Saturday, October 07, 2006 

more london fun

So yesterday I finally got a taste of London rain. And wind. And cheap umbrellas. We walked down to the Tate Modern, and it was nice by the time we got there, but we also looked like wet dogs from the downpour that had caught us. And I had damp feet the rest of the day because my shoes contained small puddles. The museum was nice, although it would have been way cooler if their main exhibit had been open. I guess it opens on the 10th, so I just might have to go back. They were setting it up, and it appears to consist of a lot of very tall spiral slides. And if I get to slide down these spiral slides, I think I'd be willing to walk down there in a blizzard for that. My favorite piece (other than the awesome slides) was one that is very appropriate to be posting in this blog: Salvador Dali's Lobster Telephone. I don't quite understand it, but it is really cool to slap a lobster on a telephone. Of course in a very artistic way. As you can see.

I did get a picture of the actual London Bridge yesterday, along with the ominous storm clouds on their way out. The area down by the river is still my favorite place in London.

Thursday, October 05, 2006 

london bridge

Well, no map yet, but I think I'm a bit closer to getting my bearings when it comes to navigating London. We walked down to Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, which was a solid two miles across town, and it was nice to get out and see many of the sights. There were a couple places that I recognized from yesterday's bus tour, and I'm sure there would have been more if I had been slightly more awake yesterday. The only problem with walking is that it took slightly more time than anticipated, so we had to save dinner until afterwards. We had lovely seats right on the railing of the balcony on the side of the stage, and after getting past a bit of vertigo, enjoyed The Comedy of Errors. I did learn my lesson though: no matter how boring or difficult to follow the opening monologues are, listen carefully to them. The rest of the play would have been a bit easier to follow if I had.

Now for my big question. I couldn't ask it right away, or jumping eyes may have seen it before absorbing the title of this post. When you see the words "london bridge," do you immediately think "is falling down, falling down, falling down"? Because I certainly do. And I saw London Bridge today! It is not falling down, which is probably a good thing. I didn't get a picture of it, but I did take one looking the other direction because it was just too pretty to pass up. The area around the Thames is absolutely beautiful. Especially on such a nice night (we've had very good luck with the weather here so far) when you can see all the surrounding area with such clarity. I love the idea of building a city around a river and having it be such a bustling area. I mean, it's not the busiest part of London at all, but there are a lot of people and shops along it. I wish more cities had rivers so prominently featured. Yes, a lot of the big ones, especially those that are older, were built near rivers, but often the centers of the cities, as far as I can tell from my experience, aren't terribly close to the water. I wish they were. End of random thoughts for the day. Cheers! (gotta love those Brits!)

Wednesday, October 04, 2006 

across the pond

So, I'm finally in London and not deliriously tired, so I figured it's time for a catch-up post before things here get rolling too fast. The last week or so in New York was very museum-y with lots of project work time put in as well. The project is... well... coming along. Kind of slowly. But hopefully we can get the loose ends tied up on everything pretty quickly and get the New York phase of it up and running.

I don't even know where to start on all the stuff we did that last week in New York. I apologize in advance for how jumpy this post is going to be. But here goes...

Last Tuesday we checked out some galleries in Chelsea. They are seriously all over the place. It amazes me that there are enough people interested in buying art to keep them in business. My favorite piece (and I feel horrible for not knowing who the artist was) kind of reminded me of a combination of my first kindergarten show and tell projects because each week there was a different color for the theme. That doesn't sound like much of a compliment for this art, but it was really cool... just so much different stuff put together in a really interesting way. That afternoon we met with Alexis Bhagat and he took us to see/hear a couple sound art installations. The first one was pretty cool... a piece by Max Neuhaus consisting of a pure tone coming up from one of the subway grates in the middle of Times Square. I guess it's been going on for quite a few years and has some urban legends surrounding its source. The second, a place called Dream House, was cool in theory but a bit painful in reality. It was this room bathed in purple light that was really from red and blue spotlights pointed at two of the walls, and it contained a really loud sound, or I guess combination of sounds. And then there was also this really potent incense burning. It was interesting for the first few minutes, but then it just got really overwhelming for my senses. I guess it was a good experience, but I can say now that I'm not a huge fan of sound art.

Wednesday consisted of a trip to the Museum of the Moving Image, where we had a great guided tour of their exhibits on the history and process of filmmaking, television, and video games. It was really neat, especially after taking Intro to Media Studies last winter. Too bad that class couldn't make a field trip out to New York to see it then. Afterwards, we headed over to check out MOMA for a few hours. There were so many things there that I was familiar with, which made it very cool. There was an installation by Nam June Paik, Untitled, that consisted of a self-playing piano and video cameras and all these monitors playing the videos being taken and other crazy things. It was cool to finally see something by one of the artists I had read so much about over the summer. Wandering through the galleries upstairs, I kept stumbling across so many famous pieces that I had learned about in AP Art History back in my sophomore year of high school, which was also really neat. I guess they have to be displayed somewhere, and the MOMA is a large, famous museum, but it was still crazy to walk into a room and see van Gogh's Starry Starry Night or a room full of Picasso or Seurat.

Our last museum-ish experience was our visit to the ARChive for Contemporary Music, a collection of over a million records, two copies of each one they can obtain. Their goal is to archive music from the 1950's to the present and then make it available to the public. A very noble cause, and it seems like they have a lot of support from people in the music industry. I just wonder how much of this stuff is ever going to get used. I mean, they have some extraordinarly obscure records, and right now they're expanding into some crazy foreign music as well. I'm kind of skeptical about the value of preserving things just for the sake of preserving them... although I suppose it's kind of hypocritical to say that what the MOMA is doing is great, but not the ARChive. But I mean, it gets to the point where people are putting so much effort into saving everything, and it's like we're stuck in the past or something. I don't know.

My last couple days were spent wrapping up loose ends and helping some friends film stuff for their project. We talked to a bum in Central Park who was trying to give us acting tips because he had tried to be an actor (his only credits were his high school plays). He also told us that the key to acting was the walk, and that he could imitate anybody's walk, but he wanted us to pay him to demonstrate, which we didn't want to do. It was funny though. It's amazing how much people notice a few cameras in a public place.

The trip over here was looooong... my first voyage overseas. I officially hate flying overnight. They served us dinner... and then 3 hours later served us breakfast. Cruel and unusual punishment, if you ask me. After breakfast I did see a very cool sunrise though. I didn't actually see the sun come up, but it was starting to get light on the horizon, and for some reason, the light spread itself out into the whole spectrum, with this really deep red right on the horizon, and then all the way through to indigo at the top that blended into the midnight blue of the sky. Way cool. I took a picture, but it turned out really dark and didn't quite capture the amazingness. You can see the colors though, which is the part that was most surprising for me.

London is interesting so far. Very different. We're living in a place called the International Students House, although I haven't really seen any other students yet. The rooms are TINY (probably about 11 x 12 feet, with 3 bunk beds and 6 girls with tons of stuff) and there aren't any outlets anywhere. I'm currently in the pub (the cybercafe didn't have outlets... how weird is that?) and there's a creepy lady here smoking and reading a newspaper half-out loud in kind of a hissing voice. Everybody smokes here and it's really quite gross. I swear I'm going to get lung cancer. And I feel really lost all the time because I don't have a map yet and the streets aren't in a grid. I think we're going to walk over to the theater tonight, so maybe I'll be able to get my bearings a bit better. And buy a map. It sounds like I hate this place, but I really don't. It's just different.

Monday, October 02, 2006 


Okay, so it has been a really long time since I last updated this thing. Almost a whole week, in fact. A ton has gone on, but on the eve of my departure for London, I don't really have time to go into too much detail on everything. So, for now, I'll just go over the big activity of the weekend. Hopefully once I get to London and (keeping fingers crossed) get an internet connection that isn't as pathetically slow, I'll be able to update this thing with pictures and such much more easily. Although I have a feeling that London will be even busier than NYC, which will be... well... insane. But I'm ready!

Saturday was spent at the Jacob Javits Convention Center, the beautiful site of the Wired NextFest. It was a showcase of some of the coolest new tech gadgets, big and small, that people have been working on recently, kind of like a peek at what the future may be like. It seriously looked like something out of a futuristic sci-fi movie, with big lit orbs and crazy robots and more technology than I could ever try to understand. Overall, it was very cool to see what people have been coming up with. However, I have two complaints: First, it felt a lot like a marketing ploy, with GM showcasing their new cleaner energy cars and the new BlackBerry Pearl available to test at about 5 kiosks scattered throughout the center. Then, kind of along the same lines, I felt like so much of it was just pushing the infusion of technology into so many areas that it's really not needed in. I mean, seriously, who needs a pair of shirts that can "send" hugs to each other via vibrations and heat? Or bright metallic female robots that can be lead in a waltz? I can do that, and I'm a real girl.

There was one thing I saw that stood out to me as being particularly useful and practical: the VeinViewer by Luminetx. This awesome piece of equipment instantly displays the veins in the area in an image projected directly onto the skin. As somebody with impossibly small veins, getting blood drawn is always a tricky procedure, often with a few unsuccessful attempts carried out before actually getting something. The VeinViewer uses some pretty awesome technology, taking advantage of the fact that hemoglobin (the protein contained in red blood cells that binds oxygen) absorbs near-infrared light. So, when this near-IR light is directed at the area, a camera picks up the image of the light reflected back from areas not containing hemoglobin within the first 8mm or so of the tissue (and you wouldn't want them digging for blood much further in than that). It then processes this image and projects it back onto the skin in visible light, with the areas containing hemoglobin (and blood!) darkened. Way cool. Seriously. So, after watching a few people check out their veins under this machine, I decided to give it a try, and quickly discovered why getting blood drawn is such a big ordeal for me. Most people had these big black webs of veins running all down their forearms, but I just had this one darker area on the inside of my elbow with not much on the rest of my arm. I didn't have a chance to snap a picture of it, but believe me, it was pretty pathetic. So, at just $25,000 each (okay, so that's quite a bit, but not in comparison to most hospital equipment), they seem to be a very practical addition to doctors offices. I'd be so excited if one of these things was used on me next time I have my blood drawn.

I feel like this is getting a bit long, but there is just one more thing I must share. At NextFest, I picked up a free sample of the new Coca-Cola BlaK in a little glass bottle (a very important detail, as you will see in about 20 seconds, depending on how fast you read). It is basically a super caffeinated beverage for those addicted to both Coke and coffee who are too lazy to drink them separately. The stuff was horrible, but I might not be the person to ask, considering I don't like Coke and am not a huge coffee fan either. So, anyway, as Joe and I were eating lunch, he was tapping his half full bottle on the cement block we were sitting on. We were surprised to notice some fizz seeping out from under the label near the bottom of the bottle, but didn't really think much of it. A few taps later, and **BAM**, disgusting coffee/coke mixture everywhere. What happened, you might ask? Well, the entire bottom of the bottle flew off. In the photo, you see the remainder of it and a small piece of glass hanging out in the caffeinated mess. The bottom, as it ended up a solid 10 feet away, wouldn't fit into the photo very easily. We were joking that it's too bad it didn't take out one of my eyes or something, or I could have sued. But I'd much rather have my eyes. End of story. End of post.

My next update will come from London. My first overseas trip! Unless you count walking over the Mexican border into Tijuana for an afternoon...