Sunday, 31 October 2010

Dickens House Museum

Dickens House Museum
Last weekend Kjell Steinar and I went to the British Museum, so this Saturday we thought we’d try out a different museum. We ended up at the Dickens House Museum, which is the town house where the famous British author Charles Dickens lived.

I personally love Charles Dickens and his books, so when I found out there was a Dickens museum here in London it instantly came on my what-to-do-in-London list. And I was very pleasantly surprised over how good this museum was.

The china monkey
Honestly I did not have any expectations on how this museum was, but when we arrived there we found out that it was actually very interesting and quite popular. It was a lot of people there, coming and going, both adults and children. And it was so easy to find. We took the tube, the Piccadilly Line, to Russell Square. From there they had signs leading us to the Dickens Museum. It is open everyday from 10-17, but you actually have to pay here; it was £6 for adults, £3 for children, £15 for families and £4.50 for students. So we were lucky that we brought our student IDs. When you are inside you can wander around the house as much as you want. It was four floors, including the basement. It was furnished like it was when Charles Dickens and his wife Catherine used to live there, and as you walk from room to room you could see some of his written works and notes on them. One funny little story we saw was that Dickens liked to have some “desk furniture”, and displayed in the museum was his favourite mascot, a china monkey. Seeing this made everything seem so real, as is the point.

His fireplace
It was in this house that Dickens wrote some of his most popular novels; The Pickwick Papers, Nicholas Nickleby and Oliver Twist. As Dickens was very fond of acting, there are rooms here dedicated to Oliver Twist and how it got from page to stage. Kjell Steinar and I were walking around just the two of us, but there was also a guide for those who wanted one. And in the basement they showed a film about the life of Charles Dickens. I found that film very interesting, and by watching it I learned quite a lot about this great Victorian novelist and how his life was.

If you have been to London a few times and have seen all the great tourist attractions and are looking for something else, or you are a big Dickens and literature fan, then I would very much recommend this museum. And after you have spent some time here, you can go back to the tube station and right across it you will find many different restaurants and stores that are very popular here in London, but without the crowd that you’ll see on Oxford Street.
Kjell Steinar studying his work

Portrait of his wife Catherine
The Drawing Room
A cabinet with some of his work

Dickens study

Dickens desk where he did his public reading
Kjell Steinar watching the film

A lovely garden in the back
All of the pictures are my own.

Friday, 29 October 2010

Disney Land Los Angeles

Next to Universal Studios and Celebrity Tour in Los Angeles, we had to visit the famous Disney Land, the happiest place on earth. And it really was a happy day.

Disney Land was one of the first tourist attractions we saw in LA, and we got up early in the morning, had a big breakfast and were ready for a day of fun! A car picked us up outside our hotel, and after about 30 minutes we were at our destination. I think this park is so beautiful, and you really do feel like a kid again and you just want to do everything. But of course, that is impossible if you’re only there for a day.
We started our day by walking down the Main Street in the park, where they have several cafes and shops. It was a beautiful day, and of course that attracts a lot of people. We were there pretty early, but we still had to queue up for about 25 minutes to take our first ride, which was Matterhorn Bobsleds in Fantasy Land. I thought this was a lot of fun, and a great start on our day.

But like I said, it was a lot of people here, and you had to wait for quite some time for many of the rides and it got worse during the day. So if you only have one day here as we did and you’re not staying at Disneyland Resort where you can come and go as much as you want, you should choose the rides you want to take the most and take them as early in the day as you can! We tried to do this, but we ended up not taking everything we wanted to because of the queues. But we did take Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Pirates of the Caribbean, Space Mountain, It’s a small world and Haunted Mansion.

In the queue for Space Mountain
Space Mountain was a very popular ride, and I believe we were in the queue for about an hour, or perhaps even longer. But it was worth it, because it was so much fun! There are twists and turns as you’re supposed to be on your way through the Milky Way, and if you like roller coasters then this is the best one. The Haunted Mansion was actually not so scary, and I get easily scared. You sit in a buggy that takes you around this elegant house, but even though it is not scary it is still a nice journey with ghosts.

We had lunch in one of the many restaurants, and we were lucky to find a table for all four of us. But later on this very hot day, we wanted some desert and we ended up at the Golden Horseshoe where we had the best ice cream. Kjell Steinar and I shared a mint chocolate sundae, and I am very glad we did share it because in America everything is big when it comes to food. But it was very good, and so was the atmosphere. It was also a stage there and we were so lucky as to see a funny show. 
Splash Mountain

The time went by so quickly, and we ended up spending the entire day here. One of the rides we all wanted to take but didn’t was the famous Splash Mountain. We would then have to queue for over two hours, and in the end we were queuing just to walk around the park. It was a very good day we had in Disneyland, and it is very popular for kids in all ages. I would absolutely not mind going back at some point to explore all the things we didn't get to see this summer.

The pirate ship

Mark Twain Riverboat with Big Thunder Mountain Railroad in the back

Star Wars show outside by Space Mountain

The Main Street

Outside It's a Small World

All of the pictures are my own! 

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Dystopian Fiction – Fahrenheit 451

Yesterday I wrote about A Clockwork Orange, which is a typical and very famous dystopian novel. Today I’m going to continue with another novel that we read last week, because there is something funny about this one if you compare the film to the book and you live in my neighbourhood. The name of this novel is Fahrenheit 451 and it is written by Ray Bradbury in 1953.

Fahrenheit 451 is the temperature at which book-paper catches fire and burns. And by reading this first sentence you catch the essence of this novel. Books are forbidden in this dystopian world, and the firemen there do not put out fires like they do in our world, they burn books. No one is allowed to read or own books, but some people try to hide some in their houses, but they usually end up with their houses burned down. The mechanical hound of the fire department is tracking down those who are trying to preserve and read books in the society, and no one escapes this hound. No one but the main character Guy Montag, who is a fireman himself. He is extremely unhappy and is tired of the state trying to control everyone, and he is the narrative of which we read the story.

This novel is very dystopian, because of the way the state is. They are trying to control everyone no matter what, and by burning books they are sure that no one will be able to understand how it used to be, and how it should be. The state wants to be much smarter than the average joe, and this is a very scary concept as we today cannot imagine what it would be like to be told what we can and cannot do. This novel makes us realise some intimidating questions about how we should prevent this from happening to us, and perhaps makes us realise how privileged we are for being able to read and collect knowledge.

As a dystopia is rather negative, I found something really amusing when we were looking at the first part of the film based on this book during our lecture. Youtube is brilliant in so many ways, and you can actually watch films here, and Fahrenheit 451 is one film you can watch in 18 parts. So during the first part, after about two minutes, you get to see the firemen going out on a call to a dystopian neighbourhood. Well here is the funny part; the neighbourhood that is shown in this film is actually the neighbourhood I am living in now. So apparently I live in a dystopian neighbourhood where I am not controlled by the state, but are actually having a pretty amazing life. I could not help but laugh when we saw this and I just had to share it here. So enjoy the book, or the film, or both, and perhaps we are all living in a dystopian neighbourhood to some extent.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Dystopian Fiction – A Clockwork Orange

Those of you who know me knows that next to studying journalism I’m studying English Literature, and this year I have a module called Dystopian Fiction. I can’t really figure out if I really like it or not, but we do read some interesting novels. The last one we read was a rather interesting and famous novel, called A Clockwork Orange, written by Anthony Burgess. I’m sure lots of people have heard about the film, and this is the book that the film is based upon.
The book was published in 1962, but the film came in 1971. The film was banned for a few years, and that is one of the reasons why you can say that this famous story has become a cult classic. 
Malcolm McDowell, playing Alex in the film
For those of you who do not know what a dystopia is: an imaginary place or state in which everything is extremely bad or unpleasant. It is also set in the future, and in most of the novels we have read this year the characters do not know how our time was but is extremely interested in knowing. Or our time is their time. It is not a good place to live in, and the state is controlling everything. A Clockwork Orange is perhaps one of the most famous dystopian novels there is, and that is why I’m choosing this novel to be the first one I’m writing about.

The novel is about 15 year old Alex and his “droogs”, or friends, and how they are enjoying ultra violence, rape, drugs and Beethoven’s Ninth. They are all rampaging through their dystopian world where they are hunting for terrible thrills. They fight, they steal, they rape and they enjoy everything about it. The police are almost non-existing, so there is really no one to look after London, which is where the story is set. After a series of unfortunate events, at least for Alex, he’s convicted for murder and something changes inside of him. He finds himself at the mercy of the state and becomes quite close to the governments psychologist, and he then discovers that the fun he used to have is no longer the order of the day.

The use of language in this novel is rather extraordinary, and quite a great achievement. It is very strong, and you can understand the characters by the way they are written about and the way they talk. The film has managed to translate this to the screen very well, with both the language and the music written about. In my opinion you either love or hate the way it is written.

Then, brothers, it came. Oh, bliss, bliss and heaven. I lay all nagoy to the ceiling, my gulliver on my rookers on the pillow, glazzies closed, rot open in bliss, slooshying the sluice of lovely sounds. Oh, it was gorgeousness and gorgeosity made flesh. The trombones crunched redgold under my bed, and behind my gulliver the trumpets three-wise silverflamed, and there by the door the timps rolling through my guts and out again crunched like candy thunder.

This is a passage from the book, and as you can see the language is quite special. The language used here is turning the experience into poetry, and that is something you cannot find anywhere but in the novel.
I would recommend this book if you are interested in literature and the written language, but not if you’re looking for something fun or easy to read.

Monday, 25 October 2010

London Underground

London is quite a huge city, and it is so much to see. The question is then how to get around easy without having to spend a lot of money on taxi? Well, the tube in London can take you anywhere you want in this city, and it is cheap and very easy. Once you’ve learned how to read the underground map, you can travel around London with your eyes closed.
When you get to London, you have to buy tickets in order to use the public transportation. You can buy a three day travel card, but if you’re in London for more than three days the Oyster Card might be the best option. All you have to do is buy the Oyster Card at a ticket stop or a tube station and say how much money you would like to top it up with. If you top up with £20 it should last for a few days. But if you want to be sure that you have the Oyster Card by the time you leave home, you can order it online and have it delivered to your home country. If you’re Norwegian, it will take about 5 to 8 working days to have it delivered to your home in Norway.
And then you’re ready to explore London! Like I said, it is very easy to understand the underground system once you’ve tried it and understood it. There are signs everywhere underground telling you which line you’re heading towards, and which stops are on the way. For instance, if you’re on the Bakerloo Line there are two choices; to go North or South in London. So you then have to look at the maps that are provided next to the stops, and all of the names of the stops are written there. So if you know which stop you’re going to, you simply find the name on the sign and choose the tube that is closest to that sign. I now see that this sounds stupid and complicated when you read it like this, but trust me, it is much easier when you’re actually here. So I guess you just have to come to this amazing city and find out for yourself just how easy the London Underground really is. 

It is quite hard to see the names of the tube stations on the picture above, but if you click on the link below you’ll see it much bigger and cleare. 

Sunday, 24 October 2010

British Museum

Yesterday Kjell Steinar and I took the trip to central London to visit the British Museum. What is so great about museums in London is that there is no admission fee, so if you’re on a budget and are looking for something fun, enlightening and interesting, a trip to the museum is not such a bad idea.

The closest tube station to the museum is Tottenham Court Road, which is on both the Central and Northern Line. Once you arrive here the British Museum is just a short walk away, about 10 minutes, and on the way you walk past several different book shops and for those of you interested, even a whiskey shop.

The Rosetta Stone
The British museum is one of London’s most visited attractions and is one of the world’s oldest and finest museums. Inside this gorgeous building you will find more than seven million objects that are devoted to Egypt, Western Asia, Greece, the Orient, Africa, Italy, the Etruscans, the Romans, prehistoric and Roman Britain and medieval antiquities. As the museum is huge, it could be wise to make a few focused visits to the parts that interest you the most. I am very much interested in Egyptian history, so I really enjoyed this part of the museum. They have mummies, sarcophagus, sculptures and so much more. The one thing that fascinated me the most is the Rosetta Stone. When I was in Egypt a few years ago I was so sad when our guide told us about this historical stone and that it was located in London and not in Egypt. But now I am so glad that I’ve finally seen it, as this is the stone that helped us understand and decipher Egyptian hieroglyphs. The stone is divided in three texts; the upper one is Egyptian hieroglyphs, the middle one in Egyptian demotic script, and the lower text in ancient Greek.

Kjell Steinar in the Greek and Roman life
But of course, the British Museum offers so much more than just ancient Egyptian history. A collection of old coins, Greek and Roman antiquities, old clocks and watches, Europe through history and Chinese ceramics to mention a few. You are guaranteed to find something that interest you, and you can go through the museum on your own or you can rent a multimedia guide that will guide you through the highlights of the museum, and this is available in 11 languages. They also have activities for children so that the whole family can enjoy a day here. There are also a few cafés and gift shops around where you can take in everything that you’ve seen. I really enjoyed our day here, and I would not mind going back some other time to learn more about the wonders of the world. 

Inside the museum

Kjell Steinar in the museum

A rolling ball clock from about 1820


Statue in the ancient Greece department

An old chessboard

All of the pictures are my own

Saturday, 23 October 2010

A woman's right to secrets

Watch out, gentlemen, there is more to us than you think! 

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Chicago - the musical

We’ve all seen the film and I bet we all loved it, so when my mom and I went to New York two years ago I insisted that we saw Chicago in the theatre. And I have to say I was so glad we did!
The story is about Velma Kelly and Roxy Hart who has both murdered their husband and their lover and they both end up in women’s block in Cook County Jail. And this is the place where all that jazz is playing out. They all claim that they didn’t do it, and they are then trying to convince the city of Chicago the same thing.

Around this plot there are some amazing songs, such as “All that jazz”, “When you’re good to mama”, and my person favourite “The cell block tango”. The songs of this musical are one of a kind, and the voices singing them are very strong and powerful.
Next to Velma Kelly and Roxy Hart you have some very funny characters playing next to them. You instantly love and hate the girls’ lawyer Billy Flynn, and the matron of Cook County Jail “mama” Morton, well, let’s be glad she isn’t our mama.
I find the story quite original, because it is a well known subject with females being criminals and claiming they didn’t do it, but I feel that in this musical they have managed to set the story to make us believe that the criminal celebrities are worth fighting for. In the end you are on the women’s side, and not the state. At least I was, they razzle dazzled me with their costumes, dance moves and songs.
According to Chicago’s home page, this musical has been honoured with 6 Tony Awards, 2 Oliver Awards, a Grammy and thousands of standing ovations. It has become world known, and you can see it on stage in New York, London, Mexico City and so many other places. I really love this musical, and in my opinion I think the musical is ten times better than the film. So put on your high heel shoes and prepare to sing along, because in my opinion this is a musical definitely worth seeing. It really is all that jazz!

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Celebrity Tour in Los Angeles

Earlier I wrote about when we visited Universal Studios in Los Angeles, so I thought it was about time to write about the celebrity tour Kjell Steinar and I went on. It lasted for two hours and it was so much fun. Not only did we get to see some big and beautiful houses, but we also got to see Los Angeles quite a lot. But the one thing we did not see was any celebrities.

The tour started at the walk of fame, outside the Chinese Theatre. We were about 11 people on a minibus and it was a beautiful day to go sightseeing. It was actually very hot so I would recommend putting on a lot of sunscreen if you get easily sunburned and you’re going on such a sightseeing trip. (Please learn from my mistake!)

On the bus we were using headphones, and the driver was our guide and he was talking to us and telling us stories during the entire trip. The guide we had was a lot of fun, and he definitely knew what he was talking about.  The first place he drove us to was Beverly Hills, and that’s where I want to be. It was so beautiful there, and you could tell that the people living there cared about the appearance of their neighbourhood. Even the street signs were different here and, if you can say more beautiful, than the rest of LA. I would say that it is like we’ve seen it on “Beverly Hills 90210”.

Beverly Wilshire Hotel
“Pretty Woman” is one of my favourite films, and when we were driving down Rodeo Drive I almost screamed, especially when we drove past the hotel where Richard Gere and Julia Roberts were staying in the film. I also guess it was a good thing that we were driving down this street and not walking, because it was a lot of expensive stores there and for someone who loves shopping that is dangerous for my credit card. We even drove past a store that did not have a name outside, and our wonderful guide told us that if you don’t know the name of that store than you can’t afford to buy anything there. This store is Prada, ladies and gentlemen, and our guide was right in the statement that we cannot afford anything there.

Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt's house
Finally it was the time of the sightseeing where we were driving past the houses of celebrities. The first house that we saw was Richard Gere’s, which was perfect considering we’d just seen his hotel. All of the houses that we saw had gates and fences, and of course that is understandable. After Gere’s house we saw the house that Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt used to live in. It was a beautiful house and the people living there now are very lucky, in my opinion. Following Aniston and Pitt’s house we went to the Bel Air house, where the fresh prince of Bel Air used to live. At least in the series, that is. So far it had been a lot of fun, but when we stopped outside the house where Michael Jackson lived and died it was a very emotional moment. What we had just seen in the newspapers and on the news we were now seeing in real life, and on the stop sign next to his house someone had written “This is it”.

These were my favourite houses that we saw, but we also saw the houses where Christina Aguilera, David Beckham and Dr. Phil are living, just to mention a few more. And our sightseeing ended at the famous Hollywood sign where we got an amazing view over LA.
If you are going to LA I would recommend going on a celebrity sightseeing tour, as it is a lot of fun and you get to see a lot of LA at the same time. Kjell Steinar and I sure had a lot of fun, and if I ever go to LA again I might do this again, and hopefully Dr. Phil will step out of his house and say hi to us then. 
Driving down Rodeo Drive
Rodeo Drive baby
Fresh Prince of Bel Air House
Michael Jackson's house
Dr. Phil's house
Christina Aguilera's house
Famous concert house on Sunset Blvd
Kjell Steinar and I with the Hollywood sign behind us

All of the pictures are my own
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