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Entering my second retirement
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12th-Aug-2014 10:24 pm - pre-Loncon Tue 8/12
Marvin_Observing
I really should have gotten up earlier this morning. By the time I got to Westminster Abbey, the line was about two blocks long. So that's tomorrow – earlier!
I'd been planning on the tower in the afternoon, so I went there. It's a lot larger, so a few thousand tourists (exaggeration only mild) don't entirely clog it. Though the ticket line seemed almost half an hour.
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And I ran into my first few fans going round all the towers in the Tower, so now it's really a Worldcon.

Since My morning was shortened, I still had some day left, so I went to Forbidden Planet. It was sorely disappointing. If I were into limited edition action figures, or $30 unexciting t-shirts, but I'm not. the books are markedly more expensive than in the States, and they don't do used. However! I ran into David Hartwell and he told me that there's a little street in front of the Museum called Cecil Court where the bookstores are, so that's tomorrow afternoon's target.
12th-Aug-2014 10:23 pm - pre-Loncon Mon 8/11
Marvin_Observing
First thing Monday morning, I went out to Camden Market. It's smaller than I expected, and yes, it's half a metric buttload of repetitive tat, though there were a couple of fashions I enjoyed but only were in female cuts. On the high street, though, there a couple of interesting shops, and at a Goth/Edwardian/steampunk sort of place I found a Halloween costume component, if it works right.
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And to the British Museum. It's really big, and has a really lot of really great stuff.
The Rosetta Stone is thicker than I'd thought, though I don't read any of its languages, so why more than a quick look?
The Elgin Marbles are intriguing. I had never run into a list of the many times the Acropolis of Athens had been burned, captures, rebuilt, or converted to various religions. It's pretty clear that a lot less than even these wonderful fragments would still exist if it weren't for Elgin.
They have a couple of extraordinary Aztec objects covered with tightly fitted chips of turquoise, including a double-headed serpent, and a skull decorated to be Tezcatlipoca.
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I have no idea how they chose the beautiful gilded statue of Tara, from Sri Lanka. It's no surprise that the Indian collection is repeatedly jaw-dropping. I made it all the way through, but was out of steam.
The 'Ram in a Thicket' (actually a goat) from the Royal Cemetery at Ur was my last must.
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I'd Googled to try to find good used bookstores, but without much success. There seem to be several near the Museum, so that was next. I bought a couple of things at the Oxfam shop; skipped another; definitely skipped the Marxist one, and found the little occult Atlantis Bookshop, a hundred meters in front of the Museum. It turns out to be quite an institution; it's now the third generation of the family and will celebrate its centennial in eight years. I was pleased to see a Robert Anton Wilson in the window, and had a wonderful chat with the proprietress. The witchcraft laws were only repealed in the 1950's, so the store had been "anthropological" before that. I was very pleased to be able to refer her to Raiders of the Lost Basement, so even though I didn't buy anything, I feel I did give.

My father's yahrzeit is the 16th of Av, and Barb went out of her way to find me a 16th of Av candle, so I went back over there at the end of the day to say Kaddish, and to wish Star Straff happy birthday. They were once roommates, and Barb and Brock and Star and Pooch were going out to dinner to celebrate.
12th-Aug-2014 10:20 pm - pre-Loncon Sun 8/10
Marvin_Observing
My first day out and about was Sunday. I managed to find the river, and took my first selfie against Big Ben to send to my mother, who doesn't get much entertainment.
London is predominantly on the north side of the river, but the South Bank has been given a long walk for tourists and business. There are various art projects/installations/whatevers. Currently, there's something about "love", with thingys for agape, philos, and all the rest. There were what I thought was a lot of tourists.
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My legs were bothering me, so I didn't know how far I was going to get. I'll have to get up and walk back and forth more on the flight home.
The big Ferris wheel, the Eye, is right there, and it is indeed big, but I'm a fan of the Ferris Wheel from the Columbian Exposition.
An old, blocky brick powerhouse has been repurposed as the Tate Modern along there. It's pretty nicely organized, and devastatingly high quality. The biggest jokes I ran into were a Louise Nevelson piece whose media included "Chipboard, cardboard, leather, fluff and plywood" and an insolently homoerotic piece of a young skinny African man whose brief analytic curatorial description made no reference to the hash pipe in his hand.
One of the most important pieces for me was Salvador Dalí's Metamorphosis of Narcissus. One of the things that impresses me about Dalí is the way he mixes styles and techniques in one painting. The main images in Narcissus are fully rounded, in a pretty realistic style while the cliff face in the upper left has the weave of the canvas showing through, and its reflection in the water below it is mainly dabs of solid color, almost cubist.
Painfully, there was an annex to the museum store full of clearance. There was a stack of beautiful reproductions of Narcissus, but there's no way I'd be able to get it home. arrgh
My most amazing discovery was Francis Picabia's Otaïti. The contrast is sharpened in the reproduction; it takes close looking to see al the cross references, puns, and odd details.

I continued along the South Bank as far as the Golden Hind. I hadn't realized that Drake's four year voyage around the world to harass the Spanish on the west coast of America had paid off England's national debt.
12th-Aug-2014 10:15 pm - London in general
Marvin_Observing
My brother says that the good thing about London is that it makes Paris look cheap. yowza!! I haven't settled on a description of the odd texture of the city yet, but fortunately there are signposts with immediate maps all over the place.
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There’s some sort of very outer bits of a hurricane about. Once a day, unpredictably, there’s a 5-minute downpour. The temperature has been fine, but completely humid. I don’t know if I’ve ever been so sweaty and sticky at such relatively low temperatures.
The Tube is an experience. It’s a cross between D&D and San Francisco. Changing lines at a station can involve several flights of stairs, several corridors ranging from sparkling clean to is that chicken wire a fix from WW II or WW I? and multi-story escalators.
And the "Oyster card"! I have no idea why it's called that. It's an ordinary credit card-sized card with an RFID chip. The card is blue; the icon for Oyster cards is a yellow circle. That's how much sense it makes. When you try to add money at the vending machines (or buy one in the first place), the kiosk makes choices for you – always wrong so far.
12th-Aug-2014 10:14 pm - Loncon days 0, 00, 000
Marvin_Observing
I flew overnight from O’Hare to Heathrow; walked a mile or so to customs and luggage; and took the tube to Barb’s place in Brixton. (I claim I’ve known her more than all her life; her mother and I met when we were seniors in highschool.)
She’s been there a dozen years, and has watched a bunch of gentrification. There’s still a lot of ‘Afro-Caribbean’ (my own phrasing would be "Islander", and I’m not even going to try to find out if that’s PC terminology), but a lot of the market is still comfortably down-scale.
And I got to meet her daughter Eleanor, who is two and a half, and seems a pretty good two and a half year old. I’d slightly met her husband, Brock, when they were married.
Brixton has a Max Roach park! Who knew?
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let's see if the picture really gets there.

It took me a couple of days to entirely recover from the flight. ecch
Barb was only able to put me up for two nights. Fortunately, a local friend is out of town for two months, so she has an extra apartment at her disposal.
And then I checked into the hostel I’d booked online. I went for a combination of price (cheap (relatively!)) and location: behind Waterloo Station, a ten minute walk from Westminster Bridge.
Friendly, clean, and very minimal.
8th-Aug-2014 11:50 am - Loncon phone no.
Marvin_Observing
07749401574
27th-Jun-2014 01:38 am - It's official.
South Park-ized
I'm on Social Security.
To my surprise, the transition is inducing emotional reactions. For the first time in 46 years, I don't have to think about making the rent. Ever again!
17th-Mar-2014 01:49 am - Loncon hotel lottery winner!
whole earth moon
I have an extra half room at the Aloft London ExCel Starwood, and now an extra double room at the Premier Inn London Docklands ExCel.
Who wants some?
(decision of the judges is arbitrary)
10th-Nov-2013 11:28 pm - REAMDE
Marvin_Observing
It would be a strong Hugo contender if it were science fiction.
23rd-Jun-2013 12:21 am(no subject)
Marvin_Observing
timing . . . this seems appropriate, and it just came up now.

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