Sunday, October 25, 2009

masaki kobayashi's the human condition: reissue of the year

over the years, ive made no secret of my opinions on gritty war films, especially japanese ones. kurosawa is one of my favorite directors of all time and i find ran, kagemusha, and seven samurai to be masterpieces. i love kon ichikawa's fires on the plain and am a sucker for ozu's sentimental tales of japanese post war insecurity.

when i initially heard about THE HUMAN CONDITION, a 9 1/2 hr 6 part epic from masaki kobayashi (director of the outstanding SEPPUKU), i was intrigued but daunted by the undertaking of yet another epic film. but since this one starred tatsuya nakadai, i rolled up my sleeves, ordered a disc a week and dove in.

since i became an extreme cinephile, i can tell whether or not im going to fall head over heels in love with a movie in the first 20 minutes or so. and with this one, i was entranced in the first few minutes. ever since i met kaji, the main character (played by nakadai), i knew that i was going to enjoy spending 10 hours with him.

kaji is a pacifist, a socialist, and incredibly naive. he seems himself as the voice of reason and humanity in an insane time. he is madly in love with his wife, michiko but not enough to go back on his ideals. throughout the ten hours, we follow kaji through being the boss in a chinese labor camp to being sent to the front of the war for his ideals and finally, as a POW in a russian war camp. in each step of his harrowing struggles, we see the pain and frustration of war and what it does to a human being. each part of the film, he has to endure some crisis of faith and conscious.

while the things kaji is doing are awful, it is all in the name to return to michiko and to find a good life for the both of them. despite all the killing and struggle to survive, never does kaji waver from his central core of beliefs. what is painful is watching him see that humanity isnt as good as he thought. throughout the first 3 parts of the series, kaji believed in the communist philosophy and that his new life was meant to be in russia with people who were more civilized and fair. but like the japanese and chinese, the russians too were brutal and violent. so he continues to search and make his way back to michiko despite all these forces against him.

he doesnt make it but the final scene of him lying dead in a desolate plane is so heartbreaking and beautiful (in a sad and gut wrenching way)

the execution of the above is painful to watch and left me feeling incredibly empty inside. i was so moved by the final scenes and the love in kaji's heart. i didnt cry. i couldnt. i just felt cold and empty. i needed to cuddle a cat but there werent any cats so i watched cartoons.

however, what the movie taught is that love can survive in the hardest and lonliest places. at the same time, since kaji never betrayed his own ability, one cant help wonder if things would have been easier for him. but then again, i guess that this isnt the point of the movie. the point is to embrace the struggle of humanity.

if you cant tell, i was completely floored by this movie. im not sure how its been out of the mainstream for so long but THE HUMAN CONDITION needs to return to the collective conscious of the movie-going public. or at least be fawned upon by critics and filmies alike (which looks like its happening!) this is definitely my favorite DVD watch of 2009 and among my favorite films of all time. absolutely amazing.

i need to go cuddle a cat.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

i call it the tingler!

in celebration of halloween, i decided to watch my favorite B-horror film ever, THE TINGLER. made into 1959 and starring vincent price with direction from the legendary b movie director william castle, this is about fear and how it manifests itself. not in the figurative sense, but in the literal way; as in, fear is an organism that builds on the spine of a human and is released through screaming. if a person is not allowed to scream, the creature on the spine builds and kills the person.

make no mistake, this is one of the silliest movies ive ever seen and without a doubt, one of hte most entertaining. and there are fantastic moments of well filmed terror. there is a great sequence that combines B&W with color, a rich red color representing blood which is first seen dripping out of a faucet and then the camera pans to a bathtub FULL of blood. awesome.

and then there is the amaing "science [very fictional]" in the movie. for example, deaf people die of fear. they dont have a chance if theyre scared really badly.

there is something so fun in the massive absurdity of it and the presence of vincent price makes everything better.

i love that this could be a parody of 50s sci fi films in the vein of LOST SKELETON OF CADAVRA or THE TRAIL OF THE SCREAMING FOREHEAD.

im not really sure where im going with this...aside from saying that THE TINGLER IS AWESOME!!!!!!!!1


if you read a bunch of your recent posts, you remember that i stopped writing about films and made this my travel journal. yes, i went to the UK for 2 weeks had an awesome and didnt watch a single film setting a new non-movie watching record. that was the first time in probably about 5 years that i havent watched at least 1 movie in a week. how outstanding is that? anyway, i got back and indeed, the movie watching resumed. here is a quick recap of my recent watching since returning from my trip:

a superior melvyn leroy film from the 30s. this is notable for a). claude rains donning a southern accent and b). lana turner's first onscreen role. if its amazing how much charisma and screen appeal she had when she was 15. turner's character is killed and a murder mystery develops in a small southern town. good film with solid performances

the claude rains-athon continues! this michael curtiz director film from the 40s stars humphrey bogart, peter lorre, and syndey greenstreet alongside rains. for film buffs, you will note that this the core that made up casablanca, curtiz's legendary film made the year earlier. aside from the cinematic interest of seeing this reteaming, the film is told in a a flashback. its not a great movie, but an interesting watch overall. also, as an interesting aside, this film stars michelle morgan, the french actress that curtiz originally watched cast in casablanca for the role that went to ingrid bergman. morgan turned the role because she wasnt offered enough money

the last film in my claude rains-a-thon also stars robert mitchum and mauren o'sullivan. this is an excellent film noir about a doctor who falls in love with a insane patient. to make things more complex, mitchum gets a concussion and is slowly deteriorate healthwise as the film progresses. its DOA mixed with a lil hitchcock (notorious perhaps). great noir!

from claude rains and robert mitchum, i moved on to a robert mitchum movie. a vincent minelli noir also with katherine hepburn making a rare film noir appearance! robert taylor plays hepburn's husband which might be crazy and trying to kill her and its up to mitchum to save the day. if someone needed to save my life, i would probably choose mitchum too. shes in good hands.

lets move forward in time by ahead 60 years. this was the jason statham 2008 film which was actually pretty good. ive always been a sucker for a well done heist film and this is indeed one of them. not much to say about it aside from it was solid and entertaining.

this is referring to the HBO film with jessica lange and drew barrymore from earlier this year. ive of course seen the maylses brothers documentaries (grey gardens and beales of grey gardens) and find big and little edie to be two of the most fascinating crazies ever to live. this film is actually a nice little footnote to the docs and provide some more background information on the lives of the beales mother/daughter. i can see how they didnt get a theatrical release but as a TV film, its a good watch.

weird. creepy. unsettling. interesting. 90s indie at my peculiar.

another 90s indie movie, director wilt stilman's debut (last days of disco, barcelona). this one is in the vein of yuppie talking movies (thanks IMDB). this shares a couple cast members from kicking from screaming, another one of my favorite 90s indie movies about nothing. metropolitan is a satircal film about the vapid lives of new york debutantes. its a nice social commentary with witty conversation. a decent, engaging film overall

curious about curious

years ago, i watched I AM CURIOUS YELLOW a 1967 genre mixing swedish film that combines frank sexual politics, gender roles, and fiercely political socialist rhetoric. i must admit that i initially rented it because i heard about the boatloads of nudity and sex in it. it was one of the first major films to depict sexuality in such a way and i was curious (har har). the film is not a sexy one and at times is very dull and if youre not interested in gender roles and socialism, then this movie is not for you.

luckily, i am.

the star of the film lena nyman delivers one of the bravest performances in film history. her frank sexuality and openness with her body was remarkable for 1967 and director vilgot sjoman managed to create a film that was marketed as pornographic but is way more political than anything else. it even features a quick interview with martin luther king, jr about his views on civil disobidience! for a film that a lot of people initially wanted to watch for tits, this is a pretty big departure.

despite all this admiration i had for this blue, i didnt really enjoy it very much. flashforward ahead 2 years later and i watched THIS IS CURIOUS BLUE, the follow-up film done the year after. its a continuation of the ideals and politicisizing of the first time but with a decidedly more bitter and ironic tone. to be honest, i really preferred this one.

with both of the films, there are elements are staged documentary and filmed sequences and in this one the film between fiction and non-fiction was blurrier. my favorite scene was a staged conversation betweeen sjoman and lena about wavering committment to the film. it was a staged scene but the feel was so natural and completely shatters the fourth wall of cinema.

there are even some michael moore-like displays of civil disobidience and literally tearing down the walls of western political society in favor of a socialist regime. BRILLIANT! any idea what i just said? no well...ummm...lena nyman is naked a bunch of times again. believe me, you see everything. open and spread-bare political rhetoric and all!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

i just dont like 8 1/2

this is going to be a short one.

tonight i re-watched frederico fellini's masterpiece 8 1/2. unanimously considered one of the greatest films ever made, i never gave it a serious watch. i tried watching it about 5 years ago but couldnt get into it. however, a lot has changed in those years. during that time, ive experienced virtually all of fellini's catalog and enjoy quite a bit of it. ive gotten into luis bunuel and dusan makavajev; really out there filmmakers. so, when i saw it was going to be on turner classic movies, i DVR'd it to gave it a second chance.

and the result was pretty much the same.

i still dont like it. i think its wierd, often dull, and though i agree that the direction as well as marcello mastroianni's performance are excellent, if not sublime, the movie as a whole is lost on me.

in some ways, im kind of glad that im not going crazy for this because it means that not every film in the upper echelon i like. if my tastes as to what is the best of the best is the same as everyone else, it wouldnt terriblt original for me now would it.

so with that, 8 1/2, the searchers, and l'atalante would never be in my top 100 (or 10000!) of all time.

the joy of being a captive audience

its been 2 weeks since i watched a movie. i slept on the plane ride over to the UK and whilst in the UK, i only watched season 2 of burn notice so i spent OVER two weeks not watching any movies. this is some sort of personal starvation record of film. though now that im home and facing a full DVR, i whet my appetite with a couple movies on the way back.

people watch movies on planes that they would NEVER watch in a theater or even DVR but with 7 hours and no charged laptop battery, watching YEAR ONE with jack black and michael cera seemed like a great idea. i had some vague interest in seeing this in theaters but the extraordinarily bad reviews swayed me and my $12 but at 30,000 ft, i was pretty excited to see it. there were other options but im not sure you can call terminator: salvation an option.

while i didnt love the film, i laughed consistently throughout the picture. it was actually not a bad watch and had some genuinely funny moments. when it was finished, i was happy. i had actually benefited from being a totally captive audience. to even more of a suprise, i started watching the latest woody allen movie whatever works and didnt enjoy it as much as i thought i did. however, i only watched half of it as i fell deathly ill 45 minutes in and collasped after a horriffic trip to the lavatory but that is TMI.

but back to year one.

how often has that happened to people? they get on a plane, watch a movie they would never see in theatres and end up enjoying it. quite often. i also watched marley and me.

well, i sort of watched marley and me. i didnt actually listen to the soundtrack but i caught myself looking up every now and again at it. i didnt want to watch this for many reasons, namely: 1. its a family film, 2. jennifer aniston, 3. owen wilson, 4 (and most important): i know that the freakin dog dies and when did i look up? WHEN THE DOG WAS AT THE FUCKING VET AND BEING PUT TO SLEEP!!!!!!!! and yes, i got teary. from a movie i wasnt watching without a soundtrack.

i changed my mind. being a captive audience sucks.

did i also mention i watched the last 30 minutes of transformers 2 on the plane as well and considered attempting to crash the plane to avoid anyone else having to watch it when it looped again.

great, now im on a no fly list for that statement. dear, government, i didnt actually mean that last statement. it was meant in jest because transformers is evil. please remove my name from no fly lists as it was a joke. sincerely, mpathy h

Day 12-14: the highlands, the peat, the sheep, and the sheep

in scotland there are approximately 34598098230948267821098 sheep to people. i discovered this on my way up to inverness from edinburgh. it was to leave edinburgh so early as it is really a fantastic city with excellent food and terrific ambiance and my good friend stef, a canadian.

we drove up via pitlochry, a small quaint town which is mostly a whiskey distilling town including blair athol which is one of the makers and suppliers of bells blended whiskey. they also make an awesome single malt and is one the older distillers in scotland. we of course went on a tour and cathy even tried whiskey and i have a series of 3 pictures detailing it. i am not going to describe them as the pictures each tell a thousand words, mostly hilarious...for the viewer.

however i am getting ahead of myself. before going up to pitlochry, we stopped at stirling which has an impressive castle. a very impressive castle in fact and if you know braveheart, you will know that this castle was the one of robert the bruce, the king of scotland during the time of william wallace. also at stirling castle was the residence of mary queen of scots for a bit and that of james the 2nd. the views from the top are amazing and i can definitely see how a ghost would want to haunt this castle (which it does). there was a murder most foul there and the dead guy's ghost haunts the ground. definitely not a bad haunt.

the town of stirling is, like most olde cities, walled in with the old section of the city looking well...old. its also on a giant hill. so cathy and i climbed up to the top of the hill where the castle roosts. i told cathy there wasnt a parking lot knowing full well there was. so we walked the mile uphill...happily! it was a great view all the way up

we went on a castle tour and enjoyed it thoroughly.

after that, we went to the william wallace monument. we didnt walk up the tower because it was too expensive and we were already at the top of a mountain.

after that it was up to pitlochry and enjoyed the quaintness as well as the whiskey. mostly the whiskey.

the drive up through the highlands was amazing. i am going to try and describe it. so, there werent mountains but hills and there werent any "towns" just tiny tiny villages but none of these were actually visible through the road. it was just hours of peat covered hills with craploads of sheep all around us. little white dots on the mountainside that look like snow; they give a lot of character to the hills. there were also highland cows, long haired cows with huge horns.

it was just like this hours and it never got old.

we arrived up in inverness rather late at night and went out to a dinner at a swanky restaurant. it was a bit overpriced but fish up there is fantastic. trout and salmon were as fresh as iceland , boston, and the west coast combined.

the next day we went to culloden battlefield, clava cairns, and loch ness.

clava cairns is a series of a neolithic burial chambers from 2000 BC. around each chamber were a series of standing rocks. it was like stonehenge but not as impressive but still pretty remarkable when you together that 4000 years ago, olde timey humans were doing stuff in the very sheep covered grounds you are standing in. the air was mysterious and a bit cold and wet but it was raining.

next up, we to culloden battlefield. in was on this battlefield that the dream of an independent scotland died. this was the site of the last battle on english soil. on this battlefield was the last stand of the jacobites and their energetic leader bonnie prince charlie. it was an exceedingly bloody and tragic battle for scotland and the guides were clearly still affected. the moor that the battle was fought on war was surrounded by nothing and just an eerie flat landscape where thousands of people died. i encourage you all to look up the battle of culloden and watch the peter watkins film about culloden. also, tilda swinton lives near there! if i had more time i would have went to her town and waited and tell her how awesome she is. the last of england...hell yeah! the deep end? ORLANDO!? YEAH!

but i digress. last stop was loch ness. there is a common misconception that people go there for the monster. no. it is the largest fresh body of water in britain and is also home to uruhquart castle, some of finest castle ruins in the north of scotland. its right on the water and is picturesque. the loch is also surrounded on all sides by magnificent hills so the loch ness monster is really almost an after thought when compared to the brilliant scenery. we took a boat out that went to the castle and cruised around. lovely!

at that this point, i still hadnt got into any accidents with the car. ill cut off your curiousities now and say that i didnt get into any accidents at any point and got the full deposit back on the car. so :P to all of you. however, we paid for gas upfront and we were told to return the car empty, something that i took literally and when we pulled into the parking lot of our hotel (sorry car park) the gas gauge said we had about 24 miles left till the car runs completely out of gas. all we need to do was drive to the airport.

end of story for now.

that night we went to see franz ferdinand, the native sons of scotland, at a TINY venue in inverness. normally, these guys play to arena in the UK and large 5000 person theatres in the US and seeing them in a venue that holds 1500 is amazing and unique. unfortunately, there were about 2000 people there and the venue was COMPLETELY AND UTTERLY PACKED! we spent the entire concert halfway between the inside and outside of the venue. we were literally standing in the double doorway that opens to the dancefloor because we didnt want to getting too inside. yeah, this was definitely way too overbooked. however, we both enjoyed the show quite a bit. immensely in fact as both of us are fans of this delightful scottish dancey pop group.

that was the last night of our trip im afraid

the final day however was an eventful and busy busy day. we did the following

- got in our car which stopped registering how much gas we had left and we made it...BARELY to inverness airport whcih was actually about 15 miles out of inverness. we were so close to running out of gas

- the happiest moment of the trip for me was seeing the 250 quid deposit for the rental car credited back to my credit card

- flew to london gatwick

- dropped our bags (which weighed 60 kg, or 150 lbs total) at victoria station baggage drop and hopped on the tube to knightsbridge

- knightsbridge is the stop of harrod's the famous department store in london which has everything. literally. everything. its posh, opulent, decadent, and has a 7 story egyptian escalator.

- we went to high tea at the georgian restaurant there on the 5th floor and had traditional high tea with sandwhiches, scones, tea, and cakes AND a chocolate tea (in celebration for chocolate week at harrod's) with chocolate cake fruit sandwhiches, chocolate chip scones, and white chocolat ein whcih to dip fruits ::drools::

- gave meera offensive thing from york. she LOVED it.

- bolted out of harrod's, went back to victoria, picked up our bags, and headed towards paddington. at this point, it was 530 and our flight leave at 730.

- at paddington, we got on the heathrow express at 556 and was at terminal 5 by 615

yes, we made our flight. BARELY. we made final boarding call and got on the plane. SUCCESS

our flight home was without incident and we got home at 1130 which would have been earlier if we could actually find our car in the tech square parking garage (third floor, front)

and that was it. we were back in stupid america. we ARE back. ill have more thoughts on this but i have to lot to do. i have to deal with the pictures and start scrapbooking the trip and of course start watching the incredible amount of stuff on my DVR which is 100% full and that is not even counting the last 3 eps of curb, bored to death, always sunny, and mad men which are waiting on demand for me.


Sunday, October 11, 2009

Day 12 (i think): The Burgh of Edin

when i first said i was coming to ediburgh i was met with an unheralded chorus 'I LOVE THAT CITY!' i have to say that i agree, this city is absolutely amazing. the architecture is pure georgian, 18th beautifully preserved tall buildings in the midst of magnificent monuments and a wonderful castle capping off the skyline. since it was never bombed or engulfed in flames, the city is totally preserved with just a couple modern buildings jutting out over the skyline.


we woke up and headed immediately to the small but well stocked national gallery of scotland. the art museum has a spectacular collection of old masters including a very impressive collection of early italian rennasaince paintings including some wonderful raphael and daddi works. there were also quite a few baroque italian and flemish works including a room of rubens and a fantastic 7 painting collection by rococo painter claude lorraine. breathaking

unfortunately, the impressive collection of impressionist and realist works were being restored though there was a gaugin that i studied still there. oh well. the basement had some impressive works by scottish painters. yes, there are scottish painters and they are quite accomplished including sir david wilkie who i will seek outin the US

after that, we left and met my good ole lovely and dear canadian friend stef and a friend of hers. they took us to 'worlds end' which is a slightly touristy, albiet, very acclaimed pub. i ordered haggish. i ate haggish. i really cant see what the big deal is! its quite good! its like ground meat and bulger. it was delicious! ive had it again since and confirmed that it is heavy but good. black pudding is still gross though regardless of what sauce you put on. its still ironey and disgusting.

stef went with us to holyrood palace, the queens residence when visiting edinburgh. while not as impressive as buckingham, it was quite lovely. the rooms had a stately and simple elegance which seems to be the trend for the royalty

the ruins of the 12th century abbey the palace was built attached to the palace and after the perfectly executed audio tour, we walked around the gardens and ruins. again, they were beautifully restored.

stef left us and cathy and i parted ways for a bit. i went to cadenheads, the largest independent scotch distillers in the country. i had myself a nice little tasting of some of their malts which the supply to major scotch producers like glenfiddich and glenmorangie and a chat about distilleries to visit up north. they also slagged the tourist scotch places :) ftw cadenheads. i ended up purcashing a half liter of cask strength 17 year single malt (for 12lb!).

that night, i went to dinner...ahem...alone. i needed. no CRAVED indian food. so cath and i split. i went to mother india and ate my weight in indian food. sooooooooooo good. it was tapas style and everything down to the perfect coriander chutney was amazing.

and so ends day 1


finally i ate a traditional english breakfast (in scotland). more haggis along with ham, sausages, eggs, beans, tomatoes, and mushrooms...and coffee. lots of coffee. i had a weird dream the night before about smuggling monkeys into the US. and my coworkers were there too. no idea.

we went back to the national gallery to see a ticketed exhibition on spanish art in british collections which included quite a few works by murillo, zubraran, valesquez, and goya. twas a fascinating exhibit and since its not a traveling show, this was the last chance to see all these works together with interepretations by classic british artists john constable, wilkie, turner, and gainsborough among others (nice copy of las minenas by wilkie)

then we went to edinburgh castle and was daunted by the size of it. of course, we might have been tired by the hundreds of steps to get up there. still, it was a very impressive castle in which every building that wasnt still officially used was filled with supplemental historical informationa nd exhibits on american prisoners kept and an interesting bit on the fascinating history on the scottish crown jewels which had been stolen, hidden, and change hands more than a slutty scot on a saturday night.

lets see. whats next.

oh yeah. we went to the national museum of scotland (not the national gallery) and saw more ancient scottish ruins, archives, and things. we are getting sick of history but its impossible to ignore the incredible of stuff that has occured on this little island. this museum had someo f the best preserved vases, metal, and leather ive ever seen going back to 4000 BC! or 30 BC if youre a religious person (and thus, wrong)

then: coffee at elephant house, a great coffee bar where harry potter was imagined by jk rowling (or so the place claims). then shopping.

now im blogging.


ok, i cant write anymore. i drank a nice nip of scotch and am getting ready for another traditional roast dinner. it wont be as good as liz's but im hoping for goodness nontheless.

3 more nights...

Saturday, October 10, 2009

day 11? 12? - reliable internet again -- need to blog

ok, ive checked my gmail, facebook, messages, twitter, sirtris mail, and voicemail. i have 30 minutes to write a good blog about york, durham/hadrian's wall and day 1 of edinburgh


probably the most picturesque city ive been to in england so far. this is an extraordinarily old and charming city with an amazing walled old city dotted with ruins and a medieval section of the city called the shambles. some of the streets are so narrow that the buildings nearly touch each other. this is definitely a 2 day UK city.

we went to the york history museum which was one of the most interesting museums so far. york is built in the heart of old viking, roman, and normal settlements and each one was built on the other so there are archeological finds aplenty and this museum has em all. it also includes ruins from the old sections of the city. literally, the museum is built on the foundations of the old ruins of the city! as the museum descends there are more and more distinct areas of ruins.

there is also the old norman keep which is comparable to the keep in cardiff castle. its a large circle made of stone. cool. this is right the york castle museum. the keep used to be in the now destroyed york castle. there is a museum that stands which is a definite visit for its inclusion of york from the victorian era to now. there are recreations of kitchens from the 18th century the 1950s as well as vintage tubs and vacuum cleaners. however, the crown jewel of this museum is the 2 recreated victorian streets which need to be seen to believe. yes, ill post pictures soon

finally, i will discuss yorkminster abbey which is considered in the top 4 cathedrals in britain (salisbury, st pauls, westminster being the others). its an architectural marvel! not only is it huge but the extensive crypt is built on the remains of the cathedrals from older civilizations. its interesting. one period stops and another one begins all in a 5 foot height!

the lats night in york was spent on a ghost tour; the original ghost walk of york! it wasnt as scary as new orleans but full of macabre charm. also, the mighty boosh took the same one a year or so ago :) the guide was a delightful old chap with excellent vocal timing and a vincent price like narrative. definitely good for some scares and fun

but sadly we had to leave but en route we stopped off in...


what is durham? there isnt much there. its a posh lil university town but the main is the durham cathedral and castle, two world heritage sites. durham cathedral is considered the most preserved norman style cathedral in the world (their empire was big this is impressive) and is also the final resting place of st cuthbert, the patron saint of pets! prayer to st cuthbert for the cats

i climbed the tower 380 steps up to the top as i have in every cathedral that had an open tower (salisbury, york, st pauls). this is a pretty tough climb but it was worth it for the sites of northern england and north umberland. the old section of the city had the same ancient feel to it that stratford and york did but it was flanked with an ultra modern mall with a bunch of UK chain restaurants (ask, slug and lettuce, nandos, express?). anyway, it was the cathedral that was the main site and see it we did. it was very impressive. the castle was pretty small and not worth the admission price which is why we didnt go in :)

besides, we needed to be off and get to the housesteads roman fort on hadrian's wall.

at this point in the trip, the 4 divided highways ended and the 2 lane carriageway took over and for 90 hellish hilly miles, i drove it and only hit one curb! that is a victory uninitself. also, we began to see sheep. thousands of them. thousands and thousands and thousands of sheep all around us. i wondered if i died and went to heaven and was rewarded with virgin sheep.

we ended up in hexham which was the start of hadrian's wall...or at least so we hoped. we got stuck in rush hour in hexham (its 1 light but what a ridiculous light!) which derailed our plans to get to the roman fort ruins before it closed. however, with a lot of help from our england map (stupid sat nav was useless!) we ended being pointed towards the housesteads roman fort.

finally we arrived at the most preserved of the roman ruins that date back to the 2nd century and despite the site being closed, we climbed to the ruins anyway and snuck in. however, hadrian's wall was completely overtaken with sheep. the sheep invaded and conquered the fort. apparently, the area around the wall is all farmland and sheep graze there. it was adorable! so after a quick frolic (i have picture) and a wander around the ruins, we headed back to the car and onto to edinburgh.

that was the day of our 5 year wedding anniversary and after 2 hours of backroads, we got to edinburgh and found that the main way to get our hotel was closed. the entire city is being uprooted to make way for a tram so after 20 minutes aimless driving in the rain and the dark, we saw the hotel behind closed barriers figured we couldnt to it and parked in a carpark 10 minutes walk away. we got the hotel with all of our heavy luggage and checked in. turns out that they had parking and it was way cheaper than the carpark and cathy forgot her wallet in the car. in short, we had to go back get the car got lost again and arrived very very angry. we both agreed it was a bit of a suprise we didnt break up by the end of it all! not the best way to end our anniversary but a few reasonably priced drinks of good single malt scotch put me in a good mood. sleep fixed cathys mood...i think.

alright, that is it. i wanted to write about edinburgh day 1 but this is really long right now and most of you have probably stopped reading. either way, i have to get a party being thrown by my canadian friend stef for her flatwarming a 10 minute walk from my hotel :) im a popular boy arent i? i have ladies all over the world!


Thursday, October 8, 2009

Day 9: York or Welcome to the North

i dont have much time to write as my internet pass expires in 13 minutes. i wasted way too much time on twitter and the criterion message board. right:


- went to BATH: amazing oustanding medieval roman city. toured the baths which is actually a working roman spa and bath. everything is remarkably reserved. drank spa water with 47 minerals. its a little metallic

- went to STRATFORD ON AVON: birthplace of shakespeare, home of some truly old and still standing 15th century houses. birthplace of shakespeare was cool old house but the museum was rather interesting

- went to NOTTINGHAM for dinner: nothing here except "trip to jerusalem", the oldest pub in england, dating back to 1150. ate a ploughman's and cathy had the oldest prawn cocktail in england (thanks sian)

- arrived in YORK

- walked around york. need more time to write about it

off to edinburgh tomorrow. will type review of york then. on the way up, we are stopping at a castle whose name i forgot and hadrian's wall

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Day 7: last day in Cardiff; too many sad goodbyes

Somehow this trip is half over and ive already to bid farewell to many of my dearest friends. There should be a cap as to how many people one can say goodbye too in this small a period. At this point, I have said 11 sad goodbyes and have one more to go in the later part of the trip. Staying with friends for half of the trip sounded like a great idea when in theory but its much easier to say goodbye to a comfortable and impersonal hotel room than it is to say goodbye to friends who opened their homes for you.

This evening, I had some tough ones. I said goodbye to people I only met but knew for a while. others i know excruciatingly well and some i wish to know better. either way, there is not enough time. in that respect, i wish i was in hotels. that way, i could only look to upcoming destinations than looking back thinking about the times i missed with my dearest friends

that is the problem with having your heart stuck in two continents. i have two lives -- one in boston and in the UK and its heartbreaking to think that they never be one.

well enough melancholy.

yesterday, still terrified of driving, we went to caerphilly castle (ca-philly) north of cardiff. the castle is among the oldest in europe and the second largest in the UK behind windsor. the ruins were remarkably preserved and from the top of the walls gave some fantastic views out on the area into the valleys around. after that, we went to llancaiach fwar (sp?). this is a welsh historic manner that is set in period. in other words, one is transported through time to the 16th century where the guides only know of their world and not of such things as tea and density. i had a fantastic time confusing periods of history and trying to engage them in conversation typical to their period. or a period. or phrases i just made up that sounded ye olde (like 'i forsook the cuppence' 'rubadub'). good times. after, we went up a mountain and i had a bit of a frolic (pics to come).

then back to wales where we met up with @sianz and @anna_seren for welsh sushi which is wool covered in fish scales. ok, it was actually real sushi with fish and stuff. it was quite good though i dont think think new york (or japan or boston or seattle) has anything to worry about. better than jersey or philly though.

today we went to THE BIG PIT, an UNESCO world heritage site that is literally, a big pit. coal pit. we descended 100 meters into the ground to the UKs oldest working coal mine and received a guided tour from an actual coal miner. they put miners helmets on my head and everything! we went with a childrens school group which sadly were not left behind to work in the mines. pity. however, i did purchase a coal sheep in the gift; a nice consolation.

the plan after that was to go to the ancient city of bath but it was late, wet, and rainy so we went into downtown cardiff. after all, it would be kinda strange if cathy stayed 3 nights in cardiff without actually seeing the city. so in we went and walked around the downtown, civic center, arcades, and took a tour of cardiff castle. its not as impressive as caerphilly but nice nontheless.

for dinner, liz and james got take away from a real bonafide chip shop. since neither of us have had fish n chips on this trip, it seemed only appropriate. not only did i have fish n chips but i had a welsh clarks pie! whats in it? meat. and onions. and a little brown sauce. the meal was outstanding! the chips were french fries, they were slightly smaller than potato wedges and not the least processed. they were actual potatoes cut up! novel concept, eh?

finally, we all went out and met sian, anna, @sarah_nicholas and @lozhamer for a small tweet up at buffalo bar where we had the pleasure of seeing two great bands off merge records: the rosebuds and telekinesis. the former played without mics on the dance with just the singer and the accordian player; a very different type of set from what i am used to seeing from them or anyone else. telekinesis, whose principal member michael i have a mutual friend with, was fantastic. his album (s/t) is one of my favorite albums of 2009 and their live show was amazing. all 8 people in my party enjoyed it. now im here sleeping in the bed of death getting ready for a couple sad goodbyes in the morning and then a fun day in bath, startford, and york!

why the bed of death? because it is the most comfortable bed in the world and one falls into a death life sleep. speaking of which, my atavin is kicking in and i am losing the ability to type.

so, to finalize, i would like to clone myself and send him to work in the US and ill make do here because that is the only way a dual life between my two spatial loves can happen

Sunday, October 4, 2009

day 5: london --> cardiff: oh, inverted island!

the uk is one of the most remarkable lands on earth despite lacking many of the things that make other places so amazing. it doesnt have mountains, deserts, beautiful beaches, or extreme climates that make exotic lands so spectacular and for the most part the food is a touch above mediocre.

the whole country is the size of the east coast of the US yet there is more history here than anywhere else in the world that isnt currently at war. today we got up early and took a taxi over to the car rental place and began our trip to salisbury to see the cathedral. picking up the car, i know it would be a horrific challenge.

where i come from we drive on the proper side of the street. gods side like all good people.

well, it was hard. it was REALLY hard. it wasnt so much the opposite side of the street; that was actually pretty easy. if you followed the person in front of you, then the path is laid out. the hard part was having to negotiate distance from the other side of the car. as a result, i was hugging the sidewalk (sorry...pavement) side of the street pretty frequently. yeah, the cars on the drivers side looked like they heading right towards me and the curb looked miles away. got that one reversed i did

ok, back the UK

we drove along the M4 which might rival route 80 in pennsylvannia in terms of boringness and eventually turned off and headed south into salisbury. as we entered, we saw that it was founded in 900 AD. that makes that the 1650 founding date of north andover, ma seem recent and trivial. as we drove in, we passed under thousand year old gates into the old section of the city towards the cathedral which might be one of the most important ones in all of europe. it is huge. mammoth. ridiculously huge. it is simply astounding to think of 13th century workers putting together this 15 story building and spire without technology. inside was some of the most intricate and prolific stained glass ive ever encountered. and to top it all of, in the chamber house there lies the best preversed of the magna carta.

now THAT is a cathedral.

on our drive over to old sarem, the name for the site of the former cathedral and palace, destroyed in the 11th century, we encountered some more amazing cultivated fields strewn with sheep and giant ass pigs. these were definitely eatin' pigs and not the snuggly kind.

the amazing thing about the UK as with the most of the europe is that its had thousands and thousands of years to perfectly cultivate its land. all of the land has been touched and changed by humans but it remains looking beautiful and pristine in ways that i cant imagine the US pulling off. earlier, i mentioned that the UK lacks mountains but has some of the most perfect rolling hills ive encountered. as we drove to old sarem, i regained my appreciation for the european touch and the amazement of the UK is despite what it lacks.

after seeing the ruins of old sarem (piles of rocks but still fascinating) we went to stonehenge. after making 098029830948239482039 spinal tap references including actually playing the song on my cell (not my mobile...i dug up my cell phone which has my music collection on it) out loud as we were walking around i asked cathy what the big deal was. she said that literally with the druids, nobody knew what they were doing though who they were was largely documented. thousands of pounds of rocks being stacked perfectly upon other thousands of pounds of rocks lacking basic technology though they most likely pulleys.

seeing these old parts of the UK reminds you how special and sacred this land is. it is where anglo saxon society took its roots and though it may hard to believe, on this grubby little island is some of the most amazing scenery and history in the world.

im in the diff now at the home of liz and james and will regale you all with tales of merriment and songs tomorrow or if im too drunk then the next day or if im too drunk...

btw, since it has been brought to my attention, i have done the following things:

- ate a scone with clotted creme with strawberries at buckingham palace
- had about 100 cups of tea at every conceivable time of day
- ate a few traditional pub meals
- have been drinking my weight in warm beer and ciders

Saturday, October 3, 2009

day 4: final day of london and the joy of being a tourist

what have a i learned in these fateful nights since i arrived in the LDN so many days ago, a groggy traveller

1. free wifi is not to find in elephant and castle
2. travel blogging is hard and should now be attempted after ive taken atavin at 1 am after a night of heavy drinking

well, here it goes

so my love affair with london definitely continues. there are so many things about the city that remind of new york that i often wonder if i can catch the 1+9 to bakerloo. while crossing the jubilee bridge, i was cursing tourists for stopping traffic so that they can take a picture with the stupid thames in the background. im trying to get to the tate. go away. i need to see me some jeff koons.

but im a tourist too. granted, i might know a bit about the city but im still definitely a visitor to this amazing city. part of the problem of being an nyc expat is that i constantly feel like a visitor to wherever i go. even in my home of boston, which i know inside and out, i still feel like a gaping tourist sometimes while walking along the charles or catching something at the mfa.

this is the essence of being human -- to be able to be a tourist in places that are both familiar and foreign. i think that the beauty and sites are relative and that an amazing waterfall is still amazing regardless of whether its outside of albany or in africa. one should always respect the city they live and hope that they can find new crevices to discover.

that said, the last 4 days in london have been amazing and breathtaking as usual. i went to places with cathy that ive been before but didnt mind returning with a fresh partner (tower of london, westminster abbey, greenwhich GMT sites, among others). on this trip, i saw some new things i hadnt experienced: st paul's cathedral with its 500 step ascension to the top and the london eye which is like walking 500 steps up. both afford me with some amazing views of london i hadnt yet seen before.

somehow though, after 6 trips and about 3 1/2 weeks spent in this city, i still have things i want to see: an unknown art museum in north london (totally forgot the name), a return trip to the national gallery, a proper wander around harrod's, and day trips to canterbury and oxford. i need to come back here and soon.

like new york and boston, this is a city i can continually a be tourist in...though im not going to stop and take picture blocking traffic on major thoroughfares...assholes.