Cartoon Museum

June 24, 2008 at 9:08 pm | Posted in Comics, General, London, museum, Out and About, Tourism, Travel, UK | Leave a comment
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On Sunday I walked down to London’s grandest tribute to Empire – the British Museum and kept on walking down a side street near a very subdued Pizza Express to that other museum, the Cartoon Museum. To clarify this museum is about printed cartoons and their history in Britain not animated cartoons. That was a bit of a shame as my misspent youth (and adulthood) was spent watching cartoons not flicking through comic books. 

I went to the museum mainly because it was relatively close and cheap (£4 adult entry). I’m sure I would have gone eventually but impending poverty certainly bumped it up. Going in I thought I would be over my head with lots of caricatures and themes I wouldn’t understand. I was pleasantly surprised.

The museum is relatively small but spread out over two levels including a small special exhibition space. Most of the cartoons on display include a description explaining the content and it’s place within cartoon history and development. More than anything these helped ease me into the space.

The ground floor covered the early 18th century history up until the World Wars. As relative newcomer to Britain I found the political satire and commentary fascinating as it captured the mood thus helping to bridge a cultural divide between my estranged brethren and me.

The exhibit space on this floor was dedicated to the cartoonist Pont and his work during the 1930s. Notably his British Character series, which still resonates and can be enjoyed today.

The second floor has modern British cartoons from 2000AD to V for Vendetta and highlighted the growing maturity of content from discussing issues such as rape, bodily functions galore and political oppression to the whimsical calamities of Dennis the Menace (I’d only ever known the American incarnation) and a growth of Japanese manga inspired works. This floor also has a ‘children’s section’ to draw your own cartoons. I’m sure there are a few adults out there who’ll use this space as well!

The second floor does suffer in that it appears to get most of its lighting from large skylights. Luckily it was quite sunny when I was there but occasionally a large cloud would significantly dim the interior. Hopefully during duller days they can compensate.

Overall, I found the museum interesting and a worthwhile insight into the development of British culture as a whole not just a fragmented geek cartoon niche. Although I wouldn’t be surprised if those geekier than me got even more out of this museum and the artwork.

It’s cheap, it’s engaging and it’s near plenty of other tourist spots in London so give the Cartoon Museum a try. There are also several comic book stores in the area, like the excellent Gosh!, if you feel inspired to buy some modern (or vintage) content. Otherwise you could always follow the Cartoonists’ Club of Great Britain sighsteeing suggestions.

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Day 4 Paris Trip: The Latin Quarter and the Jardin du Luxembourg

January 22, 2008 at 10:30 am | Posted in Anime & Manga, books, Comics, France, General, Manga, Out and About, Paris, photos, Tourism, Travel | 6 Comments
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The last day in Paris was spent with a journey to the Latin Quarter and the Jardin du Luxembourg (Luxembourg Gardens).

I’ll start with the gardens first. I walked and used the Metro but you might prefer to ride a bicycle. Throughout Paris are bike rental stations  –Velib -where you basically hire it and can return to any other station. For the safety conscious they don’t come with helmets.

Paris 308

Meanwhile, the gardens are home to the French Senate.

Jardin du Luxembourg (20)Jardin du Luxembourg (24)

Extensive grounds.

Jardin du Luxembourg (2)Jardin du Luxembourg (27)

Statues.

Jardin du Luxembourg (3)Jardin du Luxembourg (11) Jardin du Luxembourg (15)Jardin du Luxembourg (14)Jardin du Luxembourg (21)

Chess games alongside the sleeping homeless.

Jardin du Luxembourg (8)

Flower beds and bare trees – presumably the place would be spectacular to walk around in spring.

Jardin du Luxembourg (9)

Or you could play tennis.

Jardin du Luxembourg (12)

Overall, the gardens allow for a relaxing stroll around the grounds. A pleasant escape from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Jardin du Luxembourg (22)Jardin du Luxembourg

Even in the slight chill there are plenty of people taking the opportunity to sit around, contemplate, chat or have lunch.

Jardin du Luxembourg (25)Jardin du Luxembourg (23)

I’ve often complained that London lacks any trash cans and I realise there are safety concerns but it wasn’t until Paris that I realised why even the clear bag option may not work.

Jardin du Luxembourg (10)

Then again perhaps a slightly thicker non explosive/metallic material would still allow for a clean and safe environment?

Once out of the Gardens I took to the Latin Quarter in earnest. Home of higher education for the esteemed university La Sorbonne. Thus almost completing my pained and over stretched analogy of a trip of highs.

Latin Quarter (21)Latin Quarter (27)

Or more cultural highs at the Pantheon. Or, rather I’m sure there would be if I’d actually gone in.

Latin Quarter (22)Latin Quarter (24)

Or the high from finding a real life manga cafe in Paris – near a number of other comic/DVD/book shops. After all it is a university student district.

Latin Quarter (30)

The blue shop is Album comics but while trying to find the URL I stumbled upon the Boulevard des Bulles which is the same area.

Latin Quarter (17)

As the masthead indicates this is Boulinier and on the right down the small Rue Serpente (with a yellow awning) is the small but potentially interesting AAAPoum.

Latin Quarter (12)

Another books shop I stopped in was Shakespeare’s (towards Notre Dame). A well known second hand English bookstore where the staff actually live in the shop. As you walk around you’ll see the folded up beds and the sparse belongings in small piles so as to not disrupt the customers.  

And now a last smattering of photos from the Latin Quarter. Definitely a worthwhile part of the city to get lost in.

Latin Quarter (3)Latin Quarter (16)

Latin Quarter (23)

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After leaving the Latin Quarter I picked up my bags from the hotel and headed to the station, Gare du Nord, for my final high. The high speed train.

Gare du Nord (3)Gare du Nord (5)

Arriving back in Kings Cross.

Kings Cross (2)Kings Cross

Overall, I liked Paris, despite warnings I was not prepared for the distances involved. Realistically, I could have packed more in and left a day early but in part this holiday was about taking things relatively slowly and chilling out a bit. For the most part this was accomplished so the next time I make it to France I’ll be able to travel further afield.

Now that I’ve dipped my toe into Europe I doubt it’ll be too long before I’m back on the continent!

More photos on Flickr!

Strolling on Sunday

July 4, 2007 at 10:26 pm | Posted in Anime & Manga, Comics, Gaming, London, Out and About, Pop-cult, Procrastination, UK | Leave a comment

On Sunday I met and chatted with Amy at Green Park before going geek and walking around the inner city to some of potential haunts in my new home.

Green Park and St James Park are lovely and relaxing scenic spots near the Mall and Buckingham Palace. Perhaps the rain kept numbers down but the wet weather didn’t deter us as we wandered, chatted and munched on snacks. On the edge of Green Park (Piccadilly side) is where you’ll find numerous vendors selling artworks that cover the park fence and foot path. I had momentary thoughts of a Mary Poppins style chalk drawings but this was quickly dashed by the less than stellar pieces.

I now began my solitary walk through the city to check out a number of geeky and specialist shops I’d found on the net. As normal I got lost any number of occasions, with plenty of backtracking and circling around. Let’s ignore those distracting and tiring details for the specifics.

First stop was Europe’s largest bookstore – Watertone’s at Piccadilly – and Wren’s 17th Century St James’ Church next door. The church while old didn’t look overly impressive so I skipped a more thorough inspection and headed into the bookstore, spread out over several floors and featuring a couple cafes. Oh and plenty of books. Floors and floors of them. The shelves are largely along the walls leaving a sizeable amount of available space where, if they chose, they could have more shelves. At any rate for any booklover you’ll no doubt find a worthwhile distraction.

Next onto the Japan Centre. It features Japanese food, groceries, travel, books and homeware. I thought the floor space and range were limited but the supermarket was popular so perhaps I’m missing the point. Now I moved to the famed Piccadilly Circus with its neon lights and statue of Eros and down towards Trafalgar Square and the centre of London, Charing Cross.

After lunch and a reduction in the rain I moved into Chinatown and finally found a place selling Bubble Tea (a rarity in London). I asked the shop assistant and apparently there are no chain/ franchise shops in London selling one of my favourite drinks. Shame. From Chinatown I made my way to the Trocadero centre with its limited shops, cinema and fantastic arcade complex – Funland. I’m looking forward to coming back here in the future trying to build some skills. Of course if you’re not into arcade games then why not try dodgem cars, pool, air hockey, slot machines or any other fun game. I wonder how they can make much money given the amount of floor space they cover and the small number of people inside.

Walking past Virgin Radio I came to Arigato a Japanese supermarket for those needing some Asian food stuffs before moving onto Chapel street. Unfortunately I couldn’t find either of the two recommendations: Octopus – funky items and ACE – gaming, but on the plus side I got to walk down this iconic street.

An unsuccessful walk down Berwick street followed (most of the allegedly good coffee shops seemed closed) led me to Oxford Street and Games Workshop. Filled with lots of people (guys) checking out model kits. I felt completely out of my depth as it is something I’ve never been into but thought I should pop my head into anyway. Next Computer Exchange where there is a supply of second hand computer games and DVDs for you to peruse. I managed to pick up a PC version of Final Fantasy VII (probably paying too much for it) and was eager to try and play this game out of nostalgia. I realise that trying to get an old game to play on modern equipment would be a challenge and this turned out to be the case. Despite consulting numerous forums, downloading many patches (including how many viruses?) and tweaking all manner of settings I failed to get the game running. In effect wasting my money but it is nice to have and perhaps one day when I have a week to spare I’ll get it working.

Around Computer Exchange, Goodge Street and Tottenham Court Road are a number of other computer shops that might be worth your while to inspect. Also on Tottenham is Casino Leisure Centre, a small arcade centre near Goodge St Station but nothing compared to Funland. Of course if you get bored with games and culture you could step into the Scientology centre next door.

Walking down towards the British Museum, particularly along Great Russell Street you’ll find several comic shops. Gosh! looks quite good. Down on Oxford Street is apparently one Forbidden Planet but I failed to locate it instead going to the other? Forbidden Planet on Shaftesbury with its massive collection of collectibles, comics, anime and mange, dvds and books. Definitely check it out.

The nearby Orc’s Nest was closed on Sunday but looks to have models and the like. Further down on Charing Cross Road is Murder One a book shop for crime and romance novels – because these two go together? Being a specialist shop if either of these pique your interest it would be worth checking out. Also on Charing Cross Road is meant to be Comic Showcase. I found the sign but no clear way to get into the shop. Assuming it still exists.

Besides the above mentioned there were numerous other book shops and the occasional comic store as well to keep you interested as you walk through the city. If you get bored there is always a pub, coffee shop, musical or movie theatre nearby.

The main places I’ve listed here can be found on my Google Map.

Next week some actual real sightseeing!

Amendment – Scott Pilgrim

October 29, 2006 at 4:00 pm | Posted in Comics, General, Procrastination | Leave a comment

An update to my earlier write up of Scott Pilgrim, I finally finished reading all three of the Scott Pilgrim comics and to my delight I enjoyed them particularly after Book One’s mid point when the general themes and characters had been established. Both Geek Nights and The Ninja Consultants have done reviews and you should check them out. 

While I probably missed out on some of the humour I found it an enjoyable read with interesting characters and visual style. Personally, I found some of the gamer jokes quite cool. Scott not being able to take the skateboard was gold. Also gold is vegan power! I will have to watch my vegan friend now.  

If you’re a bit geeky and/or a bit indy you’ll enjoy this series. I’ll also put up a disclaimer to say I’ve never been into comics – other than the Sunday paper kind – and I bought these on the strength of the above reviews. It was a good buy but remember read in order.

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