Wednesday, June 30, 2010
We picked up our tickets to La Bête with an hour to spare before curtain time. Scarlett and JohnD had spotted a sushi restaurant nearby they wanted to try. Robin and I went to a nice little Italian restaurant across the street from the theater that had a pre-theater menu designed for those of us in a hurry, going to a play.
While waiting for our spaghetti I pulled out the small sketch book Robin gave me and did a quick sketch of Mark Rylance, using an iPhone photo I had just taken of the play's poster across the street. Robin wrote a note on the sketch (she knows him), tore it out of the sketchbook, and took it to the backstage door of the theater to have it delivered to Mark.
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
When something is so brilliant that you involuntarily get wide-eyed and smack your hand over your gob (your mouth), you're "gobsmacked."
I assumed it was just a goofy, meaningless expression, but nooooo, the British have put a lot of thought into this one. Refer to the attached scientific illustration.
Not a great likeness, but you probably guessed who it is, even without reading the caption. And some of you probably guessed Kiki or Louise Brooks.
I don't have WiFi on this flight (what is this? The dark ages?), but I'll post a few entries as soon as I get a chance, perhaps in Houston.
The drawing session at The Tate was run by two people from something called "drawing London." Just my luck, they decide to get artsy and experimental on the night I attend. Like having the models move continuously, or hold a pose for 30 seconds or so. Or 10 seconds. And no chairs or stools, just sit or kneel on the floor. For two hours. The art materials supplied are a hodgepodge of crayons, dried up markers, pencil and chalks ready for their last strokes.
But hey, it's The Tate, it's after hours, there's a naked model standing in the middle of the room. So I started drawing as fast as I could. Which wasn't anywhere near fast enough. I moved to the other side of the gallery where another model was holding her poses a little longer. But still, by the time I'd drawn an angle of the leg or arm, or two eyebrows for gawd's sake, the model would turn and completely change the pose.
At the end of the class, everyone put their drawings on the floor to show. I took some low- quality, bad-lighting iPhone photos of my favorite ones, including one of the only two of mine that I bothered to keep, titled "Brown paper with masking tape."
Even though I didn't get a lot of good drawings out of it, it was a unique and memorable experience, and a super cool gift from Robin.
We crossed over to the south bank of the Thames and found The Golden Hinde, a replica of the ship that Sir Francis Drake used to circumnavigate the globe between 1577 and 1580. A golden hinde is a golden deer. The harbor where it's docked was a free harbor for people associated with the nearby church.
The play starred Mark Rylance and co-starred David Hyde Pierce ("Nigel" on the TV show "Frazier.")
Originally written in 1992, its revival has been selling out, mainly due to the Rylance performance, which is remarkable. The story is set somewhere around the 1700s (I think). David Hyde Pierce plays a playwright and his acting troupe who are sponsored by a wealthy princess. The leader of the troupe has been ordered to add Rylance, another actor/writer, to the group, to the horror of the current leader (Pierce), because he detests the Rylance character with a passion, knowing him to be an arrogant egomaniac who never shuts up and never stops praising himself.
When Rylance makes his entrance on the stage (after Pierce has ranted about how insufferable the Rylance character is), Rylance launches into a fast paced non-stop rhyming monologue of self praise that lasts at least 20 or 25 minutes without a pause, while the other two actors on stage just stand there with their mouths agape. Rylance's portrayal of the buck-toothed, offensive, bombastic egomaniac is hilarious, brilliant, and pretty darn mind-boggling.
it's a relatively short play, about an hour and a half, with no intermission. The set design, costume design, and lighting were fabulous. Three curtain calls and a standing ovation.
Above, a sketch of Mark Rylance, in character, using the ArtStudio for iPad app.
Sunday, June 27, 2010
one stop to Hillingdon, catch a bus to Oxford).
We met our Oxford friends, Lynn, Neil, their son James and daughter
Louise, for a picnic in Oxford University Park, a huge park on a
scenic river with punting boats floating by (punting is standing at
the back of a flat bottom boat and using a long pole to push yourself
After spending the afternoon in thr park, we went to The Bear pub for
cider and beer, then caught the Oxford Tube bus back to Hillingdon
where we'll catch the Tube back to Uxbridge.
I'm blogging from the bus now, using the onboard WiFi.
The photo is of a statue of William Herbert, son of Mary Sidney, in
the courtyard of Oxford's Bodleian Library.
Shovel. Dogs are welcome here. The regular customers pictured here
bring sheepskin beds so their dogs can be comfortable while the humans eat dinner.
Everyone agreed that The Malt Shovel is superior to the pub a little
further down the canal, Water's Edge. Much. In every way.
Americans have always misunderstood the title of this popular song.
When you're here in person and realize what a common site this is, the
song's title starts to make sense.
Search YouTube or iTunes for great versions of the song "Loch Lomond" by the great Scottish band Runrig.
After a disappointingly mediocre dinner at a pub recommended by the bed and breakfast host where Scarlett and JohnD are staying (the breakfast at the B&B was even worse than the pub he recommended), we strolled along the Cowley canal on the way back to the campus.
Friday, June 25, 2010
Now that we're back in Uxbridge, I don't have access to WiFi here on campus. To use my iPad for blogging I'll have to find a pub or coffee shop that has WiFi. Right now I'm on Robin's computer in her room.
I accomplished one of my goals for Scotland, I ate haggis. It's included in the Full Scottish Breakfast. It wasn't a large serving, but it was satisfying, especially if, like me, you don't get haggis but maybe once every 5 or 10 years. The good thing about haggis is, every 5 or 10 years is often enough.
Our train from Glasgow got back to London late last night, we took the tube to Uxbridge, walked the 1.5 miles from Uxbridge to Brunel and got here around midnight.
Today we're putting together some booklets (applying transfers of graphics that Robin designed to some moleskin notebooks) for a summer class that will be taught by Lynn Robson, Robin's friend and former Oxford tutor, at Oxford's Merton College. This afternoon we'll walk back to Uxbridge's town centre and meet Scarlett and JohnD at the Tube station, as they arrive from several days in Bruges, Belgium.
We haven't decided yet on tomorrow's plans, but on the list is renting a flat boat on the local canal, going to Bath, or to Wilton House (one of Mary Sidney's estates) and Stonehenge (which is near Wilton House).
Updates later. Cheers.
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Both yesterday and today we've been exploring the property, having some drinks in the nice bars with nice views, and checking out the restaurants. Today we took the shuttle to the main golf course, Carrick (named for the guy who designed the course), walked around, took some photos, and had a pot of tea with scones, jam, and clotted cream in The Claret Jug (the club house restaurant). On our walk we noticed a strange tree sculpture on the edge of a forest. It looked like someone had cut down a tree with three trunks, turned it upside down, planted it in the ground, and carved a mystical spiral symbol on it. We walked under the branches that seemed like an entrance, realized there was a path thru the forest that led to other nature sculptures and brass plaques along the "fairy trail" that had poems on them.
Maybe all golf courses have fairy trails. I'll ask Ces, my personal golf consultant.
It was known that an accurate clock could solve the problem, enabling a navigator to compare the time at his current location to the time at his port of departure. But clocks were not accurate or dependable at the time. Nor were they portable. At sea they would stop working or give incorrect time due to motion, changes in temperature, barometric pressure changes, damage by storms, rust, etc. So most scientist concentrated on mapping the stars, advancing the science of astronomy in a giant way.
An unknown watchmaker named John Harrison built an amazing clock that looked like a Rube Goldberg device. It was made of different metals so that when one piece contracted due to the environmental conditions, it's effect was offset by another piece that expanded. It didn't have a pendulum, and it wasn't affected by motion, and even though it was large, it was far smaller than other clocks. Over the years, he built a second version that had improvements and was smaller, but it still looked like a big two foot cube. He kept working, and years later morphed it into what we know today as a watch, about the size of your hand.
All this took over 40 years, all the while battling important scientists who tried to discredit him as a nobody with no formal training. Finally, as an old man, he collected his prize money and seafaring ships were able to plot their positions accurately. And it was during this project, mapping the stars and the eclipses of the moons of Jupiter, that the speed of light was first discovered.
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
Monday, June 21, 2010
The giant wheel structure was there just for this production also. Chains hanging from it held big caldrons of fire (good for witch scenes) that rotated around the stage, or sometimes a black, semi-transparent curtain. Pretty fancy stuff for the usually minimalist Shakespearean stage.
This column's statue is of Lord Nelson, one of three British commoners to have a state funeral. The other two were Winston Churchill and Philip Sydney (Mary Sidney's brother).
Nelson was Admiral of the British Royal Navy in 1805 at the battle of Trafalgar, where 27 British ships defeated 33 French and Spanish ships. The French and Spanish lost 22 ships and the British lost none. Nelson, however, was killed in battle. The battle changed Napoleon's plans to invade England. Nelson remains England's biggest naval hero.
Trafalgar Square is at the entrance to the National Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery.
Sunday, June 20, 2010
This afternoon we went to the National Portrait Gallery to see lots of great portraits, including The Tudors and a contemporary collection.
Next we made our way across town to the St. Paul tube station where we crossed the Thames on the Millennium pedestrian bridge to the Globe Theater neighborhood. After a fast, delicious dinner at Tas Pide, a Turkish restaurant across the street from the globe, we went to see Macbeth at the Globe. A very good production, viiolent, bloody, and lots of screaming. Lots of the Groundlings (the standing room audience around the stage) had to stick their heads thru holes in a fabric surrounding the stage. Actors and musicians occasionally appeared thru a hole in the cloth.
Getting ready for a big day tomorrow: a trip to Greenwich and an after hours drawing session at the Tate Modern tomorrow night.
The play was great, as in " Wow, that was one of the most amazing things I've ever seen." It's a story about a farm kid and his horse, and World War I.
This from the author in the program notes: "So I conceived the notion that I might write the story of the First World War as seen through a horse's eyes, a horse that would be reared on a Devon farm, by the forebears of the people I knew, a horse that is sold off the farm to go to the front as a British cavalry horse, is captured by the Germans and used to pull ambulances and guns, winters on a French farm. It would be the horse's eye view of the universal suffering of that dreadful war in which ten million people died, and unknown millions of horses."
The horse (and other animals) is a life sized puppet controlled by several puppeteers. The photos from the program show how stylized the horse puppets are, but the effect is amazingly real even though there's no attempt made to hide the puppeteers (two under the horse, one standing next to the head, and sometimes another one or two at the back of the horse). In the bottom photo, the man standing behind the horse's neck is not an actor - he's a puppeteer manipulating the head and neck movements.
An unforgettable night of theater.