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Rule Britannia

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Over the course of the last, oh…month (yeah, sometimes I am a big blog-neglector), much has happened. But today, I realized that it was Wednesday, so we’re reaching into the themed days-of-the-week post bag o’ tricks and pulling out… Where in the World Wednesday! We got back from London about a week and a half ago, and while all the pictures have been dutifully uploaded to Flickr (as well as a smaller set to a Facebook album by GP– I’m on the “pretty annoyed” side of Facebook use right now, but that is another post), I want to share a little sampling of my favorites. Good thing I noticed it was Wednesday, right?

While we were in London, we stayed with friends (who are doing various academic things in and around London– one is a postdoc and one is pursuing a couple masters degrees) on the east side of town, which was really fun and interesting because it felt much more neighborhood-y than my previous stays near Russell Square, the West End, and Kensington. One of my favorite ways of experiencing any country is through food (surprise!), and this was no different. When in London, we had this breakfast a total of three (maybe four?) times:

Full fry-up at Gardiner's

What’s not to love? An egg with a yolk begging to be destroyed by perfectly crispy toast, beans for piling atop the remainder of toast, and proper back bacon (an important component of the bacon-egg sandwich that I would opt for the next couple times we visited this cafe). The sausage, I will admit, is not my favorite– I think there’s more bread/bread-like sausage filling in their sausages, so the texture was weird. But the tea! Ohhh, the tea. I floated away on a sea of tea when we were in England.

With so many museums that were admission-free (don’t worry, we always put a little into the “suggested donation” banks), I couldn’t resist dragging GP to a couple. On our first day, we hit the V&A, where he got into a staring contest with this enormous dog sculpture:

Staring contest

the British Museum, and the Tate Modern, where I became art in a fricking mirror that was mounted on the wall:

A mirror

Until finally GP had had his fill of art. Note the disdain for what is essentially a solidly-colored panel (what can I say, the dude’s not a Rothko fan, either):

Greg is unimpressed

Our friends kindly showed us around their part of town, which is home to some delicious salt beef (seriously, how did I not know about salt beef before? It is miraculous), adorable mini cupcakes (plum and lavender-flavored frosting) with a Chez Panisse connection,

Minis from Violet

and an urban farm complete with some immense ginger pigs, who I petted despite signs warning me not to.

Ginger pig!

We also passed by one of their local public libraries, which is cleverly named. (U.S. public libraries, get on this! It could be a thing.)

It's a library, really

Other wanderings around the city found us enjoying some lovely and typically British scenery…

Millenium Bridge and St. Paul's

Because GP is a roller coaster enthusiast, we made some side trips to Blackpool Pleasure Beach, home of what may well be the last operating steeplechase ride (and numerous other thrills and bone-jarring attractions)…

Steeplechase

…and Alton Towers, which has many more roller coasters nestled into the woods surrounding a hundreds-of-years-old estate.

I’m slowly climbing out of the post-vacation malaise, mostly with the help of copious amounts of tea and a renewed interest in the type of reading that so enthralled me as an English major undergrad (read: nerdier than I already gravitate toward). Tell me, friends: how do you get over the semi-disappointment of returning home after an awesome vacation?

A world of pure imagination

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Ok, don’t laugh. I’m going to see Toy Story 3 on Friday night. In fact, we purchased tickets more than a week in advance to make sure that we’d be guaranteed a seat– and of course we plan to arrive early enough to ensure that we get the best seats in the house. We’re not above elbowing a child or two out of the way in the process. Given that the original Toy Story came out when I was eleven or twelve years old, it is a little crazy that now, fifteen years later, the third film is being released. Looking back on things, too, it seems that I love just about everything that Pixar puts out; they have a way of telling stories that appeals to a wide audience, in a way that is touching but manages to avoid sappiness. (Seriously, too, one of my Top Five Library Dream Jobs would be at Pixar. John Lasseter, call me!) Since I am clearly such a Pixar nerd, I thought it would be fun to do a little top-ten style rundown of all the Pixar films (yes, handily enough, there are ten). Ok, here we go!

10. Cars

It’s not that I didn’t like Cars. It’s just that I’m not that interested in cars in general, and I feel like this is the highest degree to which Pixar has attempted to anthropomorphize non-human characters, and it felt like it ran a little too close to cliche at times. I’ve only watched this one all the way through a couple times, and feel like the runtime is a little long, especially when compared to their other films (this is borne out by the fact that it is the longest of all the Pixar stuff, even if it’s only by a minute). I also appreciate that, in general, Pixar can stand on the strength of non-celebrity voices, and– with the exception of Toy Story– this cast is a pretty star-studded one. (Also, Larry the Cable Guy? Not a fan.) Now, it’s not that I hated, or even disliked, Cars, and I’m fully prepared to love Cars Land when they open it at California Adventure, where a lot of Pixar-themed attractions have been really successfully established.

9. Finding Nemo


I can already see how this list is problematic: I freaking love Finding Nemo. It had me crying within the first five minutes (not unique to this movie, especially among the Pixars), I thought that it was beautifully done, and it was the reason that Disneyland brought back the subs! But, given the strength of the field, I have to give Nemo the number nine spot, even though it made me at least eight times more excited to visit the Great Barrier Reef when we were on our honeymoon.

8. The Incredibles

Ah, the first Brad Bird entry to this list! While I also really liked The Incredibles (actually, from here on out, assume that I love all these movies, because you’re going to get tired of reading it and I’m going to get tired of writing it), and thought that it told a fun story in a really visually appealing way– hello, awesome mid-century modern touches!– it just wasn’t the imaginative fantasy that some others presented. Honorable mention, though, for bringing up the idea of “If everyone’s special, then no one is,” which I fully support because, dude, does anyone else feel like there’s a surplus of self-esteem in the world? Or is it just in reality television? Don’t answer that.

7. A Bug’s Life

Originally, I thought that this one would fall lower in the list, simply because it’s not one that I warmed up to instantly. Really, this is one that reveals new things to me upon repeat viewings: look, it’s The Ant and the Grasshopper! Look, it’s The Three Amigos! Is that a Kurosawa reference? A Bug’s Life, to me, really encapsulates what I think Pixar, and most other amazing storytellers, do best: bring together themes, plot lines, and character archetypes to tell a story that feels both familiar and new at the same time.

6. Monsters Inc.

A really fun movie that I have only grown to love more as I rewatch it and ride (and re-ride) the Monsters Inc. ride at California Adventure, Monsters is such a simple premise that I’m sure there were more than a few animators slapping their foreheads and going, “Of course!” And it’s so well-executed! I love the details of Monstropolis, I love Mike Wazowski, and I love that I am nerdy enough to get the joke of Harryhausen’s. Monsters hits all the right notes for me, but not as hard as the top 5 do.

5. Up

“Adventure is out there!” I knew I was in trouble the second this movie started, with the Carl and Ellie love story that would eventually make my 3D glasses fill up with tears (shut up, yours did, too). From the sappiest moments to the most hilarious (“Kevin is a GIRL?!”), I loved, loved, loved the message here: live your life with the people you love, right fricking now.

4. Toy Story 2

Yes, both of the previous Toy Story outings made the top five, and here’s why this one rocked my face right off: whereas the original Toy Story led us back to our childhoods in which we had that favorite plaything that was the world to us, the sequel brings out some of the darker aspects and consequences of growing up. The addition of Stinky Pete, Jessie, and Bullseye to the cast allow us to see the more vulnerable side of the toys, and introduces the idea that favorite toys don’t always stay that way forever.

3. WALL-E

Who knew that a movie about robots could have so much heart? My devotion to WALL-E is such that I may have purchased a little Christmas-light-holding WALL-E for our Christmas tree (or totally did, whatever) and paid a visit to the little WALL-E robo-toy in the gift shop of our Disney World hotel when we visited in 2009. I love that WALL-E collects Earth junk, that he likes Hello, Dolly, and that he has a little cockroach friend.  I love that, in the dystopic future presented, humans are ridiculously fat and live on what is essentially a space cruise ship (because, for real…not that far off). I love the nods to 2001: A Space Odyssey, and I love the way WALL-E says, “Eeeeevaaaa!” in his little robot voice. Good god. I think I’ll go watch it right now.

2. Ratatouille

This should not come as a surprise to anyone: I love Paris, I love cooking, and…I love that the “overcoming adversity” in this film is played out by a rat voiced by Patton Oswalt. Some of Pixar’s most gorgeous visuals show up here, but I think Paris gives them a pretty good start. This is a movie and a story that will, I think, stand up pretty well over time, as it presents classic ideas in an inventive way. Oh, and semi-tangentially, I think that one of my favorite episodes of Fresh Air is with Brad Bird and Patton Oswalt. Well worth your twenty minutes, I promise.

1. Toy Story

Surprise, surprise! From the very beginnings of the story that the animators saw in Tin Toy, Toy Story is what brought us to this place. It’s not just reverence for this film as The Very First One that makes me put it in the number one spot, either– Toy Story hits all the right notes (even if some of them are from Randy Newman), and presents toys that are both self-aware and in their own world. The thing that, in my mind, makes Pixar superior to its contemporaries, is that it lets its characters be what they are, then tells a story around that; you’re not going to see these toys arguing about a neighbor’s tree growing over a lot line, you’re not going to hear a joke from any of them about airplane food…because they’re toys! I truly appreciate the imagination that’s at work when these writers, directors, and animators give themselves over to the worlds that they’ve created.

All right, I’m sure there are some disagreements over the order (heaven knows there have been here in the living room as I’ve written this!), so let’s hear ’em. What are your favorite Pixar films?

Proof of nerditude

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Megan’s Dewey Decimal Section:

484 [Unassigned]

Megan = 357149014489475 = 357+149+014+489+475 = 1484

Class:
400 Language

Contains:
Linguistics and language books.

What it says about you:
You value communication, even with people who are different from you. You like trying new things don’t mind being exposed to unfamiliar territory. You get bored with routines that never change.

Find your Dewey Decimal Section at Spacefem.com

What’s your Dewey number?

P.S. Yes, this is what happens when I tire of taxonomy work at my internship.
P.P.S. I have informally quit NaBloPoMo. But I am trying to post more!

In progress

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Since I’m spent from creating a “100 Things” list, I’ll keep everyone entertained with a New York Times article about punctuation, a subject near and dear to my heart.

ETA: Thanks for the heads-up, James! The link should be working now…