Thursday, October 30, 2008

How We Do It In America

My absentee ballot is due to be delivered to my office today so I can fill it out and Fed Ex it back to America. My coworkers wanted to know how we vote in America - online? Tick a box? Punch out a hole?

I told them we take our guns and shoot holes in the boxes next to the candidate we want to indicate our support for that candidate.

I mean, duh.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


Sometimes strange things happen in London. On my way home, I was looking out the window and noticed a large cat pacing the bus, which is unusual in and of itself because cats don't normally run down the sidewalk past London double-deckers. A careful look revealed it wasn't a cat at all, but a fox! In the middle of the city! In Islington!

I tried to whip out the Flip but by the time I got it out, the bus had gone ahead. Then fate intervened: the bus broke down and they ordered us off. The fox was down a side street watching.

So I chased him a bit with the Flip and got this. He doesn't really show up until the end, and you can see him run from behind the car to the yard. For some reason I sound like a girl in half of this video, I think the sound recording was a little screwy.

Here he is, the London fox!

Update: Apparently foxes are common in London, kind of like raccoons in the US. Shows I'm still a bit of an American Newbie. Thanks to autolycus in the comments section (and my bemused coworkers) for pointing this out.

Sunday, October 26, 2008


No, not that European 'football' where the guys run all over the field kicking at a round white-and-black round ball before someone yells GOALLLLLLLLLLLLL!!!! GOALGOALGOALGOAL!!!! I'm talking good old-fashioned beer-swilling, cheerleader-high-kicking, helmet-smashing, butt slapping (hey, I don't make this up), marching-band-playing, Friday night lights shining AMERICAN FOOTBALL. HOO-RAH!

Which really means absolutely nothing to me except that on the way back from Whitstable today (post forthcoming) I saw a gaggle of lads on the train wearing 49ers and Bills jerseys and hats, and there were similarly-clad lads all over London, in train stations, on the buses and on the streets. I saw the Pats, the Jets, the Seahawks (!) and the Bears (WTF?) but no one was sporting a Chargers or a Saints jersey that I could see - which is funny since those are the teams playing at Wembley in about an hour and 50 minutes in the second NFL UK game.

Honestly, A for effort all around: it seems that NFL fever has firmly swept London regardless of the various team jerseys. In fact, I'm not sure it matters which teams are playing (the 'Aint's? Do they even count as a team?) but there is a bit of excitement in the air as Wembley Stadium is turned into a gridiron.

It's funny that the NFL UK notw has a website and logo, because I have a feeling this is here to stay. What's next - London's own NFL team?

Hey, that might be kind of cool...

Thursday, October 23, 2008

What's That Behind You? Oh, That's The Shadow Government

Tis the season to think about politics, and I wanted to share my thoughts on one of the stranger elements of the UK political landscape that I've encountered. This is probably just my American ignorance, but when I hear the term 'shadow government' I think of the well-manicured man from the X-Files sitting in a room with his cronies, making decisions that affect not only America but the entire human race with the help of secret alien overlords.

In the UK, a 'shadow government' is the government that follows - shadows - the current government around. It is often the largest opposition party (yeah, they have more than one political party here, what a concept!) and they have positions that correspond with the government-in-power: Shadow Secretary of Defence, Shadow Prime Minister, Shadow Intern, etc. So they follow the current government and from what I can gather they act as oversight, kind of keeping an eye on government affairs, and they are available to take over at a moment's notice.

This last bit is important because as I found out with the London mayoral elections earlier this year, governments pretty much change right after an election. And by 'right after,' I mean 'within a few hours after the votes are counted.' None of this two months Lame Duck business they do in America; if a General Election were called and the vote was tomorrow and David Cameron took over, he'd step into office on Saturday. Pretty efficient!

It's interesting because there just isn't anything like it in America, and it's one of those things that, in the UK, people don't think is at all strange.

Now try explaining the Electoral College to them over here!!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

A Pair of Exhibitions

Hey, a real content post! I haven't been idle; far from it. I hit Warwick while Chad was here, have yet to upload the pictures to Flickr, and last weekend the Beautiful Competition and I did Hampstead Heath. No picture from that since I forgot my camera. Doh.

Today I felt the urge to get out of the flat since I spent most of yesterday avoiding bright lights and loud sounds. The B.C. took off in search of shoes and tops, so I headed toward the Victoria and Albert museum, one of the awesome free museums London offers its residents (and visitors.) The 'V&A,' as it's known to the hip insiders, is a museum of design - but that mission is interpreted in many different ways, from clothing to sculpture to various forms of art and invention throughout history. It sounds a little helter-skelter but it is extremely well-organized and the rooms often pair pieces together you might not at first pair; one sculpture hall was devoted entirely to different interpretations of the human form, including modern statues, ancient Greek and Roman works, and funeral effigies.

My main purpose in visiting was their pay-to-see exhibition "Cold War Modern: Design 1945-1970." Chad lucked into a preview day by sheer coincidence when he visited, and it sounded really awesome - and guess what, it was. Cold War Modern covers the influence the cold war had on design from post-WW2 to the late 1960s, and it is as comprehensive and extensive as you'd want such a thing to be. They have all-plastic cars, visions of utopias and dystopias, propaganda posters, Dr. Strangelove and 2001 playing on loops, photographs from the Prague Spring, computers, sculptures, paintings, plans for bomb shelters and more.

This is far more than 'turn on, tune in, drop out.' After my less-than-stellar experience at the Hadrian exhibit, I was a little skeptical, but the V&A really did right by themselves with this one. I even dropped a few quid in the gift shop, something I'm not prone to do at museums much anymore. When you walk in, you are quite literally greeted by the most famous symbol of the cold war: a full-sized replica of Sputnik in flight just over your head, forcing you to look up and feel it broadcasting down on you and the rest of the world. You then meander through a labyrinth of images and objects, and you leave feeling slightly overwhelmed but a lot more enlightened.

I should note that the cold war is a major area of personal interest for me, specifically a lot of the design aesthetic of it, so my review of the exhibit may be colored by personal enthusiasm.

I was only a stone's throw from Harrods and another exhibition, Comic Timing. I was vaguely aware of it from a blog post, but a review on Londonist reminded me to go check it out, so I figured 'hey, I'm close enough!' and walked down. I'd never been to Harrods before and in some ways it was not dissimilar from the V&A. Imagine if Las Vegas put on museum of modern design and you could buy anything from any exhibit, except for the tacky faux-Egyptian architecture; the extremely tacky Princess Diana fountain; or the throngs of tourists photographing either. That's Harrods.

I had to ask someone how to find Comic Timing, which turned out to be housed between two escalators near the menswear. The exhibit itself was impressive; a wide range of Alan Moore stuff, some Judge Dredd and Judge Death, Tank Girl, a few indie artists I didn't recognize (and a few I did), and even some older stuff. It was strange seeing comic art outside of an artist's portfolio at a convention, but refreshing seeing it hanging on walls with interpretive plaques.

My only disappointment was that for the half-hour I browsed through the exhibit, not a single other person stopped to look at the art. Unless they stopped in the few minutes I was out of sight of the main entrance to the area. It wasn't easy to find and unless you were specifically looking for it, you wouldn't have found it, so the passers-by were few. But I expected to see someone else there, especially on a weekend with questionable weather. There were plenty of people taking pictures of the Egyptian escalator though (yes, an escalator.) Go figure.

Definitely a good time. I'll start updating this blog more; I've got things to say and may finally have time to say them!

Monday, October 13, 2008

10 Things You'll Never Hear On The Street In London

1. "I need to find a more stylish track suit."
2. "That English girl has a really nice ass!"
3. "Caffe Nero brews a killer Americano."
4. "Isn't this weather great?"
5. "Who wants to go to Ladbrokes?!"
6. "Can I get you anything else?" (specifically from waitstaff)
7. "We can fit 50 more people on this bus no problem."
8. "I sure miss the days of drinking on the Tube."
9. "No, that dress isn't too short."
10. "Hey, don't puke there!"