Sunday, December 23, 2007

London Transport Museum

Last night my friend Judy and I went to the London Transport Museum, located in Covent Garden. It has an impressive array of buses, trains, horse drawn trolleys and covers the history of the London Underground. Above is the main hall with several double decker buses. The stairs in the older ones were very narrow and steep.
Here's one old tube train, predating the electric ones.
We then wandered over the Trafalgar Square. Carolers sang beneath the giant Christmas tree.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Go-karting at King's Cross

Today, for our Christmas party at the studio, we went to the Raceway go-kart track at King's Cross. As you can see, it's an indoor facility, utilizing an old warehouse, which is going to be torn down soon for a huge new development.

I didn't quite know what to expect, only that I hoped I wouldn't have the same humiliating experience I had at the now-defunct Fontaine Ferry Park in Louisville when I was a kid. Most of the park was very old, but one fairly modern addition was a very nice Autopia-like go-kart track, which did not have a center safety rail like the one at Disneyland. I was thrilled when I was finally tall enough to drive one myself and was doing fairly well until I took one very sharp curve and pinned the car sideways against the curb. I turned around to see a dozen drivers behind me, angry that I had ruined the ride for them. A grumpy teenaged attendant told me to scoot over and drove the rest of the way himself. I was further humiliated when I saw my father doubled over with laughter.

Now logic told me that I was no longer a kid and after all have logged several hundred thousand miles on the roads, and in Los Angeles yet, but somehow I suspected some snotty teenager, this time with a British accent, would tell me to get out and drive the car back to the pit where my workmates would be standing there doubled up with laughter. Naturally, I didn't set any records, that I didn't have an delusions about, but on the other hand I didn't pin the car against the curb as a few others did, I didn't spin out, flip over a barrier or decaptiate myself. My driving partner and I came in 11th out of 16. The kid inside of me was not impressed but at least relieved.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Bee Movie Premiere

Last night, December 6, I attended the Bee Movie UK premiere with friends at the Empire Cinema in Leicester Square. That's Barry the Bee welcoming us inside as seen from the start of the green carpet. Despite the gusty night, there was little chance of him flying away, because as it is stated in the film, bees can't fly in the rain.

I was on the story team on the movie from 2004-2005. Jeffrey Katzenberg, director Simon Smith, Renee Zellweger and Jerry Seinfeld introduced the screening.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Christmastime is Here

Today I braved the crowds on Oxford Street. On your marks, get set, GO!!!
Apparently London department stores seek to humiliate their employees by making them dress up in imaginative, humiliating costumes as these. My question about these were, were they presents or elves? Or elves wrapped up as presents? Why were they wrapped as presents? Does Santa get rid of some of his elves like this by leaving them behind? Whose idea was this?
Ah, Selfridges, the monumental department store. It takes up an entire city block. The men's department alone is the size of most normal department stores, so you can imagine how big the women's department is. Three times that size. I didn't dare look, but the shoe department alone must be the size of an mid sized airport. Of course everything was twice as expensive as it would be at Macy's or even Bloomingdale's but people were pushing and shoving one another to pay twice retail and more. Harry Gordon Selfridge's story is quite interesting. He was an American magnate, born in Wisconsin, originally with the similarly opulent Marshall Fields Department Store of Chicago. He dated both Dolly Sisters, the famous Vaudeville act, apparently at the same time, and died broke (but apparently after a full life) in Putney, a London suburb within walking distance of my flat. Despite his ending in poverty, the store remains a monument to the wealthy, exactly as he would have wanted. Even Selfridges, however, can't compare to the grandest of all department stores, the one, the only

Harrod's! Yes, there it is, lit up and sending artificial snow out over its eaves to shoppers below, which seemed like half the city. The tube entrances and exits were blocked with the crush of people pushing in and out of this massive, famous store. I hoped to buy something in the famous food court, with one large room dedicated to the finest chocolates in the world, but gave up trying. It was simply too crowded for me. If one could barely get in and out on December 1st, what is it like on Christmas Eve? God help anyone who ventures forth to find out.