Afraid further pic-posts from our London trip will have to wait, as I am later today off to the US for our yearly Collaboration-Services Conference, IBM Connect 2014. There among the things I will do is present an hour-long session in video-panel format, with 10 developers from my worldwide team answering questions and sharing insights about IBM Sametime. Though I have no fears about the software holding up, networking at these events is always tricky, so wish me luck.
But before I go I wanted to award a Mighty Marvel No-Prize to my good friend Tom, who correctly identified the location of the crowd-shot in my last post as The Rosetta Stone. The shot above is closest I could get and was taken 1-handed with camera aloft. I guess seeing as this is an artifact at the British Museum that virtually everyone has heard of, it’s not surprising people would cluster round. But for those of us who read neither hieroglyphics, nor demotic, nor ancient Greek (the three languages used on the stone) I can only say it is a nice stone indeed, of impressive heft and neatly done carving, and one that would be a great conversation starter if displayed in the family den.
Now, back to a few hours of work, including some rehearsal for my talk, and then at 6:30 pm my time I embark to Mumbai to begin the journey towards Orlando and all things Collaborative and Mousey. I should land in Florida around 6 pm Saturday local time, for an elapsed travel time of about 35 hours. Such are the joys of international business life.
One of our goals in our recent holiday trip to London was to see some of the many museums there. Wikipedia tells me there are 240 museums in London, including the Sigmund Freud Museum, Michael Faraday Museum, and the Type Museum. Seeing we only had 4 days to work with, I hope we’re forgiven that we only saw “the big three”, starting with The British Museum, The Victoria & Albert Museum and The Tower of London. Herewith follows my first whirlwind chronicle of these places.
But before I begin, a challenge: Try to identify where the picture above was taken, and put your guess in a comment, either on FB or on the blog. It is from one of the 3 visited museums, so extra credit if you can identify a specific exhibit. I’ll share the answer in my post after this.
The British Museum
The British Museum brings together artworks and cultural artifacts from civilizations past and present – but, mostly past. The three samples above are all from the ancient Egyptian hall, one of the first you will encounter when you enter. There are many colossal statues here, and their size and demeanor sets a dramatic tone as soon as you enter. Going from left to right, the first dates from 1850 BC and portrays Amenemhat III; at only 31 inches high, this is one of the smaller works. The remaining two both portray Amenhotep III (aka Amenhotep the Magnificent) and date from around 1370 BC. The middle statue is 60 inches high, the one on the right 114 inches – think about it, nearly 10 feet! – and weighs 3,600 kg. The expressiveness of these ancient works is striking, giving us a window into the character of these rulers from over 3,000 years ago.
Next stop was the ancient Greek collection: Incredible. Every other thing Kim and I saw we felt certain we had seen before – in pictures of course – in art history books, book covers, etc. Perhaps you have the same feeling looking at these examples:
Just to give you a sense of how much stuff there is here, the helmet shown above – dating from 650-570 BC – is one of 62 bronze helmets in the museum collection. It was acquired by the museum in 1904 from a Mrs. Hawkins, who also donated a bronze greave and a statuette of Mercury. Such factoids can easily be found using the museum’s search function, which let’s you look for, for example, “bronze helmet”. Pretty much, if you have a picture of something from the British Museum, and a basic sense of what it is, you can find out everything you could ever want about that specific piece.
We spent a long time looking over the museum’s most famous exhibit: the Elgin Marbles:
These amazing sculptures adorned the Parthenon, until they were removed by Thomas Bruce, the 7th Earl of Elgin in the early 1800s. There is controversy over whether these priceless artifacts ever should have been removed, or if they should be returned. All that aside, we should be glad these works have been preserved. 2,400 years old, these statutes show both a realism and intense energy that is instantly affecting. For example, the horse’s head, above, comes from a section where originally the gods witnessed the birth of Athena. This horse is one that drew the chariot of Selene, the moon goddess; I daresay not till Da Vinci was the horse so expressively rendered by western artists.
It is easy to spend an hour just looking at the marbles alone, which we did. They are arrayed along walls in their own very large hall. At either ends are some monumental free standing sculptures. The lounging figure of Dionysus, on the right below, would have been eight feet or more had the wine god been standing.
Alas, we only spent a bit over 4 hours in the British – we had to make an early dinner and then off to Henry V – and barely saw anything of the Asia, Medieval or Middle Eastern halls. Those will wait till our next London visit, though no way of knowing when that would be.
Next posts, The Victoria and Albert (I promise) and The Tower of London (I hope).
Myself, Kim and Morgan have returned to Pune – arriving back home around 5 am on Jan 1 – while elder daughter Alex is back in Boston enjoying one of our signature New England weather events. Herewith some initial report on our revels.
A minor hitch at the start of our visit, Alex’ Christmas Eve flight from Boston to London after a long delay had to be rescheduled; her connector to Halifax would arrive long after the second leg to London had departed. She was re-booked for the 26th and was able to reach London first thing Friday morning where, groggy but mobile was able to join us in our rambles about town, and later to see Henry V.
First of the shows we saw was The Mousetrap, a comic mystery by Agatha Christie which has been playing continuously for over 60 years. This was tremendously entertaining; if you have read somewhat of Dame Agatha’s works – as have myself, Kim and Morgan – you quickly pick up on her signature characterizations. As to the ending I can only say if you see this show, you will be guessing up till the conclusion – after which the actors taking their final bows, swear you to secrecy to never reveal the mystery. Like the rest of the show, this vow is a quaint throwback, quite meaningless in the internet age … still I’ll leave it to others to reveal the identity of the killer.
On Friday it was off for more serious fare with Henry V starring Jude Law. This is rather a hot ticket, but I was able to snag 4 seats via GetMeIn.com (said seats having been purchased by one Craig C Willers and re-sold to me).
This play is well known to our family, all of us having watched many times both the Olivier and Branagh versions, as well as local productions. The first thing to say about this show, directed by Michael Grandage, was that it was “raw” Shakespeare. The sets are spare – nor more than the “wooden O” Shakespeare himself cited – and the actors render their lines with an uptempo pacing that moves the show along. These things are in line with the goals of the Grandage Company, which are to produce plays accessible to a younger, wider audience; in this season of 5 plays 100,000 tickets were kept at a price of £10.
However, while I enjoy any staging of Shakespeare where a top company of actors comes together under top direction, I feel this show missed its opportunity. This play is supposed to cap the cycle that begins in Henry IV Parts 1 and 2. In those plays the young Henry searches for his place in the world, looking through the eyes of men both common and noble. In Henry V, the king must integrate these two views and finally resolve his own character.
Alas, Jude Law did not bring that through to us. His Henry was never at a loss, never in doubt, even though the play gives him many chances to show this struggle, as in the scene where the traitors are uncovered – Jude was scolding and smug in his treatment of the turncoats, showing not a hint of self-doubt after betrayal by his own best friend – or as in the famous “Harry in the night” scene – rather than discovering the answers to the hard questions posed by the common soldiers, Jude almost berates them in a “how can you be so thick?” tone. Law’s Henry ends the play as he began, a good and upright king – which is fine, but I was hoping for something more.
Still, this was an excellent show that kept us hanging on every word. Pistol, Bardolph and Nym were very well done – they were very much the human face of the play – and the final wooing scene with Henry and Princess of France Katherine was the best I have seen – it captured both Henry the soldier bringing a human touch to state courtship, and Katherine the princess as a bargaining chip, but one who is determined to speak truth, as when she says “the tongues of men are full of deceit”.