get my motor going. I did get a shot of how foxes have sex, which was totally different than I expected. They just back up into each other, ending up looking like a dog with two heads. Very interesting.

Also, around the exhibits and informative plaques were TVs playing Isabella Rossellini’s “Green Porno”. If you’ve never seen this, clear an afternoon, take some magic mushrooms, and hunker down for some of the weirdest television programming you’ve ever experienced. Here’s one just for a taste.

Cricket’s favorite Green Porno episode was the salmon. I was partial to the duck one. You really must see them all.

To finish off my Natural History experience, here is a giant slice of a very old sequoia (with Cricket standing next to it for scale):

And here is a life-size accurate sculpture of a gulper eel. I made a painting on a gulper eel, but it’s different when you see one up close and personal. I didn’t realize their mouths were tetrahedronal. I was very excited. People around me were concerned.

And here is a poster outside the museum with a very startled-looking drawing of a lemur.

London, Part 4.

Thursday, February 24th, 2011

Did I mention that we went to theater? ‘Cause we did. We saw four pieces of theater and some stand-up comedy. Let me run through the theatrical stuff real quick-like for you.

1. Warhorse. It’s going into previews at Lincoln Center right now. It was fabulous, one of the best shows I’ve seen in a long time. I highly recommend it. That being said, it is also a total cry-fest. Ooooh, you’re gonna cry, possibly forever. It’s based on a children’s war story. What the hell, England? War stories for kids? You read that material to them at bedtime? “And then the grenade exploded, and Michael was blown to smithereens right in front of his childhood friend Alan. Alan then had the metallic taste of Michael’s blood in his mouth. Nighty-night kids!” Anyway, the roles of the horses are played by giant, horse-size puppets run by three people each. You can see the puppeteers, but after a while you don’t even notice them there. The horses breathe, and their ears wiggle back and forth, and they snort and slap away flies with their tail, it’s just amazing. It’s going to be one of the best pieces of theater you’ll see in ages. Here are some pictures I found online.

Quick recap: Phenomenal theater, you will cry until your face puffs up and people think you got punched in the face in a brawl over syrup.

2. The Woman in Black. This is spooooooooky bit of theater. Since you’re never going to see it, I can give you the plot summary. Woman A has baby out of wedlock. Her sister, Woman B, offers to take the child and raise it as her own. Woman B is a lady of means who lives in a big house surrounded by spoooooky marshes covered by spoooooky mist. Woman A is distraught but has no other options, so she agrees. Woman B says Woman A can visit the boy, but must not reveal her true relationship to the child. When the boy is six, Woman A, while waiting by the window of the big house for the boy to return from an outing, sees the pony and cart that the child and a caretaker are riding in. She then sees the cart, pony, child and caretaker fall into the marsh and get sucked under. Woman A is completely emotionally destroyed, develops a wasting disease and dies. Her ghost now haunts the big house her sister lived in. If you see her (woman dressed all in black, skeletal face), that means your child will die shortly after. Everyone in the nearby village avoids the house because – hey, shocker! – they don’t want to bump into her and have their kids die in unpleasant ways. But a young lawyer goes up there to close out the estate and organize the finances and creeeeeepy things happen.

Anyone who knows me knows I do not like child-based terror. This show had all the things that make the skin on my back get icy and leave the room. Rocking chair with no one in it? Check. Music box that no one opened but is playing anyway? Check. Flashlight zipping around a room filled with children’s toys and clothes? Check. M. Night Shyamalan-style build-ups of silence and suspense following by loud screaming that caused me to crap my pants? Check.

Quick recap: Spoooooooky.

3) The Children’s Hour. It was meh. It had lots of famous people in it (Carol Kane, Ellen Burstyn, Kiera Knightley and Elizabeth Moss), but some of the people are just not very good stage actors. Combined with a script that is not exactly riveting (Are they lesbians? Aren’t they? Who cares?), it made for a very tepid experience. And at no point did Carol Kane say, “LIAH! LIAH!!”, which was a disappointment. But the good thing is that you can drink beer outside. Here is Cricket drinking beer outside the theater.

Quick recap: Meh.

4) The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. Okay, I admit, this is a wholly American show, but I love the hell out of it and I wanted to see how the Brits handled such New-York-y material (answer: really freakin’ well). Since it was the first night of previews, Cricket and I had front-row seats, which was exciting. I was reminded how great a show it was and if it ever comes back to this area, I highly recommend you go see it. I have rarely laughed so hard.

5) And the stand-up comedy. It turned out to be terrific, but I won’t lie – Cricket asked me to pick some stand-up, and I picked this one solely based on the fact that it was being held at a place called The Slug and Lettuce.

If you go to London, go to this show. It’s called Soho Ho, it’s held at The Slug and Lettuce on Saturday nights, and you get a discount to go to an disco down the street called The Loop with a real light-up floor a la Saturday Night Fever in the basement. We did not go to The Loop because we were coming down with Travel Plague, alas, but had we been healthy, we would have.

London, Part 3.

Monday, February 21st, 2011

We went to so many museums. One of the Museums we saw was the Tate Modern. I tend not to like modern art, but everyone everywhere said we had to check it out, so we did. The building was amazing (it’s a former power plant, and it is HUGE), but I still don’t like modern art. I can even pinpoint when I stopped caring for modern art. I was in college and since I went to an art school, there was art all over the place. My senior year the college acquired a whole lot of outdoor art. Some of it was clearly identifiable (like bronze sculptures), but some was not (like a shopping cart which had glass bottles filled with pink liquid in them). One day I was walking on the campus and I saw a giant pile of garbage. I immediately circled around it looking for an identifying plaque with the artist’s name, until it occurred to me there wasn’t a plaque because this was a giant pile of garbage. Just regular old garbage, the kind that goes in a dumpster. And it was like a ray of light came out of the heavens and I saw the light and had an epiphany. The epiphany was,

“I don’t have to play this BS game. If something looks like a pile of garbage, whether fancy people call it art or not, it’s still a pile of garbage. Art should require skill and talent. Most modern art requires a PR person to hype it. I’m done with this.”

And since then I won’t go to the Guggenheim or the Whitney or any of those museums. But I made the exception for the Tate Modern for two reasons: One, I was walking right past it, and Two, all the museums in London are free, so no money lost there. Cricket was ecstatic because it had free wifi, so he didn’t mind at all. They have a famous exhibit there right now, the porcelain sunflower seeds. An artist commissioned 100 million hand-painted sunflower seeds and poured them out all over the floor. It looks like this.

And there are signs like this.

And don’t think I wasn’t tempted. They made a little barrier around the sunflower seeds just a leetle too far for me to reach the seeds to take one, and there was a guard posted in the corner makin’ sure the peasants weren’t pilfering the seeds. Shortly after that (when Cricket was done checking his email), we left.

We also went to Greenwich, the home of Greenwich Mean Time. Here’s clarification for those of you that don’t know: There is longitude and latitude. There is a definite latitude line – the equator – to base location and time off of. But there is no definite longitude line. So people invented one, the 0′ line, and it runs right through Greenwich, England. It has been the home of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) since 1884. It is a completely man-made thing, but the 0′ point has to be somewhere, so it might as well be in Greenwich.

They have a lovely museum there with lots of cool clocks and astronomer’s equipment. They talk a lot about how difficult it was for sailors to figure out where they were, how they used the position of the sun at certain times of day or the stars at night. My favorite tidbit of information was one of the harebrained ideas for always knowing Greenwich Mean Time. Some scientist claimed he had the “Powder of Sympathy”, and his plan was to scratch a dog with a knife that had been rubbed with the powder. The dog would travel on the ship going to foreign destinations. Then, every day at noon in Greenwich, the scientist would plunge the knife into the Powder of Sympathy, and the dog, feeling corresponding pain, would yelp, so the sailors would know and adjust their clocks on ship accordingly. The exhibit wryly said, “This was proven not to work.”

This was the super-cool house the astronomer lived in next to the Royal Observatory.

And this is Cricket standing with one foot on either side of the meridian.

The British, much to their credit, are not Puritans, and they sell hard, soft and in-between liquor in the supermarket. This made us laugh. It is a glass of wine. Seriously. An individual glass of wine with a yogurt-style aluminum peel-back lid.

I don’t drink beer, but Cricket does, and he sampled several bottled beers back in the hotel room. Here are a few.

I made him buy this beer after we returned from Greenwich.

Beer ended up being a big part of this trip. I always insist on eating and drinking wherever the locals do, and that meant we were in pubs almost every night. Cricket then got to try two different on-tap beers every night. One of his favorites was the banana bread beer. I even tried a tiny sip, and doggone it, it did taste surprisingly like banana bread.

I tried to be a trooper, alcohol-wise. There was a menu advertising pear cider and the description was mouth-watering (“known for its strong fresh pear notes with a hint of vanilla”), so I ordered it. Unfortunately, it was carbonated, and I can’t drink anything carbonated, so Cricket, being the best boyfriend in the whole world, got a second glass and poured the pear cider back and forth, back and forth, over and over until it wasn’t fizzy anymore. Best. Boyfriend. EVAR. It ended up being delicious, by the way.

London, Part 2.

Sunday, February 20th, 2011

And we’re back! So, London. Let’s start with the Tower of London. First of all, that’s a misnomer. There’s a bunch of towers in a walled area. It should be called the Towers of London. Plural. It feels good to get that off my back.

The weather was really, really good. I know! I was surprised as well. It made hearing all about the various horrible tortures and beheadings so much more pleasant. There also was a nice view of the strange London skyline. That building in front there is called The Gherkin.

The Tower of London is famous for housing The Crown Jewels. Sooooo pretty. This was one of my favorite moments of the trip. I showed Cricket the magical, magical shiny hats and asked him which was his favorite. He informed me that he really liked the door. Yep, the big giant steel door. Some of the finest jewels in the world were directly in front of him, and Cricket was digging the enormous steel bolts on the door. DUDE, BIG SHINY ROCKS! THE BIGGEST AND SHINIEST! THEY DON’T GET BIGGER! OR SHINIER! Fine, go look at the door. Sigh.

They also had a lovely collection of suits of armor. Here is Henry the Eighth’s.

Everybody assumes that the big bulbous codpiece is due to Henry being really, umm, gifted. I read somewhere that it’s actually because he had The Syph and anything touching his junk was really ouchy, so there was a lot of padding in there to keep Mr. Happy from bumping into anything hard, like a big metal suit of armor.

I also learned about Edward the First. He reigned from 1272 to 1307. He was 6’2″, which nowadays is pretty tall, but can you imagine in 1270? It must have been like being surrounded by Oompa-Loompas all the time. Anyway, it got him his nickname Longshanks and they had to build him a special bed because his whole lower half would hang off all the pre-existing beds.

Cricket was really excited about this gun. Once he explained it to me, so was I.

I might screw this description up a little, so please forgive me, I know close to nothing about firearms. Back in the day, you fired a shot and then you had to do this whole procedure with the powder and the musket ball and the flamey stick, it was a slow and tedious process. If you look closely, this gun has two barrels – and two firing mechanisms. You could fire one, and then quickly fire the other.

This was awesome. You know, if you went somewhere in the United States and they had a vermin problem, they would shut down until the problem was taken care of. In the Tower of London, they have signs like this.

How freakin’ great is that? “Keep a lookout for my friends and family!” And an adorable Quentin Blake drawing! It makes the spread of pestilence so cute. Sadly, I saw no rats. Disappointing.

I did see ravens, though. The other thing the Tower of London is famous for is the ravens. Ravens are really, really large crows. Really large. Like small turkeys. I, of course, am obsessed with them. There are presently six of them living in the Tower, and I made friends with the green-anklet one. Here is a picture of Green-Anklet hanging out near my feet.

And here he is sitting on a cannon and saying, “Blaaaaah!!”.

If you are planning on visiting the Tower of London, you should know there are a million stairs. And not just normal stairs, oh no. Awful 15th century stairs, all weird heights and jinky angles and tight spaces. My calves were tender for two days after. Now, anyone who knows me knows I am about as far from an athlete as it gets, so chances are this won’t be as much of a problem for you, but still. Lots and lots of awkward stairs. Up, down, spiral – it’s like a stair fetishist’s dream come true. Just so you know.

Now, signs. Crickets loves a good foreign sign. Since he has brought it to my attention, I am now aware of signs. Here are a few.

I am very immature.

Tee hee hee. Also:

Snort. Giggle.

This was my favorite sign. It was often all by itself, so I had no idea what it was referring to. This was the conversation that went on in my mind when I saw it.


“Huh? Do what?”


“I…I don’t know what-”


“Okay…I’ll try not to?”


And then The Mad Hatter and the March Hare tried to shove the Dormouse in the teapot.

At my job, the proofreaders often have a difficult time with documents that come from the UK, because even though we speak the same language, some of the grammar and punctuation rules are different. For example, they use commas way less frequently. There was this sign in the bathroom:

And Cricket had to listen to me yell,

“Guests are reminded to take care when standing or walking on wet surfaces. For additional safety COMMA! non-slip rubber mats are available in the bathroom and also from Housekeeping. Moisten the base of the bath first COMMA! then place the mat in the bath.”

Dating a Grammar Nazi is fun.

London, Part 1.

Thursday, February 17th, 2011

I’m back from London, and I have brought with me the dreaded Lung Rattle, Accompanied by Nasal Snot. I make this upsetting horking noise, like a cat regurgitating lawn clippings, it’s not good. But other than that, it was a great trip. I have sorted through all the pictures, and I will end up blogging about 110 of them. They’re all cropped and organized, but first I want to talk about the picture-free aspects of the trip. I was in London for six days. I had been there before, but Cricket had not, so we did all the tourist attractions, and since I hadn’t been there in eight years it was nice to have the refresher course. London is a wonderful city, but it has one huge tragic flaw in my book: its street layout. Here’s the city planning of London – Romans arrive and name it Londinium in 43 A.D. There are some houses. They put a street near those houses. Then there are more houses. Another street appears near them. And so on and so forth, with absolutely no concern whatsoever for, you know, any kind of order or anything. It’s a horror to navigate. A street map of London looks like Dr. Seuss took some acid and dropped uncooked spaghetti on the floor. Here’s a map I found on the web.

See? The streets change names and have odd angles, and they’re leaving out all the smaller streets and alleys and dead ends. It’s like Lower Manhattan, but all over. I was so sad. If I lived there, I would have to have a chip put in my neck so people could find me after I wandered off so I wouldn’t get mired in a peat bog and be found perfectly preserved thousands of years later.

My favorite comedian in the whole wide world is Patton Oswalt, and I have a bootleg performance of him in Atlanta in 2002. He talks about one of his trips to England and Ireland, and I pulled a small chunk out for you to listen to. Warning: some coarse words.


Now, I’ve heard that for years, and I was like, oh, game shows can’t be that different in England. Hoo boy, was I wrong. I was in the hotel one afternoon and I caught a bit of a show called Countdown. First of all, it’s like the SATs. You have to be good with both letters and numbers. Second, they have a resident lexicographer named Susie Dent, who they occasionally go to for fun word info (in the episode I caught, she explained the origins of some of our favorite dinosaur names for a good three minutes, which in game show time is a month and a half). There’s no background music. There’s no cheering. Watching it is like penance for a crime. These two contestants bust their humps with word and number problems for a half-hour. The loser got (I’m not making this up) the Oxford Dictionary and a mug with the Countdown logo on it. The winner, who was on his eighth day, they didn’t even mention what he was going to win, whenever that happened. I had to look it up. Brace yourself: He or she wins a leather-bound copy of the twenty-volume Oxford English Dictionary, worth £4,000, which is about $6,000 (okay) and THE UGLIEST TEAPOT IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD.

So let’s review: The contestant I saw had been on the show for eight straight days, I have no idea how many more days he has to be on to win, and when he does wins, finally, he will bring home $6,000 worth of books and an affront to mankind masquerading as a teapot which he will most likely display on his mantle to appall people’s good taste for years to come. I’d like to see this show last on American television for two episodes. On the Game Show channel, at 2:00 in the morning. Even then, it wouldn’t happen.

Tomorrow, I’ll start on the many cultural wonders I saw, but for now, after editing all those pics, I’m going to bed.

Movie reviews, some charty graphs, and travel news.

Friday, February 4th, 2011

1. I saw three movies recently – Tron, The A-Team and Inception. Long story short: they all sucked in varying degrees. A-Team was just astonishingly horrid. I mean, I love me some movie explosions, and even those couldn’t save this colossal pile of fail. Luckily, I was watching it at Cricket’s house, so I could just scream at him, “WHY?!?? Why are you making me watch this?!? Was it something I said? I’m sorry! Please forgive me! And turn it off!” He just laughed at me. I was not kidding. It was like waterboarding. Next crappiest film was Tron. I didn’t have super-high hopes for it, but it was so obviously written for the dumb masses, with absolutely no attempt to be clever or deep or anything. It was very “ooooh – shiny!” with almost no good plot work. My moment of complete frustration is when the lead male and female are in the computer and they are trying to sneak away from the bad guys, all Mission Impossible-style, but they’re wearing SUITS WITH LIGHTS ALL OVER THEM on a black background. A blind person could see them from outer space. Hey, here’s an idea, being sneaky-like would be a whole lot easier if you didn’t look like the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree. Just an idea. The final film was Inception. It wasn’t bad, it was just meh. So, so very much talking. Something cool would happen – Look! Paris folding over itself! – and then fifteen more minutes of talking. By the end I just wanted everyone to shut up. And I was confused. It’s a dream within a dream within a dream, and each dream is a different person’s, so it’s difficult to keep track. There’s a lot of, “Who is this now?” and “What is he doing?” It was fine, don’t get me wrong, but I was expecting something on the level of Momento (great, great film) and it wasn’t. Also, if you want a film with what I think is better interpretations of what dreams look like, at least to me, see The Science of Sleep. The dream sequences in that felt really accurate.

2. Charty graphy charty charts. All from Buzzfeed. First, a cool map of all the districts in New York.

Then, a poster of fancy drinks. I mainly like this because I am all about cocktails.

And finally, really adorable anti-smoking signs from Japan.

3. I’m going to London for a week with Cricket, from February 6th to February 13th, so I shall be incommunicado for that time. I’m sure I’ll have plenty of delightful things to share with you upon my return, so be good while I’m gone.