QXZ's London Invasion, Part Four
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Between beams to the gloom room
The old grey mare, she ain't what she used to be.
For variety's sake, my ham and cheese breakfast sandwich this morning will be toasted. Humble thanks, TESCO, for your infinite options.
I didn't manage to drag myself out of the hostel until 11:30 today. That and the continued gloomy weather have decided that the British Museum will be today's destination.
A whole phalanx of uniformed Underground employees flowing blue down the stairs.
The British Museum is technically free. However, checking your coat or bag will cost you £1.00 per item, and a Visit Guide (without which you're lost) runs £2.50.
First stop: the Reading Room, where Marx and Engels did a good amount of writing their Manifesto. John Maynard Keynes held a reader's ticket here some years later. I wonder how well they would have gotten along?
Moving on: mummies! Mummies and swarms of uniformed schoolchildren, blue kids and red kids. And green kids. I'll avoid the mummies for a while.
Ah. The Museum appears to be doing it's part to provide evidence for the historical "inevitibility" of capitalist globalization. A placard in the Ancient Near East section reads: "In order for the Levant to play a role in the international trading community, the old village-based economy of subsistence dry-farming and pastoralism had (emphasis mine) to give way to one of productive agriculture leading to trade". The WTO and its brethren, it seems, are merely fulfilling traditions begun "at the start of the third millennium BC".
Schoolchildren streaming up marble stairs sound like a roaring flash flood.
Lindow Man. Probable Druid sacrifice. Drank some mistletoe, knocked twice on the head, then garotted and dumped in a peat bog. Wherever you are, I hope it was worth it, my man.
The Rosetta Stone. It is what it is. Fascinating, of course, but you don't gain much by seeing it in person.
The Elgin Marbles from the Parthenon. I'm a fan of classical sculpture, so it's a treat to see these. As to whether they should be returned to Greece or not, I'm not sure. The Parthenon and its treasures have been progressively destroyed over the centuries by both weather and human violence. Do the sculptures "belong" in Greece as opposed to London? I suppose. By they'd be in a museum there just as they are here. It feeds into the whole question of the propriety of the treasures of empire, I guess. Cultural works have more significance in their original context, but when they've been badly destroyed it probably makes little difference where they're removed to for preservation. Ehh... no conclusions here. Is it theft or scholarship or both?
The Shabaka Stone: an ancient Egyptian (710 BC) stonework inscribed with a creation myth. Its carving was ordered by King Shabaka to preserve the story for all eternity. The stone's still here; however it's been used as a millstone in the interim. Practicality vs. spirituality. Is it significant that the center hole and troughs carved for grinding are highly representative of the sun?
It has occurred to me, over recent months, how much time and energy has been devoted over the centuries to sculpting the cocks and balls of horses. It's probable that equal or greater time has been spent on the genitalia of human males, but the lavish attention directed towards equestrian sexual equipment strikes me as odd. Is it simple penis envy? Did sculptors have lessons on the proper way to render a horse penis in marble? Was there extensive field study? Lots of practice? What happened to failed experiments in horse cock sculpture? Did a master sculptor frown and nod seriously if and when he was complimented on the quality of his horse dick carving, or did he get the giggles? I think this is an important and overlooked area of art history.
Left the museum after nearly four hours and seeing the Money exhibit. Amazing place, but I feel that, like most museums, I'd get more out of it if I went to see something specific. Otherwise, it's "historic object overload", and I can't feel the proper sense of awe that you know everything is due.
Went for a walk down Great Russell Street on a whim and stopped into a comics shop to look for Tank Girl stuff for Tara. Bust. Profoundly offended by the sticking of price tags directly onto the covers of comic books.
Further whim carried me down Oxford Street, which is a main shopping thoroughfare and all lit for Christmas. Pretty, but heavily trafficked. Stopped at a Marks & Spencer to look for shower slippers and just to have visited the icon.
Then: dinner at Pizza Hut! Ha! I'm not ashamed! god, yes, i am. Familiarity. Pizza at exorbitant prices. Money into PepsiCo accounts. If I wasn't alone I'd never do this.
Being alone has been mostly fine so far. The main drawback is lack of someone to talk to. Hence this notebook. It's been nice to have the freedom to do whatever whenever, but it's harder to make decisions without other people to bounce ideas off. I have a vast amount of possibilities, and weighing the relative merits all by myself is time consuming.
Took a walk down Charing Cross Road to Trafalgar Square. The square, and Nelson's Column are quite impressive, and I would imagine are even moreso by daylight.
Caught a bus just to have the ride, and cruised across the river. Drove through Battersea, then looped back and got off at Westminster. Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey are quite pretty at night. I'll get back to them the day after tomorrow.
Planning on showering tonight. Haven't had any luck finding flip flops or something similar. The hostel shower itself doesn't seem to bad, but the bathroom floor is a nightmare and I don't need rotting feet. I may improvise a bath mat from the two plastic Duane Reade bags I have with me.
"Pedro! Don't forget! I love cock and I love men."
"If you love cock, then come up here and I'll send you to the moon in five minutes."
-Miriam Frenchgirl and Pedro Spaniard converse
The roomies are watching True Romance on TV when I get back. BBC 4 is billing it as "Quentin Tarantino's True Romance. One wonders what Tony Scott would think of that.
I think the shower will keep 'til tomorrow, unless the one upstairs is free.
Excerpted from QXZ's travel log, 12/3/01.
QXZ endorses nothing.
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