Saturday, September 30, 2000


I got up last Saturday morning with my eye on the London Eye. I wandered down to the edge of the Thames half an hour before it was due to open and spotted the queue for tickets. I fortified myself with breakfast from a street vendor -- a bagel with salmon & cream cheese and a Coke that appeared to be from Slovakia. (What's going on there?) Then I got in the queue and 45 minutes later, I emerged with a ticket for noon. It was 10:00, and I was to queue again for "boarding" at 11:30. Hmm, not enough time to do sightseeing, so I wandered around, bought souveniers and wrote postcards.

At 11:30, I queued up again. This was a relatively disorganised queue. I got in it at the end (of course), but then the London Eyesters invented a new end, started queueing people there, and moved us behind it. At one point, the queue crossed a public path in such a way that it really wasn't clear who was queued and who was walking through. After 45 minutes of queueing, we found ourselves on the Eye.

The London Eye is the world's largest Ferris Wheel. It's huge. The previous record-holder was 85 meters high. This is 135 meters high. Wow. You can get some nice views of London that way. I suppose you could orient yourself in London via one of those double-decker bus tours -- but that's too slow, and you don't get a great sense of relative position. You could do so via boat, but then you don't see inland (including the big waste-o'-pounds Millenium Dome).

Oh, but the views! Quite spectacular. I hope my pictures turned out well. The glass was a bit reflective, and one of my disposable cameras had a flash (not to mention the reflection from the sunglight). I could see all the sights of London, and I bought a pamplet that had all of them labelled. I now have a much better sense of where the major landmarks are in relation to one another and the Thames, and where I've been in London.

After the 30 minute ride, I stepped off the Eye (while still moving -- American insurance companies would never go for that one). The whole experience was crowded, and it was very touristy...but I heartily recommend it to anyone who goes to London. Just get your tickets ahead of time. With that, it was time for lunch and the Tate Modern...

Friday, September 29, 2000


"Based on how Rulon and Karelin wrestled today, I have to think that Rulon has a serious chance (sorry I keep changing my opinion on that). Rulon is unquestionably in better condition than anybody out there. If the match goes into over-time, I think Rulon might pull off an upset. Of course I am a Karelin fan and I would be really sad to see him lose, but he should retire before he meets Rulon."

My pal Scott Contini knows his wrestling. He made the above comment before the "Miracle on the Mat".

The Antipodes

After I had checked in to my London hotel, shaved and showered, it was time to find dinner. I looked in a restaurant guide from the hotel to find something interesting and appropriately located. I settled on Livebait -- "Fresh Fish with a Difference." After I sat down, they placed a bowl of prawns on the table to stare at me. Fortified by that, Bushmills and a selection of their excellent bread, I placed my order. They had a Friday fish 'n' chips special, but that didn't seem to have enough of a...difference (even fancy fish 'n' chips). So I ordered the pre-theatre "set price" menu. (I was going to the theatre, after all.) The first course was sardines with sweet potato and rouille on mixed leaves. The main course was grilled marlin on crushed new potatoes with tapenade and pesto. Excellent, excellent. I followed that up with the mango creme brulee and then sped my way on to the theater.

I left Livebait and walked down to the Globe. When I first got tickets for The Antipodes at "Shakespeare's Globe," I assumed that I really just wasn't familiar enough with the Bard's work to have heard of this particular play. (Hey, "Hamlet" sold out.) Eventually, I discovered that it was, in fact, not written by Shakespeare. Well, a play written by Ben Jonson would be OK, too right? No, wait, this was written by Richard Brome, Jonson's manservant. Hmm. Well, I had ordered the ticket already. Apparently I wasn't the only one to suffer the confusion. As I was waiting to collect my ticket, I heard someone behind me say, "I just assumed that I had never heard of it," followed by, "Darn it."

After collecting my ticket, I head...where else?...for the gift shop. I noticed with some amusement that the T-shirt declaring me as a "groundling" cost twice as much as the ticket to be a groundling. The groundlings stand right in front of the stage. In Shakespeare's time, admission was 1 penny and the groundlings had a reputation for rude and uncouth behavior. I quickly took my place at the edge of the stage and rested my elbows on it.

Looking around, the first thing I noticed was how many young women there were around me. Wow. Why didn't somebody clue me in to this when I was 16? The show began with some announcements (e.g., no photography). We were told that there was a celebrity among us. (Presumably he got to sit down.) Richard Fauldes, England's first gold medalist of the 2000 Olympics was in attendance. This was deemed appropriate, since in the context of this play, "the antipodes" were the lands on the opposite end of the globe.

The Antipodes is a comedy about a country lord who comes to London seeking a cure for his daughter-in-law's madness. It turns out the whole family is pretty much bonkers, with the lord's son lost in dreams of faraway places, and the lord himself gripped by jealousy over his young wife's supposed infidelity. The cure involves the doctor and the lord being visited putting on a play (also called "The Antipodes"). They fool the son into thinking he's been transported to the anti-London, where everything's backwards (Bizarro London?). Since it's a comedy, everything works out in the end, and it is pretty funny in the process.

After the show, the artistic director came out to thank us for attending the last show of "The Antipodes." The actors threw white roses out to the audience. (I caught one, which died a quick death in my hotel room.) He thanked everybody involved, and talked about how great it was to have the house filled for such an obscure play. (I wonder if he realized how many people bought their tickets and said, "Well it's Shakespeare, right?"

I then walked out and admired the views of the London skyline (in particular, St. Paul's Cathedral) across the Thames. A man next to me turned to his companion and said, "It looks just like something you'd see in Washington DC." Glad I made the trip. I walked along the Thames and into the city to the Internet cafe at Charing Cross.

Thursday, September 28, 2000

You say it's your birthday...

I don't know what I'm doing for my birthday next year. But if anyone shows up with this on their head, I'm running like hell.

Tuesday, September 26, 2000


"America is the first society in the world that has tried to organise itself on the assumption that human beings do not need to sleep. There are 24-hour news channels, 24-hour wedding chapels, and, of course, 24-hour lap-dancing emporiums."
--The Economist, 9 Sep 2000, p. 34

"We believe the Spice Girls are split on the euro."
-ibid, p. 68

"Ignoring enemies is the best way to fight."
--Jenny Holzer, Truisms (at the Tate Modern)

"First of all, there's no way to make anyone listen to anything. The sooner you embrace that, the less frustrating your life will be."
--Carolyn Hax

Monday, September 25, 2000

Jerky Boys

"To the consternation of Sampson and his team, the Slim Jim loyalists turn out to be a pretty stoical crew. "They didn't seem too bothered by it," Sampson says. "Maybe one or two would ask, 'What's mechanically separated chicken?' 'What do you think it is,' the moderator was instructed to reply. People tended to draw pictures of a chicken carcass flying at a jet engine," Sampson says wearily."

Dungeon fave Ruth Shalit has an article at Salon on the marketing of beef jerky. Funny stuff.

Viewer Mail

Martin writes,

"The second time I went to Fado, I was with my Irish friend Nolene who hadn't been there before. I recommended a particular salad but said I hadn't enjoyed the black pudding served with it, and she said she never eats that because she doesn't like the idea of eating blood. A moment later she realized the blood part was news to me and laughed for about an hour."