Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Update: Carly's Mad March in London

After teaching myself a bit of HTML coding in order to properly blog, I have finally updated with the first few games of "Carly's Mad March in London," and as you may have noticed, well behind schedule. This trip has far exceeded my expectations (which were pretty high), and so it has been hard to sit down long enough to blog. Also, I've had spotty internet at my hotel, so now in the office, I can finally play a little catch up.

In completely unrelated news, I would like to note to those who may care that the keyboard in Europe, or at least England, is a bit different. The quote symbol (") is not in the same place as one would find in America - it's on the 2 key, which continues to trip me up well into day two here in the office. Why this matters is because I pretty much love to put quotes around anything - neccesary or no. Also, because I know you're dying for this exclusive scoop, the parenthesis (which I also use extrememy too much) is located on the 9 key like American keyboards; however as I typed that sentence (breaking news in real time here folks), I learned that the hashtag is not located in the same spot either. Right. So now that we've cleared that up, we can carry on.

As you see, I still have quite a few places to visit - mostly in the countryside (Stonehenge, Windsor, etc.), hence why the right side of the bracket is blank. Many may also be suprised to see that I have yet to hit Abbey Road which is mainly because I firmly believe in saving the best for the last. That's actually a lie - I really just have been gallivanting too much in Westminster to make it there yet. I promise, I won't lie to you again.

One last note, I have began purchasing the gifts for the winner of the competition, and all I have to say is: lucky you. More updates coming in the next fews days, but in the meantime, check out the following games below:

Game #1: Hyde Park vs. Trafalgar Square
Game #2: Buckinhgam Palace vs. Big Ben
Game #3: Abbey Road vs. London Eye (Rescheduled for later this week)
Game #4: Westminster Abbey vs. Tower of London

Note: For those not aware or with my agency, I created a bracket of the top sights I planned to visit while in England. I develoepd it similar to the NCAA tournament bracket, and even seeded the sights based on how badly I wanted to see them. Much like this year's tournament, I did improperly seed two of the sites (Westminster Abbey and Tower of London) - they should never have met in the first round. I apologize Tower of London...please do not behead me.

Carly's Mad March: Westminster Abbey vs. Tower of London

Controversy Alert:
Now that I'm here in London and seeing the sites I've longed to see since I first watched A Hard Day's Night, I'm wondering to myself why in the hell I would ever place these two against one another. This was worse seeding than this year's NCAA tournament bracket. Nonetheless, full of regret for doing so, I must choose a here we go.

Tower of London
I fell madly in love with the Tower of London after a tour by a hilarious Yeoman Guard, the ceremonial guardian of the Tower, otherwise known as a Beefeater. The tour was informative, funny and quite disturbing, but most importantly fascinating! From torture and beheadings to the burial sites of Anne Boleyn and Kathryn Howard (two of Henry the VIII wives executed there) to the Crown Jewels, it was everything a girl from central Illinois could ever want.

One interesting point of the Tower that stayed with me was the housing of its ravens. The Beefeater explained that legend has it the kingdom and the Tower will fall if the six resident ravens are to ever leave the fortress. This of course led to the natural position of "Ravenmaster" which ensures the birds are well taken care of and protected. Funny enough, the guide told us that the Ravens were briefly removed from the Tower during WWII during the German attacks for safety reasons. This temporary maneuver was kept from the public until the mid 1990's as the country is rather superstitious. Remember now, they believe(d) that if the Ravers were to ever leave the Tower, the kingdom would fall. Had the public known the ravens were removed, during the historic WWII, this of course wouldn't be good for Britain's morale. PR at its finest.

As we exited the vast Tower (much larger than I ever conceived), I told my parents that this had to be my favorite by far. I was positive it would advance to the final challenge, but then came Westminster Abbey.

Westminster Abbey
I first want to state that I'm not a religious person, but I could not help but be moved by the beauty, elegance and history of this church. Construction began in the late 1080's and today houses the remains of many notable figures of history: Kings and queens (including Queen Elizabeth I), poets (Chaucer, Tennyson, Dickens) and scientists (Newton, Darwin).

At one point of our tour, we were asked to stop and take a moment of silence in prayer. Again, not being the most religious person, I was surprised at how touched I became. Toward the end of the tour, a choir began singing which could move the even the coldest of hearts.

As a reminder, a certain small wedding will take place here next month, and so when I watch Kate come down the aisle, I will not only think, "that so should've been me," I will also remember how beautiful tradition and history can be.

All in all, this was a lousy match up on my part as they both deserve to advance. If I could, this most definitely would be a tie, but since I must choose, Westminster Abbey pulls the win with a crazy-style buzzer beater.

Winner: Westminster Abbey

Editors Note: Charles Darwin buried in one of the world's most famous churches makes my soul smile a bit.

Carly's Mad March: Buckingham Palace vs. Big Ben

Buckingham Palace vs. Big Ben
This was a hard call, but I'm going to be upfront here and say as expected, the Queen Mum has this one. But here's the background of that decision.

Big Ben
Now don't get me wrong now, Big Ben (of course referring to the bell and not the clock) is quite magnificent as it is connected to the House of Parliament and even larger than one might expect in person. It's intricate detail and golden hues were rather impressive and actually more than what I had in mind. We have not visited this area quite a bit, and I find myself amazed with every visit.

Buckingham Palace
With that said, Buckingham Palace was nothing short of gorgeous. What really sold me is that the Queen Mum was actually home while I visited, and though I missed the Changing the Guard, it was quite a site to see. I was also quite extrememly impressed with St. James park which backs up to the palace. I found a black swan here (no boys, not Ms. Portman) and was able to catch this amazing shot with the London Eye in the background. St. James did Big Ben in and advanced the palace onto the next round.

Winner: Buckingham Palace

Carly's Mad March: Hyde Park vs. Trafalgar Square

So after some technical difficulties and delayed travel, it's time to kick off: "Carly's Mad March in London!" The following series of posts will concentrate on my personal favorite sites of London since arriving late last week. I again apologize in the delay of posting the bracket explorations have taken longer than expected. But enough of that, let's move onto the first match shall we?

Hyde Park vs. Trafalgar Square
To be honest, I thought this would be a clear cut winner when I first drafted the bracket. Those who know me, know I absolutely love Central Park and try to spend as much time there whether to exercise, write or people watch, so I assume Hyde Park would cruise this round like no other. I actually purposely found a hotel close to Hyde Park so I could do the same - wonder about and draw inspiration from it's landscape and inhabitants. With that said, I greatly underestimated Trafalgar Square.

Trafalgar Square
To be honest, before I came to London, I wasn't exactly sure what Trafalgar Square was and what its significance. Until arriving upon its magnificent memorial to Admiral Nelson, I didn't realize that the square commemorated his victory against Napoleon in the Battle of Trafalgar in the early 1800's. I also didn't realize that amazing sights of Big Ben and Buckingham Palace were more than visible from the square. I was also rather impressed that the square represents a gathering place for Londoners to speak out - most recently against the tax cuts and war in Libya.

Exactly one day after visiting the square, demonstrators graffitied and littered the site with their opinions of such hot topics. Nelson's column now sported protests signs and his "protective" lions were decorated with expressions of government frustration. A large countdown to the Olympic Games now sported a large red blob, blocking a portion of the days to the Games. What's interesting is that we drove by the square the evening of the protests, and by the time we returned to our hotel and turned on the news, the square was now filled with an angry mob, a small fire and broken glass. I'm quite glad I was fortunate to experience the before and after.

Hyde Park
On my first day in London, my parents and I spent an hour or so exploring our surroundings which included the perimeter of Hyde Park. There, we found the Marble Arch (original entrance to Buckingham Palace before it was moved) as well as some interesting statues including a rather large horse head with its nose facing the ground.

Later on this past weekend, we watched as more than 250,000 demonstrators protested potential government action of tax and job cuts. They were mostly peaceful until the evening (hence the trashing of Trafalgar Square). We also ventured through the park to Kensington Palace (last residence of Princess Diana) and its gardens. Gorgeous is just one of the adjectives I can use here.

But me being the person I am finds the suspended hand grasping a black car the most interesting art piece in the park. It stands across from the Dorchester with no explanation, rhyme or reason (picture above). I find it fascinating and so far, my favorite piece in the city.

While Trafalgar Square definitely made a strong run for my attention, I still have to go with my initial instincts and declare Hyde Park as the winner of this hard fought match. What can I say? I'm a sucker for green space and friendly squirrels.

Winner: Hyde Park

Monday, March 28, 2011

Stand by...

Trying to update blog with the "Mad March" games, but experiencing some difficulties - will get these up soon!

One Mad March

So, as any PR professional can appreciate, my schedule in London has been thrown a bit off course. Like any logistics nerd, I tried to plan everyday to the last minute, and like any event I've ever worked, that naturally didn't work. Needless to say, the bracket is a bit off schedule. I've been to most of the sights, but haven't been to the countryside which makes up most of the right side of the bracket. Since I'll be in the MSL London office on Tuesday and Wednesday, this won't happen until Thursday. Here's what I've thought of on the fly: Later today, after some more sight-seeing, I will update the bracket with the "games" I can finish. On Thursday/Friday, I will update with the other games. On Monday (April 4), I will finish the bracket and award the prizes. Sorry for the delay, but again, I'm sure you have all been there...which makes this post that much easier to write! Upward & onward. Cheerio!

Love & Kentucky Basketball

If anyone would've told an 18-year old me - young, naive and full of enough ambition to lead an army - that she'd spend almost two weeks in London while the Kentucky Wildcats made one hell of a run to the Final Four...well, she'd probably say, "Atta girl!" So I started an article last week before I left that I hope to submit to the Lexington Herald-Leader before the big game on Saturday (editors note: Kentucky advanced to the Final Four, if not obvious). The article is titled, "Love and Kentucky Basketball." It chronicles my 'relationship' with the team, tongue-in-cheek as though I've been dating Kentucky ball for the past fifteen years. We've had our ups and downs, our happy times (like now) and our share of controversy...which of course leads to Coach Cal. Oh Coach Cal. You are rapidly becoming the cheese to my macaroni. In two short years, Mr. Calipari has taken us from nothing to an Elite 8 and Final Four - say wha? Many will say it'll be revoked due to recruiting violations. Yeah, so what if Coach Cal has a worse reputation than Charlie Sheen. Anyone outside of Kentucky is likely to dislike Cali, at best, but I'd like to think he's off to a fresh start at UK. Okay, okay, I know, I am totally drinking his kool-aid, but boy just took us to the Final Four for the first time since '98, you must understand. I'll post the article when I finish it. In the meantime, know this: Coach Cal is currently walking a red carpet in Lexington, Kentucky. If he wins the whole thing, he'll be upgraded to a walking God...if he hasn't already.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

UK in the UK

So I've been MIA for a few days but that's simply because I've hopped across the pond to a little town called London. You may have heard of it. I've been having a blast with Mom and Fasha - we've hit most of the big sights and now are starting the tours today. We're a little off schedule, but hey, what's the fun in sticking to a schedule written before we knew what we were even in for?

So the big news today is that my beloved Cats are in the Elite 8 after ousting the Ohio St. Buckeyes (refer to previous post when I predicted this). Mom says I shouldn't gloat, so I'll try my best to be subdued, especially after last year. Try is the key term here.

I can't help but smile from ear to ear. I had full intentions of watching at least part of the game on Friday, though it started at 1:45 am here. I met up with an old college friend, and needless to say, he and alcohol prevented me from score updates. So how did I find out that my alma mater pulled the upset? Well, none other than Fasha walking in Saturday morning, simply stating, "Get up Carls. We've got to go get your 'S'." He of course was referring to my project of creating a picture of C-A-T-S with notable London sites. Mission accomplished. See above.

Even if the buck stops here (pun well intended), I am still so proud of this team. And now I get to watch my boys fight the Argyle clad UNC for the Final Four...while in London.

Is life not grand?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Weekend in Review: Totinos, Kentucky and Central Park

You may be wondering to yourself - did Carly have a good weekend? It may have been bothering you all morning, so I shall put you out of your misery and answer: why yes thank you. It was actually quite lovely. And here's the breakdown:

There is nothing better than watching Kentucky advance in the tournament with the windows open, the sun shining and the knowledge that a deliciously perfect ratio of gooey cheese to crispy crust extravaganza is waiting for you in your freezer. It actually makes me emotional.

I have long loved Totinos pizza, and chances are, you may be judging me slightly right now. But I ask why? Totinos has done nothing for this world but offer seductive pizza at a more than affordable price all at the convenience of a mild-to-severe hangover or Kentucky victory. Who would you be to say that frozen pizza is less than acceptable when living in New York City? I'll have you know I have both NYC pizza and Totinos on the regular - I'm a pro at this. It's all about rotation and preference. That's the beauty of pizza - it can never get old if you switch it up (like marriage?). Throw in a Chicago-style every now and again for good measure. Life is limitless with pizza.

But when that fateful day comes, when NYC pizza and I must part ways (but never memories!), I will still have the comfort of a little pizza, sold nationwide, that will always want to come party with me. Can you say that? Can you?

Totinos, you're a prince and don't let anyone tell you differently.

Aww my boys looked great didn't they? I mean, there were a few times where it was a bit too close for comfort, but they fought through the mental ups and downs. It's the mental aspect of the game that kills us really. I mean, there's no denying our talent and's the maturity. Here's to hoping we become men before Friday.

Central Park
And last thought, yes, boyfriend was good to me this weekend. We spent the gorgeous weekend walking, taking photos, listening to some music and thinking about what the next week has in store:

Dream fulfilment. Deep.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Bongos for Banjos

Thought of the day: My life is freaking fantastic.

Tonight Room-dizzle and I will go see Steven Martin for the third time since moving to NYC. We have watched him pick his banjo at Carnegie, read excerpts of his new book in Union Square and tonight we again witness Steve's mad banjo chops. Stevie and the banjo. There hasn't been a greater pairing since peanut butter and chocolate.

And that's just tonight. As I look forward to the next week, I can't believe how cool I am: Kentucky basketball, sightseeing with Flat Stan, Mama and Fasha in New York and my first trip to London. Did you just get goosebumps? Not the R.L. Stine books, I mean the skin ticklers?

It boggles my mind that in one week's time, I will boarding a flight with my parents to a city I've spent my life (well since 2nd grade when I discovered A Hard Days Night) trying to visit/live. And now it's happening. And how/why? Because of a writing contest. Telling myself that will never get old. And I'm also extremely excited to have my parents in my current hometown - New York freaking City! They can finally see what their daughter has been up to for the past few years - it's a good feeling.

But tonight, we focus. Do it to it Steve. Do it to it.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Ohio State? Buck It.

Ever wonder what goes through my head as I walk into work every morning? Well, here it goes, but note, this is the tame of the tame.

So it's my favorite time of year and yet, I have a pit in my stomach about Kentucky. Or actually, it's more like a buckeye. While I may be looking too far ahead, I will make the assumption, along with the rest of the country, that Kentucky will play Ohio St. in the Sweet Sixteen. And who is favored at the moment? Better yet, who is favored to win the whole freakin' thing? Let's just say it's round on the edges and "hi" in the middle.

Of course, this is completely cramping my style as well as my bracket. I mean, not only were we screwed in seeding, but now we have to face the favored OSU in the third round. Third round! Absurd.
Since the moment Kentucky appeared on bracket, this game has taken over my thoughts. I both dread and anticipate it. At least I'll be in Londontown for it, so that may give me a boost - a little "UK in the UK" if you will. But sigh. It weighs heavy on my blue heart nonetheless.

And to think, earlier this season I verbally committed to being satisfied with just a Sweet Sixteen appearance. And I suppose I should stand on that, but um, hello - I think Carly-three-months-ago didn't see what we all saw in the SEC tournament, so screw you McLean (three months ago).

Oh, and do you want to know what I think of when I hear the word "buckeye?" Surely not the Big Ten team threatening my basketball wellness. No, no. I think of my grandpa - Pop we called him. He always carried buckeyes in his pocket for good luck. And it makes me wonder - should I carry a buckeye in my pocket if we do indeed meet these boys in the Sweet Sixteen? Would that backfire? Would that betray Kentucky? Considering I can't carry a wildcat in my purse, I think it's okay, but to some peeps in Sexy Lexy, this may not be a wise choice. Ack. Life is hard.

Well that's that for the moment. You may now go back to your worlds, but think about this first: If Kentucky pulls the upset, you won't be suprised will you? Nope, not you. Not now. And why? Because you read this blog post. And now what you will think when the announcer is all "Oh my God - Kentucky has done it again!"

You will think: "Did or didn't she put a buckeye in her pocket?"

Saturday, March 12, 2011

My boyfriend, Central Park

I went to Central Park this morning, mostly to take pictures for my niece's Flat Stanley project, but also to test out my new camera. Let me tell you - in addition to Kentucky's win today - I deem it success, especially for a first go around!

I came across these young kids playing and chasing large bubbles. I thought it was so cute, but the pictures came out a whole other thing. Also, this pedicab - I saw it and thought how cool it was, but the pictures take it to a new level.

Examples of why Central Park and I have been dating since 2008.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Inspiration Hide & Seek

So I feel like I've been playing cat and mouse with the book and inspiration lately. As soon as I try to get myself on a writing schedule and committed, I freeze - much like myself with men. I can't force it. My mind rejects being told when to write. And can I just say, that is one seriously frustrating mind game. As soon as I told myself this year would be it for me - the year to finish the book, the year to find a lit agent, the year I make this writing thing official - inspiration said screw you McLean, I'm out. Insert sigh here.

But once I let go and backed off, things started coming back. I found reading other works helped. So here's the deal. I am not going to say I'm finishing the book in the next few months. I'm not saying crap. I'm not holding myself to anything, I'm just going to let it come to me. When it's finished, it's finished. Because when I let it come naturally, that's when I get the good stuff. Force it, and my writing is shoddy at best. So with that, screw my last few posts. This is a new day of Carly finding her way.

I am going to do my best to blog as much as I can, but I can't promise it'll always be about writing. It may be about a rando day, my trip to London, my hatred of dog walkers and love of Kentucky basketball. But I find that in continuing to write, even if mundane observations, I keep my thoughts going. And as my client would say, "that's a good thing."

Where Have You Gone Joe DiMaggio, er Carly McLean?
So I have been writing for the past month, just not on the book. I focused my time on a "Family Guy" spec script I recently submitted to a contest. It was quite amusing to write, full of random flashbacks (we're talking Superman 2, an evil Mickey Mouse, Werther's Original commercial, Bill Clinton speech and Grandpa Jones skits). Essentially the script focused on Meg rising to an inappropriate fame after joining "Teen Mom." This of course led to other girls at James Wood's High wanting to get pregnant so they could be on tabloid covers. Peter was stoked to be a "grandpa," but Lois was furious, and ended up acting like Dina Lohan. It was comical.

The thing is, I rushed the ending, and I'm mad at myself for it. But it turns out there's a similar contest that I think I may go after as well. So now I need to beef this guy up - it needs a better ending. I'm thinking all the children of the pregnant fame-chasers could be adopted by Angelina Jolie or Madonna. Something stupid like that. We'll see.

Oh and the thing about writing a script - I had no freaking idea about the format. All "self taught" - though I will only claim that if it turned out to be correct.

How Stella, I mean, Carly Got Her Groove Back
So I did do a tad bit of writing for the book last night thankfully. I could have done more but was too tired to get out of bed and type. That's the thing - inspiration loves to hang out with me around the time my eyes are closed, cuddled for a good night's sleep. Boom. Wake your ass up McLeaner, we've got some things to say.

I will leave with you an excerpt I wrote last night (yay for figuring out how to paste into this template!). It's set during a conversation between Harper and Oscar after they run into each other in New York. Oscar is complaining about the place where they had met and fallen in love. I'm really excited about it because while I was writing the script the last few weeks, I was frustrated with my novel writing. I felt in comparison to works I like, it was lacking and immature. The writing wasn't strong and the way I was telling the story was missing something. I haven't figured out all the kinks, but I like this excerpt. It gives me hope I'm headed in the direction I want to be headed: Me.

"I wondered how my memories of Lexington could differ so much from his. We had once thought so similarly. It boggled my mind to look back and remember a past so unlike his. To me, Lexington was opportunity, a new found freedom and independence. It was gooey derbie pie, fizzy Ale 8 and two dollars bets at Keeneland. It was midday country cruises, vast horse farms and Dave Matthews. It was summer weekends at the lake, great friends and dancing in hot rain. It was proudly blue, rabid with Wildcats and relentlessly mad in March. It was innocence, a first love and green shoes. It was everything."