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.
I took some old footage of a concert I filmed and edited it together. The band is Mount Eerie. They’re pretty cool. This was my first time using a DSLR camera so there were plenty of technical difficulties and I had to really twist my footage to cover all the bases. But still the colors are nice so I thought it was a nice bit of practice.
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.