Things to Come

February 20, 2010

Any frequenter of this blog has probably noticed my lack of updates. Believe it or not, this isn’t caused entirely by my laziness. No, I have, in fact, been too busy to update. Besides homework, I’ve been going places. Places like Dover, Canterbury, Bath, Westminster Abbey, and, to stand out from all the rest, the Ministry of Sound, one of London’s hottest night clubs.


So, as a checklist for you and a reminder for me, here are some things I’ll post about in the undetermined future:

QMUL excursion 1: Dover/Canterbury

Butler Excursion 1: Bath

Differences between US and England (dining, grocery shopping, crossing the street, homicidal motorists, how polite everybody is, etc)

Ministry of Sound

Westminster Abbey


I won’t write these in any particular order. Until then, I’ll be spending all my spare time watching Veronica Mar-er, drafting these blog posts and diligently doing my homework.



*Update!* Harry Potter, you LIED to me!!

February 10, 2010

I was still furious about Hedwig’s death until I saw this:

Somebody get these owls some letters to deliver!!

My Trip to My Mecca: 221b Baker Street

February 8, 2010

For the uninformed, I am a humongous fan of Sherlock Holmes. Like, really huge.

Pictured: Not me

I haven’t read all Holmes literature, but I have read a majority of the short stories and one novel. Slowly but surely I’m making my way through all the books. Regardless, when I was deciding where exactly I wanted to spend my semester abroad in England, I was torn between Harry Potter and Sherlock Holmes, so to speak. Should I go to school in the English countryside and play Quidditch with all the outdoorsy folk, breathe the clean air, and deal with lower prices (ARG!!), or do I go to England’s biggest city, deal with high prices (ARG!!!!), and visit the replica home of my British hero?

Guess which side won

I didn’t hide my Holmes addiction. During my first few weeks, I asked several other people if they’d be interested in coming with me to the Holmes museum (somebody had to take my picture, after all). Eventually I broke the wills of two other Americans. (Okay, I asked nicely and they wanted to come. Also, I don’t like traveling and/or doing sightseeing in London by myself. The big mobs aren’t trustworthy enough for me to look awestruck while wandering around). With the traveling companions confirmed and the date set, I was ready. On Saturday, 25 January 2010, I completed my hajj and arrived at my Mecca.

First of all, the Baker Street tube station was awesome. Each tube station here has its own unique vibe to it: Westminster is modern, gray, and industrial, King’s Cross has witches and wizards running through walls, Tottenham has all sorts of cool murals, and Baker Street looks like it hasn’t modernized in over a hundred and thirty years. (Besides the electric signs, lights, Oyster card readers, cash machines, computers, digital displays of train schedules, etc.)

One of the first things to see when you get outside the station is the previously posted Holmes statue. Believe me, I was not the first person in line to get my picture there, but I do have to wonder the dedication of the people waiting…

Okay, I have to get this off my chest: Holmes wore his trademark deerstalker cap maybe twice. Nineteen times out of twenty, he was wearing a derby. And he didn’t smoke from a pipe very often, at least not the kind he’s usually portrayed with. His tobacco intake method of choice was either cigarettes, corn cob pipes, or cocaine. Something tells me most of the people that visit the museum – hell, most of the people who know who Sherlock Holmes is – don’t know this. But now you do!

After some wandering around, we did eventually make our way to the museum. Heart pounding, legs fidgeting, arms flailing, I crossed the street and found myself before a quaint, narrow building, guarded by a traditional (read: unofficial) bobby. He was kind enough to tell us where to buy the £6 tickets, and he even offered props for pictures!

This is my most authentic portrayal of Holmes. The beard screwd everything up.

After looking around the gift shop for a while, we bought our tickets and made our way up exactly seventeen steps to Holmesian nirvana.

Like 19th century corset-clad women, I was prone to fainting that day

The items on display were awesome. There were knick knacks from all sorts of Holmes stories. From the first to third floors, the entire building was amazing. Holmes’ room was on the first floor, which was a total mess. The Holmes impersonator pointed me out to his chemistry set, his desk, his bedroom, and the VR he shot into the wall (Victoria Regina, like he had to tell me. Pshaw.) Next floor up was Watson’s chambers, which was much tidier and had some more specific stuff. Third floor was their caretaker’s quarters, which had a few various items and a ton of wax dummies. Unfortunately, camera battery problems didn’t allow me to save many of the pictures I took of the took of the wax dummies, but trust me, they were cool. Rather than write about it, I’m going to show some of the pictures I did take.

On the stair case, there was this one random wax dummy of a little boy. I wasn’t entire sure who it was supposed to be, but I’ll be damned if the little bugger wasn’t creepy.

Where is he staring??

Some of the stuff on display was also a bit on the macabre side…

That would be an engineer's severed thumb...

These ears were sent as a warning from the Ku Klux Klan...

And that's a scary voodoo mummy baby.

If you’d like to see the rest of the gallery (and trust me, nothing there is nearly as disturbing as the voodoo mummy baby or the soulless child), check it out here:

After getting my fill of the Holmes memorabilia on display (including a functioning old school toilet), I was prepared to depart… to the gift shop! After spending a good while looking over various purchasables, I eventually settled on four items: a keychain (£4.50), a replica Baker Street street sign (£5), a poster of a bunch of original artwork from the stories’ first run in The Strand (£4), and a miniature bust of Sherlock (£25). I almost bought the Sherlock Holmes board game, but that would have been an extra £22, and that would put me £2 over my budget. I know what you’re thinking, “Ben! You’re always complaining about how expensive everything here is, but you dropped about £40 on tourist crap? What a hypocrite!” To that, I have two things to say: 1) You’re a hypocrite, meanie. 2) This museum was one of the deciding factors of mine to come to London over some smaller town. I was fully prepared to drop an extra £20 (just not £22) for as many souvenirs as I could carry.

Still, the museum left me satisfied in ways you cannot understand. Unless you’re one of those religious types that’s been to wherever your religion considers sacred. Coming to this museum was like that: divine.


I knew I shouldn’t have picked a school for muggles

February 2, 2010

To be frank, I am very disappointed with Queen Mary, University of London. I knew I should have gone to a school in the country. My pretenses about English schools have been shattered since our first arrival on campus. Everything I read in preparation of this trip has been false!

Rather than take the Queen Mary Express when we moved in, we took a nonmagical bus. The dormitories don’t have moving staircases and talking portraits guarding the doors, just elevators and regular old locks. After our big welcome meal in the dining hall, we didn’t even get sorted!

Ravenclaw crest

I'd SO be in Ravenclaw

I could go on, but I think you get the picture: Harry Potter, and J.K. Rowling by extension, is a liar. For the sake of argument, I’m going to discuss how degrading my (quite probably) muggle classes are.

Divination: My first class is Divination (King Arthur of Britain), taught by Professor Trelawney (Tamara Atkin). So far we haven’t even started looking at tea leaves. We read a whole lot, and the reading is getting more interesting every week, but come on! Shouldn’t I be predicting my own death by now? Crystal balls weren’t even listed on required materials!

Charms: Tuesdays I have Charms (Northern Epic & Myth), which is headed by Professor Flitwick (Peter Orton). This class, more than any, has me ticked off. Without even a wand, we’ve only read a bunch of Norse myths and some Beowulf. Isn’t this class supposed to be hands on? Can’t I at least make a toaster dance like in Ghostbusters 2?

Your love is taking me higher and higher

Potions: My first (and earliest) class on Thursday is Potions (Contemporary Hollywood Cinema) with the infamous Professor Snape (Guy Westwell). We haven’t been making magical potions so much as “screening films” and “analyzing how American politics and culture affect Hollywood.” BOR-RING. Give me a copy of Magical Drafts and Potions and I’m sure I’d make something that could develop film faster, transform somebody into somebody else, cure that nasty slug barfing spell….

….or make gummy worms.

Oreo/Gummy worm dirt pie

Pictured: a very important potion in the works

History of Magic: My final class of the week is History of Magic (Variation and Change in the English Language), taught by Professor Binns (Peter Orton). Man, this class is as boring as Harry Potter says it is. Professor Binns goes on and on about how magic (or was it accents?) has changed astronomically over the past centuries. What I don’t get, however, is how Merlin has never shown up in any of the lectures: surely he was around during the time of Chaucer!

In conclusion, the classes here are terrible. Without a wand, cauldron, or even a snazzy uniform, my English educational experience is going to be as dull as Hermione’s parents.

Cheerleader version of the Hogwarts uniform

Who says we're too old for uniforms?

In all seriousness, I really do enjoy all my classes. King Arthur is covering some of my favorite material, and I was being honest when I said the stories are getting better as we go further into the class. Northern Epic & Myth had a couple hiccups (such as having to transfer in because I had to drop my very first class here, the first day of class being canceled, and ordering an untranslated copy of Beowulf) right off the bat, but the material rocks. Norse mythology is awesomely grim. Contemporary Hollywood Cinema is easily my favorite class since we watch movies after the lectures, and none of the films so far have been too bad.

With one exception

Finally, Variation and Change hasn’t exactly been what I was expecting so far. When I signed up, I thought we were going to discuss the evolution of the English written language, not the change in pronunciation. At least the course is teaching me one thing about the English: we aren’t the only ones who love their accents.