Entries Tagged as 'Campbell'
September 19th, 2009 · 1 Comment
From the limited experience I have with American bars, or even American bars in the style of English pubs, I would have to say that they are extremely different from their English equivalent. Physically, and atmospherically, the two were at one time mutually exclusive. Now however, with the advent of a global community, influences from the other are creeping into various establishments, both here and at home. Despite these changes the basic feel and idea behind British pubs is far different than in America and, I find, is an altogether more enjoyable experience.
To start, the atmosphere caters to an entirely different crowd. Pubs allow for anyone to come in and have a pint with a friend, be it businessmen just off work, old men with canes and dogs, or college students just wanting to hang out with friends. In the U.S. it seems that every type of person has their own seperate bar, and god forbid if you go into the wrong one. Granted, most of my experience with bars has been in the far north of the midwest, where bars are mostly frequented by loggers and bikers. Thus, the se bars are a bit more rough and tumble than others, and my judgement may be skewed a little.
Physically, I’ve found that traditional English pubs are quite different from their American counterparts. Due to lack of space, the buildings are often smaller, and the bars themselves are quite different. In the U.S. we are used to the catwalk-sized bars that take up the whole room. They often have seating along them. Here the bars are smaller with no seating. Customers are supposed to take their drinks and move, or if they must, stand at the bar.
The general mentality behind visiting pubs doesn’t seem to be to just get drunk. Often times back home I would see people downing beer after beer (or something harder) in a blatent attempt to get smashed. Here, however, a person goes to a pub with friends, and if after a few drinks one begins to feel a little bit differently it wasn’t a result of trying. Rather, people enjoy having fun with friends and if it happens, it happens.
I know other people have written about this place, but one of the pubs that I found most enjoyable was The Court. Located a few blocks from our hotel, most of its customers were college students. It had cheap drinks and food, and the bartenders were our age and enjoyed having fun. It had a great atmosphere and was the perfect place to spend the evenings. Now perhaps I just haven’t found the right place yet, but I have yet to find a bar in the U.S. that appealed to me as much as The Court.
If American bars are your thing, that’s great, but I prefer the atmosphere elicited by pubs here. The attitudes are more friendly and the beer is better. I’d take a pub over a biker bar any day.
September 14th, 2009 · No Comments
I can’t really say that today’s trip to the National Gallery was a highlight of my time in London. As great as it is that the museum offers us a chance to view some of the world’s greatest paintings, it wasn’t exactly my cup of tea. Personally I would have rather gone to the British Museum again. Physical artifacts interest me much more than paintings. Still, I won’ t pretend that I wasn’t moved by certain works of art. They were few, but those paintings that did move me to some emotion other than vague interest I will always remember.
As one goes to the Louvre to see the Mona Lisa, one goes to the National Gallery to see the impressive collection of Monets and van Goghs, and of course the immortalizers of the English countryside, Constable and Gainsborough (though perhaps the collection at the Tate Britain is more complete for these two). I’ll admit that upon entering I did make a beeline for van Gogh’s Sunflowers. It has long been one of my favorite paintings and seeing it actually sitting on a wall in front of me was an exhilarating experience. His technique is just so interesting. It’s almost pointillism (for those of you familiar with painting technique, or Sunday in the Park with George). The few pieces of da Vinci’s artwork made me feel small, almost unworthy to be looking at them (you have to understand, for me da Vinci is a god).
However, I think what made me the most happy about this museum was one painting: A Young Woman Standing at a Virginal by Johannes Vermeer. Perhaps I simply love Colin Firth too much (plays the role of said artist in the movie version of Girl with a Pearl Earring. watch it. it’s fantastic) but there is just something about Vermeer’s paintings that makes me want to crawl inside the frame. Perhaps it is the fact that all of them have virtually the same background (he painted them all in his attic studio), or perhaps it is his use of color and the play of light against the figures in his work. Perhaps it is the simplicity of the scenes themselves, the normalcy of everything. Whatever the case, his work inspires me to go home and pick up a paintbrush. His figures just seem so real, like people the viewer has met before but can’t place. This work of art is what made me look back on this trip as an enjoyable one. It’s hard for me to describe just how much I love his work, so seeing it was amazing.
According to the Pitmen Painters art is supposed to make us stand up and take notice. It’s supposed to make us feel something, something indescribable that is unique to the person viewing it. Though I didn’t feel that way about many of the paintings in the National Gallery, the few that did left me feeling winded. I’m not sure I would go back again, but I will definitely remember the feelings I had when viewing those paintings for a long time to come.
September 13th, 2009 · 1 Comment
I had hoped that the Victoria and Albert would be something like the British Museum: large, but manageable. I was wrong. Entering the museum via underground tunnel, I was immediately confused as to where in the museum I was. Rather than the simplicity of rooms surrounding a central courtyard that all connected to each other, I was thrown into a maze of staircases, staff rooms, and an entire wing devoted to a cafe which took me several attempts to navigate around. By the end of my visit I was nearly too exhausted to make it back down the tunnel to the tube.
Don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy the museum. The fashion exhibit was, on entering, immediately next to me and it served as a good jumping off point, if not as amazing as I had been led to believe. However, a jaunt around the medieval section soon cheered me up quite a bit. The three story high room filled with plaster casts of ancient and gothic architecture made me particularly happy, especially the cast of Trajan’s column. I’ve studied this column, and I’ve seen pictures, but nothing is as amazing as standing next to it (despite the fact that it wasn’t the original). The sheer size and attention to detail made me dizzy. I had to consciously restrain myself from touching it. After drooling over it for a few minutes, I attempted to enter the other room of casts (in which was housed what looked like a cast of the Colossus of Rhodes), but was thwarted by scaffolding and a sign saying “observe from third floor balcony”. In my search for this mythical balcony I ascended some stairs and turned some corners and got lost. Very lost. So lost that I rounded a corner thinking “how will I ever get out of here and where the hell am I supposed to go next”. Luckily the gods seemed to hear me and deposited me in a safe haven for people like me: the Theater exhibit.
I loved the theatre exhibit, especially the dress-up box of costumes to try on (yes, I’m a geek, but what can I say, it was COOL!). The miniature set models were so well done, and the model of the Theatre Royale at Drury Lane almost sent me into convulsions. Its attention to detail was fabulous, from safety posters to the raked stage, to little men being raised through little trap doors. It gave a wonderful history of theater in London from about 1900 onward, and the exhibit was so interactive that I spent a good 45 minutes in it, and it’s really not that big. However, I eventually found my way out.
It then, however, took me another half an hour to find my way back to the subway. As much as I did enjoy the experience, the museum is trying to do too much at once. Instead of focusing on one type of exhibit or one time period or one country, it has crammed them all into a maze of rooms, leaving the visitor with the feeling of being beaten over the head with a textbook (albeit an interesting one) upon leaving. I think it would be a much more effective museum if it divided its exhibits up into different buildings. It has already separated the Childhood museum from the main one, so why not do it with more? They have enough exhibits in there to house hundreds of museums. Why cram it all into one?
Interestingly, I didn’t find the British Museum exhausting (or at least not as exhausting). Perhaps I find the way the rooms are organized more understandable, or the fact that most of it is linked to archaeology (or in the case of the Parthenon Marbles, stealing in the name of archaeology). The British Museum is not as large an amalgam of ideas as the V&A. The exhibits on ancient Rome and Greece, Assyria and Egypt, and even North America, they are all connected under the tent of archaeology and anthropology. The only problem I have with the museum is its questionable acquisition techniques (most of which have been pointed out to me by Professor Maggidis, so perhaps I am a little biased in favor of the Greeks).
However, I think the hodgepodge of artifacts in both these museums parallels the mishmash of cultures living in London brilliantly. The names “British Museum” and “Victoria and Albert” evoke very nationalistic images, but house such a variety of things, much like modern London. While neither museum specializes in Bangladeshi artifacts or Jewish culture, the fact that they do house so much of non-traditional English stuff shows just how diverse England would like to be. Its next step is to realize the abundance of cultures it already has, and perhaps show those off a bit too.
September 11th, 2009 · No Comments
Having viewed both Shakespeare’s As You Like It and Mr. Lee Hall’s new play, The Pitmen Painters within three hours of each other it is hard not to compare the two. At first glance they seem wildly different. Shakespeare’s comedy is about courtiers pretending to be poor, while Pitmen focuses on members of the lower class themselves. One is set in 17th century France, and the other in World War II England, and not any England, but in Ashington, a small suburb of Newcastle in the dreary northern region of Northumberland. One focuses on the trials and tribulations of Love, while the other is a poignant look at stereotypes and one’s duty to oneself.
In short, they are describing two very different types of England. Yes, As You Like It is set in France, but that was simply Shakespeare’s way around censorship laws. He describes an idealistic England, filled with courtly love and beautiful scenery. He portrays the rural working class as idiots without a whole brain between them. Indeed, that is the way Shakespeare usually describes the lower classes. His plays usually feature courtiers of some kind, and the poor are usually treated as comic relief, if not with outright contempt. This is rather ironic considering his audience was mostly the working class of London, though since his patronage came from the court, perhaps not entirely surprising.
It is almost the exact opposite with Hall. He chooses to glorify the common man, while members of the upper class come off looking silly, or just plain sad. I took the character of Mr. Lyon as rather a fool. He couldn’t really see art until he saw it through the eyes of the uneducated pitmen, and when he left to be a professor he lost any sense of artistic discernment, or even humanity, that he had left. He became a shell of a man creating mediocre art. It seemed to me that he learned nothing from his time in Ashington, except that he could never see things as clearly as Oliver, so he ran away and hid behind his books. The pitmen, on the other hand, are the ones that can truly understand the meaning of art. These men who stopped school at ten, who spend day upon day deep in the ground outshone someone who spent his life studying art. Mr. Hall breaks down the stereotypes of modern England. As with Billy Elliot, the underprivileged prove themselves to be more than just hard laborers and thugs. A lot of Hall’s own history went into the writing of his two most well known plays. He was from a small mining town in Northumberland. Instead of wanting to paint or dance, he wanted to write, something that was frowned upon. He overcame the judgments of his friends and family, and the challenges set forth by society, and he is now a successful playwright. Like the author, the pitmen become a huge success, despite the hardships that accompany the journey.
I think it was very eye-opening to have viewed these two shows back to back as I did. Though they are divided by stretches of time and different subject matters, it was interesting to see the ways different playwrights interpret English life. Shakespeare’s portrayal of rural life as happy-go-lucky is a stark contrast to the gloom of Hall’s mining town. They were both excellently done performances, and as such they left me considering the way in which I perceive English culture as a whole.
It is strange to think that we have only been in London for three weeks. We have packed enough into our days to make it feel as though we’ve been living here all summer. I realize that three weeks is hardly sufficient time in which to study the culture of a city, especially when said city has been around for 2000 years. All the same, our quest towards understanding the cultural significance of the modern city has brought us fairly far along. We are now being asked to define the identity of the people of the city of London.
I have a few problems with this question. How can we define something that is infinitely changeable? Modern society is an amalgam of different parts; British culture is, to use a term hitherto heard only in the realm of AP U.S. History, a “melting pot” of peoples. The identity of the British people has never been a fixed thing. Whether due to the Britons, the Romans, the Saxons, the Normans, or now the influx of various Indian and Afro-Caribbean peoples, the influences that effect British culture are constantly shifting. So too are the identifying characteristics of the citizens of this country.
I believe that the people themselves cannot be identified. With influences coming in from so many different cultures how can we pigeon-hole them all into one all-encompassing character? I would rather consider the identity of Britain as a country, not as a people. The people influence the identity of the country, not the other way around. If I was asked to provide images of what I believe defines Britain’s identity many pictures would surface. Sure, Stonehenge, Westminster Abbey, St. Paul’s Cathedral would all make the list. However, after many of our field trips I would add the Sikh Gudwara, the Hindu Temple, the smells of roasting food wafting out of Chinatown, and the costumes, and colors, and the sound of steel drums and rock music blasting out of the Notting Hill carnival. These brief snatches of cultural differences morph together to form the character of modern Britain while the people themselves retain their individual identities.
What interests me more than my opinion, is the opinion of the individuality of the British people. Reading Salaam, Brick Lane opened my eyes to just how differently these cultural discrepancies can be perceived. Tarquin Hall is, for better or worse, obviously fascinated by the residents of Brick Lane and the additions they bring to the identity of Britain. However, the other characters (Mr. Ali, Sadie, and some unnamed Cockney cab drivers to name a few) had wildly different opinions. The Cockney cabbies viewed all immigrants, whether they’d been in Britain for years or days, as invaders that had no right to call themselves Englishmen. Sadie considered any and all immigrants from India and Asia as not fit to live in Britain, and even Mr. Ali, himself Bangladeshi, saw all the new immigrants from his own country as ignorant, uneducated hicks. He had lived in London for thirty years and was for all intents and purposes British. His children were born in London. They are British citizens. Yet to those who had been here longer he was just as ignorant and uneducated as the newly arrived immigrants from Bangladesh. What none of these characters stopped to consider is that their ideas, their cultures, their different religions are all effecting the current identity of the country as a whole.
Whether immigrating from India or Israel, Romania or even the United States, every new person changes the identity of Britain a little. While I don’t believe the identity of the British people as a whole can be defined, we can discern the character of the country in this moment. Soon, however, it will change again, as influences pour in from other parts of the globe and other ways of thinking.
Interspersing our travels from pub to pub for our walking tour, we decided to take a much needed Americana break. And what better place to go for a greasy, cheap Yankee fix than good old Mickey D’s. Before we even entered the restaurant, the not-so-subtle differences between McDonald’s in America versus Europe were apparent. One of the most distinguishing characteristics of an American McDonald’s is the ever prevalent red and yellow coloring, clinically proven to be associated with hunger and increased stimulation of the senses. Billions and billions served, right?
Another key aspect of any McDonald’s is their uncomfortable seating and their open dining areas. The seating in American McDonald’s are intentionally uncomfortable because they want you sit, eat, and get out as soon as possible in order to accommodate the next wave of kids with the munchies. The open areas perpetuate this with feelings of nakedness and over-exposure. In stark contrast, the McDonald’s here in London has a greenish brown color and a much different architectural design. Instead of one big open space, it was split into two relatively cramped floors furnished with cushy chairs on the lower level and long tables, comfortable stools, and a relaxed, cafe style sitting corner on the upper floor. This is most likely done in an attempt to fit in with the chic surroundings of the European cheap eating market. The menu above the counter featured “The M,” which is essentially a glorified quarter pounder with cheese, except much pricier and on a ciabatta roll. But it was advertised in such a pretty font! They also had free wi-fi, which is sweet.
From http://snackspot.org.uk. So succulent. So overpriced.
From http://snackspot.org.uk. So succulent. So overpriced.
This brings up an important difference between American and European eating habits. Fast food back in the States is called fast for a reason. Customers generally don’t spend hours on end sitting in a Burger King. Drive-thrus come standard with every establishment. I have seen literally one drive-thru since I’ve been here. It seems that the European equivalent of the American fast food burger joint is the cafe. Pret a Manger and Eat cafes, not McDonald’s and Wendy’s (although there are a surprisingly large quantity of KFCs) dominate the cityscape. Cafes go hand-in-hand with the laid back attitude so prevalent in this continent.
This is a photograph of a London McDonalds. The one following is American.
There is no way an American style McDonald’s could survive in London. The McDonald’s at St. Paul’s was sandwiched between two cafes. The decor and atmosphere of the restaurant effectively fit in with its distinctively European neighbors. The stereotypical American McD’s – bright, noisy, grungy, and crowded – would wither and die in the face of the far superior and definitely healthier European chain cafes. And although the fatty, disgusting-but-oh-so-good food is exactly the same, the atmosphere makes us feel healthier, and thus happier. Perhaps if the fast food places of the United States were more like the ones here they would not have such a negative reputation. Or maybe more cafes like Pret ought to pop up on our streets back home. Who knows?
Tags: Andrew B · Andrew F · Andrew R · Campbell
Today’s walk to the East End was a new and different experience for me. Having grown up in a middle class, white, rural area it was wonderful to actually see the complete opposite of the area in which I grew up. As much as I love ethnic street fairs and pan-asian food I had never really seen an area so completely different from the one I am used to.
When I read Salaam, Brick Lane I had problems envisioning the actual street. As much as I enjoyed the book I still was picturing more of a slum than a habitable living area (Jack London’s quotes about murder and refuse didn’t help). Indeed, when the book was written things were much worse in that area than they are now, but it was still quite helpful for me to actually see the setting.
What struck me most was that even though the Gherkin could still be seen over the tops of the buildings, it actually felt like we were in a completely different city. Sadly most of the shops were closed due to Ramadan, but it is definitely a place I want to explore further.
However, it was surprising to see just how much it had changed since Mr. Hall wrote his book. From what he described I assumed Brick Lane to be little more than a slum. While not exactly the nicest neighborhood it was far from unpleasant. From the number of people in their mid-twenties that I saw wandering around it seems as though the area is an up-and-coming place. This is just another example of the ever changing demographic in this section of London. Instead of a new group of immigrants it seems to me that perhaps the next tenants will be young adults looking for their first apartment. From what I saw today I wouldn’t mind living there myself.
In contrast, this afternoon we took a tour of St. Paul’s Cathedral. It was quite a stark difference going from the rather poorer East End to the opulence of Christopher Wren’s masterpiece. While the entire tour was interesting, the highlight was definitely the trek up the dome. The view from the top was breathtaking. We were treated to a view of the whole of London spread out beneath us, and as segregated as parts of London are on the ground, from up that high there are no boundaries drawn between sections of the city. It is all just one big sprawling mass and there are no distinctions. It was a nice change from the racism we have been discussing during class.
It was a good day and I’d love to explore the East End further.
After the highly informative Westminster Abbey tour, we decided to economize and out outside rather than pay extra to sit in. Unfortunately, we decided on the wrong park. Completely unbeknownst to us unwitting Americans, the British government is not content with simply extorting us at restuarants. Instead, they have decided to charge individuals for the “right” to sit in lawn chairs in the parks surrounding London. Though to be fair, we do not know if this is entirely true because this incident just occured at the wonderful St. James’ Park. While asthetically pleasing, the man walking around with a pence machine was very disconcerting. Being the crass Americans we are, instead of paying this man representing the greedy British government, we resevered our right to sit freely on the grass (despite his several attempts to swindle us). After suggesting that this incident reminded us of the rediciously “tea tax” placed on British imports to America in the 18th Century, we considered throwing our lawn chairs in the River Thames just to prove a point. Though after careful consideration and debate, we decided against this plan of action.
Instead, we rebelled by giving the local pigeon population the remains of our lunches. To our shock, we were unexpectedly surrounded but what seemed to be the entire pigeon population of London. Nevertheless, this did not deter us. Upon luring this savage creatures as close as possible and feeding them scrapes of bread, Amy decided to charge through the mass of beasts only to have one nearly miss Maddy and promoting the other people around us to duck for cover. With the pigeons well fed, the rebellion spread to some British children. We can only hope this incident will spark civil war among the park goers of London.
These are just a few differences between the American and British way of life.
Tags: Andrew F · Campbell
St. Martin in the Fields is a beautiful church. It is open, airy, has beautiful guilding, and some of the most interesting windows that I have ever seen in a religious building. While not actually in a field (as there was some debate about it), it still is in a nice, albeit touristey, location. The inside of church has every appearance of being a nice, though rather upscale, protestant church, much like the ones built all around New England during the 18th century, which is why I found the contrast to the outside so dramatic.
English churches, especially the more well-known ones, tend to be made of stone and feature either gothic or roman architecture, and the inside usually matches the exterior. However, when sitting inside St. Martin’s I felt that when I exited the building I would see a wooden, white-washed structure with a steeple, basically a copy of many of the protestant churches that litter New England. It was almost jarring for me to enter what was outwardly a copy of a Roman Temple (with the addition of a steeple and clock) and instead see a bright room filled with windows.
It just struck me as another difference between our religious establishments and those of Britain. England has always done a good job of integrating old and new, and St. Martin in the Fields is a perfect example of that.
Having traveled to Embankment Station, and having ridden on a Thames cruise that left us quoting Titanic as it powered backwards away from a dock, we arrived in the London suburb of Greenwich. After powering up both a painfully steep gang plank and an equally inclined hill we came upon the famous Greenwich observatory and the international dateline. The obligatory photograph followed, and we were turned loose on the museums. The exhibits featured not only the history of the Greenwich observatory, but stretched a few years further back to the beginning of time itself. If one chose to enter the space museum, one could choose from a variety of interactive exhibits explaining how our universe is created, and of course giving the usual “apocalypse in five million years” speech. One thing that interested me was the idea that watches weren’t invented until about two hundred years ago, and though hour glasses have been available for much longer, the idea of knowing the exact time was not something that was really needed. A person simply woke with the sun and talked about things like distances in terms of days, not hours. The humans of the past were much more in tuned with nature than we are today. They let the requirements or even the inconveniences of the world control them, rather than trying to control it. It’s a bit hard for someone like me to imagine a world without an idea of organized time. My brain can’t really wrap itself around the concept. However, it was an interesting trip nonetheless, continuing on with a jaunt through the “snogging park” and ending at Greenwich market, which made me wish that I had a limitless bank account.
The rest of the day was spent in a trip to Camden, but being the foreigners that we are, we didn’t realize that markets here tend to close at a reasonable hour, so the whole town was shut up when we arrived. We still had an entertaining walk through Camden however. Our first attempt at dinner failed when the kitchen was closed, and the place we ended up eating left us feeling like we had entered the Temple of Doom, complete with giant carvings and statues, and even a matching soundtrack. After we made out escape (feeling rather shaken) we returned to our hotel, having had a most informative, and interesting day.