Reflections on London

englandLondon. Londinium. The Big Smoke. A city with a long and winding story. As I write this, the United Kingdom is holding a vote which will determine whether the country will remain in or leave the EU. Whatever your take on #Brexit is, it is clear that London is still today as it has always been: a place in constant flux. To walk through London is to walk through amalgamated layers of history. More layers than this non-Londoner is used to seeing at one time, anyway. I first visited London in December of 2015, and it was every bit as impactful as I thought it would be.


London is a city of dichotomy. One example is found in Kensington, london-natural-history-museum-2where the Natural History Museum sits adjacent to the Victoria and Albert Museum. Wonders of Nature vs. Spoils of the Empire (though, the equally large British Museum could also be called the latter; too many spoils for one mega-museum), is the contrast on display, with each offering an awe-inspiring collection that pits uniqueness with quantity, minute detail with massive scale, and ancient mystery with modern ingenuity.


Buckingham Palace and the surrounding area was essentially a checklist of locations featured in Neal Stephenson’s epic historical fiction london-buckingham-palace-2“The Baroque Cycle”. After swinging by Carlton House Terrace and the Royal Society and entering Green Park, it was clear that the Union Jack was flying above the palace instead of the Queen’s own royal standard, negating any possibility of afternoon tea with her majesty. There were swans abound in St. James’s Park, however, which was more than enough consolation.


The density of important locations in this area of the city continues a hop away with the Palace of Westminster, Big Ben, and the coronation site of london-palace-of-westminster-3Westminster Abbey. The weight of Westminster Abbey can surely be felt by anyone within its walls. Burials and memorials representing impactful artists, scientists, and public figures important to the UK are coalesced in this massive and beautiful structure. Here lies king Saebert of the post-Rome / pre-England monarchy of Essex. Across from him you’ll see the tomb of Geoffrey Chaucer and the other residents of the Poet’s Corner. The half-sister queens Elizabeth I and Mary I, whose relationship in life was as dramatic as their Tudor name would imply, can be found in the eastern end of the abbey. An inscription reads “Partners both in throne and grave”: a fact, one could imagine, to which both would object.


london-westminster-bridgeIn a city whose influence and culture waxes and wanes through the ages, there is a stark sense of continuity that comes from boarding the symbol of 21st century London, the London Eye, and rising up to take in the whole of the city at once. Old and new are juxtaposed, and one can see the part of the city originally bounded by the defensive wall surrounding Londinium, as well as out to the horizon to the modern suburbs and beyond. london-eye-3My New York City will soon be getting an observation wheel of its own. Looking out over that sprawl, extant structures will span perhaps four centuries. True, this represents more history than one could ever hope to know in a single lifetime, however, London is on a different magnitude altogether.


The Tower of London. Saint Paul’s Cathedral. King’s Cross Station. The National Gallery. Abbey Road Studios. london-abbey-road-studiosThe Fish & Chipper. All of these and more are integral to making London what it was and is. With hardly a week on the Thames, I could only scratch the surface of what the city had to offer by the time I had boarded my plane at Heathrow on my way back to the New World. The city will continue to change as I figure out my return plan, but I can be sure that the history will be there waiting for me.

12366471_10205635419469778_3100434417266022423_nAlexander Bolesta is a twenty-something museum wonk and sometimes gamer. He reads high fantasy and enjoys photography and tech. Check out his personal website at and drop him a line!

The Kitty Cat Pirate and the Yummy Treasure by Benjamin De Ridder

51opK445RnL._SX331_BO1,204203200_The Kitty Cat Pirate and the Yummy Treasure

Benjamin De Ridder

About the Book:

A long time ago, the very first Pirate Kitty made his base on a legendary island hiding an amazing kitty treasure. Kitty-Cat Pirate and his best friend Charlie are on the hunt for said treasure. They always laugh and have a great time together. From the mind of 6 year old author Benjamin De Ridder comes an adventure that will spark imagination and laughter in your child. The story of the Kitty-Cat Pirate captures the spirit of adventure. Rediscover the world through the eyes of a child, and share the joy of reading with your child. The Kitty-Cat Pirate and the Yummy Treasure is a fully illustrated book that can be enjoyed as a bedtime story for ages 5 and up. To read it independently, your child might be 3rd grade and older. To enjoy the story, you are never too old! Join the Kitty-Cat Pirate and Charlie today on their great adventure!

About the Author:

Benjamin De Ridder is a talented young creator. In kindergarten, he won the art awards. He has a big imagination, and loves drawing and crafting. A Houston native to Belgian and Peruvian Parents, he travelled all the way to Europe in 2015 to spend first grade in a Flemish school in the beautiful medieval city of Bruges. One day he crafted a book to surprise his dad. It featured a front-cover and back-cover drawing of the Kitty-Cat Pirate, and what looked like a narrative written in a secret cat-language. So Benjamin came to narrate the story of the Kitty-Cat Pirate and his best friend Charlie on the hunt for Kitty Treasure for the very first time.

To buy the book, click here.

To visit the author’s website, click here.

Review: House of Leaves

House_of_leavesHouse of Leaves

Mark Z. Danielewski

I bought this book in 2006 and intended to read it but never did.  The main reason was that it was so damn big and too damn heavy.  However, my book club chose it as the newest read and I finally ran out of excuses (it’s too heavy for the subway!) to not read the book.

The book is about a man, Johnny, who finds a manuscript written by a dead landlord he also found.  The manuscript is about a documentary created by a famous photographer as he moves his family into a brand new house in Virginia.  The house’s internal structure changes on its own to serve the house’s secret purpose, though the book explores a ton of other theories about what is actually going on.  I mean, the house is in Virginia.  It’s not really a spoiler to think it’s most likely evil.  Have you seen the speed traps in Virginia?  It’s the State of Evil Things.

Anyway, the book is filled with footnotes, references to bonus material at the back of the book (which may or may not be there), sections of labyrinth-like reading challenges, and in-text breaks from the main plot.  I’ve named those breaks: “What the tangent?!”

Overall, I thought the book was brilliantly constructed.  It takes on the feel of a maze nearly perfectly, exactly at the points when it needs to, and the extra material was a great way to find out more about characters in subtle ways.  However, the huge pockets of references and the times when Johnny interrupts the documentary were just too hard for me to get through.  I always wanted to skip his footnotes, and reading them felt like I was struggling through required reading in college.  I greatly disliked him as a character and by the end of the book, I was praying for his sweet, sweet demise.

I did love reading all the parts about the Navidson family, even the parts going into the background of the family members and their relationships.  That’s the only thing that kept me going until the end.

My final verdict?  If you’re looking for a challenge with mostly interesting characters, then grab this one.  Just be warned: It’s a doosey and it goes on for 250 pages too long.  And the narrator is a chump.  Oh, and you have to have the actual book.  I heard rumors that the formatting doesn’t allow it to translate to e-book (Score!).

Dear Pulse,

Sometimes as a straight female, I am surprised by violence in safe spaces like Pulse because I am used to having at least one place that’s untouchable.  I start to assume that everyone has at least one place that is untouchable.  And maybe Pulse was untouchable for people–maybe that’s why they went there.  Maybe that’s why the shooter went there.  I say shooter because he deserves to remain anonymous and fade from everyone’s memory.

I feel the upsetness of a young person watching other young people die.  Most of the victims were my age.  They were doing things I do.  They were loving the way I love, and living good, beautiful lives.  And now they’re all gone.  I have a really hard time with this because it scares me and fills me with this sorrow that cannot be described.

I know two things for certain though: First, I refuse to be a bystander any longer.  I’ve offered up enough prayers and enough well-wishes.  I’m done.  From now on, each upset will be met with the suggested meditation from the Dalai Lama: Critical thinking followed by action.

And second, I’m done waiting for a better time to be more loving, compassionate, and brave.  Those people were good people and now they don’t get to laugh anymore, cry anymore, or even do things like have ice cream or pet a dog.  They don’t get anything anymore.  I have everything, and you better fucking believe I’m going to change some shit around.


The librarian who’s thinking critically and acting