Sunday, June 3, 2012

It Was Here that Shakespeare Penned "To be, or not to be"

Everyone wants a piece of the Shakespeare tourism pie, and it's easy to get a slice with so many uncertainties about his life. Andrea started a running joke about the yellow journalism style of tourism at these sites. Her skepticism grew from a documentary where the camera zoomed in on a corner, and the narrator said "It was here, that Shakespeare wrote sonnet 114." It sounds ridiculous, but people buy it--literally. Our fears were confirmed at Anne Hathaway's Cottage. Our enthusiastic tour guide--I think the woman is a retried or failed actress--admitted that when the family was struggling financially, they re-branded the cottage "Anne Hathaway's Cottage" and charged a fee to see the home that Shakespeare's wife grew up in. They claimed that "It was on this courting bench that young Will Shakespeare wooed middle-aged Anne." The tour guide let us in on a secret: the courting bench was made a century after Shakespeare. So we became tour guides by creating vignettes about the bards life: "It was here that..."

Confession: The tour guide told us the floor in the kitchen was the original 15th century floor, so it was possible Shakespeare stood on it. So what did I do? I took my foot out of my shoe, slyly, and let my skin touch the stone...just in case. I would sooner contract foot fungi than particles of Shakespeare's dead skill cells, but there is something powerful about the gesture. 
My favorite Shakespeare sites are Anne Hathaway's Cottage--despite the bench lie--and Mary Arden's farm. Both of these sites have gorgeous gardens and beautiful 16th century displays. After we toured Anne Hathaway's garden, I sat down in tall grass and listened to sonnet recordings from a nearby willow cabin. Yeah, I'm not going to be able to write a sentence like that again. Mary Arden's farm really has little to do with Shakespeare, but you learn a lot about the period. For example, all the beds during this time period are short because they believed that death could come get you if you were flat on your back. Most people slept inclined. Here I was thinking everyone was just hobbit sized in the 16th century--silly me. And you get to see people dressed up in funny costumes and farm animals; you never get over the excitement of a petting zoo. They even have a falconer. Apparently certain birds were reserved for different classes in the 16th century. It makes you realize just how important class distinction is over here.

We also visited Holy Trinity Church, the resting place of Shakespeare's body.  Here are some people reverencing Shakespeare at his grave.   I'm experiencing inner turmoil because I could say a lot of sacrilegious things here, but I know I should not. Gah....must resist.

So why do we come to Stratford-upon-Avon? It's an adorable town, and it holds a lot of meaning for Shakespeare lovers. For me, the biggest draw is the Royal Shakespeare Company. Mausoleums and places where Shakespeare pens his famous sonnets are fantastic, but it's the RSC that makes me giddy.  I will talk about these RSC productions in another post...sigh...oh Richard III! 

Monday, May 28, 2012

Hath Not A Palestinian Eyes?

Shylock reaches down to grab his knife to take his pound of flesh from Antonio, and from the yard someone yells "Do Palestinians not have eyes? Do they not bleed?" The actor, bent over clutching the knife, emotionally stares into the audience. The actor could take that knife and cut the tension with it. We hear rustling and yelling as the Globe security guards drag the man away. "Piss off!" someone quips at the protester. We all laugh. The actors don't move--stunned. "Keep going! We're with you!" encourages someone from the right of me. The actors take a deep breath, and the show withe the show.

This sums up my experience at the Globe Theatre tonight. What play could cause such a raucous? The Merchant of Venice performed in Hebrew by an Israeli company. When they announced this play, I knew I had to go. When I arrived at the play tonight, there were police men around the Globe and Palestinian and Israeli flags waving at opposite ends of the street. Before I could enter the building, a newspaper reporter asked me a few questions.

Reporter: Why did you come to this play?
Me: I studied for four months in Jerusalem. I also bought a ticket to see the Palestinian production. Reporter: Oh wow.
yada, yada, yada...
Reporter: Can I get your name and a picture.
Me: No....

Yeah, I don't know if they will use me or not for their article. Oh well, I felt important answering her questions. I like feeling important. Once inside the Globe, usually a free and easy place to get into, you went through metal detectors and had people rummage through your purse. Before the play began, the  current director of the Globe Theatre appeared on stage to address the audience about respect for artists and to not shush or attempt to capture any protesters during the performance. And there were protesters throughout the production. People began chanting thing, some held signs, etc. At one point, one of the noisy groups were taken out by the security guards so they put tape over their mouths and stood up for the first part of the performance making peace signs. Like I said, it was one of the most tense performances I have been to. Want to know the interesting thing? None of the protesters were Palestinians. I saw the audience file in for Richard II--the Palestinian production for the Globe--and there is a Palestinian community in London.

The company performed a solid play with interesting steam punk/Elizabethan/white costumes and a few excellent performances by individual actors. As expected, the production portrayed Shylock as sympathetic as possible. I don't begrudge them this decision, but I hoped for a less expected interpretation of the Venice Jew. Everyone gave them a standing ovation for just getting through the play with protestors yelling at them throughout the play.

So I would call tonight an interesting evening. 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Midget Fighting a One Legged Man

I made a last minute decision to spend travel week in Rome, and because of the last minute nature of my choice, I could not get a seat on the same flight or a room in the same hostel as my friends. It was my first international flight by myself, and I had to get to Victoria Coach Station at 2 AM to take a coach to  airport. I did not have access to a printer, so my coach and plane ticket were not printed. I tried calling a cab but they refused to pick me up because I did not have a UK phone number. I could not find the coach and there were people sleeping around the deserted, locked coach station. I consider myself a well traveled, level headed person, but I was terrified. Then this hysterical Russian lady came up to me telling me how she missed her bus and she is stranded in London without any money. Not completely sane at this point, I thought to myself "what if I miss my bus too! I will be like this hysterical Russian: penniless, helpless, and stranded in London. I will have to sleep on benches and wash dishes at a chinese restaurant that deals drugs in the back alleyway." I forgot for a moment that I could have stayed in my London flat, and that I had access to money. No sleep, freezing weather, stress, and hysterical Russians is a recipe for an international travel disaster. I am glad to say that I made it to Rome safely.

I had been to Rome before, but if there is anything that I have learned on this trip is that you can never "check off" a place; there is always new things to learn and explore. (Yes I know that last statement sounds like a fortune cookie.) I visited the Colosseum again on the first day in Rome. What did I learn on this second rendezvous?

  • Rome exceles in recycling building materials. For example, the Colosseum's stones--that housed the slaughtering of thousands of christians--were used to build St. Peter's Basilica. 

  • Warm up acts during gladiatorial games included women gladiators and a one legged man battling a midget. I'm curious to know the statistical outcomes on the latter match-up. I should give SNL this tidbit so Stefon can incorporate it into his upcoming visit on Weekend Update. Honestly, the Colosseum sounds like one of Stefon's wild parties: New York's hottest new club is Vini. It has everything: tigers in diapers, armor filled with jello, christian martyers break dance fighting, vestal virgins, vomitoriums, Bill Murry impersonating Socrates, and a midget fighting a one legged man.

  •  Speaking of vomitorium, that is the Latin word used to describe the hallways in the Colosseum. 50,000 people exited the building with in 15 minutes. Impressive. Too bad Italians no longer have that same efficiency in public transportation--don't get me started on escalator use in the metro. 

  • Gladiator's acknowledged the vestal virgins on their way in. Actually, I just wanted to say vestal virgins so I had an excuse to post this picture. Confession: I thought it was "vessel" virgins, and after writing a description of this picture on facebook, Abby corrected me. "They are not the Virgin Mary!" They are both revered religious figures that are virgins: same difference.

  • I recalled a line from the "historically" accurate Gladiator when imagining 50,000 people in that mammoth structure: "Rome is the mob. Conjure magic for them and they'll be distracted."  (Much love, Derek Jacobi.) We were reading Julius Caesar while in Rome, and while reading the play those words and the Colosseum continually came to my mind. We are seeing an RSC production of Julius Caesar set in Africa. I watched a short video where they discussed how contemporary western society does not have an equivalent where the people, the mob, changes the course of politics, but Africa governments are overthrown quickly by the people. Needless to say I'm extremely excited. But I digress...  

After a day of hysterical Russians, midgets, the Colosseum, veal with peas in a white wine sauce, and a shower, I still glad to be back in Rome.

"The Cliffs of England Stand; Glimmering and Vast"

When the bus pulled up to Dover, I was underwhelmed. The cliffs were not as grand as I expected, and the town of Dover was not your coastal seaside destination--it's an industrialized, gritty coastal city. But a few hours later, I decided the white cliffs are one the most magnificent natural spectacle I have ever seen. It just took a few miles of walking to get there.
Dover Castle & Operation Dynamo

The structure of Dover Castle is not too impressive, but it's military history makes for an incredible experience. Dover Castle has protected the shore for over 20 centuries, and more recently it served as a defense against Napoleon and Axis Power in WWII. Apparently I have a very American perception of WWII, because I know little about WWII pre-American declaration of war. Dover is famous among Brits because it is the site of Operation Dynamo: Rescue from Dunkrik. If you know the story, collect a pat on the back and move on to the next paragraph. For those of you who are not familiar with it, it is a moving story. Soon after Britain declared war, they went over to France to help keep the Nazis out of France but all of the allied troops were out maneuvered and pushed back further and further until they were surrounded and stranded on an French beach. They destroyed all their ammunition and weapons--so the Nazi's could not take it--and they sat defenseless on an open beach. Operation Dynamo evacuated over 300,000 of these men over ten days. When the British Navy could not afford to lose any more ships to Nazi bombers, a flotilla of local Dover boats went over to bring their men home. If you ever get the chance, I would take a look at this new exhibit; it utilizes technology in some pretty fantastic ways.

The Cliffs of Dover

We originally wanted to take a boat tour to see the cliffs, but the boat tours were canceled. It was the best thing that could happen to us because instead of the boat tour, we climbed along the Cliffs of Dover. You could say that we had a more intimate experience with the cliffs you climb. As you rounded the corner or hill, a new view of the cliffs would appear. It was gorgeous.  The sun shone and you could spy the outline of the French coast. Yada, yada, yada...I don't want to reveal how inarticulate I am or be accused of pretty I will skip the "beauty gushing."  

I think that climbing along the Cliffs of Dover is one of the highlights of my trip. There were even wild horses wandering around. Yes, real wild horses. And as the title of my post suggest, we read Matthew Arnold's poem "Dover Beach"; we experienced it like all English majors should experience it.  It is an interesting poem to read in light of Operation Dynamo. Here a few experts for those readers feeling enthusiastic (cough, cough...which is none of you, I am sure). 

The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth's shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night

Oh, by the way. Be careful walking along the cliffs. There are some sneaky little holes along the path; I about broke my ankle stepping in a hole up to my knee. Luckily my ballet training made for a graceful landing

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Terrorized by Jack the Ripper Walking Tour

I didn't know much about Jack the Ripper; now I know too much. A few nights ago, Abby and I took the London Walks' for the most interesting cold case in English history. While it sounds like a pop culture/brainless tour, it was one of the better guided tours I have taken. The interesting bits were not the gruesome details of the murder, but the insight into 1880s East London slums and police procedure.

The Jack the Ripper tour provided more insight into that seedy world that we often overlook during the Victorian era. In fact, the Victorian Era is the perfect time to have a gruesome unsolved murder. Four years ago in London, I attended a Q&A with contemporary British mystery authors, and one of the writers worked in the Victorian era. She explained that she strategically choose the time period because of paradoxes of identity during this time period: It was the best of times (e.g. hiding furniture limbs because they were too provocative), and it was the worst of times (e.g. the highest number of prostitutes soliciting in London's history). This paradox often led to the theme of concealed identity; no one is who they appear to be. Similar, we cannot pin down Jack the Ripper's identity.

He was a tricky one, that Jack. During the murders, Jack the Ripper played off rival police boundaries in London. At this time, you could not differentiate the difference between human or animal blood, and fingerprint technology did not exist. Basically, to be convicted someone had to witness him in the act. In other words, we will never really know who he is. (Side Note: This "never will be solved" reality eluded one of the older men in my tour group. He continually asked our tour guide questions as if he were cracking the case right open. "Did they consider this?" etc. He seemed assured that he could turn up new insight with his tour knowledge in two hours time.

Beyond being educational, it was down right creepy. I must admit, the tour scared me more than a goosebumps book/TV episode. Let's just say that the Ripper puts the sociopaths on Criminal Minds to shame. As the nigh progressively got darker, the crimes became more twisted/sinister, and I became more unnerved. The description of the last murder made me shiver and gag all at the same time--great party trick. Suffice to say that my roommate locked our bedroom door, closed our curtains, and slept with her bedside lamp on.

Gore seems to have stalked me this week in London: after visiting the Bloody Tower, Abby and I attended a explicit Polish produciton of Macbeth, and then we did this walking tour. Violence as entertainment. Ironically enough, Brits seem less okay with violence portrayed in movies and theatre than Americans. I must dash. It is getting dark, and we need to lock our door, close our curtains, and sleep with the lights on. 

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Windsor Castle

The Castle
I thought visiting Windsor Castle would just be a tour of massive rooms furnished with expensive things. For this reason, I went to Windsor with moderate expectations. To a certain extent, a good deal of Windsor is rooms with nice furniture, but it is also one of the more brilliant things I have done in London. To begin with, it is a castle--I never really processed the "castle" bit of Windsor Castle. I expected a building like Buckingham Palace. No, it is a legit castle. It has a moat, arrow loops, 30 meter thick walls, murder holes, etc. While the moat never held any water, they put it to better use as a gorgeous garden. A castle with a garden-moat? I understand why the Queen prefers to spend her time here.   

Fancy Interior
I could care less about the lavish furnishing, but the history of the rooms and the paintings were fantastic. Okay, there was one room that I did not enjoy. The Queen has a "doll" room that is filled with dolls and their elaborate palace. On the audio guide it said that the Queen likes collecting miniature things. 1. The collection of small things is a slightly disturbing hobby. 2. Who knows they like small things enough to consciously collect them? Most girls will "ahhh" at a small coke bottle, but no one ever makes a shrine of small things because of it. I think I can safely assume the Queen of England will not read my blog, so I do not feel remorse labeling her hobby as disturbing. 

One of my favorite rooms, conceptually, was the "Napoleon Haters Room." They built the room after they defeated Napoleon and memorialized all the people that helped defeat him (non-English included). I also enjoyed the china room that displayed all of the Queen's china. During my entire visit to the china room, I wondered how they can replace the china from the 1700s because I'm sure some servant or young prince--my money is on Prince Harry--has dropped a plate or two. The best part was the art. You would walk into a room and see a Rembrandt, Van Dyke, etc. At one point I turned the corner and I was standing a foot away from the famous Henry VIII portrait.  

St. George's Chapel
But this--the fine building bellow--made this excursion incredible. We almost skipped it because we didn't realize what it housed. As far as aesthetics, it is one of my favorite cathedrals because it has the most gorgeous fan-vaulting I have ever seen and original stained glass windows.

Then we walked into the Chapel of the Most Noble Order of the Garter. 

These seats are for those who receive the Order of the Garter; they have their family flag flying above and a sword half drawn--ready to defend their country. As we began to walk out of the room, I abruptly stopped everyone--I made quite a scene--and  loudly asked "do you know who you just walked on?" Abbey replied, Jane Seymour. Hang Jane Seymour! You are walking on Henry! Yes. It was Henry VIII. Why hello Henry. Fancy meeting you here. What is guy like you doing in a chapel like this? Well he actually was buried there as a temporary place of burial. He had elaborate plans for his shrine, but he has yet to make the move. Not knowing what was inside this chapel, and discovering the Garter room and Henry VIII's grave created one of my most unique experiences in London. 

Thursday, May 3, 2012

London Tower Raven Attacks Tourists

Preventing Disaster from Befalling London, or Causing it?

Mayhem struck London's most famous tourist attraction today as a raven attacked two American tourists. One of the traumatized victims, Abbey Pace, relates how the event began, "I was sitting there eating dried mangoes, and I felt someone stroking my hair. What I thought was an affection caress turned out to be an aggressive raven." Pace barely escaped loosing a full head of hair to the black talons.  Now this was not just any bird--it was one of the prized Tower ravens. Many English are familiar with the Tower of London raven superstition: Charles II prophesied that if the ravens left the Tower of London the White Tower will crumble and a great disaster will befall England. To save England from a nasty disaster, six ravens live a sumptuous life at the Tower of London.While Pace only lost a few strands of hair, events escalated to a massacre as the raven plundered a neighboring tourist's lunch. When the tourist attempted to retrieve it, the bird attacked the tourist--Alfred Hitchcock style. But what caused the raven to behave violently?  Pace blames it on the over-indulged life style: "It has been fed its whole life by old men in funny looking costumes, so it felt entitled to try to eat my hair." Whether it is over-indulgence or simply a psychopath raven, this problem must be addressed immediately. With the summer around the corner, the Queen Jubilee, and the Olympics, the most visited site in London cannot afford to have Tower ravens attacking visitors. 

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Tea and Cake

Kensington Palace Orangery
After class today, we stopped to have tea and cake.

Not to brag, but we seemlesly blended into our posh surroundings. My friends' accessories--BYU study abroad backpacks--announced our membership into the royal club. Little known fact: BYU study abroad backpacks are like a ID scan card for all royal institutions, dinners, and ceremonies. We are too intelligent to make the silly mistake most American do. For example, we did not ask for afternoon tea three hours before the traditional hours of afternoon tea. Because we all know that calories only appear next to food items on a fast food menu, no one asked which cakes had the least amount of calories. When our steaming tea arrived, we knew exactly what to do with the tea instruments. No one needed to sneek glances at what our neighbors did with their strainer-thingy. Who needs a strainer anyway? Everyone knows that tea is best consumed without teabags or strainers. Twigs and leaves are a delicacy. Only ignorant and rude American would slyly spit out the twigs and leaves, or even attempt to unsuccessfully remove the debris with their spoons. Once we finished our tea and cake, we did not make a fuss by taking photos. Taking photos would surely lead to ridicule. Could you imagine taking photos outside and seeing the waiters pointing and laughing at you through the window? All I can say is that I'm glad I can drink a cup of tea without bringing shame on myself or my country.

Mad for Ludwig and Bavaria

When someone mentions Bavaria you think of green rolling hills, the Alp, and Neuschwanstein Castle. Bavaria did not disappoint. All the natural beauties were there, but there was one beauty I did not expect: Mad King Ludwig. I never expected to find a person with the epithet of "mad" to be...well...kind of hot. It just sort of happened. I was taking the tour of Hohenshwangau, when a portrait in the corner caught my idea. Hey that man in the corner is quite fit. Who is it? Mad King Ludwig? With the nickname "mad," you would expect an unkempt person with crazy eyes--perhaps I am thinking a little too much of Mad Eyed Moody here. I am not going to be prejudiced and deny his attractiveness because of a creepy obsession with Wagner and poor ruling skills. If the man is attractive, the man is attractive. Wagner creeper, or no Wagner creeper. 

Oh yeah, here are those natural beauties I mentioned above. 

You got to admit, Ludwig has a knack for building castles. Even Walt Disney acknowledged that. 

Ludwig's more tasteful version of Versailles. 

Water coming out of flared horse nostrils? Best fountain ever. 

The alps are different from any mountain I have ever seen. They are angular, jagged, and jut straight up from the ground. They are quite fantastic. Almost as fantastic as our Wagner loving king. 

Saturday, April 28, 2012

London Chronicles: English Dr. Pepper

I bought a Dr. Pepper today hoping to get a little taste of home. I am desperately trying to save money, which makes eating difficult. I am contemplating living off Digestives and creamy English yogurt for the next six weeks. I thought a taste of home would be comforting during my difficult London diet. Unfortunately,  English Dr. Pepper does not taste like home: it has a very "coke-ish" aftertaste. It does win some points in advertisements. On the label it says "Win Pants or Prizes." Remember, pants in England means underwear, so next to this there are pictures of boys underwear (red and yellow diamond and green zebra print). Now that is what I call an advertisement. Who doesn't want to win their underwear from a soda label? 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

London Chronicles: In Search of a Moleskin

 I cannot find a blasted moleskin.

This is a problem because moleskins are essential for traveling excursions.

The most important reason: they make me feel artistic

It strikes a Romantic chord to carry around a small booklet that you sketch in, compose poems in, and write down your innermost thoughts. Even if my drawings are elementary, my poems lack ingenuity, and my innermost thoughts are least I feel artistic. It is a magic notebook of creative entitlement. Even when you buy a moleskin, it has a blurb talking about the creative geniuses that used it. I guess you could say that it is like a kid wearing Michael Jordan shoes because he thinks they make him more like Mike: jump a little higher, etc.

So today I made the two other girls with me halt our excursion to the Tate Modern because I thought I spotted a moleskin. One was a deceptive decoy. It was some London book that had information already in it. What desecration of the creativity of the moleskin! You use a moleskin to write down your own notes about London, not to have them already filled out. The nerve. The second time, it I found it had lines. can I draw when there are lines. Lines refrain artistic expression!

I must find a moleskin soon. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Welcome to Germany

Germany: welcome to the land of castles, green rolling hills, and charming villages. I felt like an inarticulate idiot the whole trip because I continued to repeat phrases like "this is so cool/awesome/brilliant/fantastic" and "this is so beautiful/gorgeous/etc." It was true every time I said it, and that is really how I felt. I just could not find the words to really do the landscape justice. Now I am going to embarrass myself by failing to find an eloquent way of relating my feelings on a public blog. Fail.


After layovers and writing a seminar paper in the air for eight hours, I landed in Frankfurt. The lovely family of my friend's in-laws came and picked me up, and we went to the neighboring town of Heidelberg. Technically it is on what is called the "Unromantic Rhine," but it epitomizes Romanticism as its castle inspired many German Romantics--even Goethe walked around these grounds. As far as the university goes, it is a Philosophy powerhouse. It boasts of many famous philosophers including Hegel and Gadamer. Impressive. Perhaps the most impressive fact about Heidelberg is that it was the birthplace of the gorgeous Michael Fassbender; we are forever in the debt of this German city.

 Here is the castle that inspired those German Romantics. 

This bridge is famous because Mark Twain used to sit and write on it. I'm sure all of those writings were witty and scathing. 

A view of the bridge from up above

The houses along the river

Awkward statue? Check. 

We returned to the village that my hosts live in. It is a farming community with fields full of cows, horses and a few chickens. As you walk around, you find these gloriously antiquated barn walls housing old and modern farming equipment. Similarly, the houses have walls that date back hundreds of years ago, add on walls from about a hundred years ago, and solar panels on their roofs. The yards and houses are impeccably kept houses and gardens. It makes for a colorful and gorgeous walk around the village streets. Among the town occupants is the "Bee Lady": a local women that keeps bees and sells candles and honey to her neighbors. Of course, I had to buy a few jars. Outside the village, there are innumerable nature walks--complete with foxes and deer. Unfortunately I only got to go on one walk through the village. If I had a few more days, I would have spent it just exploring this charming village.

The town pride and joy are these 12th century--I think they are 12th century--ruins, tucked behind one of the barns. 

 Every town in Germany has one of these poles. Mittelbrunn has flags for chickens, golfing, soccer, hiking, etc. If I had to join one of these clubs, it most defiantly would be the chicken one.

After getting gelato, we went to the top the hills around Mittelbrunn when the sun was setting. 

These yellow fields are blooming everywhere in Germany right now; they are used to produce oil.

Remember how I said I couldn't find the right words to express myself? Well I hope you get the reason why. Thank goodness for photos and artists to express what we commoners fail in expressing. 

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Downton Abbey Texts

Preface: This conversation takes place after finding out T--- watched three episodes of Downton Abbey and did not like it. T---'s way of characterizing the show and the actors made me fall in love with a little more.

Aside: Am I the only one that reads Downton Abbey in my head like Andy Samberg for this digital short?

H: don't be surprised if you guys are t-peed and it says "downton hater" in baked beans on your lawn

T: Hahaha actually, I am planning on watching an episode tonight. I'm still trying it out. K--- said she didn't really get into it until after 6 episodes.

H: I was hooked from the opening credits. My favorite character is Mary and the dog

T: Is mary the fiance who never grieved?

H: Lol

H: That is the funniest description ever

T: Hahaha, you would like her. She is also the one who killed the man during sex, and it gave him like a heart attack?

H: Yeah well it was a smart pun on the Elizabethan "to die" which also meant to have an orgasm. So it was a smart Shakespearean death.

H: But seriously, Isis is the coolest dog ever.

T: Indeed.

A few days later....

T: PS Did I tell you I fell in love with downton abbey and now I CAN'T WATCH THE second season because it's not streaming on netflix???

H: Bahaha that is your punishment for taking so long to like it. Whose your favorite character?

T: Not sure. Maybe the mom. CUZ SHE'S SO WEIRD WHEN SHE TALKS HAHA

Sunday, March 4, 2012

New Pastime

In my Joyce seminar, I presented on an essay of criticism for a chapter in Ulysses. The people that presented earlier in the semester included a picture of the scholar on their handout; pictures are a nice way to break up the monotony of text summarizing a dry critical essay. I decided to add a picture to my handout, and  I unexpectedly experienced the most hilarious moment of my week. Just to clarify, this is an essay published and re-published in well-respected venues for Joyce scholarship. The essay was theoretically complicated--it was somewhat impressive. I googled his name and this is what I found:

Yes, yes, and yes! I laughed out loud. Then I thought it was a mistake. I looked at a faculty university website. Different picture with the same hat and jacket--it must be his picture day outfit. Talk about unexpected. 

 New pastime: look up profile pictures for all authors of critical essays I read. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Re-Kindling Elementary School Love

Text from Mother:
Happy Valentine's Day. We love you. XoXo
Are you still waiting for a card form Stevie H----?

Text from Sister:
Greg wants to know if you and Stevie H--- ever kissed.

Who is Stevie H---? That's an excellent question. To be quite honest, I can't really remember what the kid even looked like, but his name has plagued me since the first grade. I'm not quite sure how my older brother Tyson discovered Stevie H---'s name; he was just a boy in my first grade class. Nevertheless, Tyson found a name of a boy and mercilessly teased me that I secretly loved Stevie H---. My mom still reminds me that I should not scream or get mad when Tyson teases, pokes, punches, etc. me because that is the reaction he wants: "He likes to hear you scream."So how did I react? Well I was a first grader. Boys were icky, and such accusations affronted my first grader self: I DID NOT HAVE A CRUSH ON STEVIE H---! So, of course I screamed, cried and got angry when he sang "Hillary and Stevie sitting in a tree..." Suffice to say, I'm emotionally scarred; I am never naming my child Stevie.

Want to know the sad thing? Tyson would revive the teasing every few years, and I would still get mad. But I'm happy to say that when I got these texts today, I laughed for the first time. Not only did I laugh, but I decided to figure out who this mystery lover was.  I think he moved away shortly after first grade, so I was not optimistic about unveiling his identity. Nope, I found him on on facebook. Yes, I stalked my former, fake elementary lover. Let's just say that looking at his facebook makes me sure I didn't have a crush on him. Or did I?

Happy Valentine's Day!

Friday, January 6, 2012

No Pinterest, I will not join your hipster party.

Dear Pinterest,
So about four weeks ago--pre-finals--I chatted with my fashionable neighbor that raved about you. Before this conversation,  I thought you were just another technology one-hit wonder: a technology fad that everyone would abandon in five months time--like google+. My neighbor explained that Pinterest offered a more organized alternative to my desktop collage of clothing items, paintings, household furnishings, recipes etc. Brilliant. I was sold. I went home and signed up.

Problem. I don't know if you are aware of this, but you can't just sign up. It's not like facebook: all those who apply get in (even creepers, but then again facebook makes creepers of us all). No. You need some time to "think about it." Okay. Maybe there are too many people trying to join and it takes your staff a while to process applications. But then I began to hear stories. Yes, terrible stories. Stories of people that applied two or three times to Pinterest in the course of a year and never received an answer. Well guess what? I just received my congratulatory email from you: welcome to the club. So why did I get accepted a week after applying and other girls that applied three times were not accepted? Sounds to me like you are running a mean girls club.

There must be some criteria you are looking for. Before receiving your email, I attempted to find the logical answer. What kind of people do I know that have a Pinterest account? Answer: hipster, cool, indie, people and old, Southern Baptist women. I became paranoid: "Right now, the Pinterest hipster staff is evaluating my email, facebook, and blog to see if I am 'hipster' enough." By the time that I got your acceptance email, I was so disgusted with this fantastical evasion of my privacy that I promptly deleted it.

No Pinterest, I will not join your hipster party.

Memo for all literal readers: I'm exaggerating. (If you are a person who cannot detect irony or sarcasm, this is not the blog for you; just sayin). I'm sure you do not discriminate. But I feel good about my decision to reject your offer. A few days ago T-- described Pinterest as "covet capital." You know what I say to that? Pin that to your website wall. This definition spurred an introspective realization: even without the assistance of Pinterest, my collection of desktop photos is a symptom of my increasing superificialism. Instead of joining Pinterest, I need to get a handle on my online window shopping. There are far more important things that I can do with that time. I could read James Joyce and Badiou. I could make cookies for my neighbor, press my khakis and smile at people. I could do some yoga to relieve stress. I could watch another episode of Vampire Diaries.

So thanks for the offer Pinterest, but I'm going to have to decline your invitation. I have more pressing matters to attend to.

Respectfully yours,

Musing Elitist

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Validation is Essential

I just administered the final for my class.

Here is the list of important things I taught my bright-eyed, college freshman:

  • Who Bob Dylan is, and that he sings a song called "Blowin in the Wind."
  • How to mime someone playing the accordion
  • That there is a movie called The King's Speech, and it is a good movie.
  • The style of punctuation in Cormac McCarthy's The Road
  • Donald Draper is beautiful 
  • How to tell an effective ghost story using rhetorical tools
  • Tweeting a thesis statement
  • I cannot spell to save my life. It's so hard having to have a blackboard without spell check
  • Branagh's Henry V's speech should give you goosebumps
  • Much depends on a red wheelbarrow
  • I hate emoticons
  • The OED website is the greatest thing ever
  • Alanis Morissette killed irony

I think my list encapsulates the most essential things any person could learn, but my class mentioned some other things that were not on the list. Here is a smattering of the less-essential things that my students say that they learned:

"I feel that through meetings with you, and the Writing Center, I was able to find a way to include my own voice in an acceptable manner into my formal papers....I liked when we learned about Cormac McCarthy and how he knows the conventional way of writing, but even so, does his own thing. I would like to mirror something like that."

"Once I understood ethos, pathos, and logos, I began to look for each of these in any piece of literature. It was as if I had a strange obsession to ensure they were all there."

"The rhetorical triangle concept has also refined my ability to 'read' and analyze claims in the world around me"

"I learned how to formulate an effective and succinct thesis statement."

"I always thought that because this person was published, then the author is completely credible and they don't have any fallacies in their writing; however, after being in this class for a whole semester, my perspective on what authors write has changed. Writers are merely people who are trying to convince others....I now understand that no matter who is making the argument, I always have to read critically and decide whether the author is credible or not for myself."

"I found that...the words that we use in our writing do not necessarily have to be the largest of with the most syllables. The way that I use my words all depends on the audience."

"This has been one of the most enlightening classes I have ever taken. I found that people are tied in with everyone else, and that if proper tools are used, then there is not telling what good, or evil, can surpass after persuading an audience. I certainly am no Mark Antony, or Teddy Roosevelt but I know what they did to make them who they are."

"I would simply write what I felt my strongest points are, and would often completely neglect pathos, which is something that I am now able to see as a big mistake."

"I still love to write poems and other types of fun literature. I think that this class has actually increased how well that I can write these stories now."

"In this class I have learned that rhetoric is a wonderful ally."

"I learned how to do find proper sources and how to read and analyze information." 

After all of the long hours of grading, planning lessons, student emails, conferencing and teaching lessons, I feel that it was worth it.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Curate 1K

 Last weekend I went with a friend to her uncle's house. Her uncle is an artist that has traveled the world and taught art at universities in the US and Germany. The whole house was covered in paintings. You took a tour of the house like it was a gallery. The design of the house didn't really matter; the paintings are what mattered. I love that. I want my house to be like that. Unfortunately, my roommate and I only own one print and we have to frame it. The past semester I have been looking at artwork to put on my walls. While IKEA is great, technology makes it so easy to find affordable, original art. For example, here is a website that I was looking at today: Curate 1K. Here are some of my favorite pieces; it was difficult to narrow it down.

While we were at this artist's house, he gave me a canvas, paint, paint brushes, and told me to paint. The last time I painted it was with craoyla. I don't think I have even painted with legitimate tools. Can I just say how difficult painting is? I never thought I could appreciate art anymore than I already do, but give someone a paint brush and they discover a new depth of appreciation for art. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Almost Famous

So a few days ago, a friend of mine emails me a link to her blog:

(Yes, click on the link).

To my surprise, I found excerpts of our personal email conversations from this past week. It's finals week, so these emails were written quickly with minimal wit, too many or not enough capitalizations, poor word choice and grammar. But that's how most people--yes, even English graduate students and university instructors--write emails to friends. Apparently I need to be more careful about my emails; you never know who will post them on their blog. While I'm embarrassed about revealing my terrible email habits (thank goodness there were no incriminating emoticons), I am flattered about the content. In fact, I am so flattered that I decided to unmask anonymous H---. Yes, blogging world, H--- is me.

Now that I have proclaimed myself, I would like to return the favor (i.e. the flattering bit, not the sharing of personal emails).

My friends E--- and R--- always talked about becoming friends with T---. R--- secretly read T's blog for after she edited T---'s paper for publication two years ago. It makes sense, T--- is smart, down to earth, funny and adorable. We always talked about becoming friends with her, but we were sure that could not compete with all the fellow graduate students that felt the same way. I kid you not, there is always a group of people around her. This may be too much of a blog love fest for you, but I feel very comfortable. I blame this public display of blogger affection on reading too much  Samuel Johnson and James Boswell; greatest bro-mance in 18th century literature. 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Giving my Right Arm for Richard II...

I would give my right arm to see the Donmar Warehouse's production--opening today--of Richard II. Okay, I would give me left arm; I'm too dependent on my right arm. Here are my reasons for exchanging a life of one armedness for a night at the theatre.

Reason 1: Donmar Warehouse productions are brilliant. 

Reason 2: Eddie Redmayne is playing Richard II. 

Reason 3: It's Shakespeare. And we all know how I feel about the bard.

Reason 4: Eddie Redmayne.

Reason 5: I saw Red in Chicago a month ago, and all I could think about was seeing the original cast that performed it at the Donmar (i.e. Eddie Redmayne & Alfred Molina). Simply a brilliant play. 

Reason 6: It's provocatively kairotic. 

Reason 7: Eddie Redmayne.

So if you were shopping for the perfect Christmas present to give me, all I want for Christmas is a flight to London and a ticket to see this. 

Did I mention Eddie Redmayne is in it? 

Friday, October 21, 2011

Chicago in October

I always knew that if Chicago and I ever met, we would hit it off. It's a more intimate New York City, and I prefer smaller crowds. I was not disappointed when we finally became acquainted. Reasons why Chicago and I are meant to be:

1. Art--Between the architecture of the buildings and the painting at the Art Institute of Chicago, this city drips with art. We spent a rainy early morning and afternoon visiting their wonderful Impressionist collection and the newly renovated Modernism wing. Highlights included: Hopper's Nighthawk, simply gorgeous in-person, and American Gothic. They also had this facinating special exhibit on Soviet War Posters.

I'm the one with the blue umbrella

2. Harp--My harp instructor recommended that I visit the Lyon and Healy factory in the industrial area of Chicago. We took a the L into a non-touristy area to see how harps are made. By the end I was convinced that their harps are a steal because of the craftsmanship. Yes, they are worth even more than the current price tag--the equivalent to buying a small, new car.

3. Architecture--We took the cliche, touristy boat tour that highlights the architecture of the city. I fell in love. I'm going to admit that I'm not as well versed in architecture--blast those humanities classes for overlooking this amazing art form.

In front of the Wrigley Building

Mama in Chicago


4. Frank Lloyd Wright--We visited the Robbie House while day-tripping to the University of Chicago.  I  have this fascination with space (not the aliens and the moon kind of space), so when the tour guide explained Wright's theories of space I was having a academic orgy. New life goal: write a paper that intergrates Wright's concepts of space to literature.

5. University of Chicago--When people ask me about my dream PhD program, I tell them the University of Chicago. It's one of the top three programs in the country, and it is just gorgeous. We ventured out to my dream university, where I sat on a bench in the quad. My chances of getting into the University of Chicago are slim to none, so at least I can say I got to sit on their benches. Right? It's a lot more dignified then saying I used their bathroom.

6. Theatre--Chicago produces excellent theatre. We attended a play that I have been dying to see: Red. It is a two man play: Rothko and his assistant. Rothko, working on the Seagram Murals, espouses his philosophy of art to his assistant. I felt a certain connection to the play because I saw the Seagram Murals special exhibit at the Tate Modern in London. That was when I really fell in love with Rothko's work. Is it too nerdy to reveal that I was moved to tears during that exhibit? Too is revealed now. Anyway, the play was originally staged at the Donmar Warhouse in London, another love full of memories, and it moved to New York and received a Tony for best play.

7. Oak Park--Hemingway grew up here and Wright lived here. Talk about a star-studded neighborhood. Wright designed about two dozen houses in the area, so we walked around the block to see his work.

Hemingway said "Oak Park is a neighborhood of wide lawns and narrow minds." You would, Hemingway. Well I would live in this lovely area--narrow minds included.
My parents in front of one of the Wright's houses

Wright's Studio. Notice the lovely graphic design he created for his business. Seriously, there is no end to the man's talents and his OCD attention to detail. Requiring the Robbie kids to wear clothes that went with the house decor went a little too far. I wonder if his clothing design is as brilliant as his graphic design. Hmm...note to self: must research this.

9. Latino Market and Greek Town--We went to the weekend, Latino market; we were the only people speaking English. They sold everything from laundry detergent, batteries, and perfume. It is where the Latinos do their grocery shopping and get a bite to eat. From there, we walked to Greek Town. In a Greek restaurant there were half a dozen Greek families having children's birthday parties.

10. Taxi Drivers--Okay so this sounds like an odd reason for why Chicago and I are meant to be, but hear me out. In New York, your Taxi drivers do not like to chat with you. In Chicago, everyone is so kind...especially the Taxi drivers. My favorite Taxi driver was from Palestine. Once I told him that I lived in Jerusalem for four months, we became fast friends--we talked the entire 30 minutes. I made sure my mom gave him an exorbitant tip, and I said shukran!

11. TopShop--They have a TopShop. I think this expresses the quality of Chicago's shopping.

12. Food--The food in this city is unreal. Although I never got to go to Rick Bayless's restaurant, I did get to Art Smith's Table Fifty-Two. On the menu: Pork Belly, Fried Green Tomatoes, and Mac n' Cheese. Incredible. Mouth Watering.

Chicago, I am hoping we can meet again soon. I desperately want to be better friends. Well not that I'm desperate for friends...just desperate for your friendship.