Monday, October 30, 2006

More Midnighter Stuff

The DC Comics/Wildstorm website has a few cool little things they're using to quasi-promote the release of Midnighter #1 this week(tomorrow, to be precise):

click HERE to be taken to a page of DC/Wildstorm downloads where you can find some Midnighter wallpaper for your computer

click HERE to go to the DC Comics/Wildstorm front page where you can see a goofy little animated Midnighter ad(reminiscent of those awful old Marvel Comics cartoons--or of Minoriteam on Adult Swim for those of you not old enough to remember what I'm talking about). It'll probably be gone in a week, so see it while you can!

Click on this image to see a larger version (or just follow that first link above)

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Take them to...Detroit!!!

On Sunday the 15th Chris and I drove up for the day to the Rock Financial Showplace to look around the fall Motor City Comicon in Novi, Michigan which is just outside of Detroit. Chris has been a guest in years past, but recently we have just been driving up for the day as fans.

This October show is a lot smaller than the show they have in May, but this one was really fun for us. What got us up there initially was the fact that Michael Golden would be there, and maybe doing sketches. He was, but since we arrived around 2pm on the last day, he was not finished by the time the show ended, so he will be mailing it to us. Watch this space-Chris will post it when it arrives.

We didn't purchase much besides the Golden sketch and a bunch of trading card sets. We never go with much cash, because if we take it, we'll spend it. So by time we got around to talking to Lori Petty (pictured with me here) we had no cash left to buy one of her photos. But she was still very fun and talked to us. When I told her how ironic it was that I had just spent my last bit of cash on Tank Girl trading cards, she said "You have Tank Girl trading cards? Shut the f*** up, let me see!"

When I showed her the cards, she said "Do me a favor-go back to where you got these and see if the guy has another set!" So I go back and get the usual story when you want something but the dealer doesn't have it, which is "I have a ton back at my store which I didn't bring!" So I got his contact info and went back to talk to Lori Petty.

I told her that the dealer had no other sets of cards, but I would email him and get more and she could have the set I bought, if she would let me get my photo taken with her. She said "Absolutely, and pick out any photo you want and I will sign it!" So we posed for photos, I picked out a cool press photo of her and Naomi Watts from Tank Girl, and she was just about as nice and fun a celeb as you could hope to meet. I gave her my set of cards, and she starts going into her cash collection from the con, saying "Here, let me give you your $10 for the cards!"

I told her that I would be the worlds biggest b***h if I took money from Tank Girl for Tank Girl trading cards. She laughed, and we talked some more about upcoming cons, then we had to scat because the con was closing, but she was great. If you ever get a chance to meet Lori Petty, take it.

This weekend the 21st and 22 we spent at the Drexel's Horror Marathon, and we ran into Joe Corroney, another comic artist who lives in Columbus. He had also been at Detroit, and said that while in the hotel lobby trying to get the wi-fi connection to work, he ran into Lori Petty who was also having wi-fi issues, and they started talking. She mentioned to him that Motor City was the first convention at which she had ever attended as a guest. I hope she had as much fun as she seemed like she was.

Lori Petty rules. Go rent Tank Girl, A League of Their Own, and Cadillac Man.

The Marathon was your typical marathon, but was only 14 hours instead of the usual 24 that the Sci-Fi marathons are. We had a good time, and I actually stayed awake for the movie I went there to see, which never happens! Usually, I see the opening and end credits of the movie I specifically go to see, but I was awake for all of Black Christmas, which I had never seen. I can see why it is such an influential cult horror classic. The cast is good (even if the dialogue is a little odd at times) and the set is very eerie. And the final 10 minutes were very, very creepy. I didn't expect to be scared by it, but I was, actually. And I was also amazed that I actually enjoyed From Dusk 'Til Dawn. I had never seen it before.

I'm still tired, though.

Saturday, October 21, 2006


It's been a while since we posted a cat photo... Here's our little girl--seven months old this week-- enjoying a lazy Saturday afternoon watching the falling leaves in the front yard.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Midnighter #4

Here's the pencil art for the cover of Midnighter #4, hot off the drafting table!

Monday, October 02, 2006

London, Part 6

Today was bittersweet. We were sad to see the vacation end and leave London, but being sick we were pretty anxious to get back home to our own bed and bathroom. We also wanted to see how Jess-Belle was doing after so much time away from us so soon after her surgeries. She was, by the way, completely healed and happy to see us when we got home, jumping and running around, back to being the same old Jess-Belle.

Our first plan for Saturday was to head back to the Tottenham Court Road tube station to take more photos of the interior, as it was the setting where David kills the businessman in An American Werewolf in London. Interesting side note-apparently the actor who plays the doomed businessman is the same guy who plays Bib Fortuna in Return of the Jedi. Anyway, that plan was thwarted because that station is on the Central line, which was closed for the weekend. The posters all over the Underground warned us that closures, especially on weekends, could affect our journey. We should have heeded that warning. So we have no photos of the interior walls, which have very Aztec-y mosaic work on the walls.

This also meant mapping out a different route to the British Museum, which was our second plan. I forget which line we took, but it was easy since there are maps all over the place in the Underground. London, as I said before, is very well labeled, unless you are looking for a street sign. And the Underground is so great. I miss it.

We got off at the Russell Square, which is not surprisingly, a square. It is a little park with a nice pond and really aggressive squirrels and birds. I think somewhere in her carpet bag Mary Poppins has another snowglobe of Russell Square-the birds and squirrels have been very spoiled by some of the old ladies who spend time there.

The British Museum was very busy, but not so bad that you felt like a sardine. It is an odd place, as there is nothing British in it, just spoils from the conquests of the British Empire. There weren't even that many British people there-it was mainly us and about 20 different Asian tour groups. Being a Saturday, there weren't any field trips so all of the tours were adults. A nice feature, I must say. We saw (and photographed, obviously) the Rosetta stone, and one of the smaller heads from Easter Island, as well as pretty much everything that used to be on the Parthenon. That really struck Chris, as he could recall visiting the Parthenon when his family was making the trip back to the US from India, and he remembered thinking how bare and empty the ruins looked. Even to him as a small boy, that seemed odd. Now he knows why-it was all shipped to England and installed in the British Museum.

Everything was really neat to look at, certainly. The mummies were fascinating, and the stone sculptures from Egypt, Greece, and Rome were amazing. But we found it interesting that the people who brought these items back had enough of a sense of history to know that these items should be preserved, but did not consider the idea of not only preserving the items but the locations as well. There were no conservation efforts in the countries of origin, as if they could not see the forest for the trees. Perhaps a sense of nationalism was the other motivating factor, and the thought was wow, we really need to keep these things we found nice so everyone can see all we have accomplished in our explorations.

The middle of the building is this domed rotunda called the Great Court. The room in the middle is a huge library, which was incredible. Filled to the top with books on everything. I'm such a nerd-I adore libraries!

We were able to make 2 more additions to our floaty pen collection at the gift shop, which was cool, as we hadn't seen many of them elsewhere. Also, I did not see a lot of Pez in England, even in the sweet shops. All I could find were the same things I can get here. After the museum, we headed back to Bayswater and had another pub dinner at the Kings Head Pub. I could not resist getting fish and chips again, and I was not disappointed. Each time the filets had the skin still on one side, which actually added a lot of flavor. I also tried Strongbow cider for the first time. Quite nice.

We then stopped at the Whitely shopping center for one last trip to the HMV. I had decided that even though it was 13 pounds and I could most likely find it cheaper at home, I really did in fact want to buy the new Iron Maiden record. Part of me wanted to listen to it on the plane, and part of me wanted some British metal that was actually from England. I suppose I'm not completely over the whole wanting to own something from somewhere cool thing. It is pretty good-it has some shades of prog, actually. Better than Dance of Death, but it's no Powerslave.

We also stopped in the Marks and Spencer for more orange sparkling water and some pastry. I ate this really yummy and flaky praline twisty thing. We then went back to the hotel to put all of our new records on our iPods for the trip home, and to try and sleep a bit before our 4:45 am departure to Heathrow.

We did get a few hours nap time, and around 4 were ready in time to have a breakfast of tea biscuits, Pot Noodle, and everything else we had not yet finished from all of our grocery trips. We checked out of the hotel, (our incidental charges only came to 28p, since we remembered to return the internet cable) said goodbye to our tour director Peter (GoAhead vacations made all of our travel arrangements, then set us free in city-the perfect "tour") who was great to us the couple of times actually crossed paths with him, then headed for the airport with 2 women from Oregon who had also been part of our tour. We then stood in line from about 5 to 7:30 trying to check in for our tickets for our flight, which was overbooked. We made it, though.

Our flight home was a little longer than our flight there, since we left from Dulles in D.C. but returned to O'Hare in Chicago, but there was a lot less turbulence on the way back. And it was daytime, so we saw more of the ocean. Breakfast was not so great (do NOT eat the sausage links on an airplane) but the lunchtime snack was this really nice ham sandwich on pretzel bread. As I was in full on cold mode, I took a Tylenol PM to thwart the inevitable pressure headache (I was unable to bring peppermint oil in my carry-on because of the no liquids thing) so I slept for about 5 of the 7 hours, waking up in time to see the end of X-Men:The Last Stand and to see Lake Michigan.

Our 2 hour layover in Chicago was just enough time get through customs and immigration and still make our flight. But even if we had missed it, we were just in Chicago, so we could have driven home had that been our only option. We were so anxious to get home and shower and see the kitty. We caught a fast wind on the way to Columbus, so that flight was only about 40 minutes. My parents picked us up, and my Mom who had been cat-sitting (along with our gems of next door neighbors Michelle and Nate) had bought us prepared food so we didn't have to cook when we got there. That was a very thoughtful surprise, as we were so sick, so tired, and so filthy-all we wanted to do was take a shower and lie down in our bed and feel clean. After being in that small hotel room, our apartment looked huge! And as always, I was really glad we cleaned before we left. Coming home from vacation to a messy house is such a letdown.

And such was our trip to England. Aside from the colds, it was a blast. Like all vacations there were things we loved and will miss dearly (the cool record stores, the Thames walk, the Underground, Tesco microwaveables, Magnums, cheese and onion crisps), things that we were glad to leave behind (the understaffing at Heathrow, diesel, an almost complete lack of air conditioning, roundabouts), and things that were so different they weren't good or bad, just part of the experience (constant late night porn and gameshows on television, a large variety of coin denominations, mushy peas). Like most large cities I visit, I would love to return for a visit but would not want to live there. I don't think I could ever afford to enjoy it on a constant basis. But I would jump at the chance to return, and recommend it to everyone as a vacation destination. Get some good shoes, a good tube map, an Oyster card as your pass to ride the Underground, and 123 GO!

We came home to a healthy kitty, a clean house, and our 4th wedding anniversary. This made coming home as nice as it could be. And now that we are home, please feel free to smack us if we start to say things like lift, fortnight, mobile, or anything else Anglo-phile poser-like that does not involve describing the trip. Thanks for reading!

From top:
1) The Great Court of the British Museum
2) The Rosetta stone
3) An Easter Island head--er--torso
4) One of the many massive Egyptian pieces that had me in awe
5) The King's Head pub in Bayswater on our final night in London
London, Part 5

Today was a short if not very fun day. Since we both were sick, we stayed in bed until like 1 in the afternoon. We really needed it, since living in the midwest we don't walk enough, and our colds really kicked us in the ass. I still have mine, dammit. But since we had set aside a lot more time than we actually used for shopping, we were able to see more than we had planned in the days prior so getting a late start was no real tragedy. It was actually necessary-like I said, ass-kicking colds.

Our hotel was very near Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park, which are adjacent. London has such beautiful parks and gardens. We walked to the other side of the park and came upon another very gaudy statue, this one of Prince Albert. And across from his statue was the Royal Albert Hall. It was quite neat, but nothing was going on at the time so we didn't go inside. There were no posted facts about how many holes fill it, so that is still a mystery. That's me in the photo below, outside of the Royal Albert Hall trying to keep the evil "Keep Left" sign at bay. I think every American nerd's first trip to London is full of Monty Python references. As geeky as that is, I'd rather listen to bad Python jokes and references than listen to one more person sing the Spam song.

After we saw the Hall, we walked to Harrods. My goodness, Harrods-what an experience. Imagine what you remember from your childhood about being taken to that one upscale department store. The one where your mom bought you that special occasion dress or where your cool aunt took you for lunch during a trip into the big city. Imagine that feeling, and multiply it by like a thousand. It is huge, and has everything. I think half of the first floor just sells Harrods trinkets and souvenir bags and bears. They have a food floor that not only has tea and chocolates like all department stores, but a huge deli, cheese shop, sushi bar, meats and fish, and just about everything else you can think of, from small bottles of sparkling water (Harrods brand, of course) to prepared samosas. Their displays are more than eye catching, and their toy department is nothing short of fantastical. It is quite a place. A little gaudy, but it works for Harrods. You will pay for the experience. Lunch at the Bar Fromage (macaroni cheese, a ham and gruyere sandwich, lemonade and sparkling water) was 35 pounds, and to get a gift in a Harrods gift box starts at 3 pounds based on size. But, we ate at Harrods. And this was a vacation after all.

After Harrods, we took the tube to the Aldgate station to meet up with Paul, our tour guide for a walking tour of Whitechapel. The tour started at 7pm, so it was not so late that we were walking on deserted streets, but dark enough for the spook factor. He was quite the sarcastic jerk, so he was of course, fantastic. He was very funny and gave us not only facts about Jack the Ripper, but historical info about the area and the time period. While a lot of the murder sites are no longer the original facades (the murder site of final victim Mary Kelley is now a parking garage) there were some original buildings and alleyways. The Ten Bells pub where the victims drank still stands next to Christ Church, which is what puts the white chapel in Whitechapel. I will say as guided tours go, this one was great. Everyone just met at the tube station at the advertised time, and everyone kept up the pace. We did find it rather ironic that Paul made terrible fun of the movie From Hell, but then presented what he considered to be the most plausible theory of who Jack the Ripper was and why he killed those specific women-the exact theory from the book, From Hell. Not that the movie was at all faithful to the book (or a particulary good movie for that matter), but we still found it spitefully amusing. Especially considering he didn't even mention the book. Maybe there are some people out there who don't read everything Alan Moore writes. Just with Chris' job, we don't meet many of those people.

The tour ended a few minutes after 9, and as usual we took the tube back to the hotel on the Circle line. The Circle line trains were never all that crowded. I just assumed that this was because the Circle line is a lot like 270-just a circle that never really goes anywhere except towards where you really want to go. It could be this, or it could be that were were never on it during the major rush hours. Either way, at half past nine on a Friday our train was empty except for the two of us, so we were able to set the timer on the camera and snap that smooching photo. I think we were alone on the train the entire ride.

Dinner that night was more British Cheese selection and crackers. Really good idea for people with colds, huh? Again, vacation. I think I also ate like 4 bags of crisps, including prawn cocktail flavored. Not bad, actually. More cocktail sauce than prawn flavor, actually. We also tried to get as much packing done as possible, so our last day could be all fun and no frantic suitcase stuffing.

From top:
1) Stop! The sketch is getting silly!
2) Harrods, the emporium of excess
3) Check out the stained-glass ceiling!
4) Christ Church in Whitechapel--ooh--pretty scary, eh, kids?
5) Aww...maybe this was my favorite part of the trip...
London, Part 4

Today was our excursion to the country-A trip to Oxford, then onto Stratford-upon-Avon by way of the Cottswolds. We met the tour group at Victoria station, waited too long for I'm still not sure what, then boarded a bus and we were on our way.

As it is all over the world, the countryside is a much different atmosphere than the city. But the English countryside was very lovely. It is very green (well it was this time of year) and it really is rolling-it is very hilly. It is similar to the American countryside, with quaint farmhouses on large farms with lots of livestock, but while here you see cows, the English countryside is full of sheep. And the farmhouses are much older in some places. You really get a deeper sense of history there than here in the States. In America, the country seems more like what you read about in novels of childhood or the dust bowl days, but it always seems very 20th century. In England, the country feels positively medieval. All the beauty and none of the plague-it's just fabulous.

Our first stop was Oxford, and just being on the campus makes you feel smart and learned. It is very gothic and a bit imposing-I'm sure it can be quite a fright for the average freshman. It also gives off an incredible sense of history. It has many beautiful libraries, and there is a rule of absolute silence when you are there. Something I truly miss about American libraries, or should I say American free-video-store-and-bratty-kid-dropoffs. Sorry, that is a rant for another blog.

I did get the impression that it could be frustrating to go be a student at Oxford. Imagine running to class or pounding the hell out of your bicycle pedals to get to an exam and you get blocked by tourists on a guided tour. We saw about 8 other tours walking through the campus while we were there. I used to get annoyed by high schoolers touring for a college visit-imagine having to get around people who can't see you for the camera glued to their eye.

Strangely, even Oxford has stupid college crap you can buy. Mugs, hats, sweatshirts that say Oxford XXL...this surprised me. I'm sure it was all for the tourists, but still, it struck me as odd. We thought about buying an Oxford dictionary from one of the Oxford school bookstores, but the idea of carrying it back was more unappealing than the idea of owning such a thing. I'm over the thrill of owning something just because it was purchased someplace cool.

We then boarded our bus and drove to Stratford-upon-Avon. We passed through several small villages and saw some beautiful thatch roof cottages (Trogdor was nowhere to be found, sadly). Stratford is, of course, right on the Avon river, and is just lovely. It is a cute little small town that just happens to have a major tourist destination like the birthplace of Shakespeare. It was a neat place, just a cottage (it is pictured below) but very neat inside. Only outdoor photos were allowed, sadly. But being the theatre geek that I am it was nice to see. I would have liked to check out the Royal Shakespeare Company, but there was not a current production and it was not on the tour.

I learned something about people when we were touring Shakespeare's home-kids on field trips are bratty little hellions, no matter where you happen to be in the world. They run around when they are supposed to be with the group, they shuffle their feet and don't look where they are going, they talk out of turn, and they hate everything-it's all stupid to them. I just wanted to hug some of the teachers and tell them it would all be over soon. I so hate bratty jaded children!

The town itself is full of small shops and businesses with Shakespeare-inspired names. There is the Food of Love cafe, Iago Jewelers, and Much Ado About Toys to name a few. We ate lunch at a little cafe called Munchies for Lunches, where we ate some of the best sandwiches of our lives! Chris had a warm bacon, chicken and cheese sandwich on a baguette, and I had warm cheese and onion on baguette and a bag of roast chicken crisps. Double yum. I could easily get addicted to grilled cheese and onion sandwiches. On our way back to the bus I stopped at a sweet shop and got a bag of jelly babies, another English addiction of mine.

We then drove to the village of Shottery to see the home of Anne Hathaway. Her family home was sold to the Shakespeare's Birthplace Trust in 1911 and is now a museum, just like Shakespeare's home. Apparently, her family was quite wealthy, which was good because there was a 40 pound fee that needed to be paid in order for the 26 year old Anne to be wed to the only 18 year old William. And out in the country centuries ago, that was quite the chunk of change.

Her family home was beautiful. A gorgeous thatch roof cottage surrounded by tranquil gardens and an apple orchard. You could almost hear Beethoven's 6th playing through the clouds as the setting was pastoral defined. The Shakespeare's Birthplace Trust built a little hut with a bench inside, and you can sit in there and listen to recordings of readings of Shakepeare's love sonnets. That's me in the hut in the photo below. That bright orange thing on me was a sticker given by the tour to indicate that I had paid for the scrumpey tea portion of the tour, which included cider and cheese tarts, a traditional tea menu from the time period. Quite good, but on a stomach full of cheese and onion sandwich, I think it was wasted on me.

The drive back to London was on the freeway, which was a lot like...driving on the freeway. Some things are universal. But it did take us on a little impromptu music roots tour, as we drove past White City, Acton and Ealing, all of which figure into the musical legacy of Pete Townshend and The Who, as well as Swindon, the hometown of band members from both XTC and Supertramp. We didn't find ourselves, although we were on our way back home.

We'll admit it, we like Supertramp.

One thing I realized about myself while taking this guided tour is that I have a love/hate relationship with guided tours. A guided tour is great because you have a guide that handles all the money, tells you lots of neat facts about where you are, and you have a driver so you don't have to deal with driving or worse, parking. But then on the flip side, a guided tour can be hell because you always want to stay longer at the places you visit for a short time and vice versa. You also have to deal with the other people on the tour, and there is always someone who didn't listen and then gets lost or forgets when we leave or something stupid like that, or isn't listening and gets the facts wrong and sounds like an idiot recounting the day on the busride back. And of course, there is always someone who has to pee at the worst possible time.

The tour was able to drop us off 2 tube stations away from our hotel, and again, we were tired and really not in the mood for people, so it was another night of Tesco microwaveables in the room. Nothing fancy, but I swear it was the best microwaveable macaroni cheese I've ever eaten. Let me tell you, the Tesco does good work. We also had some crackers and a pre-sliced selection of British cheeses, as the label said. Cheddar (yum), Red Leicester (yum yum), double Gloucester with onion and chives (mega-omni yum), British brie (quite good), and Stilton. Not a big fan of Stilton by itself. It is better in salad.

By this night our colds that were hinting around the night before were in full gear. Along with the food from the Tesco I bought a box of Kleenex, and they were half gone by morning. Chris also was nursing some pretty bad blisters on his feet. He was able to get some foot pads at the Boots on the corner, but finding scissors to cut them to size was an oddly difficult task. We had to go to the office supply store down the street (Ryman Stationers) and when we found them they were under lock and key and an employee needed to unlock them for us. I was surprised that we couldn't find any non-first aid scissors at the Boots. Granted, it is a drugstore, but it sells wrapping paper! If you can buy wrapping paper, you should be able to buy tape and scissors. If anyone knows where Boots keeps scissors, let me know.

I suppose that is unfair. You can't buy scissors and tape at Hallmark, and they have wrapping paper. I guess when you have a bad cold and a blistered husband, you just want everything you need to be right in front of you.

From top:
1) Oxford
2) Stratford-upon-Avon--this is the Avon, with the Royal Shakespeare Company just to the right of center in the background
3) Shakespeare's Birthplace
4) Xan listening to sonnets, with tent for scrumpy tea in background
London, Part 3

Hey kids-Big Ben, Parliament!

These photos are from Wednesday, our most touristy day yet. Again, we took our time getting out of bed, but that was fine because that morning was quite rainy. And besides, this was a vacation, not a field trip. We had decided Tuesday night to ride the London Eye today, but we wanted to do that at night anyway, so we spent the day soaking up London history and politics.

Since the Eye is on the opposite side of Westminster Bridge from Big Ben, Parliament (this joke never gets old for me!) we decided to check them out before riding the Eye. To get there you take the tube to the Westminster station, which is very huge and futuristic-like taking a train into a Fritz Lang universe. After coming up the stairs back onto the street, we stupidly asked each other, "So where is Big Ben?" Let me tell you, Big Ben is no misnomer-it is huge! You think, hmm, where is it, then you crane your neck as far back as it can go and realize that you are under it. It and the Houses of Parliament have fantastic architecture, and look very pretty on the water, especially at night. I think it is always good to dress up your government.

Westminster Bridge, as we found out later, is the bridge that Cillian Murphy walks across with his collection of Pepsi as he searches for signs of life after leaving the hospital where he had been comatose in 28 Days Later. I keep meaning to look up if the hospital was St. Thomas Hospital which is right there, but I keep forgetting.

After making several European Vacation jokes, we walked around the corner to St. Margaret's Church and Westminster Abbey. The Abbey was so beautiful-again, from the outside-10 pounds apiece to get in!! It is ginormous as well. Chris had to back up like 500 feet to get a photo of me and the Abbey. We decided to skip 10 Downing Street, as this was right after Mrs. Blair made that nasty comment about the new Labour Party candidate, so we made our way through St. James Park towards Buckingham Palace.

St. James park was beautiful. Very tranquil, and lots of very large birds. It was approaching dusk while we walked, so it was cool and breezy and just wonderful. Once we got to the Palace, we nearly, (well, I nearly-Chris was smart enough to use a sidewalk) were mowed down by a taxi while trying to cross the street at the roundabout. These things are crazy-British drivers are very aggressive, and I think it is mainly because of the roundabout. Driving on the left and having to merge all the way to your right to get out of it when there are like 5 rings of traffic is no easy task.

Not much was going on at the Palace-no changing of the guard, no queen coming out in her coach, just us and other tourists taking photos of it and the very large (and a bit gaudy in my opinion) statue of Queen Victoria across from it. We tried and tried to take our photo in front of the Palace gates, but they all came out blurry. Oh well, we know we were there.

After Buckingham, we walked along the opposite side of the park back to the Westminster Bridge to get to the Eye. The London Eye is right on the bank of the Thames and is near the London Aquarium and the Dali Universe, as well as Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum, so there was a lot of activity, but we only spent about 30 minutes in line to get tickets and board. By the time we got in line to board, it was nighttime, and the city was all lit up and beautiful. And since the line was fairly short, we rode in a pod with only 3 other people, so we had plenty of room to look around at all angles.

The London Eye is absolutely amazing. It was my favorite part of the trip. It really is just a giant Ferris wheel built by British Airways (when you get in there is a pre-recorded announcement that says "Thank you for flying British Airways London Eye"-hilarious!), but each pod is totally enclosed, and the glass even curves down at the bottom of the pod so you can see below you. The pods can hold up to 25 people, but our small crew was much nicer. And if you start to get a little vertigo-y (a likely scenario as it's highest point is 135m) there is a wooden bench in the middle. The nighttime photo below of Big Ben, Parliament (Chevy, you rule!) was taken when our pod was at the topmost point of the wheel. It was beautiful, if not a bit scary, as Chris' expression illustrates so well in the photo of him in the pod. I took really slow steps to the edge of the pod, then held on quite tightly to the handrail, but I was fine, I think because we were completely enclosed. You can't really see my white knuckles in the photo!

The ride takes about 30 minutes, and it is just wonderful-I highly recommend it. And even though there were other people with us, it was still romantic for Chris and I. We got to kiss each other on top of London, which I think is pretty damn cool.

As exhilarating as the ride was, we were pretty tired by the end of the night and we needed to get up at around 6am the next morning for our trip to the country. We stopped at the Tesco to find something we could eat in the room, and their pre-made microwave meals were quite good. Chris had a chicken tikka masala, and I had a yummy Cumberland pie. I also ate an entire box of white chocolate Magnums-oh my. In my defense, there were only 3 in the box (and Chris did eat one) but they are huge, and oh so dreamy. Vanilla bean ice cream covered in white chocolate. I really hope I can find them here somewhere. I miss them already.

I think we fell asleep watching Wire in the Blood, which oddly enough we had already seen back home. Go figure-one of the few times we were able to catch British TV, it was a rerun.

Oh, and that photo below? Big Ben, Parliament!

From top:
1) Ahem...
2) Buckingham Palace
3) The London Eye
4) Xan aboard the London Eye at the start of our ascent
5) You-know-what, from the top of the Eye
6) Me on the Eye, somewhere near the top, overlooking Victoria Station

London, Part 2

These are photos from Tuesday, our second full day in London. We were remarkably jetlagged (well, at least I was) so we weren't leaving the hotel until at least noon most days, and Tuesday was no exception. Yet suprisingly, we were still able to get a lot done.

This was our first really touristy day. We didn't take any guided tours or anything, but we did see a lot of famous and historic places. Our first stop was Piccadilly Circus, which was a lot smaller than I had expected based on what I had seen in the movies. That's me along with a million other tourists (you don't see a lot of British people in certain areas-I suppose you don't see a lot of New Yorkers in the gift shop of the Empire State Building, either) sitting on the steps by the statue of Eros.

You can't see it in the photo, but off to the left (my right) at 1 Piccadilly is a huge flagship Virgin Megastore. Oh, how I miss it. Ours in Columbus was taken over by a Crate and Barrel-whatever. Anyway, we found some good only-get-it-in-England stuff, like the Kirsty MacColl video collection DVD. And off to the right (my left) and down the street being blocked by the City of Westminster truck is the Trocadero mall, which not only has a great sweet shop and arcade (with games like those casino games at Dave and Busters but you use tuppence instead of tokens) but also had a stocked to the gills HMV record store. I got the Simple Minds Silver Box set-woo hoo!

The blue bag I am holding is from the chocolate counter of Fortnum and Mason, 81 Piccadilly. We just had to come here and see the inspiration for the names of everyone's favorite geek twins Fortnum and Mason Funt from the Tom Strong universe! That's Chris gazing up at the sign, possibly thinking "Those little Funt brats don't deserve to be named after a store this wonderful!" Actually, he probably wasn't thinking that, but I sure was! I swear I'd punch those kids if I met them for real. Anyway, Funts aside, Fortnum and Mason is a very classic department store, with classic designs and fun foods. All kinds of confectionery, fruits, condiments and teas. They sell a fabulous champagne and white chocolate truffle.

We assumed we would spend countless hours shopping, but we really only spent about 3, so we decided to take the tube to the Tower of London and just see what we could see while we still had sunlight. Again, we didn't pay admission to tour the inside, but we saw the outside and took our own photo in front of the Tower Bridge. That's one of the better attempts at self photography below. Not the original, of course, as the original is in Arizona for some reason. We then decided to take a walk along the Thames path, and just see how far we could get.

We walked for a while-I wasn't really measuring-and then we started seeing signs for St. Paul's Cathedral. When I saw that I said "Oh, sweetie, we have to go there and feed some pigeons!" So we followed the path (being such a huge and historic city, London does a really good job of keeping points of interest well marked-very nice for the traveler) until we got to the Millennium Bridge which was a very neat yet scary structure-I am afraid of bridges. Hang a right from the bridge from the Thames path and you will go right to the Cathedral. It is amazing. Huge and gothic, but expensive to get in without attending a service so we just stuck to the outside steps. That's me on the steps of the Cathedral with alas, no pigeons to feed. But that was okay, because I had no tuppence anyway. And it is probably for the best, since as the photo below clearly illustrates, London is home to some fat freakin' pigeons! The must have been well fed by all of the Mary Poppins fans who visited before me.

As we walked along the Thames, we could see in the distance the London Eye, and we thought it looked like fun so we decided to go check it out. But the London Eye is really big, and it looks closer than it really is, so we decided to save that for another day as it was already dusk by the time we left the Cathedral. After a quick stop into Marks and Spencer for a drink (Florida orange sparkling water-yum!) we hopped back on the tube and went back to the hotel.

By the end of the night we were tired and our feet hurt, so we bought Indian takeaway from the Curry Palace in Bayswater and headed back for the hotel. Our super cool hotel provided our room with a DVD player, so we watched the Brian Blessed commentary on the Flash Gordon DVD we bought at Virgin. Hilarious-you've never heard a man so proud of his bare legs!

All of the other nights we had just watched TV at the end of the day, and we were shocked by the amount of American programs we saw. A lot of it was good sci fi like Star Trek and the Logan's Run TV show, but some of it was just really bad. It struck me as odd, since geeks here in America have always placed British television (specifically comedy like Monty Python and sci fi like Dr. Who) in a higher echelon than American shows, but the TV we send over there are shows like Ally McBeal and Everybody Loves Raymond. Not a fair trade, in my opinion.

From top:
1) Holy socks--loyal Tom Strong readers should recognize the name of this department store
2) Xan at Piccadilly Circus on yet another beautiful sunny day in London
3) Fat Picadilly pigeons
4) My favorite part of the trip--a walk along the Thames, with stops at the Tower of London, the Tower Bridge, London Bridge, and St. Paul's Cathedral
5) Xan on the steps of St. Paul's, trying to recreate a scene from Mary Poppins--the local pigeons weren't cooperating on this afternoon (I swear this is my last Mary Poppins reference)