Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Part the XL: Where Nick comes home.

5/21/2011 11:35 PM EST
Home...Its so good to be back.  To see mom and dad at the airport for the first time in more than four months.  To ride in a normal car again.  To see my grandmother and pet my cat.  These are all things that Skype could only do so much for.  The real thing is so much better.  I miss Bath already but it is so nice to be home.  So what comes next?  Well, personally, I will take a week off and then return to my museum for work.  My spare time will be taken up by reenactments and black powder shooting competitions.  And what of "Drawing A Bath"?  That is a harder question.  It has technically served its purpose.  In this pages you have heard from me about my travels, trials and all the fun I have had.  So, do I just close with this and allow it to sit as is for as long as the net allows?  I feel like it would be sad and grow old.  To come back and find nothing new would bother me.  Instead, I think I will return now and then to add stories and reflections on my time in England.  More importantly, I want this to be used by people in the future for inspiration of things they too can do in England.  For now, it can all wait.  My body thinks it is 4:30 in the morning and I need sleep.  Until next time, this is Auburn Calling and Nick Oristian signing off....


Part the XXXIX: What did we learn?

So what did I learn from this journey?  Well, in the interest of keeping this short I will only list a few:
Horse is still a viable mode of transport in Bradford-on-Avon.

British Cricket Video Games work on American PS3's...or so I have been told...not that I would know personally or anything.

Perhaps the most important thing I learned was that Andrew Butterworth can sing!

Part the XXXVIII: Goodbyeee!

Final Tea...I really can't believe that my journey here is at an end.  I have met so many interesting people and seen and done so many interesting things.  I feel as though saying goodbye here is not a final one though.  I like to think that I am going to be returning here someday.  I can only hope I am correct.  I did some final things in my last few days.  For example, I took a trip back to Bradford-on-Avon as soon as my exams were done.  I found the same little town I loved before but this time the gardens were in bloom.  I even go to see a village cricket match.  This was nice because the players are everyday people.  Doctors, lawyers, clerks and students come together to represent their town and play cricket.  It was pretty cool.
The old man on the footbridge of the Train Station.

This guy rides his horse through town.

Village Cricket

The visiting side had a ten year old bowler.  He took two wickets, both LBW.

Meanwhile in Bath, a painter finishes his view of the Abbey.

John, Jamie, and the rest of the trivia team at the St. James Wine Vaults.

Myself with Lindsay Orchard, Jonathon Hope, and the great Andrew Butterworth of ASE.

Hadrian, Austin and myself at the final tea.

Tomorrow, I return to America.  I leave behind new friends, a great city, and sadly, a country where football (gonna have to get used to calling it soccer again), rugby, and cricket are well respected.  Until I return, Cheers!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Part the XXXVII: Top Ten Pub Signs of England

As we come up on my last full day in England, I have decided to publish a few closing articles.  People who have been monitoring my facebook know that I have been taking pictures of Pub Signs since coming to England.  The shots I take are usually just casual one as I pass by signs that catch my interest.  In England, a pub can become known simply by its sign.  As such, many still feature hand-painted pieces of art denoting the name.  Free houses tend to be the most artistic.  Other pubs may display a logo for a brewery with which they are connected and help pay for the sign.  Either way, I leave here, for your perusal, my top ten signs as decided by me:
10: The Red Lion, Lacock
The most popular pub name in England, the Red Lion of Lacock features a beautiful medieval style hand painted sign.  It fits in with the medieval feel that the village has.
9: Sam Weller's, Bath
A great design, it uses an old beer-barrel as part of its sign.  Creative and functional, it certainly shows you what to expect.
8: The Cricketer, Lord's Cricket Ground, London.
Another great antique hand-painted classic.  Everything about this old sign kind of cries out "History".  This, along with Lord's Tavern which is also on the grounds, would have been one of the premier spots to sit and drink before and after a match.  Players frequented both pubs on match days.
7: The Bear, Oxford.
Oxford's oldest pub, it opened in 1242.  It contains a large tie collection.  Basically, if you are wearing a tie the landlord likes, he will walk up with scissors and cut it off of you, then pay you back with a drink.  This sign is also a good example of one paid for by a brewing company, in this case, Fuller's of London.
6: The Mitre, Oxford.
One of the few 3-D signs that I found on my journey.  The aptly named Mitre has become famous for it's model of its namesake hanging outside one of its large bay-windows.
5: The White Swan, Stratford-Upon-Avon.
A hand-painted cut-out style sign.  Often you see one or the other.  In this case you get the best of both worlds executed perfectly.
4: The Volunteer Riflemen's Arms, Bath.
My favorite pub in Bath along with my local, The St. Jame's Wine Vaults, "The Riflemen" was my frequent haunt every Wednesday around Lunch.  Located in the Alley that is Union Passage it may seem a bit hard to find at first.  But once you find its familiar crossed guns it sticks right out.  
3. The Porter, Bath.
Famous for being an all vegetarian pub, The Porter also sports a well painted sign of its eponymous worker.
2.  The Dandy Lion, Bradford-Upon-Avon.
It is a lion wearing an Edwardian outfit smoking a pipe and wearing a top hat: Any arguments against this sign are therefore immediately invalid.
So that brings us to the number one Pub Sign in England!:
1: The Raven, Bath.
Keeping the dandy animal theme is The Raven.  Famous for its pies and sausages, it is best known for its in-house brewed Raven Ale.  As soon as I saw this sign, it became one of my personal favorites.  

I must say, however, that I enjoyed all of the signs I saw.  What you see here are merely my top ten.  In truth, an album I have of signs numbers close to 90 different examples that I saw during my stay here in England.  Some were dives and some were expensive hot spots.  All of them, however, were unique in their own ways.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Part the XXXVI: The British Will Bet on Anything!

  Seriously, this article is exactly what it says on the tin.  I think John Cleese based his character in Rat Race on people he had met while living in England.  I don't think I have ever seen a group of people more willing to while away their money on just about anything.  "Hey, Mary is about to eat a chocolate from the assorted box.  I bet you a fiver it has caramel in it!"  You might remember how a few weeks ago I mentioned that there was betting on the Royal Wedding.  You could bet on what celebrities would be there, what color the Queen's hat would be and who, if anyone, would object.  You could even bet on the couples first dance, when they will have their first child, its gender, and, if you feel really adventurous, what its name will be.
  Not only that but they even take sports betting to a new level.  Back in the states when you bet on a horse race, you can bet who will Win, Place and Show as well as trifectas and the like.  In England, you can bet on How many lengths the winner will win by.  You can even bet who will come in last.  Don't even get me started in cricket.  You can actually bet on every bowl.  Every time the ball is thrown, you can bet if it will be hit, missed and, if hit, how many runs it will be worth.  You can even bet how the next out will be recorded.  Football betting can be on specific players to score and how long it will take.  
  Even Eurovision had open betting.  They even had a form guide for it!  Imagine the Daily Racing Form but with Song Analysis.  I kid you not, here is an actual excerpt from Moldova's entry: "Moldova is one of the only songs that could be put into the novelty act category this year. While the performance should help it score well with the public, juries are likely to be considerably less keen. All in all, this makes in a borderline qualifier, despite it deserving much more than that."  Its like if Mike Watchmaker of the DRF wrote for Billboard.  
  The best part is the places to bet.  Back home, the bigger cities may have an OTB or other off-track betting shop.  Here in England, there are still book-keepers.  And you get a choice to.  Ladbrokes (apt name if you ask me), William Hill, Blue Square, and Corral all offer different odds.  The horse going off at 100/1 at Corral could be the favorite at William Hill.  "Punting" as betting in England is known seems to have its own science behind it.  When I bet on the Grand National Horse Race earlier this year, I had to learn how to read the British racing form.  If you have ever had trouble with the DRF back home, don't even try to read the Racing Post here.  
  So what have we learned.  Basically, Englishmen will bet on anything that has multiple possible outcomes.  Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to bet how long it takes before someone openly mocks David Cameron at Prime Minister's Question Hour tomorrow.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Part the XXXV: Where Nick Watches Eurovision or: Welcome to the Mindscrew!

The Eurovision Song Contest (FrenchConcours Eurovision de la Chanson)[1] is an annual competition held among active member countries of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU).
Each member country submits a song to be performed on live television and then casts votes for the other countries' songs to determine the most popular song in the competition. Each country participates via one of their national EBU-member television stations, whose task it is to select a singer and a song to represent their country in the international competition. The Contest has been broadcast every year since its inauguration in 1956 and is one of the longest-running television programmes in the world. It is also one of the most-watched non-sporting events in the world,[2] with audience figures having been quoted in recent years as anything between 100 million and 600 million internationally.

What is most interesting about this is the fact that so many countries simply don't take the competition seriously.  The Ukraine in 2007 entered a drag finished 2nd.  Finland won in 2006 with an act that looked like the band GWAR and blew away all their competition.  In 2009, Ireland entered a turkey puppet.  In the 70s, a band named Abba won on behalf of their home nation, look what they did afterwards!  This is singlehandedly one of the oddest nights of television ever.  England's BBC coverage was once famous for Terry Wogan covering it and basically laying into the other presenters.  After 2008, Graham Norton took over.
   Terry Wogan's Commentary in '06.
Perhaps one of the most famous band's to come out of Eurovision, in my opinion was Dschinghis Khan.

  So now, with cider firmly in hand, I have decided to watch and blog along with Eurovision 2011.  
8:00PM, it starts on BBC1 with the German hosts talking and introducing the show.  Graham Norton plows into the early mocking some of their adlibs.
8:15: Finland is first with a song called "Dadadum", feels a bit useless after Lordi, the GWAR style band in 2007.
8:17: Bosnia and Herzegovina "Love in Rewind".  It has a mandolin in it...and a triangle.  Very eclectic.  Oddly interesting.
8:22: Denmark, "New Tomorrow"  This band met in London and is now popular in Canada.  The lead singer looks like a troll doll.  Catchy song, Graham seems to like it.
8:26: Lithuania, "C'est Ma Vie" Feels like a number from a musical.   
8:29: Hungary, "What About My Dreams?"  Starting the pop portion of the show that tends to dominate.  She's like a weird combination of Madonna, Celine Dion, and Maria Carey...and not in a good way.
8:33: Ireland..."Lipstick", Jedward...this band...yeah.  They were famous after a good run in X-Factor last year.  Then they got picked for this.  They have been a kind of running joke in the UK.  They even appeared in a few of the Pub Quizzes I have taken part in.  The song is a kind of bubblegum pop song.  In other words, this is the exact song that could win this by a landslide.  Just odd.
8:37: Sweden "Popular"  Sugary sweet pop music.  Sounds like the X-files theme song.  Maybe this is what Bieber will be like in the future, he looks a bit like an older version of him.  Interesting use of props and lighting.
8:42: Estonia, "Rockafeller Street"  Younger girl who is very popular in her home country.  She is actually quite pretty.  The song is very repetitive, like Rebecca Black should be performing it.  Norton: "I have never felt grumpier or older".  I give up on Pippa Middleton, this is my new dream girl...
8:45: Greece, "Watch My Dance"  Includes a rapper who is the head lecturer of music at the University of Westminster of  London.  This is basically spoken word over music.  Now it is more like opera.  This song is just all over the place.  
8:49: Russia, "Get You".  Norton can't even pronounce the singer's name.  Dear God!  It's the Russian version of N-Sync.
8:53: France, "Sognu", A tenor, one of the few examples of just a man and his voice.  He is one of the favorites entered.  At 21, he is also one of the youngest competitors.  He has a great voice.  
8:57: Italy, "Madness of Love" Italy's first entry in 14 years.  A great jazzy piece.  The singer's last note sounds like a dying bird, however...the see-through piano is cool though.
9:01: Dino from Bosnia is being interviewed.  He competed here 12 years ago.  Norton lays into some of the other competitors here.
9:03: Switzerland, "In Love For a While"  Considered a dark horse.  The ukulele intro is pretty cool.  It has a very laid-back feel to it.  It sounds a bit like a song I have heard before, however, although the title escapes me.  She seems to have abandoned lyrics for "Na na na na" over and over again.
9:07: UK, "I Can", The band is Blue.  For the first time in a while, the UK hinges their hopes on a band that is actually pretty well known in the country.  It will be interesting to see where they place.  The song itself sounds a bit like a normal boyband from the US in the 90s.  The thing is that that is still quite popular here in the UK.  A truly poppy song, could this be the year?
9:10: Moldova, "So Lucky", as Norton says "They were so lucky to get through the semis."  Rap and Rock combined while the musicians wear what appear to be dunce caps.  And a girl playing a horn dressed as a fairy riding a unicycle.  I can't make this up.  Just finished my cider in a hurry after this one.  Norton unloads on them...hard.
9:15: Germany, "Taken by a Stranger"  The defending champions, Lena returns to personally defend the title, the first time ever this has occurred.  The song starts out well but it is nowhere near the level of last years winning song, "Satellite".  Just didn't quite get going.  Norton hates the dancer's costumes.
9:19 Romania "Change", Sounds like a Tom Jones or Barry Manilow song...just not a good one.  None of the lead singers clothes match, he looks like Bill the Butcher from Gangs of New York.
9:23 Austria, "The Secret is Love", Celine Dion ripoff...that is all.  She looks like Marcellus Wallace's wife from Pulp Fiction.
9:27: Azerbaijan, "Running Scared"  From what...Moldova's act?
9:31: Slovenia, "No One"  Damn, shes giving the girl from Estonia a run for her sounds like "Sunrise, Sunset" from Fidler though.
9:36: Iceland "Coming Home"  Imagine a country song from Iceland, well, now you don't have to.  Then it kicks in a big band feel.  I really like this.
9:40: Spain, "They Can't Take The Fun Away From Me"  What is this...I don't even....It's so sweet, upbeat and peppy that you can taste the sugar rotting your teeth.
9:45: UKRAINE "Angel"  Hell yeah!  Lets do this Ukraine!!!  In the background the winner of Ukraine's Got Talent (You didn't read that wrong, it seems that does exist) a sand painter, performs her art to the song.  Song wasn't great but a good presentation.
9:48: Serbia "Magical"  Cool old 1960s groovy feel to this one.  I like it a lot.  Not a winner but cool.
9:52 Last song, Georgia "One More Day"  Rock songs don't tend to do well at ESC.  Looks like that won't change.

My Favorites.  I liked Denmark a lot.  They are my pick to win.  
I'll take UK, Ireland, Ukraine and Iceland to close out the top 5.
Let's see how it goes.

Interval Act Time: Norton: This is slightly underwhelming.  Nice suit for Jan Dulay.  That Plaid was awesome.
And begin the filler....
And the voting begins...politics start.  Austria gives 10 to Germany and Germany gives 12 to Austria.
And... Azerbaijan wins...the hell!!!!  Really...?  The song was boring and not that good.  Jedward beat Blue which was rather interesting.  
PS: Moldova equals the world's newest meme.

Part the XXXIV: Where Nick Goes to the BBC.


 As part of our final day of classes, our media course took a journey to London to see the British Film Institute and the BBC Television Center.  The BFI has recently created the Mediateque where they have begun to digitize all of their collections of film, television and advertisements.  They are working slowly but surely as they convert the over one million pieces of their entire collection.  It is rather interesting as one can type in any keyword and the database returns any films, tv shows, and ads that relate to the subject therein.  The predicted price of conversion for the whole project in over three billion pounds.  I, for example, dipped into their football and cricket collections as well as the episodes of Monty Python's Flying Circus that they had in the system.  It would definitely be interesting to see how much more is added to the collection in the future.

  The later part of the day was spent at the BBC Television Center.  Here, in the 1940s, some of the first TV studios in the world were laid out.  Any studios that came afterward are based directly on those designed here.    We even got to see studio one which is currently the place where the British episodes of "So You Think You Can Dance?" is filmed.  It is also a place where many pieces of BBC history are kept.  Props and pieces from shows like "Eastenders", "Dr. Who", and "Absolutely Fabulous" fill cases in all of the hallways.
Example: a Tardis
  All in all, it was an interesting day and I got to learn a lot about the history of BBC media and the role it has played for the people of England.  It is also interesting to see the fans of singer Jessie J who were mobbing the gates hoping to see her after she was on a music show at the studios.