So I started this blog in 2011 to log my summer at an art fellowship in NYC. About 6 months after that I decided to start up a new writing project where I wrote and posted a new piece of short fiction everyday for an entire year. I left this blog to be a pristine archive but and started a new blog, drunkenyear.tumblr.com (the name comes from a Ray Bradbury quote, the man who inspired the exercise). It was a great experience and I learned a lot. At the end of that year I decided to just keep on going with that blog and use it as an art/travel blog as I studied abroad in the UK. Well another year past, and I learned alot and worked hard on my art but I always wanted to create separate blogs for each of my crafts, and because tumblr has a wonky primary/secondary blog system I’ve come to soil the linen-white archive of my work past. Also I don’t care so much anymore. This blog will be acting as the hub for all my other work, so if you want to keep up with everything I do, follow this one. The individual blogs are as follows:
I’ll also get some inspiration blogs of several kinds up as per the requests of some. I don’t generally do a lot of reblogging, most of my sharing is privately but it might be something people want.
Yo guys, I’m switching back to my main blog. If you want to continue getting updates from me, you can either subscribe to a specific blog, or to the main blog which aggregates everything.
Also titled as: Biting off more than I can chew. Then chewing it.
I wanted to write another life update for a while but haven’t been able to because I’ve been so busy. Usually I write out these things every 6 months but there’s enough life to have filled up so many more of these than one. Since then a lot of life has happened.
I came home from my study abroad in the UK, which was a great and life changing experience, as every day is. It was precisely what I needed at that stage in my life. I like London. I’d like to go back someday, perhaps even live there. I describe it to people as “my perfect city” when telling them about my trip. Still a lot more cities that I want to see too. My professor mentioned that I should consider doing post-grad work there, which might be pretty cool. I’ve already decided against doing post-grad for now, because I want to get out, get a job, pay off my debt quickly and experience some real life outside of academia.
I’ve got an ambitious plan post-graduation. I want to pay off my student debt in 3 years. I think it’s possible too. I currently live on around 15,000 a year give or take. Students are supposed to pay off their debt in 10 years, by paying 10% of their projected salary every year. But why do that, when I can just get it over with now? Getting a job with 30,000 a year post graduation is pretty reasonable (provide of course you get a job in this economy, but even so college grads only have a 6.3% unemployment rate (though many more are underemployed)). 3 Years, let’s say 10,000 a year, easily pays off the debt. The reason for wanting to get out so quickly is simple. I’m pretty happy the way I am. I have more books, video games, and other media than I know what to do with. I don’t buy expensive clothes. I don’t mind living in a small house, or “sketchy” neighborhood (A. I grew up in a pretty ghetto podunk town and B. I’m an idiot who considers it local flavor). The sooner I get out of debt, the sooner I am free with no strings attached to wander where I want.
Additionally I’m aware of the trap that mo’ money brings. Mo’ problems. I have a friend whose parents make a combined amount over 200,000. That puts her in a pretty high percentage (not quite the hated 1% but close). Even so, her parents have money problems, because they spend what they make. As salaries go up, most people’s expenses go up. Yet if I’m happy at 15,000 why spend more unless I have to? Sure some conveniences would be nice but while I’m in debt, I don’t see the point in increasing that. Buying a house means getting a loan, means incurring more debt, means staying shackled longer. What happens if I lose my job, or the economy goes to further shit? If you have a home loan or a car loan, you’re bound to the ground. If I decided to pick up my bags and move to another country, I couldn’t because I’ve got obligations which have to be filled. I’m young, and so for now I’ll remain free.
Plus, I’m thinking about saving up my excess money and perhaps investing it. If I get enough passive income this way, then I’ll be freer to work on whatever projects I want. I still have a lot of research to do on that, but it’s a different shift in thinking for me. The much maligned (and perhaps rightly so) book “Poor Dad Rich Dad” brought this shift to light for me. While a good bit of the book is kind of business-guru nonsense, I still found it useful. I was first referenced to it by the writer of Extreme Early Retirement, a blog by a guy who retired when he was 30. He does so by savvy investing, living only on 7,000 a year, and of course having a blog that attracts thousands of readers for ad money. Ever notice how self-help gurus have success primarily as people telling people how to succeed? Hahaha, despite this dig, the guy actually does have a lot of practical advice, and it helped create this shift in my thinking on finances.
Another book I read that helped a lot was Art and Fear. If you haven’t read it, do. Just do, okay? There’s no better single piece of advice I could give a fellow artist.
This summer was… interesting to say the least. I got back from the UK and I could only stick around for 6 days before having to fly back out to Boston to buy my first vehicle (a moped), work a job at my Uni’s media lab, and take do a workshop that I got a school grant to take. Oh yeah and I was homeless.
I basically landed, the next day bought my moped, and then the next day had to figure out how to drive all the way into Boston from my suburban school to MassArt, battling my bad sense of direction and the terrible terrible Boston roads. In under a week I busted my front tire, probably on one of the many shoddy bumpy roads that twist and turn through Boston’s schizophrenic motorways. All doing this while homeless, squatting in the Pottery Club studio on my campus, and making food in the Employee Lounge at my work.
There are many stories from this little escapades that I could tell, but I’ll save that for another time, perhaps if you find me at a party and give me a drink, I’ll tell you. Otherwise I’m going to spare you guys those except for this single one, dare I say, a miracle?
I hate calling anything a miracle because it’s stupid, and lame, and usually an excuse for not understanding how Physics work. Also most of the time it’s not a miracle. Your baby being born is not a miracle. I’m sorry, I know how you feel about your squirming sack of DNA(and I empathize because I actually like kids, but yah know), but it happens all the time, every day, and it doesn’t break any natural laws of the universe.
But this was a pretty fortuitous happening in my life. The first night I got back, I couldn’t get into my planned place of residence, the Student Center because my card did not work on any of the doors. This was because I had been away for study abroad and after 6 months any card not used, deactivates. That’s why I was sleeping in the Pottery Studio for the first couple of days. Anyway when I called security and asked them to reinstate my card, they did, but made one little mistake. They gave me a golden key. For some reason, I discovered only a few days after they did this, purely by chance in fact, that my card key now opened All Doors. Literally, they gave me 24/7 access to ALL the BUILDINGS ON CAMPUS. Barring any room with a real deal physical lock, I had access. Any card key capable door was ripe for the picking, including admin buildings, and considering my Uni has a very lax policy on security cams, I basically had free reign. You’d be surprised by how many clubs have expired food in their club fridges over the summer. (I drank a coke that expired in 2008. It tasted fine btw)
Anyway this lasted about a month and then I was caught. When I explained that I was only doing this because I was poor, did not have enough money for an apartment, and that my mom had been without a job for a while and would be without one what seemed to be probably the near future, they were very nice and gave me a dorm room for the final 2 weeks (which they were renting out for twice the monthly cost of any house surrounding the area. Many of the rooms were empty, proving that my university loves wasting money more than I thought) before the apartment I was moving into for the Fall and Spring semester opened up. (it’s nice. It’s cheap and so close to my studio that I can walk between building and not lose wifi connection for my internet radio.)
So in the end it worked out fine, barring a little mental scarring from feeling like I was on the run for 4 weeks and all the stress that came with that. Let me tell you, I am much less apt to romanticize hoboes and gypsies now. But seriously, it was an interesting experience, one that gave me greater sympathy for the psychology of real homelessness (because lets face it, what I did was child’s play compared to what a lot of other people go through everyday), gave me some interesting stories, and saved me some money.
The moped would later that summer bust a battery and short a spark plug, both of which I replaced all by myself, which I’m proud of. Also the workshop I did was an awesome figure sculpting class, very intense and I enjoyed it very much. I think I actually have a greater natural talent for sculpting than I do for painting.
School started back up, and life returned to a new kind of normal. I live off campus and I know none of my roommates so I’m basically alone all the time. Even though I’m back in the States, I have a similar isolation that I did in London, much of my friendships being carried out in late night chat conversations. But this is also partially self imposed. I realized while in London that A) I like being alone more than I thought B)I had a lot of toxic relationships I needed to get rid of and C)I need to focus on my work. Social relationships in college won’t last much past this year. Better to start uprooting things sooner rather than later.
I do still have a certain amount of social interaction but it’s more purposeful and I like it that way. Part of that is that I’m trying out online dating. It’s kind of nice, I get to get away from the social groups of my Uni and meet new people. I haven’t gone on many dates so far but it’s been a good learning experience. That’s how I’m primarily looking at it, as a way of building up social skill and as a tool of self-reflection on who I want to get into a relationship with in the first place. If nothing else, I’ve been happy to find there are more people who share my particular set of idiosyncratic values and beliefs than I thought possible. Also the more I get rejected, the easier it is to brave the next possibility of it. Maybe I’ll eventually work up the courage to ask a girl out in person for once. Maybe, but probably not for now. Too busy.
Studio work has been good. Before going to study abroad, I built a bunch of stretched canvases from scrap material lying around the fine art department and as a result I have more canvases to work on than I have time for. Seriously, I produced a lot of work this semester and I STILL have canvases to work on next semester. Once I get done with those I’ll return to paper probably.
Also, while I do have liberal arts classes again this semester, I didn’t have very many and so I could focus on my work. Next semester in fact I only have a PE class and an intro computer science class to distract me from my work in the studio. (and the PE class is actually welcome as I have let my body atrophy since London in such a way that I am actually embarrassed a little).
In addition to this, I also directed 2 music videos this semester, and I’ll be directing a short film in spring. Despite the fact that I came to the realization in London that I don’t actually want to work in film, I want to work in video games, I’m doing these projects because I promised myself I would 2 years ago and so I have to do it. Also I’m hoping that my experience as a director will translate well in my interest into working as a Creative Director etc for whatever job I happen to get in the future.
Oh yeah, over the summer I got to have lunch with a cousin I don’t know very well who was in Boston to attend a graphic design convention. He actually works as a Creative Director and also had a spare pass to the convention so we met up for lunch and went to the convention where I picked his brain on the his career and life. That was really interesting, it was really amazing seeing things from a new perspective, seeing the hugeness of the possibilities in the industry and how feasible a job like being a Creative Director really is.
I also made a portfolio website and designed some business cards. When I was in London I became involved with MolyJam and through that I starting going to the London Indies meet ups, where independent and hobbyist game developers, artists, and hackers get together once a month in a London pub to drink and discuss their projects. When I came back to Boston I wanted to start going to the Boston Indies, and have a card and website ready even though I wasn’t really planning on staying in Boston post-graduation and I also currently wasn’t in the position to accept new jobs or projects. Boston Indies has a very different vibe but it’s also been good, and I look at it as practice for real networking when I graduate. Sort of in the same way that I am looking at OKC as a test run to build up familiarity and skills. I’ve gone to several of their events and stuff and I’ve been familiarizing myself with the nature of the scene.
One thing that has been really informative for this process has been watching the documentary for the Double Fine Adventure game unfold. If you don’t know, the studio Double Fine, led by Tim Schaffer, adventure game veteran and creator of such games as Psychonauts and Grim Fandango, put out a record breaking Kickstarter that raised over 3 million dollars to make an old school graphic point-and-click adventure game. In addition to making a game, each month they put out a short documentary about the development process. It has been an awesome piece of inspiration for me. It helped me really concretize the fact that what I really want to do in the games industry is work as a Creative Director, to do something like Tim, to be the idea guy, designer, writer, and overall head. Of course a veteran of the industry could probably say I’m getting too big for my britches, and I’m fully aware that no one starts as a Creative Director and that you have to work your way up to that position, but it’s an end goal for me to work towards and that’s good. I remember, when I first thought about going into film, watching the behind the scenes footage for Lord of the Rings that I always felt conflicted about what I wanted to do. I wanted to be a conceptual artist! I wanted to make cool ideas and paint epic pictures, but at the same time I kind of wanted to be like Peter Jackson, who had the vision and the meta-idea that tied it all together. I’m a very DIY person by nature, and the idea of asking other people to make pictures for me seemed lame. I wanted to be able to produce my own work. Perhaps it has been my introduction to contemporary Conceptual Art, my own coming to grips that I will probably never be quite the virtuoso in all things I care about, or realizing that my strengths really lie in my ability to synthesize and aggregate information. Of course I’m not giving up executing art, just like Jackson still grabs the camera occasionally, but I’ve come to a more concrete understanding of what I want to do, and even some real life examples to model my goal off of.
My experience as Director this past semester has been useful for understanding this. Maybe it’s delusions of grandeur but I feel like the role fits well. I think I have a pretty good ability to spot the character and size up people accurately. I’m a synergistic thinker in general. I feel that I’m also pretty good at seeing how about of different disparate parts can come together to make a whole. I’ve avoided ever being in a position of authority until now because I don’t want to be an egomaniac making power grabs, and yet most of the times when I’m in a group work, I always end up feeling “Aaaagh! Will you guys just listen to me and do what I say! This current path is dumb!” This thought process probably just shows that I’m a well contained egomaniac. Even so, as I have come into a position of being in charge, it just feels right and I feel very comfortable making choices for the direction of the project.
Directing itself has been a really weird learning experience. Up till now, my entire time in school I’ve been kept to a standard of my own behavior. If I messed up on a test, then I got a bad grade. Even in group assignments everyone was a peer and got their own individual grade. No one was in charge. Everyone ultimately answered to the Teacher. Now as Director, I’m in charge. I’m not just responsible for my own actions. If one of my grips screws something up, I’ve got to take care of it. If my camera assistant is late all the time, I actually have to discipline him (but since my project is volunteer based that really just consists of talking them down and telling they can’t work with us anymore). If someone messes up then I have to answer for their mistakes. I have this new power and new burden. It’s just kind of weird. I’m the sort of person who avoids being in charge because I don’t like the idea of imposing my will on another person, forcing them to do something. And yet I’m finding that…people often want good guidance on what to do. At least new people who want to learn from you and stuff. Like I said, I tend to be a very DIY person and so I usually just teach myself stuff but I’m also finding that a lot of people want someone to help teach them stuff too, which I’m pretty good at. Anyway with great power comes great responsibility and I’m trying to learn how to properly use it.
Speaking of which, this is the other thing I’ve really been trying to focus on this year: Finishing. Really committing and following through. See I’m an aspirational Da Vinci, a hopeful polymath, and I want to do pretty much… everything? If you’ve followed my previous process of in years past, you’ll see I’ve skipped around a bit, each venture linked in a larger thematic web and yet still a bit scattered. Figuring out what I wanted to do post grad, and seeing the chance to focus on video games as an avenue has been helpful. Video games first of all allows for me to focus will still not completely cutting off all other interests. It is truly the most multi-media and diverse medium out there so that’s nice. Now I got that, I gotta focus. I’ve got to follow the bit all the way to the end. I can’t let up on the last 10% because it olds. It’s not that I’ve quit things in the past because I got bored, but there’s the continued sustained pursuit of the work. Not just completing a polished painting, but completing a series of paintings that interrelate. Not just write one essay that is good, rather sustaining that through a series of essays. That is the difference between a blog post and a book after all. I am thankful because I got a professor this year who really dogs on me about this, and I need that. Committing to a longer project like the film stuff has helped, because it’s not enough to have a clever idea, you’ve also got to deal with all the common place and boring stuff and really execute it to the end.
That’s another thing I’m working on is toning down the amount of self-analysis and abstract thinking that bounces around in my head. Or rather, I’m not reducing that kind of thinking, I’m turning up the heat on my concrete execution. Ideas are fun but they have to be done. Don’t sit around and talk about a cool idea, make it. Make it, fail, make it again. Instead of thinking about a painting, saying “that’s a dumb idea. What should I do?” I’ll just make the dumb idea, get it out of my system and then move on to a good idea that I could only discover by making the bad idea. There are no shortcuts, and a perfect draft can’t be written in your head.
I’m feeling that I’m up to a tight wall. I’m making this short film, and it’s huge and complex with a lot of people who are helping out with it and giving funding to it and if it doesn’t work then I’ll look like a huge idiot. Good, that’s how I work best. I’ve got to push myself in so deep that I’ll suffocate or swim because otherwise my natural tendency will be to just fritter around on too many projects.
Immediately following filming of the short film will be an art installation that I’m applying for a grant right now. The idea is to bring together my fine art and video game interest. It’s kind of like a video game in real life? Or maybe you could just say it’s an interactive art gallery? Or another way of saying it is that it’s a piece of alternative theater? This is also a huge multiperson project that I’ve got to execute on. It’s weird, and not the kind of thing that’s been done very much, so selling the idea is going to be tough, and I’ve had some dust ups and doubts with the Dean in charge of approving it. I think I can do it… I hope? There have been a lot of times I’ve felt that maybe I’m biting off more than I can chew, and even a little panic attack begins rising in my chest. I think I’ve got this though. I think we can do this.
And then…. Post production on the film, and then I graduate and go on to… whatever. My plan right now is to apply to as many creative industry jobs as possible and take whatever I can get. Also I applied for a Fullbright teaching job in Indonesia (which I doubt I’ll get) and I’m right now applying for an art fellowship in the Philippines (which I severely hope I get). The eventual plan is to work my way up to Creative Director or whatever, and get to a point where I can start managing my own projects. The good thing about a lot of these entry level jobs, is they have high turnover so I’ll be able to bounce around America for a couple of more years. Then maybe grab a post grad program if I need or spend some time back in London. I’ll continue working on my fine art/illustration stuff, on my writing (I really think I need to wait for more life experience before I write a novel) etc, but career will be focused on the directing aspect more. We’ll see how that all goes. In the end the real goal is to just continue working and supporting myself somehow in the creative field and not end up dead or dying.
I’m back in the studio, working on 22 paintings simultaineously so update will be kind of slow. Stuff is in the works though and it should be exciting.
Things I’ve noticed coming back to America:
Stuff is bigger: Everything is so big! I don’t just mean that cities are further apart. I mean even the interior of buildings feels huge. I have to walk all across the house to say something to someone. An entire pub could fit in my living room alone. Hell my bedroom is probably big enough for a pub.
Street Signs: I’m glad to have street signs back. In London all the signs are on the buildings but sometimes they aren’t inexplicably for no reason.
The signs aren’t always there though and they’re pretty tiny. Maybe I should wear my glasses more often.
Friendly Americans: Geez. Americans are friendly. Yeah yeah everyone jokes about London people being anti-social, but as someone is who is naturally anti-social I don’t notice it because I function on that level. I’m a bit surprised how often people ask me how my day is and stuff. Even in the “unfriendly north” people are verging on jolly.
Talking British: I’m still saying “sorry” and “excuse me” in an English accent. I sort of reflexively started doing this because I didn’t want people to know the jerk pushing his way through the crowd was American and thus reflect poorly on the USA. I also say football reflexively too.
Race and Immigration: It’s weird seeing an African American person and knowing they’re a native who has lived here for generations while in London the black people were almost always recent immigrants from Africa. It’s the kind of difference you get between seeing an Asian person in Cali, where there is a long history of that demographic, versus seeing an Asian person in Houston where they are almost always recently immigrated.
Cost of Living: Food was cheap in London if you knew where to look. I could buy a frozen medium pizza for $1.70 USD while in American everything is 4 bucks and up. I could buy bread for around $1.70 USD too while around here its usually $3.50. It may be the areas I’m in, but in general it seems the whole “Cost of living in London is high” isn’t quite true. At least not on the food end of things. Why is this? Anybody know? I’m going to blame government subsidies. (just looked up the numbers. Seems Boston beats London in everything BUT groceries. http://www.numbeo.com/cost-of-living/compare_cities.jsp?country1=United+Kingdom&city1=London&country2=United+States&city2=Boston%2C+MA) (with that in mind maybe it is government subsidies, or maybe it’s the anti-density laws that Boston has put into effect, which would make it more difficult for infrastructure to become more efficient.)
Public Relationships: I feel like public relationships in America are more formalized and kept at a distance. While Americans may be more friendly, I think there is more of a keeping at arm’s length also. I recently had some trouble and I was stuck in the rain on the side of the road. I asked a mechanic shop if I could stand just inside their garage to stay dry and they told me that they couldn’t because of insurance reasons and I think the guy was being honest about that too. There seems to be more of a worry that people are going to screw you over or there might be some kind of lawsuit. It’s annoying to be treated like a stranger and not just like a normal human being.
Another example of this is in the indie game meetups I’ve been going to. London Indies met in a pub. They basically just all got together in a pub and talked over pints and showed off what they were working on. Boston Indies is in a lecture format. It has free food, and they meet in a private building with a lock. People take turns going up to the front and giving lectures on various topics. Afterwards people hang out for a little bit and talk. The London Indies were mostly basement hackers who were messing around with stuff, while the Boston Indies are mostly small development studios where they work fulltime on their game. The Boston Indies seems to have a more serious professional aspiration, while the London indies is more personal and has a subversive independent edge to it. Also I went to another game dev meet up in Boston called “Boston Post-Mortem” which is more focused on bigger studios though the small guys show up to. It has the same lecture format. They also have a board, and a charter which has rules on elections and stuff. It may not be quite the same level as the London Indies, but it still highlights the difference there. Man, Americans love formalized rule systems for making group decisions.
Obese Overachievers: When I went to London I didn’t notice people were skinnier. There are plenty of overweight, tubby, or out of shape Britons. However one of the first things I saw after getting off my international flight back to America was an obese person tootling around on a Rascal Scooter. It’s not so much that Americans have worse health, so much as it is that we have some overachievers who just take it to insane lengths.
BUGS: There are bugs… like everywhere. All over the place. I sat down in the grass and suddenly I had bunches of black sugar ants, and even a couple spiders traversing my legs. This isn’t just a one time thing either. Every time I sit down on the grass I find out that it’s alive. There are a wicked lot of mosquitoes too. This may be because the weather is warmer? Or maybe because London is more densely populated and the nature that is present has been very carefully modified and domesticated. Just a couple of theories. Or maybe it has something to do with St. Patrick.
Weather: Weather is much more extreme. It goes between wicked hot and chilly pretty fast. London isn’t nearly as dreary as people make it out to be, and when it is it isn’t even that cold. I was there during a drought though so that could be the reason for how non-humid it was.
Amazon.co.uk still shows up in my browser bar: Buying stuff on the internet is waaaaaaay cheaper than buying it in stores. It’s kind of weird. I try to buy a motorcycle lock, online it’s 25 bucks, and the same brand is selling for 200 bucks in the store. While in London the prices are pretty much the same. Maybe Americans are less tech savvy so the stores try and take advantage of that? You would think it would be the opposite. I order a pair of shoes and they get shipped cross country, from California and they’re still cheaper than buying the same brand in store. Strange.
Britain was a cool place. I’d like to go back someday. There are a lot of other places I’d like to travel to first though. A lot of places within the US I still need to see.
I made a list of things I wanted to do while abroad. This list isn’t everything I did while in London, but it is a list of a lot of things I set out to do from the beginning and a couple more I completed along the way.
This was pretty cool. Kind of like going to a zoo except everything was already dead. There was an elephant skull, a tiger skeleton, a narwhale horn. Just a lot of cool stuff in general.
Went to a warehouse Psyrave
We don’t really have many raves in America, at least not in Boston where I go to school. Very surreal and interesting experience. I’m not really fan of the music but it was interesting to watch the DJ at work. He looked kinda like cross between a shaman and Harpo Marx. Russian guy with a big ginger fro. Also my friend and I were some of the only people there who spoke English so that added to the otherworldliness of the event.
The Royal Academy of Surgeons has a museum that has been collecting bits of people for the last 400 or so years. Deformed skeletons, bone cancer pelvis bones, cross sections of a child’s face, babies preserved in jars… you know the regular stuff. It’s pretty fascinating and sickening. You’d think in this day and age, with internet shock sites being the norm that I’d be more jaded to this kind of thing, but seeing it in person is much more extreme than you’d think. It’s kind of interesting looking at this stuff in hindsight. You can see why people were so angry with surgeons, and why they accused them of meddling with God’s creation. In hindsight, under the sanitized system we have now, it seems how obvious the good of modern medicine and surgery is. However, the process of getting there was rough. New fields of study tend to attract two kinds of people. Really smart cutting edge people, and nutjobs, and telling them apart can be kind of hard. The guy who started the collection seems to have had less of a scientific interest and more like a bored aristocrat who had no scruples buying poor men’s bones without their permission or recompense. I remember reading a story about a fellow who helped contribute to these collections who made a point of trying to eat a bit of every species on earth. That list included human. No wonder people were freaked out by this stuff. And yet we can see that in the end it worked out for the best, yeah?
I’m not a big fan of dubstep but since it was born in London I figured I should see a show while there. It was just my luck that Skream, arguably the inventor of the genre was giving a free show one weekend. He is an excellent DJ, and it was a really great set. It was actually disco themed, which is pretty awesome, since I hate disco and he Skream made me like it. Also it turns out that electronic house music really has its roots in disco so it makes historical sense.
Go where the sex pistols got started
I’m not a fan of the Sex Pistols. I like punk, but I’m not really a fan of them for a couple of reasons. However, its still an interesting part of history. So one day a friend and I went out to check out the neighborhood where they got started. It’s basically just a bunch of middle class clothing shops. Not much to see.
Go to a punk show.
I wanted to see some music shows, but I specifically wanted to see a punk show. My friend and I ended up going to see the Bermondsey Joyriders. The show was in SoHo, the red light district of town. A lot of gay clubs and such are around that area. Turns out the show as a Cabaret/Punk Show double ticket. My friend and I were the only people under 30 there. It was a lot of old punks. Guys who looked like washed up slightly overweight Steven Tyler. There were a couple of drag queens in the mosh pit. The bouncer had bleach blonde hair, sharp blue eyes and a gold bowler that matched his pale yellow suit. The first band had a lead singer that looked like Vincent Price, a bass player that looked like a scuzzy 80s rocker/roadie/Igor, a hardcore lead guitarist who looked like he could and would beat the shit out of you, and a drummer who looked like somebodies Dad in a Hawaiian shirt. The second band had a guy in a suit and Texas rope tie narrate the songs in a thick Scottish accent. He also broke out a harmonica riff for the last song. The songs for the second band were from their new album and so each song title was announced on a flip board that was manned by a bald butler guy with a walrus mustache.
Go to a Japanese restaurant
Not much to say. I went to a bento place for lunch. Never been to a Japanese place before.
Go to a Caribbean restaurant
This was pretty cool. I’m of ska so I wanted to see more of the Anglo-Afro-Caribbean culture in London. I had jerk chicken with some plantains. Pretty good stuff.
Go to a folk show
I actually made friends with a guy who does folk music. Every month he and a bunch of friends of his play in a pub. He’s a very talented fiddle player and it was nice being able to see some folk music live while in the country which gave birth to a lot of America’s folk music.
Went camping in the English Countryside:
This was cool. I went with a bunch of Britons and had probably the most authentic camping experience imaginable. A lot of drinking cider and tramping around farmland hillsides.
Went to Oxford and drank at the Eagle and Child:
This is the Pub that C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien used to drink at. Oxford is a very different city than I expected and very different than London. It was nice to see countryside after being cooped up in London for so long. I also accidently missed my train back by about 5 minutes. It was the last train out. I tried sleeping under a bridge but it was so cold that I got up and walked around. I ended up finding a late night bus back to London which was lucky.
Fun as always. A great way to see the city. I’m an international geocacher now, too.
Made a video game:
I went to a 48 game jam and helped make a game. That was pretty cool. Part of that event was staying up late in a hack space in the warehouse district of London.
Some caves south of London. Never got around to getting over there. It was a bit of a trip.
The Old Operating Theatre Museum
Another museum to look at dead people, hahaha. The Royal Academy of Surgeons was cool and this was a bit redundant maybe.
Go to a reggae show
Sort of wish I had made more time to see this. Reggae is still very much alive in London, and it would have been great to catch a show before I left.
Overall, I think I made good use of my time. I’m sure there are more things I could find if I ever went back.
I’ve been back in the States from my study abroad in London for over two months. I started writing these essays while there but never posted them because I wanted some time to let the ideas sink in and stew. Over the next couple of days I’m going to be releasing my thoughts etc on my time in London. I did a similar thing when I went to Prague.
Bidet Commercials: I didn’t actually see these that much but the first time I did it was kind of a weird surreal moment. I was like… “Oh yeah! That’s a thing”. I never actually encountered a bidet in my travels but I did see a couple of commercials for it.
British Commercials: The largest import to America from Britain is British Comedy, followed by magical boy wizards. Because of this, and a lifetime of John Cleese, I have been trained to assume a person with a British accent is telling a joke. When I watch British commercials I sometimes had trouble telling if they were meant to be humorous or they were serious? It doesn’t help that commercials are rapid fire, and sometimes told in thick accents that make it hard to know what’s going on, resulting in something borderlining an absurdist sketch. What is this? Is this a joke, or do I just not know what the hell they’re talking about? Is this an insurance commercial? Why is the old goth dude who looks like a granny mooning over the broken Victorian statue?
Racism: Woah. What a weird subject in London. The population is mostly white, but there also a huge immigrant population that has been there, building communities, for generations. Due to the empire history of Britain, these communities go back centuries and even have some degree of affluence in their own right. Generally you think of immigrants in America as “fresh off the boat”, but sometimes in Britain it’s more like “fresh off the yacht”. Additionally, while white on brown racism can be an issue the most noticeable racism I encountered was brown on brown, something you don’t always see in America, or at least not publicized as much.
There are these Halal Chicken and Pizza places all over the city. They’re all a like, like some kind of debranded franchise. They serve Chicken and Pizza. They don’t serve pork or beef so both Muslims and Hindus can eat there. Some places do sell ribs though. There is a particular one on my way home from studio that I used to go to. Pizza Palace was kind of a treat I would have when I was really tired and didn’t want to cook. One night I was sitting, eating my pizza and goujon when a black guy comes in. The guy behind the counter tells them “We’re closed”. The black guy is kind of confused by this. He looks around, and I’m sitting in the corner eating, and the sign outside says they don’t close till later. That’s when the guy behind the counter just up and says it “We don’t serve Somalians.” The guy is a bit taken aback by this. The cashier says “A couple of weeks ago some Somalians trashed our store. We don’t serve them anymore. We got it on tape.” The black guy, I guess a Somalian, kind of dithers on what to do and then just eventually leaves.
I grew up in the South. I did see racism, both from whites and blacks but I never saw anyone explicitly say “We don’t serve your kind here.” That was kind of a shock to see. I stopped going there. A couple of weeks later the place got new management and I saw the Somalian guys were getting served again. What a strange situation.
British people and Jessica Rabbit: I don’t know whats up with this this but I heard Jessica Rabbit a lot. At least more than I’ve ever heard any Americans reference it. The only person I know who ever talks about that movie is an animation friend of mine.
London is a Young City: Oh yeah, its old but the majority of people who live there aren’t from London. They’re from the villages that dot the countryside. Of course I was in a university setting and most cities have a higher youth population but in London it was much more pronounced.
Conflicted feelings about America: I didn’t experience the kind of rampant “America Bashing” that one comes to expect online. And yet I did get quite a few friendly barbs about my home country. There is a very conflicted feeling about America, it’s kind of like the sort of feeling a big brother might feel for their famous younger brother. There is a dislike of America in a way, and yet British people looooooove American culture. They consume so much of it, and not always with any kind of greater discrimination. Also many of the worst parts of American culture (reality TV, Tabloids) really originated in England. Blame Jersey Shore on the Queen.
How the British view themselves: Some of the conflict comes from the inherent British sense of self. There is a pride in being British. The Brits will readily tell you the shortcomings of Britain but even so they carry this sense that “Britishness” will prevail and is good. Other countries are sunnier, richer, or have better food, but they aren’t British.
Pronunciation of words: Well duh words are pronounced differently. The British way is right though! It’s “ke-bab” not “ka-bob” etc etc.
Northern and Southern England and the ol’ switcheroo: The stereotype is that the North is a bunch of yokels while the South is urbane and worldly. Or that the North is friendly and good natured while the South is anti-social and selfish. In America we have a very similar divide between the North and South though the stereotypes are switched. I actually heard on my return to the US that this is because of the immigration patterns from England were the North went South, while the South went North. Haven’t confirmed this though.
Strangely obedient: At 10 o’clock my studio closes. At 10 o’clock everyone leaves. No one came to lock the doors or tell them to get out. They just left. I’ve noticed a general attitude for obedience in Britain that I don’t see in America. There is almost a knee jerk subversive instinct in America to rebel. If rules are established people push at them.
Liberal? : Related to the above. Britain is posited as being more “liberal” but that word doesn’t translate across cultural lines really. I’ve made this argument before about Boston versus Texas, but the labels of “liberal” and “conservative” are pretty ineffective especially when comparing different regions.
Homogeneity and how the Sub-cultures live: Going goth or punk in America is predominantly seen as a phase which a person will pass out of when they go on to become an insurance broker. In Britain, it’s a lifetime commitment. I’ve seen old guys, 50 pushing 60 walking around with bright pink mohawks and leather jackets. I’ve seen dapper elder gents raging into microphones about how the Queen can suck his balls. The sub-cultures aren’t just older either. They’re also much more flamboyant. They don’t go around in a “Ramones” t-shirt. They go full force into bizarre niche clothing fashions. Entire streets dedicated to the latest neon cyberpunk nylon or neo-Victorian regalia.
I think this may actually be due to the relatively homogenous nature of Britain. While there certainly is an immigrant culture it’s much smaller. Additionally, even whites in America come from many different places in the world and have many different cultural assumptions that are different. I think the homogenous nature of Britain may encourage this greater eccentricity of style because it’s a way of differentiating oneself in a context where most people have a similar background. Kind of like when you go to middle class suburbs in America and there is a much bigger emo/punk/goth culture there.
Additionally, Americans tend to outsource their weirdness to certain parts of LA or to the celebrities that reside in those places. The British seem to want to do that themselves (which is pretty fun).
Getting famous: I went to quite a few music related things when I was in London and one thing interesting I noticed, is there doesn’t seem to be the same kind of fame hunger you see in America. I went to a pub and heard one of the best live performances I’ve ever heard, in a pub holding less than 25 people. The band has an excellent website but no CDs or songs for sale, and while they have some cool music videos, there is no other way to hear their work other than go and listen to them live. They seem to not really care about grabbing the mass appeal. For them it’s just about having fun, getting some free beer and playing music they like on the weekend in the local pubs. Hey, maybe I’m projecting a little but consistently I get that vibe in a lot of the music things I see. Even small indie bands I see in America seem to want to push beyond that. They may not want to be the next Lady Gaga but they do want to be the next Animal Collective or Weezer. The London attitude is probably more common in music saturated areas of America like Brooklyn or Austin, but for the vast majority of bands being started in the middle of the American vastness, there’s always this hope of “making it big” and “getting out of this town”.
Alcohol: I would go to the pub once a week with people I had met at church. That right there demonstrates one of the big differences between the two attitudes on alcohol. Also public drinking is okay as long as you don’t cause a ruckus. Which is kind of nice. Just wandering around the city sharing swigs with a friend.
“Geeky” conversation: Geeky conversation isn’t just conversation about Star Wars or computers. It’s any conversation which shows a hyper focus or interest in a niche topic. It’s a conversation where there is a degree of thought involved in the topic. I found these to be normal in Britain, on any range of subjects. It has been noted before that unfortunately there is a kind of anti-intellectual thread that runs through American culture, for good or for ill. You can’t act like you care too much or know too much about a subject. The classic American cool is The Fonz. This is not true in Britain, which was awesome because I prefer geeky conversations, even on topics I care nothing about. I like talking to people who seem invested and knowledgeable about the topic they’re discussing. I think this drive to talk about things is very similar to the willingness to fully participate in eccentric sub-cultures. Being a geek of whatever kind makes you stand out in America and standing out is not wanted. (once again this may be due to having a much more diverse culture. People in a diverse setting have greater trouble identifying with others and standing out from the crowd is not helpful)
Weather: Better than Boston but apparently there was a drought so maybe that’s why.
There is Art Everywhere: Now if I went to New York or LA or Austin I might also see this level of art, but its’ really apparent in London. Just walking around I saw post production studios for film, design studios, and weird networking art education shops that pretended to be haunted houses. All the shops have designed aesthetics and themes, and people seem more fashion conscious in general. This might be something you’d find in someplace like New York also, but in London, it’s all compressed into one tiny space. Boston has some of this, but only in it’s downtown. And all these design studios are 20 stories up in some anonymous skyscraper while in London it’s all on the ground level where you can see it.