Culture – high and low

Sail surfers

My first weekend out of London went to Margate to take part in RailsCamp UK; a 4 day unconference, with about 50 guys, geeking with Ruby and Rails, no internet connection, barcamp-style sessions and copious amounts of Guitar Hero and other types of video games.

Beers are out the game is on

First of all it was great to get out of the big city and to the sea. I grew up close to the sea and that is one thing that is nowhere close when you live in Prague. The RailsCamp took place in an old hostel close to the beach so we went for a couple of walks to get blown out with fresh sea air after sitting couped up in a smelly room for too long. Margate where it took place is somewhat of a has-been resort town. In the past centuries it was the place to go for Londoners when they wanted a beach. But these days where a flight to Spain is cheaper than the bus to Margate the place is in somewhat of a decline. This made it an interesting place to go and take pictures of the shut down amusement park Dreamland.

Dreamland

After four days of geeking I returned to London and joined Ann and a group of her Maltese friends for a visit to the Les Miserables musical. One of Ann’s friend’s cousin was in the play so we got some of the best seats in the house 🙂 The musical has been running in London for 24 years now and I can surely see why. It’s a great production with a lot of nice scenes and songs.

Theatreland
Photo by Julie Broadfoot

We met the cousin after the show for a while and it was interesting to hear him talk about it. He also has a cool blog where he writes about his experience like when blind people come to get a Touch-Tour of the set.

The “low” point in culture this past week was actually really amazing. On Ian Visits, another London blog, I had read about the chance to see the Kingsway Tramway Subway tunnel which was decommissioned in 1952 and generally not open to the public. Now an artist had been allowed to use it for a huge art installation called Chord and we went to see it. The installation is two big machines with a number of roles of string turning and moving away from each other to create a bigger rope. The tunnel itself was not as interesting to me as I thought but I really liked admiring the huge machines slowly turning.

Chord
Photo by Ian Visits. Also see the rest of his set.

Saturday we went to the British National Gallery where Ann attended a class in Styles in Painting and I did the guided tour. The guide only showed us 5 pieces in an hour but really gave us a good introduction to the museum and their collection and I would definitely have to come back and see more some other time, they have a very impressive collection.

Today we went to the new multi-venue King’s Place where The Guardian was hosting a literary festival. We went to a talk by Dan Cruickshank about the seedy economy of 18th century, Gregorian London which he had written a book about. An interesting topic but the author was a bit all over the place.

Mr Cruickshank talking about the seedy London of the 18th century

Phew, that was it for now. I’m still amazed at how much London have to offer and even for low-budgeters like us there is more than plenty to do 🙂

Spring Break Road Trip: Republic of Texas

Skrevet torsdag den 2. marts

I dag (torsdag) tog jeg på Texas historiske museum og det var meget spændende.
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Den amerikanske historie har altid interesseret mig og tilbage i gymnasiet skrev jeg 2. årsopgave i historie om den amerikanske borgerkrig. Jeg har ikke læst historieopgaven siden jeg afleverede den, men fandt den på min harddisk, så her er den Optakten til den amerikanske borgerkrig (Word dokument). Den er skrevet tilbage i december 1997 og jeg var lige så dårlig til at sætte komma, som jeg er i dag.
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Hvis jeg kort skal prøve at fortælle Texas historie er der fra 1690 en tyndtbefolket spansk provins med navnet Teja og befolkningen er hovedsaglige Tejanos (folk af blandet indiansk/spansk herkomst). I starten af 1800-tallet kommer der mange angloamerikanske indvandrer fra det øvrige USA og Europa. For at blive indbygger skulle, man sværge tro mod Mexico og bekende sig til den katolske tro hvilket tilflytterne også gjorde.
Internt i Mexico er der uroligheder op igennem 1800-tallet og folk i Tejas får ikke den beskyttelse fra staten, og møder stadig strengere indvandringslove. Folk laver deres egne beskyttelsesværn (Bl.a. Texas Rangers blev dannet) og i vinteren 1836 starter en uafhængighedskrig mellem en utrænet texansk militia og en veltrænet mexicansk hær.
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Den texanske identitet som The Lonestar State bliver grundlagt her og det er i uafhængighedskrigen at heltemyterne omkring Austin, Houston, David Crockett bliver skabt og dyrkes til den dag i dag.
Slaget ved Alamo, deres svar på Slaget ved Dybbøl, er historien om en gruppe mennesker som kæmper til den bitre ende for det de tror på de taber slaget, men myten er med til at samle folk om en fælles sag (Remember the Alamo – bliver slagordet). Hollywoods udgaven af slaget er spændende og god underholdning, men jeg ved ikke hvor historisk korrekt fortællingen er. Senere lykkedes det texanerne at overløbe mexicanerne i slaget ved San Jacinto.
Texas får sin uafhængighed i 1836 og prøver herefter at blive optaget i USA, men det tager flere forsøg før det i 1845 lykkedes.
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Den dag i dag har Texas en meget unik identitet og man ser flaget og stjernen overalt i Texas.
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Nok om maskuline helte og krig og tilbage til kollektivisme og en anden slags helte. Om eftermiddagen tog vi ud til Yellow Bike Project, som er en forening der indsamler cykler sætter dem i stand og giver dem til skoler og folk i området der ikke har råd til at købe en cykel.
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Lokalerne har de fået stillet til rådighed af kommunen og alt arbejdet var frivilligt, men stadig havde de en enorm mængde af cykler og reservedele.
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Inden aftensmad tog vi til Mt. Bonnell udenfor byen og så solnedgangen over Colorado River.
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Austin kalder sig også Live Music Capitol Of The World og det er ikke helt uden grund. Der er en overflod af steder at se god livemusik I byen og selvom jeg ikke har fået udnyttet det særlig godt fik jeg dog set lidt denne aften på et par steder I 6th street.
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