Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Travel Weekend

We leave for Ireland in about five hours. Bringing: my camera. Not Bringing: My laptop.
So hopefully I'll take massive amounts of pictures, but updates will be rather scarce for a bit.

See you on Sunday!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

A couple of pictures

So these are slightly out of focus, but that's what I get for seeing picture opportunities when I don't have my tripod with me (yes I actually packed it over here...). These are taken just outside of the Globe theatre after we got out of A Midsummer Night's Dream (which I thought was pretty awful).

Since I didn't have my tripod with me I tried to rest my camera on the railing of the wall next to the Thames. I think that someday I'll have to take my tripod (and a buddy) and go night shooting. I love night photography a lot, but I'm finding that it's actually quite difficult.

As for the performance (it was Thursday night), I honestly did not enjoy myself. The biggest issue was that our seats were absolutely horrible. The Globe has two large pillars on stage, usually not a problem for the majority of the seats, except for ours. It didn't help that the production, instead of playing the show more in the round (to all sides) to accommodate the space, they chose to have the majority of the action take place right in between the two pillars. I didn't really see about 70-80% of the production.

But on top of that, I really didn't like it. I feel like the comedy was being forced and therefore not funny. I feel as though, like children, they found a joke that worked once and told it over and over and over, to everyone that walked into the room. Quite annoying.

They also tried setting the show in the 1920's with flappers and a cabaret type dancer. But they didn't really let it influence anything they did, which is the wrong way to go about it. More or less it just looked like they were in different costumes.

Who knows, maybe I was just bitter towards the show because I couldn't actually see it, but I didn't enjoy myself as much as I could have.

I love creative stuff like this.

Also I'm still alive. I have a bunch of stuff that I can post about, but rather than doing a huge post I think I'll break it up into a bunch of little posts so that you can read them at you leisure (rather than trying to work through a novel of a blog).

Sorry that I'm falling behind. It's been a little busy.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

For those of you who don't know my sister, repent ye. She is pretty amazing and one of the best chef/cooks on the planet. She is a foodist. She believes in it and practices it. So I kind of promised her that I would keep a food log of sorts. Here it is. At least some of them. The more interesting ones at least. But don't be fooled, this isn't just for her. Any food fanatic can join in the reading fun!

Today: Lebanese place by the Orange Tree theatre. Sooo good. I had the large mix doner. It was lamb meat and chicken meat put in a pita with "salad" (onions and lettuce) with a garlic sauce on it. I have no clue how this is supposed to be different from a gyro other than the fact that I couldn't pick it up. However, that might have been because the thing was huge. Size of my head at least. It could have easily fed a family of four. The lamb was better than the chicken.

Yesterday: Indian food at Memories of India. This place was a bad choice. We were looking for an Indian place because we had heard that London has amazing Indian food (there is actually a large population of immigrants here). Looking at the prices on the window (everywhere has a menu posted outside) the prices didn't look bad at all. We figured out that the place was authentic when we realized it was near impossible to understand our waiter (not trying to be racist, just honest). The main problem with the restaurant is that they charged for everything. The price for the curry wasn't bad but then they charged for the rice as well. What kind of Indian place charges for rice? Anyhow I got the Lamb curry and we all shared some Sag Aloo and Nan bread. It was okay, but not impressive by any means. Oh well. Live and learn. I'm sure we'll have Indian again and we'll see if we can't get a better place.

Monday: Chinese at a small cafe type place (I forgot the name already, it was either Lan or Jen or something). I had the crispy pork and rice. It was pretty good and not that expensive. Jason and Allan both had duck and weren't too impressed. The best part about this place was the dumplings. We got an order of fried dumplings to split and I wish that I had just ordered that alone. They are made (cut and stuffed) when you order them, so they're about as fresh as they come. We may go back and just feast on dumplings. After that as we headed to the show for the evening we passed a little ice cream shop called Pandora. It was crazy. First off it wasn't ice cream it was gelatto (I can hear Nathan screaming in the background). Second, it had the craziest window display. I should have taken a picture. Apparently their specialty is Gelatto in a crepe with whatever crazy thing they want to put in it. There was a ham and cheese one. Anyhow, I was feeling a little ritzy and decided to get a cone with a scoop (pretty cheap too). There were some weird flavors (like green tea) but I decided that I would play it safe and get the cookie flavor. Turns out it was not at all what I was expecting. You see I was expecting something similar to chocolate chip cookie dough, what I got was fortune cookie flavored gelatto in a waffle cone. It was weird, but good.

So those are the food exploits that I can remember for now. I'll keep posting every so often. Because food is good.
Oh, and occasionally we try to cook in our flat. But usually it's not that exciting. This is a picture of a day when we tried making Tikka Masala from a jar with chicken and spaghetti, it was... food.

Also this is the very special cookbook that we found in our kitchen on the first day. Possibly one of the main reasons we don't cook all that often...

Sorry that I've fallen behind a little bit. I promise one of these days I'll try to catch up on everything that's been happening. I still really want to tell you about Women Beware Women, one of the most incredible shows that I have seen in my lifetime (and one of the actors was the guy who played Dudley Dursley from the Harry Potter movies in it, if that is exciting to you...).

But for now, other stories. Well this is actually more of just a picture post. Yesterday (Tuesday) we took a group trip to the London temple, so of course I brought my camera along. It was an absolutely beautiful day (a little cold but whatever). For those who haven't been to the London Temple, the temple is beautiful, but almost pales in comparison to the extensive grounds (is that blasphemy?). It feels almost like the temple is on the grounds of a forest. There are acres upon acres (I'm awful at measuring distance)(32 acres according to wikipedia) of little groves of trees that have benches hidden among them so that you can sit and contemplate life. It was absolutely gorgeous. Have I said that already?

So the problem is that I take lots of pictures and a lot of them look a lot alike. I'm horrible at decisions and revisions and so I love them all. That's where you (the magic readership) come in. I'm going to put little numbers above each of the pictures and you should comment and tell me which are your favorites (there is no minimum or maximum). Got it? Go!





















So that's it. Well, that's 20 out of the hundreds I took. But my favorite part about all of these pictures is that they're all essentially straight out of the camera. I only made minor adjustments to brightness, contrast, and saturation in some areas. So yay!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Jason sleeping in a submarine bunk...
Today was rather boring. I did laundry. Yaaaaay... Exciting right? Well about 3:30 we went to go find some stuff to do. We made a plan. We were going to go to the Imperial War Museum, get some fish and chips, and then go see The Habit of Art at the Royal National Theatre.

It kind of worked.
Big Cannons! Run!
The Imperial War Museum

We went to the Imperial War Museum and it was actually kind of interesting. I know my parents are probably recalling the days when I had to be forced to even go inside the museums on family trips, but I find that I am acting like an old person and enjoy reading the histories that are presented. I like to imagine what it would have been like to experience this or that. (This is kind of off topic, but I gained a huge respect and understanding for the Black Plague when I did a show that was set in that time period and had to imagine what it would have been like to see a third of your friends and family die and not know where the plague came from or how to get rid of it).
Jason Being a Missile

I really enjoyed the museum. We spent most of our time learning about submarines and MI6 (think James Bond). There were a bunch of exhibits that we just didn't have time to see. So we're going back at some point. One thing that I loved about the museum is that on the sign next to the tank, missile, airplane, etc. they would have a short description of when and where it was used and then it would have a picture from the war of the weapon. There were some amazing pictures. There were some images from WWI and WWII that were just stunning, especially so if you consider the type of equipment limitations that they had to deal with. It makes war photographers of today look like pansies.

After the museum closed we decided that we had just enough time to go get fish and chips. You have to understand that, for me, having my first English fish and chips seemed like a sort of right of passage, or initiation. We needed to do it right. After some research we found a place that was close to the theater and the museum, was cheap, and most importantly, got great reviews.

It is called "Master's Super Fish". Sold.

It was great. I got the cod and chips. Unfortunately we had little time and had to get the food take away, but it actually made it more fun because she wrapped it in the paper (one of those customs that seemed to add authenticity and legitimacy to my experience) and we ate on the walk over to the theatre.

When we got there we found out that the show we were going to see and had heard was amazing was at standing room only for the night. I was not a fan of standing for the whole show, I had already done that at the globe for Macbeth (which I still need to write about...). So we decided that we would see one of the other shows at the National. To be fair, most of the shows that are playing there currently sound great, so we were fine with switching shows since we were going to see the other ones anyways.

We ended up getting tickets to see Love the Sinner. The idea of the story was actually not too bad. But (in my opinion) it was pretty poorly executed.

The story is about a man who is struggling with his sexual identity and also examines religion's role in matters of homosexuality. The main character is a volunteer for a conference at which the international leaders of his church are gathering to discuss their bylaws, specifically the one dealing with homosexual bishops, unions, blessings, etc.

At this same conference, the main character has a homosexual affair. He then returns home and has to figure out who he is, what he stands for, how to deal with/hide from his wife who is struggling to get pregnant. Things get really twisted when the man who he had the affair with shows up from Africa to his house in England and essentially blackmails/begs him for help in gaining asylum in England.

I think that there were some interesting moments in the show. Watching the main character struggling with his decision and his double life was difficult in the good way (the kind that seems to teach us something and leads to a catharsis). It was interesting to watch him become hyper-religious to try and force an identity upon himself, and how he was so unwilling to accept any of his actions and yet his inability to forgive himself for anything. Just very interesting all around.

The issue was that I felt a lot of the acting was off, there were scenes missing, and the lines were just terrible. Jason made the argument that they were going for a natural feel to the conversation and that they were just talking around the issue and not naming it. I agree with him on that fact, but I felt like it was pushed to an extreme to where it was so "real" that it was actually surreal. I feel like if I had read the script next to an absurdist script there wouldn't have actually been that much of a difference. And yet it wasn't being played in an absurdist way, it was being played as realism which created this awful disconnect for me.

... Anyway...

The set was pretty amazing and the music and sound design were very well done. But overall I did not like it. Sorry. But it happens.

We still plan on seeing The Habit of Art and have heard that it is absolutely wonderful.

Tomorrow is church. That should give me a chance to get caught up on sleep and picture editing. Yay!


Friday, May 7, 2010

Today we went to Kew Gardens which is a gorgeous attraction. It's made up of 300 acres of gardens with a few special greenhouses and such. It is a photographer's dream. Landscape, architecture, floral, subjects everywhere. So, I'll let the pictures do the talking. We went and saw an amazing show tonight called Women Beware Women and I'm too sleepy to do it justice, but it is the best thing that I have seen in London, I may even venture to say in my entire life. I'll post on it later. Okay, now for pictures.

There were about eight of these statues representing major political powers or leaders (i.e. Wales, Scotland, King Frederick). They were all different animals including a Unicorn! I couldn't help thinking about the crazy statue dogs from Ghostbusters though...

This is the three tiered spiral staircase inside the tropical greenhouse. Jason said it felt like being back in Ecuador. My camera felt the effects. The second I stepped into the house my filter fogged up, so I took it off and my lens fogged up. So, I would have to wipe it off take a picture, wipe it off, take a picture, and so on. Annoying.

They also had a marine display. Seahorses are amazing. They swim without any apparent motion at all, so it seems like they are just hovering and scooting around. I thought this turned out fairly well considering it was shot through an aquarium.

This is a Roman type pavilion. I liked the picture. In case you didn't know, London was once ruled by Rome. I think that is why they are having the Olympics here in 2012. Also to end the world.

These are some of the Southwestern desert plants. I love these type of plants, probably because of the Tour de Southwest that I did with Brian and Brent back in 2006. For those who haven't been to Joshua Tree National Park, I highly recommend it.

Allan found this neat little patch of flowers. We called it a grove. That may be incorrect.

Jason and Allan enjoy being dinosaurs, especially when they're in the Evolution House.

This is the outside of the Temperate House. Gorgeous inside and out. The clouds also helped me out a little.

There was quite a bit of Japanese influence. This Zen garden and ornate gate (rhyme!) were also Japanese. I was unable to catch any Pokemon. I was sad.

This I think actually used to be some sort of palace. I'm not really sure because we didn't actually go in because it cost more money and it didn't sound too interesting. But the gardens around the building were amazing.

I love the crazy hedges.

This is taken from inside a metal gazebo that overlooks the garden. This was a gorgeous place.

Anyhow, I'll try to keep posting daily. Keep checking back.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

I know that I've promised lots of pictures. Always feel free to head over to my flickr account. I usually upload most of my pictures there as a form of storage. I've been pretty good about keeping it organized, but sometimes it's just a mess. FYI.

But here are some pictures to help you get a sense of what I do here (other than the theatre part since pictures aren't allowed during performances and most don't even let you take pictures inside at all).

This is bangers and mash. I ate this and it was yummy.

This is Jason dressed as a medieval peasant at the Museum of London.

This Jason dressed as a fireman from 1666. Put out that Grrrreat Fire! Put it out!

This is Rodger (our teacher) and his harem of women at the Banqueting House.

This is Richie (one of the other six males on the trip) listening to the magic ear stereo that told us all about the Banqueting House. He's fascinated by the magic. And the artwork on the ceiling.

Jason is sitting on the throne ordering Allan to behead Melissa. It actually happened. Weird.

This is a pretty house on a pretty day. I have lots of these...

This is me. I take pictures. I have a new shirt on.

Today was kind of a lazy day as well (I know I'm slacking, but what can I say?). We didn't have class or anything scheduled for this morning and so Jason and I decided that we would go to a shop we had heard about called Primark. For those who have never been to Primark, it is amazing. It is essentially a large department store with secondhand store prices. So there were t-shirts for a pound, button ups for 3 pounds, shoes for 2-5, I could have bought a full suit for under 20 pounds throw in some real leather shoes and we're up to 35 pounds. It was wonderful. The only issue is that I have a limited amount of room and weight left in my check bag for when I return home. I'm already starting to think about which of the clothes I brought from home I will leave here to free up some space. But due to this limited capacity I actually didn't buy that many things. I did get a couple shirts to make me look more European (although that's not always good since we have a hard time determining whether a guy is European or gay...).

After Primark Jason and I realized that we needed to get to the Tricycle theater and fast. We had a matinee that started at 2:00 and from what the teacher was saying we wanted to give ourselves plenty of time to get there. We ran into two problems: the directions that the teacher had printed off for us started from our flat, which we were not at, and our helpful roommate Allan had told us which bus we needed to take from Primark... but we had forgotten what number he said. So, it was an adventure. Actually it mostly involved us reading a map. But since we have been mostly using the tube system, we really didn't know how to read the bus maps.

Long story short, we made it. Actually we made it before most of the class did, including the two teachers.

The Tricycle is a pretty neat theatre. Here is its entrance:

They had made a mobile out of three bicycle wheels (granted I guess that would be a tricycle then). And they had a magical corridor of mirrors.

Here's Jason pointing into the worlds of eternity.

Then there was Twelfth Night. This was quite the interesting interpretation of the classic Shakespearean play. It was set in a recording studio, or something. There was no set, and actually no real setting for the play at all. It looked like you had stumbled into a rock concert with seats for the audience. Once the play got going it all made sense.

The show was developed by a group called "Filter" that focuses on the merging of musicians, actors, directors, and all sorts of theatre makers. The idea behind their shows is that they find the highs and the lows in the emotion of the script and then they use music to help tell that story. So, for example, when the Duke Orsino is being a whiny love-sick puppy, it was like a poetry reading in a coffee house with heavy bass and a brush on the snare with Orsino quoting his lines like a beatnik. When Malvolio, the "bad guy" of the show is contemplating how awesome it would be to be a count, it is to the tune of a hard rock song (which he played the air guitar on). And so on.

I loved it. I feel that it worked almost every scene that it was included in. Overall the show was just fun. It was ridiculous and self referential (like Viola speaking to an FM radio which answered her back instead of a messenger). But I think overall my favorite part was the interplay between the two drunk revelers Sir Toby Belch and Sir Andrew.

The show was set in modern times, everyone was wearing the type of clothing you would expect them to be in on the street. That is, except for Sir Toby. His first entrance, he stumbles in drunk at the back of the stage in full Elizabethan clothing, doublet, tights, frilly starched collar, and starts quoting the "to be or not to be" quote from Hamlet. He then polishes off a beer and wanders off the other side of the stage. The rest of the cast then resumed the play where they had left off.

The best scene, however, had absolutely nothing to do with progressing the plot. Sir Toby wakes up from being passed out on the floor, and in his drunken revelry starts whisper/drunk singing a song about love, then Sir Andrew (also drunk) comes and joins him in his singing. Sir Andrew is wearing this amazing hat with strips of velcro all over it and three squishy balls stuck to the velcro. As the scene goes on, chaos reigns. Sir Toby gets the band to start playing along with him and sings at the top of his lungs, Sir Andrew discovers the balls stuck to his head and has the audience try to throw them at him to get them to stick, then they pulled an audience member up and had him wear a velcro hat, then they started pulling audience members up to start dancing with them, then my professor (of his own volition) got on stage and started dancing (and when returning to his seat climbed the scaffolding the seats were on and accidentally broke a light), and then Sir Andrew ran to the back of the audience to the door and shouted "Pizza!" at which point he started passing two pizza boxes through the audience (I didn't get any).

The scene was nuts, but so fun.

I really loved this show. It was all around a good time. Not the best acting in the world, maybe not even the best interpretation, but it was a side of the show that I had not considered before and it was extremely fun, and yet at moments very poignant as well.

One character that is always rather troubling is Malvolio. He is the bad guy, but in reading the script, and in most productions you watch, he gets way more than he deserves. This show handled it in a very interesting way. They made him evil. Very evil. He started strangling the clown.

Then there is the famous scene where Sir Toby tricks Malvolio into thinking that to woo a lady he must dress himself in a ridiculous fashion (Toby fakes a letter from the lady saying that she prefers a man in yellow stockings who is cross gartered). This production was grotesquely hilarious. Malvolio (played by a man with a bit of a gut) stripped down to thigh high yellow socks and yellow booty shorts... and that's it. He then danced around the stage to his hard rock song until he was discovered by his lady (shocked to say the least) and the play continued.

Now if we just left it there, it wouldn't have been too much and it would have been deserved (he is a mean guy). But there is one more scene.

Because of his antics, the lady puts Malvolio under the care of Sir Toby, who hates him. Sir Toby and the clown, Touchstone, then put Malvolio in a lightless prison with duct tape around his wrists providing him with little food and torturing him with constant noise and talking. It is a brutal scene, and this production left the brutality in it. They didn't try to soften it at all.

So I find it interesting that I could have so much fun during one raucous scene and feel like a jerk for siding with the guy who ended up torturing a man in another scene. Good show.

I know this post is rather long, but the one other thing that we did today was get some great middle-eastern food. The Tricycle theater is located, oddly enough, in the middle of the middle-eastern immigrant community. I'm not sure what you would call it, "Little Lebanon"? Anyhow, it was quite good and really cheap.

Tonight we chose not to see another show. We were all tired and just needed some rest. Tomorrow we are going to Kew Gardens, so expect lots of pictures... to be on my camera at least. After that we will probably go see a show. I'm shooting for 6/6 this week.


Ratatat | Lex