Spencer Cylinder

Spencer Cylinder
Study Abroad Fall 2014; Philosophy, Politics, Economics, and Law
Hi! I'm a junior studying Philosophy, Politics, Economics, and Law (wow that's a mouthful) at the University of Richmond in Virginia. I'm really excited to be here in London for the first time in my life and am excited to explore the city, the country, and just about everywhere in Europe that I can fit into my schedule! I chose London in particular partly because of the ease of travel and the fact that everyone still speaks English; but mostly it's because I love British culture (particularly humor like Monty Python and the Cornetto Trilogy) and I recently got into Doctor Who. I wanted to explore London so I could see what it is truly like to be there.

A Final Farewell

It’s been a fun semester here at Queen Mary, but I’m finally going home early Tuesday morning. After having to write four essays simultaneously, I finally have time to write one last blog for this site. This is my final farewell to Queen Mary and all the friends I’ve made here.

At the beginning of Reading Week, I took a trip to Edinburgh in Scotland. There I toured the city and traveled all the way to the Scottish Highlands and Loch Ness. It was a fun weekend. Though Scotland was fun, I could never get a group together to go further. It’s a shame, but maybe in a few years I’ll come back to Europe for a planned trip.

Anyway, while still in the city, I started hanging out with a native Londoner who showed me the sights. He knew all the things tourists don’t know about. One of the more interesting places he showed me was a Chinese restaurant called Wong Kei.

While the food there was good, the interesting part of the restaurant is the story behind it. Back when it first opened, it quickly became famous for the rudeness of its staff. They would shout, “Go upstairs!” and “Sit with them!” after insulting you in Cantonese. I guess because the food was so good, people put up with this.

The story behind Wong Kei’s reminded me of an old episode of Seinfeld called the Soup Nazi. In this episode, people lined up around the block to get one of his bowls of soup. However, they had to put up with his shouting and almost authoritarian standards of etiquette, or it was “No soup for you!”

In case you’re wondering, the staff at Wong Kei’s are no longer rude, though they do still tell you to go upstairs and make you sit with other people at large tables, but I see it more as a self aware part of their heritage. Plus the food is excellent and super cheap; that certainly helps.

It’s been a great semester here at Queen Mary. I met a lot of people and had a lot of fun. It’s a shame I didn’t see more of Europe, but I feel like I really know London well, or at least as well as anyone else. I doubt anyone can truly make sense of the city’s maze-like layout. Anyway, this is Spencer signing out.

London Comic Con

So a few weeks ago, I went to London’s Comic Con. Two essays and a presentation later, I finally have time to write about my experience.

For those who don’t know, Comic Con is a large convention for comics and other subcultures. Think of it as a large gathering of nerds and geeks. I’m unashamed to call myself a geek and for the longest time, I’ve wanted to go to one of these Cons. Unfortunately, life always got in the way. Whenever there was a Con in one city, I was always somewhere else. So, finding out that London was going to have its own Comic Con was some of the best news I’ve received.

Going to Comic Con was an unforgettable experience. I wasn’t sure I was in the right place, but as soon as I saw people in costumes on the DLR, I knew I was headed in the right direction.

Once at the right place, I waited for over an hour and a half in line, chatting it up with the people I met. We were all in line (queue?) purgatory. However, San Diego Comic Con, the largest Con of them all, has lines that last for five hours, and that’s just to get in. Overall, the line was mercifully short, but I had fun talking with fellow geeks.

After I was finally officially in, I walked around, talking with people and looking at art. At Cons like this, people are always selling their art. It’s always interesting to see what people have made. I even bought a few pieces. For those interested in going to a Con in the future, people there sell fan art, original art, and their own comics. There are also people selling shirts, comic books, manga, DVDs, action figures, and an assortment of other cool, and sometimes weird, stuff.

And oh yeah, there are the cosplayers. A lot of people at these Cons cosplay, meaning they dress up as their favorite characters from anime, comics, or anything else. Some of the best cosplays are the ones you would never expect:

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(Please hold, my Child)

I can’t make a costume; I don’t have the talent or knowledge of how to make one. But I’m always impressed with the costumes people come up with. While walking around, there were so many characters I recognized and many I didn’t.

Finally, I thought I’d leave you with a little game. Since there were so many cosplayers, I’ll give you a few pictures and you can figure out what characters they are. The answers will be at the bottom. I’ll give two easy ones, two medium ones, and two challenges.

1. IMG_0525

2.  IMG_0497

3. IMG_0513

4. IMG_0514

5. IMG_0521

6. IMG_0506

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Answers: 1. The 10th Doctor from Doctor Who; 2. Gokus and Vegetas from Dragonball Z; 3. Korra from the Legend of Korra; 4. Mikasa Ackerman from Attack on Titan; 5. Gomez and Morticia Addams from the Addams Family; 6. Ira Gamagori and Mako Mankanshoku from Kill la Kill)

A Crazy Weekend

Originally posted at the beginning of October.

 

Last weekend marked my third here in London and it was busy. From Bath to the Chiswick House, I have a lot to cover.

Friday: National Theatre

This day was marked by my big visit and backstage tour of London’s National Theatre. Queen Mary was sponsoring this trip, so a large group of us gathered to go on it. The Theatre itself was cool, but my real fun happened afterward. I stayed in the area with a group of new friends and we explored the neighborhood around the Theatre, a particularly touristy place. Here, we passed the London Eye and Big Ben. They were only passing glimpses, so I made a note to myself to visit this area again.

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Saturday: British Museum and Walking

On Saturday, I met up with a family friend from South Africa, Milan. We had a fun time walking around and exploring the city. While most of the day was exploring, we did spend a few hours in the British Museum. The place is huge; I highly recommend it. Also worth noting: London is a huge city. Milan had one of those watches that count how far you walk and I think he clocked in somewhere around 20 or 30 kilometers, all in one day.

 

Sunday: Bath and Stonehenge

I went with a large group of students two hours away to Bath. Bath is a beautiful old Roman city around ancient Roman baths (hence the name). This was one day I was glad that the weather has been very un-British (sunny).

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Afterwards, we got back on the bus and headed to Stonehenge. I’ve always wanted to see this place and you have to wonder how people could move these large boulders around without heavy machinery. I think it must have taken a lot of rolling logs and a very determined group of people.

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Monday: Architecture

For my class Architecture of London, we take a trip every other week to a different historical site in London. This week was the Chiswick House in the outskirts of London, thankfully the furthest away we’ll go in this class. After my British Politics class, I met with a friend and we got on the Tube then a bus for a very long ride. The professor definitely underestimated the time it would take to get there because we were both running a few minutes late. Nevertheless, it was a very pretty site.

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So all in all, the weekend, while extremely busy, was a lot of fun. I certainly feel like I’m starting to make progress on my long list of things I want to do while I’m in Europe.

The Tower and the Eye

Originally posted mid-October

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For all of September, I was nervous about going out into the city on my own. Although I have walked around cities on my own before, London is far bigger than what I’m used to. However, after talking with a friend about what he does on his own, I decided to try venturing out myself. I started on a Sunday with a trip to the Tower of London. London has a great program of walking tours that you can simply show up at and pay for. For the tour of the Tower of London, I was in a large group with a tour guide who spoke a lot louder than I was expecting. One minute he was quietly discussing tickets with an elderly couple, and the next thing I know, I hear “ALRIGHT THEN. IS EVERYBODY HERE? GOOD, WE CAN BEGIN.”

Anyway, despite his voice, the guide himself was very good and I learned a lot about the Tower. After the tour ended, we were free to see the many cool things in the Tower itself, most famous of which being the crown jewels (also the one with the longest line). The crown jewels themselves were really cool. There were a lot of golden plates and spoons. The really valuable things, like the large diamonds, were displayed on a conveyer belt.   I just rolled right past them.

One of the more underrated attractions at the Tower are the ravens. Apparently if all the ravens are gone from the Tower, the kingdom will collapse, so they keep a few around. They are like crows, but they are huge.

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After the Tower, I decided to walk five minutes over to Tower Bridge. Tickets for the bridge are really cheap and totally worth the view.

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Of course, walking around the city alone can be fun, but sometimes you want to do stuff with friends. While harder to schedule, this is usually worthwhile. Almost a week after my little trip to the Tower of London, I got a group of friends together and we headed to the London Eye.

It was a sunny day, perfect for seeing the entire city. We all got our tickets ready and headed onto the moving capsule. While the views were incredible, I remembered about a quarter of the way up that I have a slight fear of heights. But I didn’t let that bother me and got a bunch of awesome pictures!  The only other problem was that the sun was in the way of Big Ben, so a lot of my pictures were dark or I had to crop around my hand, which was shading the camera.

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After our fun, we walked around the area for a bit before heading to a pub for some food and then back the University.

In conclusion, while having friends to go places is a lot of fun, also don’t be afraid to do things on your own. You may not enjoy it as much as being with friends, but you will still have fun, and it’s a lot easier to schedule.

Trafalgar Square and the Giant Blue Cock(erel)

I originally wrote this for a personal blog sometime after September 20th.  The next few blogs will be older before I finally catch up.  Also, the sore throat has been gone for weeks.  People were calling it the “Freshers Flu.”

Ah, yes the giant blue cockerel. Occupying the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square, this lovely statue is the latest in a line of “modern art” statues ranging from a ship in a bottle to a boy on a rocking horse. Obviously this lovely bird is the best. The other plinths have generals or other people I haven’t looked into, the fourth plinth stands in sharp contrast.

Why do I love this statue so much? One, it is absolutely hilarious. All I need to do is point at it and say “giant blue cock(erel)” and everyone immediately gets the joke. Second is the contrast, specifically with the other plinths. Also, the fact that it’s in Trafalgar Square, one of the centerpieces of London, just makes it funnier. Finally, I love it because it is so British. I can’t really explain it, but it just has a Monty Python humor to it.

So when did I find out about this statue and when was the picture taken? I first saw it on the bus from Heathrow airport. We passed Trafalgar Square and I only saw it for a second. I figured my eyes were playing tricks on me, but I never quite forgot about it. A while later, I was on a bus tour around the city when we once again passed Trafalgar Square. This time, there was no mistaking it. It was definitely a statue of a big blue chicken where there should be something more old and serious.

Finally, I gathered a small group of newly made friends and we set out on a Saturday for a walk around London. Since London is a gigantic city, we stuck with only a small section of it, mainly Trafalgar Square. Here we got up close with the statue and I was able to take a few good photos of it, finally sating my curiosity.

Other than the aforementioned statue, we had a fun time walking around the Square and the surrounding streets, stopping at a gift shop, walking past what appeared to be London’s equivalent of Broadway, and heading back to campus on the Tube to eat together at a cheap, but good restaurant. Overall, it was a fun little excursion.

I wanted to write this blog the next day, but unfortunately, things took a turn for the worse. What started as a minor cough developed into a painful couple of days of a sore throat. First, there was a symphony of pain in my mouth, but it eventually quieted down to the back of my throat. On Monday, the pain was gone thanks to some Advil, but so was my voice. Even as I’m writing this, my voice is still a little hoarse and there’s an on-and-off pain trying to swallow. Hopefully, this’ll blow over, but in case it doesn’t I have the address of a nearby pharmacy. This sickness has not put me in a writing mood until now.

Hopefully next week my throat will be clear and I’ll have something else interesting to talk about. I’m going on a day trip to Bath and Stonehenge on Sunday, so you’ll probably be hearing about that.

Until then, cheerio!

My Name is Spencer Cylinder…

Hello.  My name is Spencer Cylinder.  I’m studying abroad here at Queen Mary for this fall semester.  So far, my experience has been fantastic!  I’m from New Jersey, back in the United States, but I study at the University of Richmond in Virginia.  Spending the last two years in sunny Richmond, I was worried that I wouldn’t see the sun again for the rest of the semester.  Luckily, the past month has been very sunny here.  All of my new British friends have told me that this has been an unusual month.

At my home school, I study political science.  Well, not exactly.  The full major is called Philosophy, Politics, Economics, and Law (or PPEL), but political science is easier to say and explain.  I was excited to take classes here like British Politics and Comparative European Politics so that I can get a more rounded view of how politics and policy around the world is shaped.  I also wanted to take classes that were less related to my major back in the States, like London on Film and Architecture of London as a sort of breather from my heavy political and philosophical workload back home.

But work isn’t the main reason I’m here.  I could’ve just as easily stayed home for that.  No, what I really wanted to do here was explore and get to know London, Britain, and Europe better.  You see, this semester was the first time I have ever been to Europe and I intend to make the most of it.  So far, I have checked off a fair amount of what I want to see here in London, yet this city is so big and busy, that there is still so much I’m excited to see!  Not to mention, the things outside of London that I want to explore.  So far, I have only been to Bath and Stonehenge outside of London.

Other things to know about me, besides my interests in politics, are my love of movies, video games, and pretty much anything considered classically “nerdy.”  I have one cat and one dog that I miss very much.  I am also a huge fan of science fiction and hope to someday write something of my own for the world.  Finally, I have always been attracted to Britain and British things, especially British humor like Monty Python.  This attraction drew me towards picking London as my place to study abroad.  I really want to make the most out of the rest of my time here and I plan on writing down all of the major things I do in the months ahead.

That being said, my next couple of blogs will be about the things I have already done while I was here this past month.  There is a lot to talk about and I hope you enjoy!

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