Sunday, November 9, 2008

XII: This Fire

This fire, is outta' control! We're gonna' burn this city, burn this city!!!

While I was home sick this past week, I was a little bummed to miss out on the first round of celebration for the UK's Bonfire Night. For those of you who have seen the movie V for Vendetta, this British holiday might ring a bell... but if you've never heard of it, here's a bit of a history lesson:

In 1605, under the rule of King James I, a group of 13 English Catholics (who felt they were being persecuted) conspired to overthrow the monarchy and blow up London's Houses of Parliament in an act of murderous terrorism. So, the extremist Catholics got a hold of 36 barrels of gunpowder and stored them in a cellar within the Parliament building... waiting to blow it all up.

However, a few of the terrorists had attacks of conscience and one of them, according to legend, sent a letter to a friend urging him to stay away from Parliament during the early morning hours of Nov. 5. Supposedly, the letter was intercepted by the king, and when his authorities raided the building, they found GUY FAWKES (one of the terrorists) in the cellar with all the gunpowder. He was caught, tortured and executed. On Nov. 5, 1605, the Brits lit bonfires across the country to celebrate the safety of their king.

Since then, the UK has been commemorating Nov. 5th with parades, fireworks displays and declarations of patriotism & love for their monarch.

I know... why should I care about any of this? Well to be honest, I just wanted to see fireworks, because I heard it was quite the spectacle... and plus, what's the point of living in another country if you completely ignore their traditions? I've already adopted boots, skinny jeans and excessive consumption of tea - why stop now?

But like I said, I was home sick on Nov. 5th so I resorted to sitting at my window to listen and catch a glimpse of some of the fireworks, which were being illegally lit by people around the neighborhood. It was very anti-climactic. Aw.

LUCKILY, the following day, I received an invitation from one of my friends to attend the "Lord Mayor's Fireworks Spectacular" on Saturday night. I guess this was the better thing to see anyway, because it was a display on the River Thames near Westminster.

By the time Saturday rolled around, I had pretty much gotten over being sick - so a group of us got together to see the show. Hooray!

As you can probably tell from the picture, it really didn't look like much of a show - but that's only because we ended up standing on the wrong bridge. The fireworks started at 5 p.m. (an indication of how ridiculously early it gets dark here now that it's winter time) and we had a rather hilarious adventure trying to find exactly where we were supposed to be.

First, we got off at the wrong tube station. Then, there was some miscommunication with one of our other friends - and we had to meet her somewhere else... about 15 minutes walk from our original meeting place. Then we had to take a bus to somewhere else, all the while searching for a crowd that would show us the way. But all of this to no avail, because we still didn't make it to where we were supposed to be. In the end, we were standing at some random bridge, unable to hear anything, and limited to watching fireworks from behind a bunch of buildings. Oh well. At least we tried.

By the time we made it to the right bridge, the show was completely over... so we finished off the night with some coffee, then sushi (yeay!), and because it was still ridiculously early, we went to Leicester Square to see the new Bond movie. But it was sold out. Again...

Did I mention that this is probably how I ended up losing my cell phone and camera in the first place (more on this in my last entry)? Each time I tried to see the Bond movie it was sold out, so in the course of 2 weekends, I've now seen Burn After Reading, Eagle Eye, and How to Lose Friends and Alienate People. Oh well again.

The good news is, I'm feeling much better since writing my last entry. I've gotten my new phone, I'm no longer sick, and obviously, I've replaced my camera as well.

I was quite happy to see the exact same Panasonic Lumix on sale at Jessops in Islington... except I got it in black this time - in memory of the original silver one. Cheesy, I know. But I'm happy about it, so there.

And to celebrate my "rebirth," if you will, I spent all day Friday catching up with some gallery visits.

First, I went to see Rafael Lozano-Hemmer's solo exhibit at the Haunch of Venison Gallery in Soho. The artist loves interactivity... and the "finale" to this exhibit was this thing called "The Pulse Tank." It uses your pulse to create ripples in the water... and then the whole thing is illuminated so it creates light patterns on the ceiling and on the floor. It was really weird to activate something simply by touching it, but really cool at the same time. Expect to hear more from me on this artist - because I like him a lot and he's doing this giant-scale installation in Trafalgar Square in a couple weeks. I'm really excited for it...

Then, on my way to the tube station, I found this random cafe hidden down some stairs in a semi-quiet alley:

Victory Cafe! How fitting for my newly acquired sense of victory.. for bouncing back so nicely from those few days of hell earlier this week. I stepped in for a cup of tea, and was pleasantly surprised by the service (I'm convinced that most Londoners don't like being nice). The place is also connected to this large, underground antique mini-mall. It was like walking into a time capsule.

After my tea, I went to the Andy Warhol exhibit at The Hayward. (I know what you're thinking Roxy- and let me assure you, I only hoped to give the guy a second chance by seeing his work in a gallery setting.)

But besides the success of representing the scope of the work he did, the exhibition really just ended up being EXACTLY the way I expected - a high-ticket, over-exaggerated, kitsch and chaotic spectacle that was full of a whole lot of nothing.

All-in-all, it was too much to handle... down to the pink and yellow cow wallpaper, the Edie Sedgwick movies where she's not doing ANYTHING interesting, the sound "pods" playing old audio of Warhol and Capote bickering about something you can't really make out, and the "silver clouds" that were really nothing more than mylar balloons bouncing around in a small room.

Meh. I've made my decision that Andy Warhol is just one of those artists that I love to hate. But if anything, I'm still glad I saw it - if for nothing more than confirming the opinion of how much of a douche he was.

So that's it... life is good again. It's getting much colder, windier and rainier outside but at least, (thanks to all the time I spent at home this week) I now have a goofy poster of Shia LaBeouf on my wall (thanks Becky), I have calendars on my wall keeping me on track for finishing my 14,000 words worth of essays before Christmas break and most importantly - I'm not letting a few shitty circumstances keep me down. I guess I'm back to being the optimist. Take that, London! (p.s. I love you still... oh how I burn for you)

1 comment:

Kimberly said...

1) you are my favorite Shia-loving nerd.
2) glad you got the new cam and phone
3) is the art installation in Trafalgar on over Christmas?
4) i love how in England it's called "Bonfire Night" in celebration of protecting the Monarchy, while in Scotland its called "Guy Fawkes Day" and celebrates the tenacity of a terrorist to try and thwart the English monarchy. Oh, how the age-old national sentiments run deep! LOL!