Visions Of Star Wars

Just before I went to Japan, I started looking into shows and events and interesting things to see in Tokyo.  One of the first things I learned was that there was a Star Wars: Visions exhibit in Roppongi Hills from late April until late June.    My colleague and I hit the train before work one day, to see the exhibit.   There were advertisements in the train stations.

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Before we went all the way into the tower, we stopped for a quick breakfast.  It turns out that Seattle-based Tully’s Coffee has a presence in Tokyo, and they make very tasty pastries.  I think this was an apple based pastry, if I remember correctly.  It was quite good.

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Mori Tower was our next stop.  This is where the Star Wars exhibit was being held, as well as a Naruto exhibit which we did not visit.

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On the walk into Mori Tower, there’s a giant spider thing.  Fun!

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If you’re not sure that you’re headed in the right direction, just look for a sign.

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I’m not really a fan of most anime, but it looks like Naruto fans would have really enjoyed this nearby exhibit.

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The exhibits are held on the top floors of Mori Tower, which means you get a pretty spectacular view of the city looking out toward Tokyo Tower, the one that looks like a red Eiffel Tower.  I’ll get to Tokyo Tower in another post.

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Star Wars: Visions is an exhibit of artifacts from the Star Wars universe, as well as some new art pieces.  The artifacts were far more interesting to me than the art.

First, you have to get past more giant signs though.

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Once you get inside, one of the first things you see is the Death Star!

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Here’s a Darth Vader figure in his regeneration chamber.

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There was a life-sized Darth Vader lightsaber duel set-up on the roof for you to pick up a lightsaber and get a good photo against the Tokyo skyline.  However, that part of the exhibit was closed when we were there.  (Dang it, it looks cool!)

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We didn’t get to fight a Sith lord, but we did get to see almost every light-saber in the Star Wars film universe.

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And models!  Lots of tiny lit up models of ships!

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The level of detail on these ships is amazing.

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So much goodness can be seen here.

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Look, it’s a recreation of the two second scene in Jedi when you see a shuttle landing on Endor!

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In case you ever wanted to see the individual components of Vader’s mask, here they are.  I’ve always been curious about the little brown postage-stamps that ring the face-mask.  I can see now that they’re covered in circuitry, which makes total sense to me.

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I believe this is an original Boba Fett costume and Han-sicle.

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This is an original Han Solo blaster prop.

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…and this is actual C3PO and R2-D2 costumes.

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On the way out, there’s some rather nifty art in a lucite box.

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Have you ever seen a Star Wars exhibit?   What was your favorite artifact?

So where were we? Oh, yes, Tampa Bay Comic Con!

For the last few months, it’s been increasingly more difficult to find the words for the little blank box of blogdom.  The painful truth is that this blog has always been primarily a travel blog, and I’m not really traveling any more.   Once I finish my photo sorting from Japan and I start those posts, I’m out of steam.  I took nearly 2500 photos while I was in Japan, and I foolishly didn’t sort them as I went.  Stupid, stupid Steven.  I’m nearly through them now, but it’s been crazy.

I have about three Minnesota posts to get out, and a dozen or so Japan posts, and then I’m done.  I have no travel planned in the near or distant future.  For me, that’s almost unheard of, but I needed time to re-balance my life and fix the financial burn that traveling like a fiend for the last few years has caused.

The blog needs a retooling, and I’m still not really sure what to do with it.  The people who came here for pretty pictures of faraway places won’t much enjoy me talking about the day to day grind of work-a-day life in South Florida.  If I blogged more like an old LiveJournal and started to talk about things like my terrible sleep habits, South Florida traffic, and regular day to day fluff, would anyone still want to read it?

Other things have been happening which have kept me away from the blogosphere-  On the bad side, things are happening with Mr. Company that make me more than a little uneasy.  On the good side, I’ve been spending oodles of time with my Amelie, and there’s nothing that makes me blog less than having a lot of happy stuff to do away from power outlets and Internet connections.  On the mixed side, my family is splintering again.  After six or eight months being close to all my siblings, my sister has relocated to Orlando for a new job.   Orlando is only a few hours away, but that really makes it difficult to continue our tradition of all four siblings getting together for dinner every few weeks.  This picture from about two weeks ago was the last time that all of us were together:

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That’s enough focus on the question of bloggery for right now, because I have lots of entertaining pictures!  The weekend before last, Amelie and I were in Tampa for the Tampa Bay Comic Con.  We just did one soggy day of the three-day event, choosing to visit only on Saturday.    We suited up in the traditional questing garb of our people (translation: geeky t-shirts and jeans) and set out to enjoy the convention.

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Here’s some of the neat stuff we saw!  On our way in, we saw some great DC comics costumes, but it was a long line of people waiting to get into the building.   As a result, this is more a sneaky candid than a good prepped and posed shot.   I’m not sure whether this chap was Speedy or Red Arrow, but does it really matter? The weather was gorgeous for this part of the day, but it became an incredibly large monsoon-level storm system about an hour after this photo.

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I cannot get away from Frozen.  It’s everywhere.

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A very good Cap.  He loses points for using boot shams, though.  For sham, sir, for sham!  A real pair of boots would totally bring the whole costume together!

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I want this jacket.  I totally want this jacket.

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More DC characters-  Red Arrow, Black Canary, Green Arrow, and The Nefarious Frat Boy.  It’s almost like there’s a hit show on the CW with these characters or something.

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Miles Morales is a good father to his little princess.

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Optimus Prime’s got hairy knees.  This must be his summer look.  Not pictured:  The ridiculous Bermuda shorts visible from the back of the Autobot.  If you’re going to wear a full body costume, would it kill you to wear something that covers your knee-pits?

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Now this is what conventions are really for:  wizard-on-wizard violence.

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This was the first line-up for Carrie Fisher.  Everyone in this photo was in a very long folding single-file line.

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Carrie Fisher’s very short panel was great fun.  Not pictured:  Her little dog that goes everywhere with her now.  Including, apparently, the set of Star Wars: Episode VII.

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This girl’s Effie Trinket costume was kind of brilliantly done.

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The cast of Inside Out:  Sadness, Anger, Fear, Joy, and Homicidal Xenophobic Hatred.

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What would happen if the Venom symbiote latched onto Tony Stark?  Something like this, I guess.

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Russell from Up!  (Nice detail on the buttons, dude!)

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The Freema Agyeman panel was interesting, but not as interesting as Carrie Fisher’s panel.  On the bright side, I finally learned how to pronounce “Freema Agyeman.”  On a side note, the dude at the podium was an insufferable twit who made me want to kick him in the shins.

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I call this photo “Break room On The Watchtower.”

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We kept seeing this Avenger couple in lines for various panels.  I’m very impressed with their getup.  Bonus points: not a boot sham in sight!

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Every convention has its contingent of bizarre Deadpool costumes, but this one had a Dogpool puppet!  (Yes, Dogpool is a real thing in Marvel continuity.  Really.)

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They spook easily, but they’ll soon be back, and in greater numbers.

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This is one of the most interesting and innovative group costumes I’ve ever seen.  Amelie and I both especially dug these intrepid post-apocalyptic Muppet hunters.

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Agent Venom and probably-Scream.   They’re getting a lot of mileage with the original black costume these days

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Meanwhile, at Al Harrington’s Wacky Waving Inflatable Arm-Flailing Tubeman Emporium and Warehouse in Weekapaug, Rhode Island…

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Captain Spider-merica?  Spider-Cap?  American Spider?  Red White And Blue Bug?  What do you even call this mash-up?  (Cool reflective silver eyes, though.  And nice job on the shield.)

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There were surprisingly few Harley Quinns at Tampa Bay Comic Con.  Megacon in Orlando was just lousy with ’em.

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I didn’t have the good camera with me for the Jena Malone panel.

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After the day’s geekiness, Amelie and I ate dinner at Columbia House, and then walked around a bit.   We did manage to find the fabled Tampa Bay Lightning.  Shocking!

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Have you been to a convention recently?  What were your favorite costumes?

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So there are a bunch of buildings in town with this logo:

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It’s a coat of arms of some sort, and I haven’t been able to learn what it actually represents, but it from the first time I saw it, it looked really, really familiar.  I finally figured out why.

This symbol:

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…looks just like this guy.  The cartoon bad guy pictured here is Equinox, a repeating villain on “Batman: The Brave and the Bold.”

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I think I may watch too much television.

Do any logos in your city remind you of Batman?

August Break: Star Wars Celebration Europe

I’m on an August Break from my regular blogging schedule. Here’s today’s pictures.  There are 43 of ’em today, but I promise, this is still August Break.  Most of these won’t have commentary.

I went to Star Wars Celebration Europe in Essen, Germany during the last weekend of July.  There were cool panels with Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker), Carrie Fisher (Leia Organa), Anthony Daniels (C3P0), Ian McDiarmid (the Emperor), Warwick Davis (Wicket the Ewok), and many many others.

When it comes to conventions, everyone goes for different reasons.  My friend Lorrie goes partly for the panels, but mostly for the vendor tables.  Some people go to show off their costumes.  Some go because they want to hear the panels.

I like the panels, and sometimes I come back with a fun geeky t-shirt or two, but the one thing I always do at a con is to walk around with my camera.  I love seeing other people’s costumes, especially if they’re really creative or accurate or just funny.  I took hundreds of photos in Essen.  Here’s 43 of my favorite shots from the weekend.

This was before the event.  I call this “Off-duty Bike Scouts.”

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There were a lot of Leias around.  And more than a few Padmes.

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The Hasbro area had recreated several scenes from the movies in incredible detail using their action figures.

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This half-scale model of Vader’s TIE-fighter was on display.

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You could also get a picture of yourself in the cockpit of this snow speeder.

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Bavarian clone trooper.  This man had the most amazing mutton-chops under that helmet.

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Wutini!

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I thought about posing in this scene recreation, but I forgot my giant diaper.

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The wampa was at least eight feet tall.  And very fast.

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This girl did an amazing Barriss Offee costume.

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Even a princess has to eat sometime.

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There were so many Mandalorians.

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…not to mention Angry Birds.

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I didn’t understand this gag at first-  Lorrie reminded me of all the people fleeing Bespin toward the end of The Empire Strikes Back

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Lorrie shot first.

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This was on the leg of the AT-AT in the main hall.  I didn’t even notice the sign until the third day.

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I only saw four or five slave Leia costumes.  It was refreshing to see so many more Leia variants that didn’t involve the bikini.  Don’t get me wrong; I love this look (as all heterosexual geek males do,) but it’s getting a bit overplayed.

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One of these Imperials is just a mannequin.   See if you can guess which one!

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These two did a hyper-accurate cartoon Clone Wars version of Obi-Wan Kenobi and Ahsoka Tano  Very impressive.

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Lots of droids.

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An AT-AT driver!  I was amazed at the variety of costumes people chose- it wasn’t all main characters.

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“I’m a Mog!”

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I snapped this picture because of the Dengar costume.  I didn’t realize until I saw it on a larger screen that Kenny Baker (R2-D2) is in the corner!

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Surprisingly few Vaders- only two or three all weekend.

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All four of these men have played Boba Fett at some point or other.  The youngest, Daniel Logan, was “Young Boba” in the prequel trilogy.  The other three were from the original movies.  The one wearing the costume is Jeremy Bulloch, the original Boba Fett, and the one who spent the most time in the role.

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It’s a trap!

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Ikea’s computer expert revealed:

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London Again

In keeping with my tradition of going to London every July, I went there last weekend.  This was a short trip-  I flew in on Friday night and out on Sunday evening.  However, I ran into some issues with Heathrow.

It seems that a 787 DreamLiner from an Ethiopian carrier caught fire, and the airport had to close for a few hours while this was being dealt with.  The delays snowballed from there, and my evening went like this:

  • My 9pm flight got into Heathrow an hour and ten minutes late.  I’m lucky it wasn’t cancelled entirely.
  • We waited twenty minutes for Heathrow staff to find someone to drive the jet bridge out to the plane.
  • We waited another twenty minutes for the little people mover that takes you from the gate to the arrivals area.
  • Lots and lots of people had no luggage, or had to go back throughout the weekend to try to get their luggage back.  I’m grateful I’ve taken to flying without checking a bag for short trips.
  • We got to the main arrivals area of the terminal after the last Heathrow Express train to Paddington Station had already left.  Luckily, they added two additional trains when they saw the delays stacking up.  One departed at 12:45, and one at 1:30.  I waited another 50 minutes for the 12:45 train.
  • If you’re doing the math from the bolded text above, you’ll spot that we got to Paddington after 1am, which means the London Underground was shut down for the night.  The picture below was the line at the taxi stand at Paddington.  I considered walking to my hotel, but that would have involved cutting through Hyde Park at night, and I wasn’t feeling up to that particular challenge.
  • After my first experience with a legendary London Black Cab, I reached my hotel and made it into bed by around three in the morning.  My weekend was off to a rollicking start.

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Saturday morning, I went to The Shard.   The newly constructed tallest building in the European Union was not open to the public yet when I was in London last July, and I couldn’t resist a climb to the top.  Tall stuff!

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The lobby has an entire wall covered in quotes about London; this was my favorite one:

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The climb was actually one elevator to the 33rd floor, then another elevator to the 68th floor.  From there, a short stair takes you to the first observation level at the 69th floor, and another set of stairs takes you to the open observation on level 72.   There’s more above that, but only for private functions.

The elevators inside the Shard have video screens in their ceilings.  This is a picture of an elevator ceiling:

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Stairs to 72:

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This is the mostly-open observation level at the top.

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…and three pictures of the View from the Shard, which is coincidentally the name of the tourist attraction portion of the building.  The first picture includes the London Eye, Big Ben, and the Houses of Parliament.

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The second picture includes St. Paul’s Cathedral.

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The third includes the Tower Bridge and part of the Thames River.

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After  I left the Shard, I went on the Tube to meet a friend for lunch.  My weekend of rough travel continued, as parts of the Tube were shut down for maintenance work and I had to go in a very roundabout way.

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I made it, eventually, to the British Library to meet Neo for Lunch. That’s not code for anything, it’s just where we met before grabbing a bite to eat.  Hanging out with friends is always a delight, and I love lunching with people.

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After lunch, I made my way to the DLR trains from Tower Bridge to go over to Greenwich.  When I was there last July, I couldn’t reach the Royal Observatory because of the Olympic Games, and I really wanted to check that out.  On a nice warm day like this, so did a lot of other people- the lawns of Greenwich Park were littered with sunbathers and picnickers.  The Observatory is waaaay up that hill to the right  It was a nice walk.

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The Royal Observatory is great for people who like to geek out about time, clocks, telescopes, astronomy, and so forth.  There are a lot of nifty clocks about, like this one.

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The museum section also had a lot of amazing telescopes and spyglasses and so forth.  I took a lot of pictures, but I’m not going to put all of them up here.  Instead, I chose this spyglass to represent the coolest of the cool:  It’s a walking stick/sword/spyglass.  So cool!

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Of course the reason that most tourists go to the Royal Observatory is to stand on the Prime Meridian, with one foot in the East and one in the West.  There is also a monster laser in the Observatory that they light up at night- a bright green laser beam shows the path of the Prime Meridian for roughly fifteen miles on a clear dark night.  I’d like to see that some time.

The line to stand on the Meridian was quite long, but only for the picturesque part with the extra markings and a staff member nearby.  Right on the other side of that huge line of people, it was still the Prime Meridian, so I just did my thing off to one side:

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After I was done at the Observatory, I doubled back to the hotel to change clothes for the evening.  When I got out of the Tube at Earl’s Court, I found this right outside the station.  The “Bad Wolf” and Clara Oswald notes were already scrawled into the dust; I didn’t put them there.

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Finally, Saturday evening had arrived, and this is what brought me to London for this trip:  BBC Prom #2.  The 50th Anniversary Doctor Who Prom.

For those who are unfamiliar with the BBC Proms, a Prom (or Promenade Concert) is part of a yearly series of summer concerts.  Most are held in the Royal Albert Hall, and there are dozens of different shows.  There’s an entire culture built up around going to the Proms, and some fans like to go Promming:  That is, they wait in the morning for the final tickets to be released, pay five pounds for a ticket, and then stand in the center section of the Royal Albert Hall for the entirety of the show.   In the 2013 season, there are 74 separate Proms.  The Doctor Who events were Prom #2 (Saturday evening) and Prom #3 (Sunday afternoon.)

Doctor Who At The Proms has occurred twice before, in 2008 and 2010 respectively.  I had been waiting for it to come up again since I got to Germany, and I wouldn’t have missed this for the world.  The Proms were recorded live, and  will be aired on the BBC during the 50th Anniversary celebrations later this year.

In any case, here’s the Royal Albert Hall.

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The walk between my hotel and the Royal Albert Hall went up a long street filled with various embassies.  At one point, I saw some guys taking a picture of a doorway, and I got a little curious.  This is what they were taking a picture of-  cue Yakety Sax!

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But I digress…  this is what the Royal Albert Hall looked like from my seat.

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You can see that the stage is large enough to hold the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, conducted by Ben Foster.  There were racks of seats behind the orchestra for the London Philharmonic Choir.  I cannot begin to describe how amazing they sounded together live.  The acoustics in the Royal Albert are absolutely brilliant.

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Matt Smith, the 11th (and current) Doctor appeared at this event, along with Jenna Coleman, the Doctor’s current companion.  Some of the introductions were handled by Madame Vastra and Strax, in character, along with lots of other people from the show.  The music was mostly from the current era of the show (2005 to the present), but some pieces of music performed were from the “Classic” Doctor Who, which is what they now call all of the Doctor Who between 1963 and 1996.   Plus, since this is a Doctor Who Prom, there were Silurians, Silence, Ice Warriors, Whisper Men, Cybermen, and a few others.  Here’s a Weeping Angel:

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Here’s a Judoon:

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…and here’s the conductor being harassed by a pair of Daleks.

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The Proms were amazing, and if I lived in London, I would go to a lot more of them.  Some of the other Proms this year sounded really nifty.  After the show, I headed back to the hotel and had a nice room service sandwich to wind down.   On Sunday morning, I met Neo again, this time at Hyde Park, because there was a giant horse head statue I wanted to check out.  I had seen it from the window of the taxi two evenings before.  In the darkness, it looked like a giant glowing horse head, and I was pleased to find that it wasn’t that difficult to find in the daylight either.  This 35 foot tall horse head statue was sculpted by Nic Fiddian-Green, and it’s been there since around 2009.

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Another set of statues, a wander past the Speaker’s Corner of the park, a quick lunch, and then it was already time to head back to Paddington for my trip out of London.  On the walk to Paddington station, we passed a hospital, and there were a bunch of photographers and television crews setting up.  I didn’t know until we’d walked past it what it was all about… there were ranks of ladders for photographers to stand on…

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…and just past the already set up tv crews, there were squares of tape which dictated where other camera crews from different media outlets could set up.

We had stumbled onto the journalist area for the media crews covering the birth of Kate Middleton’s royal baby at St. Mary’s Hospital in Paddington.  I didn’t even know this was going on, but there it is.

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Tell me your favorite thing to do in London.  Have you ever been to a BBC Prom?  Have you ever accidentally stumbled across a major media event?  Have you ever stood on the Prime Meridian?