28 December 2008

A Very Snowy Christmas

I fell off the map for a few weeks, and it was glorious. The last few months have brought a routine - something I hadn't had in a long time! With it came a much more mellow scene. That is, my life slipped in terms of excitement. Every waking moment went toward school, gym, swim or eating. Not exactly the flashy style I was used to. That meant less to write about, as I tend not to veer into the terribly personal if I can help it. Still, politics offered a few opportunities for editorializing, commenting and posting videos, articles, etc. that caught my eye. As for me, however, it just wasn't all that spectacular. As the new year approaches the only "resolution" I'll be making is to write more - at least a few times a week. It makes me feel good and I get to think about something. As travels won't be in the cards until at least March, I'll try and focus on political issues, academic thoughts, pertinent life events and London "happenings."

As for right now, I'm just going to post some photos from my Very Merry, Very Funny, Very Wonderful Christmas in Utah. The Mom, the Dad, the Sister, the Brother, the Nana, the Papa, the Nan and the Steve were all there, not to mention the rest of the Christensen gang (including the newest member - Calli - who was born just days before Christmas). Sorry kid, your doomed to "celebrate on Christmas" and "joint presents" for the rest of your life! :-) We basically spent nine days having snowball fights, sledding, snowboarding, playing games, opening gifts, eating, eating and eating. It was relaxing, enjoyable and filling over and over again! Here's a few Kodak Moments:

12 December 2008

What Kind Of Special Is Boots Running?

Every Friday I get the "meal deal" from Boots for lunch. It's 3 pounds fifty for a sandwich, side and drink, which is absolutely AMAZING for London. Right now they've got the December special on - Christmas roast with stuffing, rocket and cranberry sauce on a delectable wholemeal seedy bread. Divine! Couple that with a yogurt cluster and apple juice and I'm one happy camper.

Last Friday, however, I was a bit confused by the special they were advertising. In case you missed it above, here's the sticker zoomed in:

Um, huh? 3 for 2 on hosiery and socks? Woohoo! That's just what I was thinking about buying with my "shapers" meal deal at noon on a Friday. You got me pegged! Although, this may be just the campaign they're trying to start - irony-loving bloggers who spread their viral hosiery and socks campaign online. Brilliant...


Kyle Taylor

10 December 2008

I Live HERE!

I realized in the heat of school, life and London I forgot to properly introduce my humble abode! I think telling the story through pictures works best, so here goes:

The overview: I live in a 10 foot by 8 foot box that has its own bathroom, window (with all-day sunshine) and occasional radiated heat (when it feels like turning on). I've done my best, however, to turn this vaulted ceiling box into a luxurious estate...

Here's the bedroom: I went with a tan on red pattern to give the room some life. My Union Jack is hanging first because the wall is so big and second because it's apparently way "uncool" to hang up your own flag (comparable to wearing the T-shirt of a band to their show. NOT OK).

We then move into the entry way, complete with whiteboard (can you read what it says?), photos of family and friends and umbrella (used almost every day).

The entry way leads into the study, home of books, dishes, food, extra towels and my map of the world.

From there it's off to the "powder room" or pod, as I call it. Sink, toilet and shower in a 2 foot by 2 foot space. Only room to do one thing at a time in here!

Next it's the place where I spent most of my time - the office! My computer lives on it's "keep me cool" stand, my speakers rock out the latest tunes when I dance around in the morning (as well as NPR when I don't dance around in the morning), the board is covered with photos of family and friends, my printer lives just above alongside my DVDs, my cow and tulip enjoy the top floor and two area lights bring a warmer feel to the space. I've also got my hamper, coat rack and "Blackpool" tea towel in the office. You know, for convenience.

And finally, to the "conservatory!" That's right, I have REAL NATURAL LIGHT pouring in most of the day, and I can see that big church tower straight ahead. Every hour on the hour Big Ben chimes down the road, reminding me of the time. How fantastic is that?

Oh my goodness, I LIVE HERE...


Kyle Taylor

08 December 2008

3:30am Fire Alarm

It's now 4:24am an I've just stood outside for nearly an hour while they "clear the building" of a fire alarm in Northumberland House, my place of residence in fine Central London. It took me straight back to the days of South Side at AU, incessant fire alarms going off again and again and again as pathetic fraternity pledges set them off to prove their supposed manliness.

My thoughts, however, have more to do with the general lack of preparedness and safety involved with this drill. At AU student staff and live-in full-time staff swung into action, directly people out, clearing the building and ensuring safety. Everyone knew what to do because we had been told what to do.

Here, it was, for lack of a better term, complete pandemonium. People were taking the elevator to the ground floor. A majority of folks didn't even go outside, and were just milling about in the lobby and entryway. I arrived downstairs to find a girl - apparently desk staff - pounding on the fire indicator board while yelling into a walkie-talkie, "the lights are flashing and it's making tons of noise. I don't know what's going on!" This was followed by her commandeering a megaphone then proceeding to yell at everyone to "get outside RIGHT NOW!" Listen strange girl, we don't even know who you are and we have absolutely not been told once what to do in case of an emergency. There are no leaders in the building that people know and trust because there are no Resident Assistants, or Resident Directors for that matter. How about you just settle down and focus on those blinking lights.

Say what you will about Americans "overdoing," but all 23 times that fire alarm went off my first semester, I knew exactly what I was supposed to do.

Safety first Britain. Safety first.


Kyle Taylor

05 December 2008

Holiday Parties LIKE WHOA

Tis' the season to feast, apparently. Particularly in the UK. It seems that everyone is offering up free food to sad students. From happy hour drinks sponsored by brilliant professors to swim team dinners and Rotary celebrations, It feels like I'm chowing down on some massive masterpiece of a meal at least twice a week, and I'm not complaining!

One of the grandest - and most festive - of them all was hosted by the lovely founders of PeaceChild and my now good friends David, Rosey & Eirwen (not to mention the other 16 phenomenal teachers, voluteers, employees, family members and riff-raff who were there).

They hosted quite a to-do at the PeaceChild White House outside London and invited me to "crash the party." The grounds are actually home to not only David and Rosey, but to Rosey's mother Eirwen and the constant flow of young people who effectively lead the organization. They live down the path in what can only be described as a more luxurious version of camp barracks, complete with kitchen, terrace, beds, bathrooms, TV and the like. I've never seen anything like it.

We spent the evening eating (obviously), singing carols and playing games with the fireplace crackling as it kept us toasty warm. In addition to the photos, I was also able to capture Rosey telling the "Holiday Mad Lib," which involves everyone in attendance who each offer up adjectives to make the story borderline hilarious. Enjoy!

More holiday parties coming soon. There are just so many!


Kyle Taylor

Turkey Day Recap!

Turkey Day is a huge deal in the US of A. More people travel for Thanksgiving than for Christmas. It's a time for food, fun, shopping (as long as it's not at Wal Mart) and family, so when you can't get home (like this year) you've got to do all you can to recreate as many elements of the holiday as possible (except for Wal Mart).

Fortunately, I have a marvelous friend on this side of the pond who is in the middle of attending chef school (as well as being a lawyer, professor, consultant, etc) and just so happened to be having a small soiree at his place to celebrate. Boy did we celebrate! He worked tirelessly in a London-size kitchen to treat us to Sage and Basil-infused Turkey, Brown Sugar glazed Sweet Potatoes, brussel sprouts with prosciutto and walnuts, stuffing, gravy (which he simmered on the stove - AMAZING!), cranberry sauce, home-made pumpkin pie and home-made cinnamon ice cream. No, I'm not making that up. We capped the night off by watching the Dallas Cowboys cream the Seattle Seahawks on Sky Sports. My Dad would have been so proud!

And what inspired such a grand meal? "I can't have your Mom angry with me for not providing a proper Thanksgiving supper!" So then, I guess a thank you is due for my Mom, or at least the threat of my Mom's wrath. Either way, I had an amazing meal!

And of course, the annual photo of me head-over-heels in love with my Pumpkin Pie!


Kyle Taylor

03 December 2008

Prop 8: The Musical

I thought this star-studded take on Prop 8 was just too perfect. Jack Black, John C. Reilly, Margaret Cho, Allison Janney, Maya Rudolph and more! Enjoy.

See more Jack Black videos at Funny or Die

30 November 2008

Not Womanized, But Threatened And Assaulted

Not to delve into the excessively superficial and utterly meaningless, but just a quick recap on what can only be described as the most abysmal event I have ever attended.

Last night some fellow LSE-ers and I ventured to a local nightclub called Heaven for "Britney Spears Night." Rumors had been swirling all week that Britney herself would be performing (or at least appearing) live at the venue. Of course, by the time we were in line, they didn't seem like rumors anymore. This "non-appearance" had been reported on SkyTV, MTV and in three of the major daily newspapers here in London. She was going to be there and everyone knew it.

Being Master's students in media and communication, we ran a chi squared test which resulted in a very low P-value, so we did not reject our null hypothesis that there was in fact a correlation between mainstream media coverage and attendance numbers (controlling for the Britney-factor) and arrived a solid hour before the doors even opened.

Chaos was already ensuing and overzealous bouncers were wandering through the lines selecting people they didn't like and telling them to leave for no apparent reason. We somehow made it inside and headed straight for the stage, where Britney was obviously "NOT" going to appear. The music was great, the energy was high and people could feel it - she was in the house. At about 12:30am large, mysterious-looking bouncers (read: Britney's own security detail) started clearing the stage of all riff-raff who had decided to hop up and dance, even though Britney was NOT appearing. As a sidenote, they still had yet to play a Britney song on "Britney Night," a further signal that should would in-fact be showing up.

Because of our early arrival we're right in the front, elbows on the stage. The room begins to fill. And fill. And fill. About 30 minutes pass and tech folks are checking speakers, etc. etc. All things you do when someone is NOT performing. Another 15 go by and the owner of the club appears. People start cheering and chanting "Britney! Britney!" What do you think this schmuck's opening line is to a packed house all expecting to see Spears? "I have good news and bad news. The bad news is that Britney Spears will not be performing tonight. The good news is that some of you might get a glimpse of her if you go to the Pop Room next door." The booing begins. This guy wants all 2000 of us to now pour into a neighboring room that is roughly one tenth the size of the room we're in?

This is the part of the evening where everything goes severely downhill incredibly fast. What was once an excited orderly crowd becomes a fainting, frightened angry mob. Medics appear and begin to pull "crushed" people out of the crowd, shuffling them out of the venue. Then the stage clears again and another medic appears with about 20 water bottles, which she promptly begins handing to the people at the front (us included). Great, 20 water bottles for 2000 people. People are fainting and fighting but at the least the front row is hydrated.

There is honestly and truly nowhere for us to go. I'd have been happy to follow the owner's request and move to the Pop Room, but I was absolutely stuck - a four-feet stage to my front and a couple thousand people behind. I had zero options. The owner appears again to reinforce this notion that she is "not showing up," so disband! Now, honestly, do you really expect 2000 people to just up and leave after waiting two hours to NOT see Britney Spears at the venue NOT set up for her to perform on the stage NOT prepped for a live gig surrounded by the mass of media photographers NOT there to snap her picture?

He disappears once more and all of a sudden the bouncers allow a small group of people on stage to dance. Apparently this is supposed to signal that the show is, in fact, not taking place. Still, what exactly are we supposed to do? Naturally, these brilliant security guards had a fabulous idea. They would just forcibly pull another 100 or so people from the crowd up onto the stage. Yes, that will help! Being in the front, the posse I came with and I were all yanked onto stage, which was now covered with people and seriously wobbling. So, what did they do with us next? Force us into an alleyway behind the venue, then threaten to "have us arrested" if we didn't clear out immediately, telling us to "go back to the front entrance and come in again."

Um, what? I didn't ask to be pulled onto stage. I showed up early and followed all the rules, only to end up in an alleyway at 3am, coat held hostage inside at the coat check. So we all plodded around to the front entrance in the cold and rain, only to arrive and be told that we would have to GET IN LINE AND PAY AGAIN to re-enter. Yet again, um, what?!?! I flashed my coat-check stubs as proof of already having entered, only to be told I needed a re-entry stamp. Sorry, they weren't handing those out when we got shoved into a back alley. My bad.

Fortunately, one friend stayed strong and got us in to get our coats. We're now waiting in the packed lobby attempting to scoot through. My friend notices a fresh water bottle on the counter, picks it up, drinks it and puts it back on the counter. "You better throw that in the trash," the security guard says to her. "Sir, there are no trash cans and there is trash everywhere," she retorted. The security guard - a paid employee - then proceeds to pick up the water bottle and throw it at her face. Mystified, she picks it up and throws it back. He then gets on his walkie-talkie, yelping for a female security guard to come and escort her out. I ask the man for his name and he doesn't say a word. I ask again. Nothing. So we've now been lied to, squashed, forced into an alleyway, threatened with arrest and assaulted by a security guard. Wow, what a night.

Meanwhile, while the main room is full of absolute carnage, this is what's happening in the next room, which just reinforces the absurdity of this evening:

By now we're all fed up. A few others goes in and free all the coats of their shackles while this friend and I proceed outside with the female security guard, who apologizes for her coworker and tells us that she doesn't even know his name. Seriously? What is this place? Furious and exhausted, we start to head home and just as we pass the alleyway where we were first dumped, the Britney entourage of a BMW and three Mercedes vans roll past. A symbolic end to a horrific evening.

Now, in all fairness, they never "officially" said Britney would be there. They did, however, set up a stage, invite tons of press and, at one point, send the owner on stage to tell everyone Britney was in attendance. Regardless of when or how people were told, they were in fact told. And yes, the alternative of going to the "Pop Room" was offered, but to 2000 people who had become one giant mass of humanity. That was not a reasonable option.

Britney aside, the real issue is the terrible event management. Why not limit entry, so as not to create the world's greatest fire hazard? All things considered, it's no wonder Britney's staff and security detail didn't want her to come into the larger room. And how about being forced onto stage then shoved into an alleyway, only to be told we would be "arrested" if we didn't "clear out" and subsequently made to PAY AGAIN to enter a venue we had just been forcibly removed from with no just cause?

So then, what now? Don't buy the new album? That goes without saying. But what to do about the treatment at the club. Who do you call? Who protects citizen's rights in this situation? And all of a sudden you begin to realize that you're teeny tiny in the big wheel of power. A mega celeb shows up at a small venue. She is backed by poor planning and a negligent club owner who puts thousands of people in danger by over-selling an event to make as much money as possible dumps you in an alley and threatens to have you arrested just before you're assaulted by a "security guard." Meanwhile, he is sharing cake with said mega celeb before leaving in a private, chauffeured car. Yeah, that makes sense.


Kyle Taylor

26 November 2008

Moms Are The Best!

In a Pre-Thanksgiving thank you, I wanted to share this fantastic clip sent me to me by my Nana about Moms. They're pretty great. Enjoy!

The Mom Song- LIVE from Northland Video on Vimeo.


Kyle Taylor

17 November 2008

Wait, Where Do I Live?

If I gave you one guess to tell me where this picture was from, I'm guessing you'd say China. The "People's" Post Office and so forth and so on. This notion would most likely elicit images of me fumbling from taxi to bus with passports, "official forms" and the like in hand, doing my best to pick up a box sent far across the Pacific for me to enjoy the goodies inside. Alas, you'd be wrong.

The above image refers to the UK's post office. Not the actual postal service itself (The Royal Mail) but the place you visit to purchase stamps, boxes and so on and so forth only here in the UK, the Post Office sells EVERYTHING. You want car insurance? Done. Homeowner's insurance? DONE. Travel insurance? DONE. Currency Exchange? DONE. Neck pillow? DONE. Birthday Card? DONE. It's like a CVS/Alldays/Target/Dollar Store in one. The one thing not like China: LINES. There are usually 15 to 20 people queuing at any given moment to buy a stamp or perform one of the above tasks, which means no visit lasts for less than 20 minutes. Oh glorious England and their glorious lines!

It's so odd to be in London and yet have constant reminders of China. Maybe it's because I've hit the 6-week mark (the longest I've been in the same place since leaving China) and I'm getting antsy, with nothing but reading and essays in sight. Maybe it's because a hot chocolate costs as much as a fancy dinner our in Shanghai. Or maybe it's just because everywhere is a lot more like everywhere else than I originally thought. In the meantime, I'll just queue up and buy a few stamps.


Kyle Taylor

13 November 2008

I Miss China...

A friend sent these my way and I just had to share the love. Sorry for the lack of person interest stories, but my life is overly routine: Class, Gym or Swim, Eat Something From Mark's and Spencer's, Read, Check Email, Read, Cry About Having No Time To Travel, Read, Shower, Read, Sleep, Repeat. Gotta say though, I'm having a ball. Miss you Zhongguo. Wo ai ni.