Friday, July 31, 2009

At Last.

Well, the time nearly at hand when I will board a plane and say "adieu" to London.

I can't wait.

It's been a trip of a lifetime, and I've learned many things on this trip about history, architecture, design, Europeans, drinking, art, and photography. I've learned 5 weeks is about 4 1/2 weeks too long to be away from your family. I've learned about myself; as an artist, theatre critic, father, and who I am and who I want to be. I've learned it doesn't matter what the city is, I'm not a city boy. Pittsburgh is it for me, that's about as "city" as I care to get. I've learned what good theatre should be and what its place is in our world. I saw Phedre by Racine at the National today, starring Helen Mirren and Dominic Cooper. The best acting I've seen the whole trip was not by them, but by a secondary character as he describes the death of Hippolytus to Theseus. I was on the edge of my seat (which happened to be front row, center seat...no joke...I could have touched Dame Mirren if I wanted to) with tears in my eyes, it was so moving. That's what I want to do. (oh, Helen Mirren was fantastic, too, but this was one of those moments that transcends all else).

So tonight, a few of us decided to walk around the city after the show and take night pictures of London. It was rough going as I didn't have a tripod, but I think I got some good ones. I've enjoyed taking pictures here and getting used to my camera. I'm still a long way off from taking headshots for people, but it's at the point where I'm wishing I had another lens...

So, in 5 hours, I'll board a bus to take me to Heathrow where I'll sit for 4 hours and then fly for another 7, and then have a 5 hour bus trip to State College where I'll kiss my wife, hug my son, and cry like a damned baby because I've missed them so much. We'll have the weekend to ourselves and then we'll head to Pittsburgh to be with my mother as she has her knee replaced, but not before we partake in Uncle Dave's Seafood Extravaganza with Uncle James and Aunt Katie.

Lots of family. 22 hours and counting...

PS: I'm still a 12 year old kid at heart.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Oh Crap. Time to Baby-proof

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"That's one small step for a child...one....giant kick in the ass for his parents to do some baby-proofing."

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Gimongous



Max and I had a blast this evening visiting my college friend Casey (1/5 of the Quad), her parents and husband Jim. Casey & I have reunited in 'exotic locales' like New York City, Des Moines, IA & Paradise, California since college and thought meeting up again (this time 5 years later) somewhere equally exciting was in order- enter the Jolly Green Giant in Blue Earth, MN. You may (or may not) see us underneath him in the middle pic.

He was jolly. He was green. And he was *definitely* giant!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Happy Birthday, Pops!

We don't know what time he'll see this blog and due to the 6 hour time difference between here and London, we're posting it now- Happy Birthday, Michael! (Tues, July 28th!) We love you and can't wait to see you this weekend!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

'Relative'ly Mobile


Here's a pic of Max with his Aunt Becky and meeting his Great Grandma Flossie for the very first time last weekend. He has become quite the camera ham and whenever I pull mine out he immediately poses. Michael calls me the 'Mommarazzi', which is (of course) quite fitting given the number of pictures I take on a regular basis.

On Saturday my Dad, Max and I made a whirlwind trip to pick up Dr. Becky's couches from her apartment. She recently finished her residency and is moving all the way to California (wine country!) this coming week! We had a deeelicious lunch with her at the Great Dane Pub & Brewing Co., then packed up the couches, took down the satellite dish and hit the road again. We spent more time in the truck than with her, but it was great to see her again before she starts her trek to the West Coast. Who knows? Maybe Max's first dip in the ocean will be in the Pacific?

And finally, today was a big day- Max pulled himself up to a standing position with the help of the couch! It was just his height, as the cushions were not on it at the time. He was quite proud of himself and I was both thrilled and tired at the same time! His mobility has taken huge strides in what feels like only the past week or two and he's definitely going to keep us on our toes. (Note: it turns out it didn't matter that there wasn't a cushion on that couch- later this evening he pulled himself up to me on a couch with cushions!) Naturally, I have video of the big event, but I want Michael to see it first before I post it for the masses!

Michael and I have yet to take a honeymoon, but we joke that we're taking separate ones- he's on his right now in London and I took mine two months before our wedding. (I had the good fortune of booking a tour of A Chorus Line in Hawaii and the poor guy was left at home to finish planning it while I worked (ahem, played) in Maui & Honolulu for two weeks.) As I was telling him about Max's mobility the other day he said something to the likes of "So I shouldn't really think of this as my honeymoon, but rather as the only rest I'll be getting for the next 10 years?"

My answer: "Heck yeah- enjoy the rest, man!"

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Piggie Update...

The professor who lives in London took the infected student to her house this morning. Fine, but the professor is no spring chicken, and from what I understand, the older citizens are at risk.

The American professor sent us an email saying that whatever we're thinking, we shouldn't get nervous or panic. He extended an invitation for coffee for anyone who was nervous. We would have to get in touch with him via email to set up the coffee, as he has no phone. As far as I know, no one has taken him up on his offer. Can't imagine him being very comforting since no one trusts him very much. He's proven to be out of touch and out of date. Besides, we're all adults, and the exposure was no one's fault. Whatever happens, happens. What was disappointing was the ability of the leadership of our group to tackle the crisis with swift and authoritative decision making. But none of us were surprised to see that.

Finally, received another email from London-based professor saying that she did have swine flu and that she's staying with her at her house. We should call the professor if we get sick. Unfortunately, that's our only option.

Walked around a lot today, went to Harrods and got their Christmas Teddy Bear for Maxwell, because the bear is named...Maxwell. Also spent 2.5 hours at the Victoria and Albert Museum and saw most of the things I didn't see when I was there earlier.

Off to see A Little Night Music tonight. This is their closing night. Saved 30 pounds by going to TKTS....

Friday, July 24, 2009

Really? Oink, Oink?

I don't know what the news in the states has been (just recently found out that Roethlisberger was accused of rape), but here, swine flu is the headline getter. And guess what?

I've been exposed.

One of our flat mates came down with the symptoms, and called the national health line set up just for swine flu. Long story short, she checked off enough symptoms that they have told her to quarantine herself for a week, and gave her access to the precious swine flu drug. Her bedroom mate has move out (good for her) and now we're all in a state of flux. Why? Because the leadership abilities of the professors on this trip is nihl. One couldn't be reached because he has no cell phone here (everyone else got one for 20 pounds as soon as they landed...no clue why he couldn't get one) and the other one can't make a decision without his input, and so she went to a show that she was scheduled to be at. So now, we have a student, 3000 miles away from home, sitting in a room by herself, with no authoritative supervision tending to aquiring her what she needs. She has not been to a doctor, nor has any arraingements been made for her to get one. A phone call was made to one of the other students in the flat asking "how we were"? That was the extent of checking up on the situation. I'm quite upset, as are the other members of the flat.

Well, that's that, except the show I saw tonight was just awful and really wished I had gone to see something else instead.

May be home in a week...or not....may be quarantined.

Driving

Angie took these and sent them to me...I love them.

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Stratford and Beyond



We had an overnight trip to Stratford on Avon, a.k.a. the Home of the Bard. Bill Shakespeare's haunts. It was quaint and lovely. A bit toursity, but what can you expect...it's probably their only means of income.

We saw two productions by the Royal Shakespeare Company, Julius Caesar and A Winter's Tale. Of the two, I preferred the latter, although I felt the script is better in Julius Caesar. Caesar involved a lot of projections for the set, which some were done well, and others were not. They made use of several rotating screens on the floor and projected on them to make is look like an entire army was on the stage, and frankly, I thought that worked well. There was also a large screen over the stage floor which projected many different images, none of which worked in my opinion. But Winter's Tale was much better. The bear...priceless. The scenes before had taken place in the castle of Scilia, of course, where Leontes has charged Autolycus to take the new born babe Perditia to a far away land and abandon it. Autolycus takes the babe to Bohemia, and the next scene is him disembarking from a ship onto the shores just as a storm hits. He lays the baby down, gives it a blessing, and then as he's about to walk back to the ship, he's eaten by a bear. Well, the way they did it was as follows: the set in the castle had two large bookshelves. When the scene shifts to the seashore, the bookselves tip over, dropping about 1000 book onto the stage. The scenes from there on out are constructed of books (trees have pages for leaves, stumps and rocks are piles of books, etc.) The bear was an enormous puppet constructed of pages (it came on from backstage) and hit two glowing eyes. Very well done. Cheers to the RSC.

The gentleman who played Caesar and also Leontes (the shows have the same cast as they are done in repetory) must have a kick-ass agent. He wasn't really that good. He had all the stage prescence of a chorusboy and projected his voice like he was choking on something. Very disappointing...almost laughable. But the gentlman playing Marc Antony was stellar. The famous "Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears" speech made sense to me as it never had before. Kudos to him.

Anyway, the rest of Stratford was taken up with nice shops and various places related to Shakespeare. I saw the room where he was most likely born, his house, and the place where he died. I also saw his grave, where you were allowed to take pictures. So I did. Holy Trinity Church is under renovations (as is everything in London as they get ready for the Olympics in 2012) but it was still very quaint and a tasteful giftshop in the back. It cost 50p to see the grave. I'd pay that and more just for the pictures of the hammerbeam ceiling.
We also got to see the newly discovered portrait of Shakespeare. It is the original from which all the others were copied, and believed to be the only one painted of Shakespeare when he was alive, and that he actually sat for it. More information on it can be found here. It's painted on wood, and yes, the wood is spliting.

Today was filled with more museum hopping and viewing of a design exhibition. I went to the Cabinet War Rooms today. While walking through them and taking pictures (you're encouraged to take them here...a real change from other London Museums), I kept thinking about what it was like to have your city bombed over head. I also though about how London is like New York, Washington, and Los Angeles all rolled up into one. I also wished that my dad was alive and going through it with me. I'm sure he was, though. He would have really enjoyed seeing that. I'll just have to make sure that I take Max to many places like this when he gets old enough.

I've really been missing my boy over the last several days. It's hard to be gone from him for so long. I have no idea how the service men and women do it on deployment. My heart goes out to them and their families.

I did buy one fun thing for myself....a Harris Tweed gent's hat! I've been wanting something to wear to church or the theatre for when its raining or snowing badly, and I've always had my eye on them. There was a woolen store going out of business in Stratford, so I got one for a deal. It should last the rest of my life if it's properly taken care of.

Well, that's about it for now. One more picture to leave you with.Please, Hammer, don't hurt 'em!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Teething


We have an uber teething boy on our hands this week. (Ahem, particularly tonight!) Max has two bottom teeth and will hopefully sooner than later have a chomper on the top. Though he's all sorts of drooly, fussy and the like, you can see above that he's also his normal happy self a bulk of the time. We tried him in the special truck cart at HyVee the other night for the first time (best. invention. ever.) and he had a blast! (I'll admit that this momma might have enjoyed the experience more, as indicative of my photo & video cards! But I digress.) I had planned to write more tonight, but I'll have to take a raincheck. I hear a crying baby...

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

In a former life...

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic

Has it really been a week?!?

Wow, a week since my last blog....whoops.

Well, this weekend I went to Ireland. Dublin, really, with a side trip to Howth. I had a check list of things to do.

1. Visit the Guinness Brewery.


















Check.
2. Have some authentic salmon boxty.
Check.
3. Visit some cathedrals.



















Check.
4. Visit the coast.













Check.

That was really my agenda going over. Nothing fancy, just get a feel for the country. The people are far nicer than in London, but the country itself is not nearly as wealthy.

We saw Christschurch and also St. Pat (which is the picture I've posted here.) Unlike cathedrals and historic places in England, you can can pictures of the Irish landmarks. And I did. I think I shot 500 pictures over the weekend. One of the more amazing places we went was Kilmainham Goal. It was a moving visit that really brought to life the struggle for Irish independence and unity. In our country, we have Independence Hall as a landmark representing our independence. The fact that Irelands comparable site is a jail is telling. If you ever make it over there, I highly recommend visiting.Howth (pronounced HOOT) is a little town on the seaside. Very charming. Lots of seafood. We walked around the area and found an abandoned abbey and I got some very cool pictures.
Well, that's enough for now. Hopefully I won't be as tardy in getting my next pictures up. Less than 2 weeks until I hold my son and kiss my wife!

Ye Old Time Photo Fun

Much to my younger brother's chagrin, we had this old time photo taken during our vacation to WI Dells a couple weeks ago. Getting us all dressed up with all the accessories, feathers, guns, etc was a hilarious task. As you may note by the piece of dynamite in Max's hands, this is meant to be a "Gangster" era photo. Ha! We used to get these pictures taken on family vacations during my youth, so it only seemed fitting to do another one with all family members present (save for Eric who is currently in Iraq), but including his two kids and Chris' girlfriend Dana, who has essentially been part of the family for as long as Michael and I have been together.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Four Generations

Four Generations: Max, Me, Mom & Grandma

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Say Cheese!


We took Max, Malik & Adair to a photo studio tonight to get some 'Cousin' pics taken before Malik & Adair go back home on Monday. The kids were surprisingly cooperative and we got some great shots- more to come!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

What Time Is It?

It's been a crazy couple of days.

Yesterday, we went to the Victoria and Albert Museum, which as ousted the New York Museum of Art as my favorite museum in the world. Crazy. I can't even begin to explain the vast diversity of the collection, as well as the topics covered. But I can say that they have 6.5 million items on display.

In keeping with the preemie part of this blog, I was browsing in the bookstore and I ran across a book of Victorian era photographs. Weird stuff, people running, actors, etc., when I came across the "dead child" pictures. The Victorians used to photograph their children after they died, for a variety of reasons which seem morbid today. I found a picture of a preemie with dark hair, laid out on a bed in a christening gown. Of course he looked like Max to me, whether he did in reality, or not.

There were tears on my eyes when I closed the book. The pictures really upset me, like looking at an alternative timeline, when one little thing didn't go the way they did, and we lost our boy. But then, the universe straightened me out. I was standing in the checkout line when a tiny little baby started screaming his head off...I mean, this kid had some LUNGS! Big, loud, powerful cries. I started laughing as the tears started rolling down my cheek, because that was my boy. Not lying in an unearthly bed, an object to be mourned, but a squirmy, ornery child who has big healthy cries, powerful lungs, and an opinion as big as the ocean. And all was better in the world.

Today was Greenwich and watching Duet for One. Greenwich is better than Bath, but it's still touristy. We couldn't get a picture of us on the Prime Meridian, because there were tourists stretched as far as the eye could see to get their picture taken with that thing. So we went down the hill and looked at the Queen's house, and the Naval college. Here is the painted hall in the Naval College. Every architechtual detail in that room is painted on a flat surface. It's astounding.

The King's Chapel is right across the plaza, and it has an amazing organ loft. The ceiling is another one of those great British ceilings, with sun bursts and the like. After being awed by that, we went beach combing on the shores of the Thames, as it was low tide. I found several pieces of pottery that were obviously very old. In addition, I found several clay pipe fragments, including an intact bowl. Back in the day (about 300-400 years ago) they would sell tobacco to be smoked in what was a disposable white clay pipe. When the smoker was finished, they would throw the pipe into the Thames. The beaches are littered with them, (if you look closely), but an intact bowl is quite a find.

From there we took a boat ride back down to Westminster Station, and if you ever go to London, and think its not worth the 8 pounds, convince yourself its wrong, and take the tour. The Thames was such a commercial zone, all of London is based on it being there, and what better way to see London, than on its most important resource, the Thames. Besides, you'll get some kick-ass pictures of the Tower Bridge.

The evening was spent watching Duet for One. I really enjoyed this piece. The acting was top-notch and the story was gripping. Two actors, one in a wheel-chair, and my attention was held for 2 and a half hours. The sets and lighting were enviable, and at the end of it, I'm disappointed that it won't make it to the States, but we'll see. Stranger things have happened (Hello, Jerry Springer, The Opera?!?!)

Well, I've rambled on for a while now. So much to tell, so little time.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Catch up Post.

Its been a while...between shows and talking about them at the pub, there's not a lot of time to post stuff, but here's a run down of what's been happening.

This week we went to Bath. This photo is of...the bath.
It's not the original Roman bath, but a Victorian recreation, which was pretty far off the mark. I'm glad a went to Bath, but I'm fine if I never go back. It was, in my estimation, a 1000 year old Las Vegas. Very touristy, centered around water. No gambling, but the Crescent looks an awful lot like the Bellagio

We also had a tour of the Royal Opera House. That was very cool. I could tell you all about the slip stages, the automated set unloading equipment, and how they change over from a ballet to an opera in less than two hours, but I wouldn't be able to explain the details in a way that wouldn't give me carpel tunnel syndrome. I will say that I thought it was very cool, but looking back on it, I should have asked the question of "what happens when a mechanized part breaks in the middle of a change over?" because as far as I could see, they would have been screwed.

I did some Robert Adam research on my free time, in amongst the rain drops. I also appeased my wife and saw Billy Elliot. I liked it better than I thought I would, but not as much as a good dramatic stage piece. I will say that there is more to the story than the plot about a 12 year old kid who wants to dance. The second act is all about the father, who has to make a choice between standing with his union/community/tradition and choosing to support Billy and is rather untraditional choice of becoming a ballet dancer. No small feat. This was the more gripping of the two acts for me, not because I'm worried Max will choose to become something that I disapprove of, but rather it posed the problem of listening to that voice inside that says "you're right" when every other sign points to the opposite.

Today, I'm debating on whether to go to Harrods or to Osterly house. Osterly house was designed by Robert Adam. However, you can't take pictures of the inside of the house, and it's 9 pounds to get in. I could buy the guidebook for 5. Anyway, it is a quandary....

I leave you with the most interesting piece of architecture in Bath...the Abbey. The ceiling is a fantastic example of fan vaulting, a very English means of supporting a roof. It's part of the English Gothic era (the last part of it, actually). The stained glass is pretty special too.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Reunited and it feels so good

Max & Me, Calley, Amy, Jamie & Canaan
Swinging to his heart's content!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Great Quad Reunion

Max and I are about to hit the road for one of the premiere events of 2009- the Great Quad Reunion! My three roommates at Coe College and I have not been in the same place at the same time since Jamie & Don's wedding 5 years ago. It just so happens that we're all able to convene in Iowa this weekend for a reunion. There are now two Quadlings (Canaan & Max) who will also be introduced to the mix. Prepare for pictures of massive silliness!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Dells!


We're back from our vacation in the Dells and it was great! Gotta hit the hay (back to work early tomorrow morning), but I thought I'd post a couple of pics. The first if of Max & I after our day at Noah's Ark and the second is from this afternoon's lunch with the Danke Family- Lara (my BFF from all the way back in elementary school), her husband Bret and son Isak. (Pictured is Lara & me with our two boys- we hadn't seen each other in probably five years and had never met each other's sons)

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Day of little time

So today, we started off at the National Portrait Gallery, and then moved onto the John Soane Museum, and finished with a walk through the Royal Courts of Justice. The night was capped off with attending a performance of The Observer.

No cameras allowed. Anywhere.

The National Portrait Gallery is a nice place to see portraits. Period. There is a 500 year time frame covered in the exhibition, and it is very interesting to see the various ways that portraits were laid out. But again, I felt there was poor planning by the professors leading the excursion. We got to the gallery when it opened, but then stood around for and hour while a professor explained what a portrait was. Then we were handed an assignment; to find a portrait in the gallery, and answer the assigned questions, and oh, by the way, you have an hour to do it. Great. But we could go back if we wanted to, amongst all our free time and plans we've already made, to finish the assignment. Great. Well, I finished mine, and am quite proud of it. I did my assignment on Charles Burney.

From there it was to the John Soane museum. Wow. If you ever go to London, and have any interest in either Victorian eclecticism, architechure, antiquities, or anything else, go there. Its free. This gentleman started a collection of rare things during his lifetime, and had an act of Parliment passed to make sure that his house and collection remained the same, and that it would be turned into a museum. Quite lovely. Sure, he boned his youngest son out of his inheretence, but the youngest son (the eldest had died) had it coming to him...he went into the theatre as a profession. :) Anyway, this house is amazing. Quirky rules when you first go in, but once you get in, you'll understand the reason for them.

The Royal Court was a nerve wracking trip, because I'm used to the concept of being at a court as being a bad thing. But this place is rather awe-inspiring. Great big palace constructed for the court system. Like the Supreme Court, but different. Its hard to explain, because the British judicial system is so different than ours...but trust me, you know you're in a place where major things are decided.

Finally, the Observer was a nice little play that made our group think. Sure, we talked about production value, acting and the like, but the bottom line is that we got caught up talking about the message of the play, which is always a good sign. It means the play and the production was sucessfull.

So, as I said before, no pictures, but here are some from days past.

A view of St. Pauls from the Millenium Bridge


The Royal Crapper.


Monday, July 6, 2009

Little Man Tate

We had class at the Tate Modern today. I wish the professor had told us to be there an hour before it opened, because as it was, we were there when it opened, and we had an hour's worth of lecture and presentations to get through. As it was, I felt we lost a lot of time that could have been spent in the exhibit.

The professor had us go through one floor of the exhibit and pick our favorite piece of art...mine was Balthus' Still Life with FigureI like the tension of the piece...The look of the girl's face, the floating fruit, the unbalanced composition of the piece. It shows movement without showing movement. The glass of wine...is that for her, or did someone just leave the table?

Anyway, the best part of the Tate Modern is the actual building itself. It is a gutted and re-furbished electrical power plant. Here is a picture of my classmates way off in the distance.

And here is a re-occurring themed picture of me, taking a picture of me in the Tate.
They have a pretty extensive online gallery, so I would encourage everyone to take a look!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Fireworks & Waterparks

Max experienced his first 'at home' fireworks display on the 4th. ('At home' = pack 'o fun sparklers/fountains/etc from Wal-Mart) His reactions were priceless- he wasn't overly scared and didn't cry, he was just... surprised. As he's starting to use more syllables, 'oh' has been a favorite. This also turned out to be part of his reaction to the fireworks- the look of surprise + "Ohhhhhh! Ohhhh!" over and over. And with those 'oh's' came the perfect 'O' shape with his mouth. Freakin' adorable. I did take plenty of video for Daddy, but have to figure out how to transfer it to my computer. I promise to post some soon!

Tomorrow we're headed to WI Dells, a favorite childhood vacation spot of my family. I'm particuarly excited because my youngest brother, his girlfriend and my sister will be meeting us there! (Chris & Dana have not met Max yet!) We're keeping our fingers crossed that the weather will cooperate, as one of the days will be spent at Noah's Ark. We'll also enjoy breakfast (perhaps more than once) at one of our favorite spots- Paul Bunyan's Cook Shanty and watch Dad race at ADare Go Carts (also a tradition).

Pics to come!

Duh-oh!


So, I got up later today...I'm still having a tough time sleeping since the quitting of the smoking. Anyway, I planned my day and thought I would head out and see Osterly House, which is one of the houses that my subject of study, Robert Adam, designed. Well, I plan my route carefully, and have alternative routes and trips planned and head out with my trusty camera and backpack. Well, I get to the first transfer of the tubes and see that the trains aren't running out that way today. Huh. Go figure. Well, that's what the back up plan is for....off to Hampsted Heath.


This place is really neat. Designed by Robert Adam for the 1st Earl of Marlbury. Nice little summer cottage for them, I guess, and TONS of art work inside which is why...

no cameras allowed. Duh-oh!

I thought about bargaining with them by saying I'd only take pictures of the architecture, but I don't think they would go for it.

Anyway, this is a really good place a little off the beaten path to see some amazing artwork from the english renaissance. The house is amazing, of course, and the grounds are pretty nifty too. They're open to the public, and there were a ton of families having picnics and playing outdoor games and such. Quite touching to see. Made me long for my own family.

But then I went toy shopping for Max at Hamley's. Christmas will be good to him this year. Daddy found some nice, traditionalist toys.

Talk to you later!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Last Couple of Days



The internet connection in our room is spotty, so I haven't been able to post lots, and if I'm not going to be able to post pictures, I won't post...so there.

So yesterday was a trip to Hampton Court, famed residence of the royals since Henry VIII. He had a pimped out kitchen. I mean, I though I had a grill...this roaster takes the cake.

Honestly, though, it was beautiful. The residence itself is a hodgepod of tutor, baroque, and georgian styles, so it's a little peicemeal for my asthetic taste. But my, oh my, the rooms inside are great. Here is Henry's great hall. Looking back, I wish I had took a shot that included everything, but hey, next time, right?


There are some amazing ceilings in the William and Mary part of the residence. Here are a couple of picks. One is from the main entrance of the royal apartments. The other is from one of William's bedrooms. The scene is set to be viewed from the window sill, so it's aparent that William didn't spend a whole lot of time in that bedroom.

Last night, we watched the European opening of L'Amour de Loin at the English National Opera. Quite astounding, I must say. The set was simple, yet precise. I doubt an American director would be able to use it to the extent that we saw in the prodution.

By the way, we almost saw a fight break out at half time. The lights came up and an older, frumpy looking lady who was sitting a couple of rows ahead of us turned around and said "who has that terrible cough?" A younger, 20ish young lady sitting a couple of seats down from us says "I do. I apologize." Frumpy lady says "you need to leave. Now. You should never have come here in the first place." And from there, game on. 20ish girl is screaming "I can't just swallow it, I wish I could!" and frumpy lady insisting that she needs to go. Cranky old man sitting behind 20is girls says "why don't you stop moving around while your at it, it's distracting". Man, these British people take their opera seriously. Funny thing is, I heard her coughing, but it never registered with me, and therefore, never bothered me, either, and I was three seats away from her.

This was the second fight we almost heard. After watching that craptacular performance at the Globe, we walked down to hear a talk by Nicholas Hytner. Very nice guy, very sucessful director. The talk was about his current production of Racine's Phaedre starring Helen Mirren, going on at the national. Well, its the talk-back section of the presentation, and people as asking questions about the set, about the HD broadcast, etc, when an old man says "well, I'm going to bring you back to earth. Why is it that no one can enunciate? I could only hear about 75-85% of Mirren's dialogue. What are you going to do to fix it?" Well, this prompted many booes and hisses, and people saying "bad form", etc...anyway, Mr. Hytner delivers a brilliant, impromptu speech/apology. For me to attempt to recreate it here would be absurd. However, the jist of it when like this
  • We can't achieve 100% audibility and maintain a realistic approach to acting
  • I'm very sorry that was your experience with the show. I truly am.
  • Sometimes, as we get older, we don't like to face the fact that our bodies don't work as well as they used to, which is why we don't get a hearing aid.
Again, I'm doing it no justice here. But understand that Mr. Hytner said all of this in the most respectful, apologetic way possible. We were all in amazement at how completely he answered the question, without skirting the issue.

Bravo, Mr. Hytner, for being a truly classy individual when some of your countrymen are embarrassing themselves.

Okay, time for bed. Off to the toy store tomorrow.