Estival Extravaganza

30 Jul

(Assonance ftw)

Admittedly, I’ve been a bit lax in updating my blog, even though I promised I would do so more frequently now that I’m back home. However, I’ve been trying to make the best of my fairly short summer break.

My final two days in England before returning to the USA were extremely stressful, thanks to the fact that I procrastinated on cleaning my room and packing until the last minute, leading to a frantic, painful dash for the Falmer train station with my ginormous overweight bags. Fortunately, I arrived at Gatwick Airport 2 hours before my flight departure, but thanks to a change of Continental Airline’s terminal and a ridiculously long line at the check-in counter, I was cutting it somewhat close. Well, not really, but apparently the airline likes to make sure everyone has their boarding passes well in advance.

They called any passengers on my flight to move to the front of the line, thus prompting some evil eyes from the other passengers in the queue. As I struggled to reach the front of the line with my giant bags, one (American) jerk even sneered behind my back, “Next time, get here two hours before your flight like the rest of us.”

My blood boiled. How can someone be so petty — and so freaking childish that they have to say something like that out loud? Particularly without knowing anything about the circumstances of my morning. Although I said nothing in response, afterwards I thought of various things that I *could* have said (à la George Costanza):

My first thought, prompted by anger: “Va te faire foutre.” – No, he might make some snide remark about the French.

My second thought, a subdued counterattack: “If you’re on time, then what’s the problem?” – No, an interrogative would open up a can of worms.

My third thought, a simple statement of truth: “Actually, I did.” – Lacks punch.

My fourth thought, intended to make an ass out of him: “My mother died this morning.” – Oh, but I just can’t tell a lie!

In retrospect, saying nothing was probably the best way to go.

As the familiar eastern landscape of America came into view from my plane window, I knew I was close to home. I’m not sure where we were when I took this photo, but I’m guessing that it’s the Catskills in New York:

Ironically enough, the same problems I faced when I first arrived in England – technological difficulties – have also plagued me since my return here for some inexplicable reason. Perhaps the gremlins followed me. They must’ve hopped on the plane’s wing. I’ve had problems with my digital camera, my computer, as well as my Wii — which was working just fine until I arrived home to play it for the first time. Go figure.

I was able to beat Call of Duty 3 (on “Easy”, that is), but despite my incredible love for the series, I still haven’t found the time to play Zelda: Twilight Princess, nor Red Steel. They’re both on a long list of games that I own which remain to be beaten. This list in turn can be found on another list of various projects which I intend to finish over the summer, even though some of them have been on the list for over a year.

Making it somewhat easier to work on my projects is the fact that I’m yet again without a summer job. My prospects weren’t great — I had no way to look for work before I returned from England, which was already well into the summer season and some 7 weeks before my return to California. Thanks to some family connections, I was able to get a meeting at an employment agency, where my office skills were tested. I set the office typing speed record at 111 words per minute (with no errors), but so far the only job I’ve been offered was a 7-to-3 packing job involving heavy lifting at an aluminum manufacturing plant.

Instead, my small income has come entirely from a few data entry assignments for my mother’s work (making use of my mad typing skillz). I certainly could use more money, however, and I hope to get a job at USC this semester, despite my resume being virtually non-existent. I’ve been trying to supplement my income by selling some of the photographs that I took while in Europe, although this is proving somewhat of a challenge.

I’m attempting to sell through three different means: 1) online royalty-free microstock agencies; 2) an online “photo storefront” web page; and 3) sending photos to postcard companies and magazines. At the moment I’ve gone so far as step 1, but Getty’s microstock site rejected my photos due to quality issues (not composition problems, but because the images have jpeg artifacts when viewed at full resolution for some reason…). If I can’t fix the quality issues, and other microstocks give me the same response, then I might have better luck trying 2 and 3 — although I’ll need to do some research into which postcard companies and magazines to send to.

I also hope to upload my full European slideshow to youtube sometime in the not-too-distant future – I’ll keep you posted.

I did manage to map out the extent of my European travels, marking every city, town, and village that I visited between January and June, in case anyone was curious:

Additionally, I finally managed to upload all of the short video clips that I took with my camera in Europe, mostly panoramic views; here are the links, arranged by country:

England: Seven Sisters, Bath Circus, Windermere Panorama, Keswick Panorama, Dale Head Panorama, Cumbrian Countryside

Wales: Raglan Castle Panorama, Brecon Beacons Panorama, View from Harlech Castle, Conwy Castle Panorama

Scotland: Wedding at Edinburgh Castle, Edinburgh Panorama, Nevis Range Panorama, Broadford Bay Panorama, West Highland Train on Glenfinnan Viaduct

Netherlands: Amsterdam Music Machine

Belgium: Brussels’ Grand’ Place

France: Sainte-Chapelle Upper Chapel, String Quartet at the Place des Vosges, Easter Mass at Notre Dame de Paris -1, Easter Mass at Notre Dame de Paris – 2, Grenoble Panorama, Aiguille du Midi Panorama, Dinan Panorama, Nice Port Panorama, Beach at Eze-sur-Mer

Switzerland: Chateau de Chillon and Lake Geneva

I’ve always wanted to explore the world, and after my trips in Europe, my adventurous side has become even stronger. I’m one of those kids who used to play the “Where will I live?” game by spinning a globe and stopping it with my finger on a random point — and then imagining what it would be like to live there. Since the advent of Google Earth, I’ve wasted many hours just browsing the globe, searching for possible routes through northern Canada or New Zealand.

I recently re-watched the “Long Way Round” series, in which actors Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman rode around the world from London to New York on their motorcycles, which further fueled my desire for adventure; I’m eagerly looking forward to “Long Way Down,” their ride from Scotland to South Africa, which I believe is nearing completion at this time. I’m hoping they’ll do a “Long Way Up” later on, in which they ride through South America to Canada, stopping first at my house of course. Or maybe they’d let me go along with them.

Of course, it would make sense to start by exploring more of the U.S., particularly the western states — which I hope to have a chance to do during my last two years in L.A., despite having no money.

In the meantime, I’ve taken a few short trips around New England, just photographing everything that catches my eye – particularly landscapes and architecture – and chronicling my summer adventures. So far I’ve amassed five albums on facebook (under the title of “New England Summer”) which I will now summarise:

Part I

Highlights include a trip to the Lost River Gorge in North Woodstock (which I’d never been to before – some really cool rock formations and little caves you can crawl through) and a self-guided tour of some of the covered bridges in the area, including the longest in the country, the Cornish-Windsor bridge which crosses the Connecticut River between Cornish, New Hampshire and Windsor, Vermont (pictured above). I quite liked some of the towns in the area, particularly Cornish, Plainfield, and Meriden.

Part II

(Is there a word for the strange effect you can see on the siding there?)

Highlights in this album: views from Mt. Rattlesnake on the northern side of Squam Lake, as well as a jaunt around the completely white village of Sandwich (which isn’t a racial remark – although Sandwich does happen to be the most ethnically English town in the state). Also: the pathetic Bristol Fourth of July fireworks display (on July 7th), and the aftermath that ensued at my house. Additionally: a night out at the Weirs Beach drive-in, a walk through downtown Bristol, and an exciting day of geocaching.

Part III

The photos in this album come entirely from Rhode Island (for such a small state, there really is a lot to see in Little Rhody). I joined my mother on a weekend trip to her home state, reminding me of many, many day trips that we made there during the summer when I was little. Summer in Rhode Island is fantastic, because the ocean is omnipresent, always a short drive regardless of where you are in the state.

Highlights include: a return to our old beach spot in Galilee near Point Judith, as well as a drive through historic Narragansett and North Kingstown – including a stop at the birthplace of Gilbert Stuart (who painted the most famous portrait of George Washington – the one we see on the dollar bill), which has a working grist mill. Also, the lovely old village of Wickford, beautiful Jamestown island, a couple of 18th century windmills, and the ever-popular colonial city of Newport. And last but not least, a lovely Sunday morning walk through the very quiet old part of Providence – the only part of that city that I like.

Part IV

The first nine photos are from Rhode Island, from downtown Providence to the peaceful “South County” (which isn’t actually a county at all). The next pictures are from a ride across eastern Connecticut, following routes 49, 14A, and 169 – passing through North Stonington, Voluntown, Sterling, Plainfield, Canterbury, Brooklyn, Pomfret, and Woodstock. As you can tell, it’s quintessential New England…plenty of stone walls and red barns (more unique attractions along the way were Israel Putnam’s grave and the 1846 pink Gothic Revival Roseland Cottage). The final series of photos comes from my favourite city in New Hampshire, Portsmouth (seen above).

Part V

A few more photos from Portsmouth, then on to Newburyport, Massachusetts, one of the most impressive towns in New England. As you drive into the town on Route 1A, you see miles and miles of giant colonial homes, and even bigger federal-style houses from the port’s economic peak in the early 1800; the centre of the town is quite nice as well. The rest of the photos come from towns along 1A, including Newbury, Hamilton, Ipswich, and Beverly; the amount of historic homes along this stretch, including an impressive slew of 17th century First Period homes (diamond-pane windows get me excited) is simply mind-boggling.

My little North Shore excursion ended in Salem, which pretty much sums up the historic area in a big way (although I prefer the quieter towns farther from Boston). And finally – a couple of pictures from the frightening carnival in Bristol and our recent capture the flag game in New Hampton. And that pretty much sums up how I’ve been spending my summer.

In other news: after the technological difficulties with my old cell phone in the UK, I’ve gotten a new one. I still feel completely out of the whole cell phone culture today, and am perfectly content to go around without one, but it certainly can be useful. Plus, I’ve set this lovely Bach prelude as my ringtone. 🙂

As for the entertainment world… the summer has been rather devoid of interesting films, I think…I did see Transformers, which I thought was a decent popcorn action flick, as well as 1408, a really good Stephen King thriller with John Cusack. And this weekend I saw The Simpsons Movie, which, although not perfect, was better than I expected, and pretty classic (there’s a lot of pressure riding on a 90-minute film based on a TV show with 18 seasons). The first act of the film is just hilarious, and while it does get a little slower, all in all it was great, especially with a cinema audience. I don’t want to spoil anyone, but I will say that I cracked up the hardest after a Ralph line…not surprisingly. Definitely the best new comedy film I’ve seen in a long time, though.

Speaking of comedy, though, my friend Andy recently showed me a clip of The Flight of the Conchords, the self-proclaimed “New Zealand’s fourth most popular folk parody duo” — although I’m a few years behind on these guys, I’ve become an instant fan. Their songs are simply hilarious, and you can also find some clips from their HBO show and a documentary on youtube. Here’s a sample:

Albi the Racist Dragon

And another:

Jenny

A few other recommendations: Business Time, Think About It, Think, Think About It, The Humans are Dead

Classic stuff. Gotta love Kiwis.

But I suppose that I’ll leave you with the obligatory French song – here’s a lovely old one by Nana Mouskouri called “Comme un soleil.”

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