25 July, 2005

A reassuring headline from the authorities with regards to police shooting suspected terrorists on sight.

This statue is prominently displayed at the BBC's Television Centre. There would be a scandal if a network in the States tried this.

Part of a BBC children's show set. A live broadcast was scheduled in a couple of hours.

This is the roof of a really large studio that was currently under renovation.

A passing tube train near the BBC. It was here that a train was nearly blown up last Thursday.

The base of the Eye, a really huge ferris wheel near Westminster.

There's plenty of room to move about in the pods.

Somehow British Airways has gotten their names all over this thing and they even refer to the ride as a "flight" complete with departure gates and times.

Big Ben peers out from the middle of the Eye.

Pretty as a postcard, isn't it?

These are the people currently on top of London.

These signs belong to a guy who has been camped out protesting in front of Parliament for as long as anyone can remember. They've introduced legislation to try and get rid of him but it hasn't worked so far.

Another one of those British signs we may never understand.

25 July, 2005

Day 9. Today was quite active and long. I woke up really early in order to meet Redhackt at Heathrow. He's on his way to What The Hack and has a one day stopover in London. Like everything else in London at the moment, it was a bit of a challenge to map out a route to the airport on the somewhat fragmented Underground. But after a minute or two of studying the modifications, it all worked out with minimal delays.

The city continues to be under high alert. I see police all over the place now, mostly just standing around, particularly at Underground entrances. The logic makes little sense to me. Terrorists could just as easily shift their target to other crowded places, like bars and shopping malls where there is very little if any police presence. It's as if everyone is operating under the assumption that some sort of agreement has been reached that they will only strike on mass transit. I see the same sort of illogical behavior in the States. What's different here is that the cops are much more in the background and not nearly as militarized. Most of them still have no guns at all and I think that's how the populace wants it, especially after what happened when they used them last week.

The city is still reeling over the shooting and it remains the headline on every newspaper and the top story of every newscast. It seems to have even overshadowed the attacks. I guess everyone expected that sort of thing from terrorists but it was a real shock to see this kind of behavior from law enforcement. Still, the authorities claim it could happen again to another innocent person which seems to not have much of a calming effect on the public at all.

After getting Redhackt settled in, we went to find food. He wanted something British so we went out in search of fish and chips. We found a nice authentic place run by Russians who couldn't seem to understand a word either of us was saying. That resulted in our getting a take away order instead of a sit down one which meant we had to find someplace else to actually consume the food we got and that turned out to be a lot more difficult than it should have been. We finally hopped on a bus to Marble Arch where I knew there were some benches at least. Half a gallon of pure grease later, we were ready to meet up with Russell, the guy who had shown up at Speakers' Corner on Sunday, who was going to give us a tour of some BBC facilities.

I always knew the BBC was big. I just never knew how big. They have one facility just for their domestic radio broadcasts and another for television. At the Television Centre, there's everything from live children's shows to the taping of the latest hit series to the Weather Centre and of course the world renowned news departments. These were the very same hallways that cast members of Monty Python and Dr. Who would have moved around in when they were taping their shows. And the hallways themselves reminded me more of an old school than a broadcast house. The facilities don't have a lot of frills - it's all pretty basic with people focusing on the task at hand rather than how much they can milk out of the corporation. I didn't see any air conditioning, people commonly took the stairs rather than the lifts, and the building looked like it hadn't really been modified in the last 30 years. But the broadcasting section was state of the art with all of the BBC networks accessible and interchangeable at a moment's notice. And we even had a walkthrough of the newsrooms of News 24 (domestic) and World (everywhere but England) where it seemed like hundreds of people were all busy working on some aspect of their respective television network. Nobody even seemed to notice us going by. The level of concentration in the entire facility was simply staggering.

And I still haven't seen it all. There's a whole other facility that's devoted to nothing but the BBC World Service. That's their international (mainly shortwave) radio outlet which broadcasts in a good many languages to all corners of the globe. I can only imagine what a hive of activity that place must be. And of course there are local BBC news divisions in nearly every community.

But time was short and we still had much to do. Like record this week's edition of "Off The Wall." This week we decided to start off in the middle of Piccadilly Circus and move our way through the tube system, eventually winding up at Big Ben in time to hear its chimes on the hour. It didn't quite go as planned. Apparently when you stand around with a professional handheld microphone, it makes certain people nervous for some reason. We were about to get on a southbound Bakerloo train when we were accosted by a station representative who told us we couldn't do that sort of thing without getting permission from the station supervisor. So we went up to see him and were told that we had to go through some bureaucracy in another part of town before we would be allowed to proceed. So we basically had to alter our course. The show will air Tuesday evening and be available online in our "Off The Wall" section so you can hear the fun for yourself. We later wound up taking a trip on the Eye, London's immensely huge ferris wheel.

We spent some of the evening in nearby Chinatown and wandering around looking for open pubs. My plan is to figure out a way to get to Holland tomorrow as the ticket offices were closed by the time I got to them tonight. There's also a chance I may not make it over there until Wednesday as I still need to do some taping for the movie at Piccadilly tomorrow.