Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Veni, Vidi, Vici

I was hanging out at the library today just doing some work when I completely lost my way. I ended up reading all about Julius Caesar and how the Roman Republic became the Roman Empire. In retrospect the topics I read about on the way to my final destination were linked in quite a peculiar fashion. It all started like this:

I look up from my book to see Ainsley Harriott's pretty face staring back at me from this medical journal with the headline "Ainsley Harriott talks about cooking, life and arthritis".. or something of the sort. So my mind wanders to a comment a friend of mine made as we stumbled onto Ready, Steady, Cook! when channel surfing on a hangover sunday about how Mr. Harriott is a former member of the Harlem GlobeTrotters. Lo and behold, I'm onto google in a flash to confirm the truth behind the rumor, so I type in his name and a Wikipedia link comes up. Nope, nothing remotely having to do with basketball.. he's been in the cooking business his whole life, apparently.

Hmm, so who WERE the members of the GlobeTrotters? Using Wikipedia again, I searched for that and came up with an article listing their history and members over the years.. interesting. Wilt "the Stilt" Chamberlain was one, eh?

While searching for that, one of the results was about Harlem, New York.. so I decide to click on it and read about the history of the area. It's quite informative, teaching me about the physical borders of the area as well as the years in which the African American populations started moving there and how throughout the years it gained notoriety as a hotbed for criminal activity. The article mentioned Hell's Kitchen as another area of New York, so I click on that and read about it.

From there the idea pops into my head to look up The Hells Angels (without the apostrophe in Hells I learn) which brings up a mention of the Rolling Stones concert at Altamont in 1969 when the gang were used for security and ended up stabbing a fan to death. Always wanted to know what happened that night, so I decide to read more about it by reading up on the Rolling Stones. After a quick whiz through their history in which it highlights quite the rift between Jagger and Richards, I decide to read more about Keith Richards' drug problems.

While reading about that, the article comes across two pieces of jewellery that he wears, one being a handcuffs bracelet that reminds him of how much he doesn't want to go to jail again, and a ring that looks like a skull with no jaw which apparently is a Totenkopf ring. What's that now?

On we go as I click on Totenkopf to read that its a german word that means "Death's Head" and is a military insignia associated with the Nazi SS. Hmm, click on that then and as I read the introductory paragraph the SS is described as the Nazi party's "praetorian guard".

Praetorian.. hmm.. so I click on that, which leads me to read about the Praetorian guard and their role in the Roman Empire and how they've become synonymous with intrigue, conspiracy, disloyalty and assassination. From there it lists the Roman Emperors and how the guard had affected their reign (whether by assassinating, deposing or assisting them) and from there I read about a few of the famous ones such as Nero, Caligula, Commodus etc.. There was actually an emperor called Philip the Arab who ruled for 5 years before being killed. Alllllriiiighhhttt.

You can see where this is leading, I hope? I spent the next hour and a half reading about the life and death of Julius Caesar, followed by the first Roman Emperor Caesar Augustus (real name being Octavian) who old Julius had written down as his heir in his will and who was actually his nephew and not his son.

Wikipedia is fantastic. I literally had to pull myself away otherwise who knows what I'd be reading about right now.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Bahraini in London

Well, I'm here.

Its strange when you see it on the news (and you know that you're going to go there and be there for a month), but it never actually sinks in until you get there and ride the tube and buses every single day. I'm quite the public transport fanatic, so I don't really care much about the threats of terrorism and what-not. If given the choice of free cab rides to wherever I wanted to go or a tube/bus travelcard for a month then I'm afraid the famous London Black Cab Company will have to do without my patron.

It was strange at first, normaly blank-faced commuters wore nervous expressions. Their eyes were shiftier than usual, and they scoped any suspicious passenger for signs of trouble. You could almost see the question arising in their minds as they examine the different pieces of luggage on the carriage.. "is that big enough to hold an explosive device?".. it was strange, to tell you the truth, and the more I thought about it myself the more I got worried. What would an explosion feel like? What were the odds? Should I stop using public transport? (BLASPHEMY! *slaps himself across the face* Get a hold of yourself man!).

Now that I've been here for a while I've gotten more used to seeing policemen and women scattered across the tube network's stations and platforms. I've realized that initial paranoia about how I would be percieved when bestrode those tunnel-travelling engines was unnecessary and excessive. Aside from a few wary glances I haven't felt labelled or singled out when travelling back and forth, which goes to show how well this metropolitan city has dealt with such dark times. "Goddamnit, we're going to continue with our lives whether you like it or not you dirtbags" is the general vibe you get from the city's residents.. and what better way to relay that specific point across than by carrying on like nothing's happened?

As for the rest of everything else, the hospital is nice and modern, the staff are very professional and I'm getting a good kickstart to my final year of studying by realizing that I have much work to do before I'm up to scratch. I'm just glad that the Picaddilly line is finally back in service.. I've missed riding that diagonal, navy blue bugger.