Sunday, 6 July 2008


...Come, my friends,
Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
It may be that we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Tho' much is taken, much abides; and tho'
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

Ulysses, Tennyson


When I make my next blog, I'll post the link here so y'all can see it. I'm thinking it'll be just a record of the parts of senior year I want to remember. Any thoughts for titles?



Undiscovered Country

Back in the U.S., and things have never felt so different. Everything realy IS too big around here, people DON'T dress HALF as fashionably, and for the country with some of the greatest expanses of forest and wildland around (which are especially visible from the air), we are a country with some of the grossest excess imaginable, as if cities and towns were trying to spread as far as possible and failing. Just the gas it requires to get from place to place! And the brand names and the strip malls...

I'm sorry. I flew into Newark. It's not the best first impression of America. I was suddenly reminded by the Jersey Turnpike how much New Jersey resembles Bosnia.

But I guess that's all to be expected. I've got plenty left to say on my re-adjustment, as the wardrobe door slams shut, but I don't think I'm going to say it here. Not yet, at least. I think I need time to digest all that.

And so, with England done, this blog is going to come to an end ... so to speak. I'll leave a post above to tag any thoughts, things I miss about England, and I'll keep that one post updated. There's a lot about this blog that I haven't finished - such as the infamous post about Ireland, which maybe will come up in later blog-related writings - and a lot I haven't been able to put into words, but I think, for the time being, that it would be better for me to keep those things unsaid. Digest them first. They'll come back around at some point. "Nothing is forgotten, just not remembered until the right time," and all.

So I'm taking a quick hiatus from reporting on and analysing my life in a narrative format, but I'll continue again with a blog about senior year - it'll probably start up mid august, if any of you are interested.

I just wanted to take a quick second to thank all my readers, I hope you've had fun, and I've enjoyed your comments and your patronage.

It would be a mistake to get overly sentimental about England passing into the background. It would be just as much a mistake to deal with the subject in a cold, objective fashion. Suffice it to say that one of the more important things England has left with me is the knowledge that we, as Americans, are not the only crazy ones. Nor are the English, Scottish, Irish, Swiss or Germans. I'd even venture so far to say that we are, in fact, all pretty sufficiently crazy. I remember writing something in my moleskine like "the West Country puts American political troubles into perspective: 'Yes. We know. That country is run by madmen who can bomb each other to bits and ruin lives and manipulate the country against itself for their own ends. That's just what Americans do. Good. Got that settled. Now let's go have some scrumpy.'"

And although, after nine months, it's very obvious that England isn't just a fantasy land, there is a kind of enchantment that lives on there in the culture, somehow. I won't try to put my finger on it. It'll ruin the mystique.

I have yet to find the same enchantment here. But I'm only really just starting to look.

Monday, 30 June 2008


So now on to some cool, quirky bits of Germany, now that I've probed the scary parts.

Everyone rides bikes in Germany, including a five year old kid we saw today.

There's a lake nearby our flat that looks like Lake Nockamixon in Bucks County, and it's got a landscape that is pretty reminiscent of BC as well. We went out to it with one of our flatmates, her girlfriend, and two of their friends, who were dating, and one was German while the other was Spanish, and our flatmate's girlfriend was Spanish. And we all went out to the lake to have a picnic. It was a thoroughly international picnic.

Everyone has a way of impersonating different languages with jibberish - if I were to try to imitate French without actually speaking any french words, I'd say something like:

Oh la la bou rapapla (phlegmy throat noise) toi.

I asked my German flatmates how they'd do that for English. They responded in two ways. First, to imitate American English, repeat the following phrase:

(said as nasally as possible)

"Rah rah rah rah rah."

To imitate British English, repeat the following phrase:

(as condescendingly as possible)

"Raw raw raw raw raw."

They asked what German sounded like, and my friend and I looked at each other for a split second, then said:


And our flatmate said "that's Arabic!"

Some interesting German words include:

Knoblauch: the word for garlic. It looks like it should be proncounced "Knob launch."

Schtammelbachspike: meaning "the warehouse by the shipping area" or something. It's the theatre were ShakespeaRE: 08 is taking place. It's just fun to say.

Also, the only serious German words I know come from action movies like The Bourne Identity and games like Call of Duty: Medal of Honor, so words like "Schnell!" and "Fruchen!" and "Polizei!" and "Nein!" So my flatmates and I tried putting them together in as many ways as possible. For instance:

Nein! Polizei!

Nein polizei! Fruchen schnell!

Nein fruchen polizei schnell.

And so on. Can you think of any?

Will write more later.

Sunday, 29 June 2008


And now I'm in Germany.

We caught an early bus to Germany, and I ran to the station with my one giant rolling piece of American Tourist luggage, having bought a small pink mobile for myself because that was the cheapest one they had, and wearing four layers of clothing so I didn't have to pack them, on no sleep because I had stayed up all night jetesoning clothes and blankets in order to keep under the weight limit.

I almost died of exhaustion lugging my overheating self through the hilly terrain of Exeter for the final time.

I left the way I arrived: exhausted, overpacked, and on a bus.

At Heathrow there was a baggage scale, and it turned out I was actually a few kilos over, so I just ended up carrying a lot of "reading material" with me onto the plane.

Even from the sky, Germany and England are uncannily similar. Where I am, at least, in the west of Germany, everything is flat, and it shows from the sky. As opposed to the random patchwork fields in England, Germany is a little more organized. It actually reminds me of the Midwest, and of Ohio, a lot.

The train system and the treatment of strangers reminds me of Switzerland, but less totalitarian (is it rude to make a joke in these parantheses? This is another such issue I've dealt with, when, if ever, it is right to mention the war).

Deciduous is a good word for Germany, Germany is very deciduous. Often people look at you as though they were frightened forest animals assessing whether you were vegetarian or not.

However, our hosts have been down right fantastic all around. I, for instance, live with a friend of mine and one of the actresses from Midsummer who plays Puck, in their flat which is one of the older buildings in Hildesheim, and filled with, as on of our hosts put it, "Hippies and Homosexuals." She said that like 5 times. There are fish painted o the wall and words like "We're just looking for ... the Everlasting Laugh." They know a bread maker who comes into town with organic bread, and then they actually sell his bread for him amongst their friends. So I'm living with organic bread dealers.

And intelligent ones at that. These guys speak English, German, Spanish, you name it, and there's very little in the way of "ownership," we all share our stuff, and I can't decide whether that's German hospitality or hippie hospitality.

One of our hosts took us shopping, and I was looking around for peanut butter - she was talking with a friend of hers she met in the isles, and I kept asking her if she knew where it was and searching, before I gave up and went away. And as I did, this friend of hers just looked at me and said, with very pronounced Rs, "Peanut Butter." "Thanks," I said, since that was the most effective comeback I could think of without breaking down and punching the guy, and walked away. Aparently my host took him up one side and down the other.

We were getting on the bus to head to our performance space for the first time, and of course our first tactic to buy our ticket was "Sprakenzie English?" because we were told everyone spoke English. But of course, really, they don't. So this bus driver didn't. Somehow, we told him we wanted two tickets to the Bahnhof, and somehow we got them. As we were walking away, he turned to the person next to us and said, sighing "auslanders!"

Our piece, sadly, pales in comparison to the other German Music/Theatre pieces. We essentially watched their production of Midsummer, with a cast of 60, taking place in the top floor of an abandoned warehouse, with costumes made from duct tape and designer clothing ... There was cross dressing, there was dancing - the Pucks were played less as a character and more as a 20-person force of nature, each with his or her own crazy thing (this one girl went around with an electric drill, drilling into the concrete pillars and the floor, while our host carried a megaphone with the chorus of "Sweet Dreams are Made of This" programmed into it and turned it on at random points). Oboron wore a leather jacket and gold hot pants, and he kept biting cashews and spitting them on the ground. He sat in a little wooden treehouse, and for the first part of the show he was covered by this big gold foil thing. Throughout the show, he would point to the pucks, who would make their individual noises depending on which one he pointed to. When it came time for him to send out the potion, the pucks all pulled out condoms and swung them around like morning stars. Helena (Hermia? The ugly one) carried around ice cream coronets that she was always unwrapping and eating onstage (and of course they were melted so they deliberately got everywhere), while Demetrius had a hanky he wiped Hermia with that he kept stored in his underwear, and pulled out to dab his head. There was a rave on more than one occasion, one orgy, and a chest full of fake (hopefully) semen that one of the lovers had, and his/her partner (I leave it gender ambiguous because by that point they were swapping genders right and left) took a big index-finger wipe of it and licked it off.

Germans. In their defence, I can't speak German, so of course all I remember is the startling visuals.

One fantastic thing about the production was how they did Bottom's Transformation. The mechanicals were these little narrator girls, who came in from time to time smiling and looking freaky (cause they didn't keep the mechanical scenes), and they had finger puppets and stuff. Anyway, after the Pucks were told to find some crazy thing for Titania to sleep with, these girls had a scene. They were singing a German lullabye, when the Pucks came in and, of course, turned it into a dance party. Then they lead one of the little girls away from the rest (FREAKY PEDOPHILIA style) and shoved this giant duct-tape stack of boxes on her, with a mouth hole where she could hold a megaphone. So essentially Bottom as an ass was this giant walking cardboard pole with cute girly shoes, and he could only take small steps, and couldn't see, and then Titania wakes up and fawns over him, and he keeps trying to get away but he's a pile of boxes, so he can't. It was great.

Sexual tension abounds in our experience, as well, as girls here from Exeter have been followed home at night more than once, and I myself was traveling with a group of girls and one other guy, and we were followed by two guys. We kept our normal pace and didn't allow them to think they'd scared us. After a little while, they started playing music on their phone. I asked my host what the number for the police was, and opened my phone, and they left us alone.

We also happened to have arrived on the week when Germany is in the finals for soccer. The second night we were here, they played Turkey. There are a significant amount of Turks living in Germany as German citizens too, so tensions were very high. I went out that night with the other people on the program, staying in well lit areas and having dinner. On the way back, though, I had to walk half an hour through the streets from their flat to mine, with one map clutched to my side so no one would see it. I made it back fine, but I was always worried about the soccer fanatics.

And I talked to some other British students here, and they felt the same way, I talked to German students here for Pete's sake, and they felt the same: seeing these footballers was frighteningly like rallying the troops. Germany has only been able to show its flag without being afraid since 2006, and I suppose there's a surge of nationalism right now, but still. I suppose I know my liberal arts degree has been put to good use: I was able to instantly identify the fear I was feeling as the same fear I had felt when I saw Rhinoceros, and chose how to deal with it with the kind of wisdom of that play in mind.

And I don't want to paint Germany as a bad place. I will want to go back. Hildesheim I think is a little xenophobic at times - I've mentioned how I get looks like I'm from Mars when I go most places, right?

But I recently had to be interviewed for an informational movie on Exeter, and in it they asked me about adjusting to England. And I said essentially, not in these words, that jerks are an international phenomenon, and you're going to get made fun of and harrassed and even attacked (first week of Ken-Ex it happened to Rob Galloway and Steve Bertozzi), but that when you interact with another culture and meet the people, that connection is worth whatever xenophobia you encoutner. And I'd say the same about Germany.

There is a beautiful, fairy tale quality to Germany, similar to England, that comes from that deciduous setting, and also the attitudes fo the people. It seems like, at least here in Hildesheim, there is a definite good and a definite bad, and people you meet are always looking out for the best way to tell the difference between the two, whether you're on the positive end of that or not.

Or maybe that's just an escapist way to rationalize the fact that I've been treated both amazingly and like crap.

The Eye of a Needle

Recently, gas prices have become so bad that airlines have changed their back policies, from allowing two bags to go from Europe to America, down to one. This posed a large problem for me, since I'd packed with two bags, counting on having that extra 23 kg of kapow to keep me going.

So I shipped. A lot. Mostly books. In fact, almost entirely books. 27 kg of books combined. Shoot me in the head.

But even then, and even with my vacu-suck package bags, I couldn't fit all my things into 23 kg. So I dumped. A lot. Mostly old clothes, but some significant things were left to be donated to charity. My fleece blanket, for one. I'll miss that.

I also left a number of books with people as gifts, like a book of Scottish fairy tales that I bought in Edinburgh. Giving away so many books was minorly frightening.

And all in all, this packing frenzy denied me the ability to say proper goodbyes to a lot of people in Exeter, which was no fun.


Condensing everything into one bag, going over and over again and again what was necessary in my life and what wasn't, was very cathardic. It was harrowingly rewarding, picking that little bit that really mattered, and although I miss the rest, learning to live without it.

I still don't know what to make of England being gone. I have one final visit back to Heathrow, and then I leave for good. But this is a large preview of life outside of England, being in Germany, I mean. More on that next.

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

There the men are as mad as he

Today I got to play Hamlet, although only for a selection of scenes (Ghost Scene, Play-Within-a-Play, and Death-Scene, to be precise). I couldn't help but feel pretentious, as we hadn't had much time for rehearsal, and here I was, holding my moleskine notebook ("my tables"), in my black jeans, my inside-out black shirt and reddish leather shoes, trying to do it justice. I ended up looking at it a bit like Luke trying to get his X-Wing out in the swamps of Degobah (you know you're a nerd when...).

And now that it's done, I wonder what criteria I was assessed on, as this is Exeter Uni and they lean more towards theatre than drama. And as I've voiced far too many times before on this blog, that's not what I expected "British Acting" to be.

Apparently, though, I was wrong.

I met with a working dramaturg recently - he's 28 and about to have his first book published on Contemporary British Drama - and he said that a lot of theatre in England is strictly devised. In the South West most of the theatre takes place outside of theatres, either as site-specific or found-space pieces, or street theatre, etc., while in London there's been a big push towards "Event" theatre. He mentioned that dramaturgs in England are having a hard time, because a large demographic of English directors - the middle aged ones from the 70's - are extremely distrustful of someone else coming in to fiddle with their work, and it's only now that a new generation of directors is coming along that dramaturgs are beginning to get some leeway. These stubborn middle-aged directors follow a trend in the English theatre though, which I found completely baffling:

English dramatists are opposed to theory.

Oddly enough, drama theory is viewed as "Continental." (The American-British spectrum doesn't even enter into it.) And so dramaturgs have a hard time getting jobs. And that did a few things for me.

First, it put Exeter Drama in perspective (if that's the culture they're playing towards, then it's not the University's fault that I get weird looks when I mention structure).

Second, it aligned a number of pieces of information that I'd heard from some post-grad students, like the fact that since Universities are publically funded, their curriculums (insofar as they are limited by their funding) are determined by the English Government. One of the post-grads chalked this up to the more leftist groups in power, who he said "found text-based theatre to be too high-brow," insisting on more of a people's theatre of clowns and street performers. So of course a publically funded University would be heavy on devising - it requires minimal sets, costumes and space, with no books outside of some about the process of devising, and no royalties. Which is less out of the Government's pocket.

Third, it made me happy to live in a country where there were privately funded Universities, and that was a first.

Fourth, it made me question British theatre, if that's truly the state of it. If it's truly more theatre than drama not just in Exeter but all of England, how are you supposed to handle things like Hamlet, which are symphonies of Action and conflict, and, even more so, are your native masterpieces? I'm sure if I looked further into the state of the British Theatre, outside of a coffee with a dramaturg (informative though it was), I'd be able to answer these questions.

But fifth and finally, it made me try to take the long view. Everyone's always saying that they're worried about the state of the theatre, just as an institution. This dramaturg's concerns were that virtually all the other art forms had been blown into the stratosphere - if you look at sculpture, painting, or music, for example, there's plenty more advancement on the avante-garde levels than in theatre, if only because realistic drama is still one of the more common things seen in theatres. And he was calling for a kind of blasting-off of theatre, of learning when you've created a strong enough story to stop and have some clowns come in and play.

And yet you get a writer like Martin McDonough, who built his career on the sheer strength of his stories (and punching Sean Connery in the face, of course), who left writing for theatre so that he could write and direct movies, because he claimed that in movies they've retained a knowledge of storytelling, and the theatre has lost that.

That would be scann'd. It seems like the problem in the theatre can't be cause-and-effect narratives constricting artists' creativity as a whole if the theatre has lost its inherent ability to tell stories.

But now, actually, I need to stop this, because it's getting late. Needless to say I'm a little perplexed by theatre, at the moment.

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

A Nose Towards Belvadere

Forgive me for waxing pastoral...again...

When I wake up there is a white castle on the horizon that I can see from my room - whenever it's sunny out, and that's now more often than you'd think (for England), you can see the sunrise/zenith/sunset playing on the battlements. It's small, it's probably just a decorative castle, but it is distinctly white.

A while ago Ken and I found pictures of this castle in the Exeter St. David's train station, and it's called Belvadere Castle - it's an Exeter attraction. We've been meaning to adventure there for a while. We even went with a friend, packed a picnic lunch, and tried to walk there... but we only made it as far as the taxi station, because we didn't know how to get there... (in that case, we just had a picnic by the River Exe).

I was talking to my mom today, because I was beleagured with final-week-in-Exeter business, and dreading my 10-Days-in-Germany-Obligation before finally getting home, and she said that whenever you're on the road to do a job and you realize you've done the last necessary thing, there's always a rush of joy at the thought of taking that very first step, and pointing your nose home. And it always makes you feel better.

I can't stop pointing my nose at Belvadere though, and all the things in England that I just don't have time to do. Glastonbury! I never went to Glastonbury, and there's even the huge concert there every year. Or Cornwall - Penzance! - or anywhere further north than Bristol for that matter (in England, that is). I did go to Torquay, randomly, so that's that. I've never been to Wales... but ...

I'm looking forward to pointing my nose home though.

Saturday, 7 June 2008

Hit it, Carol King!

Friday night, Exeter Soul Choir had its first concert - it was organized at the beginning of the semester by one of my friends from Music and Theatre, and they got their act together and performed in the chapel, which was built to have amazing acoustics.

The chapel is also staged in the traverse, so the audience sits on either side of a long isle, and at one end is the entrance, and the other is the sanctuary. So when you're sitting there, you can watch what's happening in the sanctuary, or you could watch the people across from you.

And I took a big advantage of this. Soul music is great, all well and good, but it's not exactly... the most British thing ever. And we were in an Anglican chapel - these are the people who made fun of the Methodists for getting to into their worship (which is sort of the spirit of Soul Choir. No grudges of course, because it looks like the Anglicans and Methodists in England might reunite after all...). And it was just strange, because here is this amazing choir, downright knock-your-socks-off amazing, singing songs like "Itty Bitty Pretty One" and dancing and clapping, or "Oh Happy Day" and going full out Gospel, or "Man in the Mirror," or "I Feel The Earth Move," or "Zero to Hero" - in which they outright acted the muscles and the oogling comments. So there's this crazy choir, and then us, the audience. We were partially drama students who were totally into it, but there was just as many brothers and parents who were slouching and looking bored. I almost got the impression there were people scowling, but maybe I was on crack.

And so much of soul music involves audience participation, clapping and all, and we were just the WHITEST crowd - and by WHITEST I mean boring and out of beat and lame, not necessarily entirely caucasian. We never sang along if we were asked, and when we were asked to clap we only did so for a little while. Everyone loved it, as far as I can tell, but it just seemed like the whole point of Soul was sidestepped by manners. I wanted to stand up with my hand high in the air and start clapping and, like, do call and response or something. Just to shake things up.

At the end everyone raved about it, people shouted for an encore (which we got), but it was like watching Chekhov in an elementary school, or Footloose done by the RSC ... they were doing this fantastic stuff, and here we were in the audience, potato-faced just staring at the choir, who were clapping and dancing and having a great time. It was a kind of exercise in incongruity.

Thursday, 5 June 2008

Worst Terrorist Ever

Also the worst blogging ever, I forgot to report on a key event in Exeter history.

Exeter has a shopping mall, newly built, called Princesshay. It's in the town center, and loaded up with tons of designer shops and restaurants, from Next and Apple to Nandos (YUM) and Giraffe's.

Probably about two weeks ago, Princesshay had a bomb planted in it - specifically in Giraffe's. Specifically, in the bathroom. And it went off - it wasn't a big bomb, it was a nail bomb, and supposed to take out someone as they sat down.

The story is that it blew up in the terrorist's face, and they've since apprehended him. Apparently everyone was sitting in Giraffe's, and then there was a sound and the lights flickered a bit. And then, after they figured out what happened, they shut down the entire city center and sent the bomb squads in. Good to see everything working properly, but kind of off putting.

What kind of moronic terrorist would bomb EXETER? There's nothing IN Exeter! I don't find myself terrorized in the slightest.

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Devon's a Prison?

I've been roped into doing a number of things in the start of my "summer break" here in Exeter.

I'm playing Hortensio/Sophocles, or "The Best Friend" character, in an MFA Staging Shakespeare director's final project: "The Taming of the Tamer ... Tamed." It's a splicing of scenes from The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare, and The Tamer Tamed, a play by someone named Fletcher (he has a first name, I don't know it) which was written as a kind of sequel, but much later. They're spliced so as to try to form one complete story between the two of them.

Because I was busily involved in my Music and Theatre piece - setting "Shall I Compare Thee..." to music in a variety of different devised-theatre ways, I missed the first week of rehearsal. When I did show up, they were already on their feet, and the cast was mostly American MFA Staging Shakespeare actors. So, professional actors who came here to study Shakespeare.

Needless to say, little old me, who hadn't acted in 6 months, was completely blown out of the water and brought to contrition. And I loved it. And I continue to.

A guy from "The Taming of the Tamer...Tamed" asked me to help him out with HIS final MFA Staging Shakespeare project, a 50's-style radio play presentation of Hamlet and Titus Andronicus as a "cultural hour" for a cold-war audience, until the acting turns real. It's odd. But interesting. I've never done radio drama before, and even though it's actually live, it's fun to at least touch on it. Radio drama still happens here in England. I think it's largely unheard of in the States. I wish there was more of it.

Music and Theatre is taking our final, mentioned above, to Germany at the beginning of July, as I've mentioned before. However, it's with half the people, and the comments we got back on it don't really make any of us feel like we should be presenting this piece at a scholarly conference. Hopefully, though, we'll get everything together and it'll be great.

HOWEVER, these three large pulls on my life have taught me a few things:

For one, the Music and Theatre presentation really makes me wonder about theatre outside of America. Is this what there is, not "British Drama," there's no Laurence Olivier and no intensely crafted acting - is it all just devised theatre? Because I haven't encountered much theatre at Exeter that ISN'T devised. Am I wrong to hate devised theatre? Because I really do. Not unconditionally, of course, but I really just hate it. And I don't know what I'm doing with it, and I wonder (although I've done no research into it and am utterly ignorant of what is so often reverantly reffered to as "the devising process") does anyone REALLY know what they're doing when devising? What's the state of devised theatre in America? Cause it seems to me like it's just a cheap way to get people to act, which can be taken different ways. Either it's good, because it allows people to experience theatre no matter what. Yes, that's cool, I love that part! But the other hand is this: devising theatre is what a department does when it can't pay for actual plays ... or doesn't want to. And in that, I find it a misleading financial tactic. Am I an ignorant prig, or am I actually having an honest reaction?

Secondly, the reason that I bring up financial issues is that I really want to know what the state of British drama education is. Because we're force fed this idea of British Training being the upmost state of acting perfection. It's like a club card you can wave around to get into V.I.P. rooms, a silver bullet to shoot through auditions with. People will FIGHT over you if you have British training, or at least, that's the impression I had.

I've found no "British Training" here at Exeter, and the thing that bothers me, is that there are post-grad students, who are mostly from North America, who have similar thoughts. They're largely up in arms because they feel as though they've been asked to pay three times as much as a British student, and they haven't recieved any professional skills. One that I talked to even thought he'd gotten worse over his time in Exeter. There is the perception that they have been duped into a money-making scheme by the department. And so the question is, do I really want to continue to have anything to do with, or defend, a department that is charged with that kind of conduct? I've stuck up for Exeter drama pretty decently out of the three Kenyon-Exeter drama students, though I haven't gone further above some level of ambivalence. Has my confidence been completely misplaced, even on an ethical level?

I just thought I should write about that. I missed my chance to tell Exeter exactly what I thought of them because I was blindsided by the feedback session - and clammed up. I still wonder whether it's just the fact that I'm American that's somehow coloring my vision, but I don't think so. And so, in part, I'm writing to other Americans who might be thinking of going to Exeter drama (even though I'm pretty sure none of them read this blog):

I have had a lacking experience with Exeter Drama. I find faults in how I've been treated by the administration. There are some good classes and plenty of good students, but the good classes are the theoretical ones, where there're books to use in your defense. Other than that there are few rules, few agreed-on concepts, few life-lessons that can be articulated, and little "technique" that you learn in any of the dramatic fields. Or at least, I haven't found any. But there are professionals who share my opinion.

And now I'm stuck until the very end of my time in England - Europe even - involved in a project I would rather just abandon, frankly. I'll do it, but I can't seem to find much fun in it, because I have no idea how to make it work. I think they've pushed through a system that states no requirements, teaches no methods, but still finds a way to grade, even though it's not always clear how to make what we're supposed to make. And so how can we fix something we don't know how we broke?

And I'm tired of defending Exeter Drama when it's treated me like this, when it's incensed its post-graduate students, and when it's keeping me, in part, from going and enjoying my summer. I signed on to Hildesheim thinking it would be a great experience. But I want out, and I know I can't get out. Either that, or I want to know how to fix this, but I don't think anyone will teach me. So I'm going to try to figure it out, but I don't know how well that will work. If anyone has any suggestions, feel free to drop a line.

** Sorry to sound really pessimistic, and, dare I say, emo. But I just finally sort of concluded what I thought about Exeter Drama, and I wanted to get the word out. Question me, encourage me, suggest things to me, or wait for another - brighter - post. But thank you for continuing with the blog so far. **

Saturday, 31 May 2008

Unknown Wisdom Epiphany

"Unknown Wisdom Epiphany" is actually the name of a charm in Exalted, the RPG that I'm tooling around with right now. While I went to Oxford over the weekend, I was exposed to the BBC miniseries adventures of Horatio Hornblower, and so I'm seeing if I can insert some of that naval-awesomeness into an Exalted character I was working on.

And Oxford, as it turns out, is beautiful. If it weren't for Kenyon-Exeter's amazing awesomeness just as a program, I would have every reason to feel bad about not having gone to Oxford on my year abroad. Being at Oxford made me realize how much more I could have learned this year. And I tried duck!

(Exeter, I guess, has that salt-of-the-earth, make-your-own-food and suffer-under-the-beaurocracy kind of experience going for it, I guess, though. So I learned something valuable.)

But the real point is:

On the train back from Oxford, there were a lot of Americans. I don't know why, but for some reason there were a lot of Americans. Like maybe 7, probably between the ages of 18 and 20. We sat down behind a bunch of them, Ken went to read his play ("Our Country's Good"), and I poured over my character sheet for this Horatio-Hornblower-slash-Hatori-Hanzo-swordsmith-pirate-Solar-Exalt character, adjusting dots and selecting flaws and all that other fun stuff you do. And the Americans behind us were just talking, and talking, and they'd make fun of the landscape as it went by ... the train we were on was a kind of local train, so it stopped at a lot of local stops in the countryside and eventually it was going to Reading and we'd change there to get to Exeter. And as we stopped at all these little stops, they'd make fun of the names. "Goring Streadle? What weird names!"

And I wanted to turn around to them and smack them. They were guests in this country, can't they appreciate it for the lovely little place that it is? Or, perhaps, as Mrs. Weasley would put it:


And it wasn't just England they were going after, it was the countryside. It's a plenty crazy place, I understand, and London can do things to people, but you mess with the countryside, the bastion of pastoral beauty, and I will personally take you down to Dawlish town and make scrumpy out of you.

But seriously, it's a crazy little place - England - and it's eccentric and dangerous and bitter and beautiful and cold and wet and green and it has that kind of sumblime power to melt you where you stand ... and you're making fun of the names of the train stops?


(They weren't really THAT bad, but it did stand out to me, and in standing out to me, taught me how much I had become accustomed to England in the first place. So maybe I have integrated after all...)

Sunday, 25 May 2008

League of Nations Attacked by Pirates

An alternate title might be "Jolly Rogers Go!"

On May 24th, I was privy to a rare European tradition - yes, not just English, but European. It is an international phenomenon that defines how these loose and ragtag countries, so often divided because of religious or ethnic differences, find a way to keep together towards a common goal.

And that phenomenon is: Eurovision.

There are many defintions of the Eurovision Song Contest - here's what wikipedia told me about the history:

Eurovision was started in the 50's as an attempt to get a war-torn Europe together again, when international broadcasting was still a huge feat. It was held in Switzerland, and countries submitted songs that competed for votes, whoever got the most, won. Switzerland won the first time around. As it became easier to broadcast, the phenomenon grew. Voting became more of an event, and while the votes were being tallied, there were interval acts, including the first ever performance of Riverdance.

But that's just history. I'll sum up the one I was given by my hosts, Michael Sykes and James McIntosh, as they hosted their Eurovision Party:

Eurovision is basically an American Idol for all of Europe. Each country submits a song, and each country votes via calling on who they want to win - but you CAN'T VOTE FOR YOUR OWN COUTNRY. Each country "tallies" their own votes, and awards seven countries between 1-7 points. Each country's top three get 8, 10, and 12 points, and these are the highly contested rankings, because after all the countries have submitted their scores, whoever has the most wins. It would be like each state in the US submitting a song to American Idol, and then voting on which song would win. The songs go through elimination rounds, and at the finals someone wins. Last year there was a big upset because Serbia won, and now the finals (which I saw) are held in Belgrade, which makes everything interesting because Kosovo is now a seperate country and all.

That said, it's the most political voting ever. Regions always vote for each other - the Balkans usually stick together, the Norse always vote for each other, and the former Soviet States always keep their points within the former Eastern Bloc. Voters use current events to determine their votes as well - the year the UK went into Iraq, nobody voted for it. Also, there're plenty of countries involved in Eurovision that aren't actually in Europe, many of which are seen as diplomatic moves. Azerbaijan submitted a song that made it to the last round. So did Israel.

And, on top of that, Germany, the UK, France and Spain, because they're the main financial backers, are gaurunteed slots in the final round. So, none of these countries take the contest seriously at all. And so, Spain, Germany, France and the UK never get any votes (except maybe the odd sympathy vote.) Also, there's an Irish commentator named Terry who is the only real reason to watch Eurovision, because he's been there for years and is so completely jaded by the whole thing.

However, for the rest of Europe, it is a serious occasion. Lots of countries put lots of money into making sure that their Eurovision song will win.

So, on May 24th, or whenever the finals are held, it is customary, at least in England, to get together with a bunch of friends, drink, and watch Eurovision. Internationally, there are entire clubs devoted to Eurovision - parties in the streets of nations' capitals. Last night, a serious drama unfolded before us. Here're some of the entires we saw:

Spain's Entry - "brikindans" is "breakdance," "crusaito" is like a box-step, "miqualyason" is Michael Jackson, and you can figure out the fourth part.

Russia's Entry - which features an Olympic figure skater.

Greece's Entry - keep an eye out for the lightning fast costume change, and also listen to the singer's accent. Sound familiar (she's actually American)?

Ukraine's Entry - "I'm gonna strike like thunder!"

Georgia's Entry
- Check out the costumes, and the SHEET!

Obviously there're a couple of rules to the genre of a Eurovision song. A costume change, a key change, a pop dance move, special effects, and so on. Coutnries like Denmark tried to break these rules, but it didn't end up really paying off for them.

For the votes, the show went to a broadcaster in each voting country (so lots), and they'd announce who got their 8, 10, and 12 points. Odd moves happened, like Serbia giving their 12 to Bosnia-Herzogovina, and vice versa - these people had just been ethnically clensing you for years, and you give them your 12? People I was watching with suggested it was probably part of the peace treaty. They'd also shout and bet to see who was going to give the UK points ("Come on Greece! We gave you Byron, you fuckers!"). The Eastern Bloc sucked up big time to old mother Russia, and Serbia in general got the odd 8 or 10 for hosting the contest. From Jerusalem, Israel's announcer gave the 12 to Russia - the Holy Land giving their 12 to what used to be the most violently secular of secular states. The only country that voted fairly, based on the quality of the songs, was Switzerland.

Ultimately Greece and Russia were neck and neck, but suddenly Russia pulled ahead, and Greece ended up in third. Is this the harbringer of a return of the Reds? I'm going to get out my list of known communists involved in Eurovision and make my way to the Senate...

There was, however, one unsung hero of the whole night. If you watch only one of the things on this entry, watch this. It is a song that should have won by any proper standard, but didn't, probably because of the freaking communists, was:


And you know the only people with true taste who gave them a 12? Ireland.

Thursday, 15 May 2008

you don't know how lovely you are


Come with me on a break in the timeline. Ireland, yes, is still in the writing - it takes forever for my camera to download pictures, and I don't have a laptop of my own. When I can borrow a laptop from the library, I often have other things to do with it. It will get done, but other things have happened that I need to write about.

Since Ireland, I've entered that final, wistful phase of the year, when summer is bright and beautiful, when the season or something compels you out into wonderful adventures - and yet you're acutely aware that the academic year is almost over. England's summer is blooming and greening everywhere, but as for me, these are my autumn days. In two months time I turn back into a pumpkin. A big, fat, American pumpkin.

I don't think I've done spring, or summer, in England justice in this blog. Everyone has the percecption that England rains all the time, and yes, it often does. But think of where the island is on the globe. It's that much more facing the sun during the summer. We had a thunderstorm last night as my friends and I bunkered down to watch Heat. We didn't finish it (it's really long).

My Dungeons and Dragon's character is going strong. I've been playing since the beginning of the second semester, probably, with friends of mine that I met in my Victorian London class last year. He's a dwarven warrior (like that hasn't been done before). A few weeks ago we spent a whole session, as characters, simply planning how to fortify a town from an impending zombie invasion. We've been living that invasion once weekly since. This week we killed something like 40 zombies between us, and a good portion of that lopping of the horrors of the underdeep was my doing.

I made gumbo, again. Probably two weeks ago. A side note, kind of a Three-Uses-Of-The-Knife kind of way of thinking, is that the only two times I've made gumbo, it's because I was inviting someone I was seeing over. To impress them. And both times our semi-formal "seeing each others" were called off. I'm making gumbo a third time, for the Kenyon-Exeter potluck. I think that's the right way to do it. (I'm not bitter.)

I've been recruited to play Hortensio and Sophocles in an MFA Shakespeare director's production of The Taming of the Tamer (Tamed), his own splicing of The Taming of the Shrew and it's sequel, written in the 18th century and not by Shakespeare, The Tamer Tamed. It's frightening, because three of the other actors are, like, REAL actors. I haven't acted in ages, and on top of that, I know I'm not the best actor in the world. And yet for some reason I'm acting for my thesis.

My thesis was approved: Copenhagen. Acting in Copenhagen, November 13th and 15th. I stopped to think whether I wrote those dates in the British sense or not.

My devised theater piece for Music and Theatre goes up a week from today. I'm trying to write a short scene for it that takes place in cyberspace. We'll see...

My piles of junk lay strewn around my room, a haunting reminder that I'll have to pack them. I brought so many books, for so many different reasons. I feel like a World War I general - I brought so much stuff I had that I thought would be useful, and it turned out some of it was, but for reasons I could never have anticipated. And the rest clutters No Man's Land.

I feel like I've become much more okay with saying "oh well" to things. I don't know if that's necessarily good. I've started doing things I consider "old," not like smoking a pipe or wearing sweaters everywhere, but looking at 18 year olds and wondering what they'll be like when they've matured just a little more - which might make them dateable. Or picking out and planning major events in my 20's, cause I'll never get to try them out agian. Looking at grad schools.

Have I mentioned the snails? I was coming home from the Vicar's house the Sunday after I got back from Ireland - he gave the few students who had gotten back and normally came to Church an informal eucharist in the evening, and invited us all back for potato-leek soup at his house. Walking back, it was dark, and I kept hearing these crunching noises. A tree must be dropping nuts, I thought. I reached the public footpath, which goes along the side of a hill covered in trees and underbrush, looking down on a small valley where cows graze. In the lamp light on this footpath, I could see a snail on the path. I feel bad for snails, particularly on roads, and so I knelt down, tapped the shell a few times so he curled up, and then transported him where it looked like he wanted to go (lightspeed!). I walked a few steps. And there was another one. As I bent down to repeat the process, I noticed that, in the lamplight, there were dozens of snails, I don't want to say "tons" or "hundreds," but maybe something like twenty something that I could see, dotted across the path, communing with the lamps, perhaps? The problem is, the public path isn't always well lit. So I took out my cell phone and walked along the white line in the center of the path. And I hoped I didn't hear anything go crunch.

At some point I'll post the postsecret I wrote for myself on a notecard at the beginning of the year, which, oddly enough, did significantly change my life.

I've played Mario Kart Wii. IT IS AMAZING.

I saw Iron Man. IT IS AMAZING.

I wrote a paper about Tom Stoppard and David Hare as political playwrights, and why they break the mold and establish a better political theater. It was really fun.


We went to a party tonight at Wendy's house in Topsham - the final party of the year. Contemporary British Drama finished up its final class with Far Away and Blue Heart by Carol Churchill (which, oddly enough, were both incredibly interesting. "Heart's Desire" is hysterical. Far Away is chilling and beautiful, to a point.). Read made shish-kabobs, among other tastey things. I had a bottle of London Pride - as you might remember, my nominally favorite beer: I picked it up one day at Sainsbury's in the fall because it had a griffin on its label - a glass of white wine, and a guiness. Although this may seem like just a laundry list of alcohol, it was pretty representative of my year. London, classy Exeter parties (one hopes), Ireland. Avery didn't want to see people go. Foss and I shared youtube videos, among which was Coldplay's new songs - they sound amazing. And I actually sat with Wendy and some students and just talked for a bit. Read was mostly cooking, but I did see him, and he was happy to see us. Words were bandied about like "thesis" and "Lentz" and "Wiggin Street" that put me off balance.

You see, I've been smelling the Hill Theater in Winter at odd moments in the day, just for a split second. And I've been reinvigorated to try to direct The Winter's Tale with Shakesperiment. I'm almost kind of longing for the stupid vent in the Black Box that you can never turn off, and thinking about the frozen pathways and slush on Brooklyn Street (is it Brooklyn? Those two that run on either side of Middle Path near the book store) honestly just made me take a breath. The Suicide Lights. I stayed up just reveling in the fact that I'd be out in the world and actually doing something the other night, instead of writing a paper. Some of you may have recieved gleeful postings about my thesis - that was that.

And there's so much of me that I just don't remember from this year, mainly those winter months. There're no... historical qualities to it yet, I can't say "this period in my life was marked by X qualities." But I am starting to look back on September - on Sin, on getting here, and on that horrible night when I was woken up at four in the morning by a fire alarm to go stand in the rain, the night after I had flown in to England with six suitcases - and I'm starting to remember those feelings and events like I remember the Hill Theater (which I almost just spelled with an "re").

The main thing that happened at the party, though, was that I thought about what it'll be like to see my family again for the first time. And I teared up a bit.

So if this is the Final Act, I'm totally ready for it. There's that story about the saint who's playing golf, and an angel comes to him and says "the Armegeddon is going to happen in 15 minutes! Prepare yourself!" And the saint says, "alright. I'll just finish my game." So, time to finish my game.

Thursday, 8 May 2008

Another Tidbit

Hey all-

Again, sorry for the continued delay. I like to think I've just gotten so involved with things that making the trek to the library once a day to reflect on them is too much of a nuisance. Also, I've purchased a handy-dandy moleskine notebook, in which I can now easily jot down all my artistic reflections... so this blog has some competition.

But a moleskine can't do this: check out what Wendy has published in a newspaper about Kenyon-Exeter! She hits it pretty much on the mark in some ways...

I will write more later, though. I miss ranting to all you guys...

Thursday, 17 April 2008

The Secret of Kells

Yo kids-

I do have lots to write to you about Ireland, but as this will be my first trip in Europe when I had a digital camera (I bought myself one the day I left), I wanted to upload a few pictures to make it a picture-riffic entry. Said camera is giving me a little trouble - I have to install some other software, but, since some of you have been urging me to update this blog, I figured I'd give you a little interim thing that has a lot to do with Ireland and my experience of it:

I was tooling around on google today, searching for things related to my experiences in Ireland, mainly, a trip to Trinity College to see the Book of Kells. We got to learn all about the highly stylized decoration for the manuscript, the printing techniques of the monks, all that cool stuff. So I'm looking up stuff and what should I find but news of an animated feature... after some investigation, I found this website:

You'll have to click on Animations, then Projects, then Brendan and the Secret of Kells. There's only a few pictures posted and some minor animation, but apparently it's due to come out some time this year.

This also has a few pictures:

I'm certainly no critic of cartoon animation. I know little about visual arts and less about what it takes to make something like The Triplets of Bellville. I like what's been done with Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends, but I can't put a finger on why. But this has really got me excited, and I figured I should pass along the news in case it interests any of you cyber people out there.

More to come on my adventures, from the Book of Kells to Kilkenny.

Monday, 31 March 2008

Super Smash Brothers

Here's a list of people/things/characters that need to be in a Super Smash Brothers game, regardless of their connection to Nintendo:

- Daniel Kramer (Final Smash: "Intensify...Intensify...Intensify...BOOM!" Taunt: "yeeEEEAAAHHHHhhh.")

- The Queen

- Facebook (like Mr. Game and Watch, but with newsfeed and stalking instead of sausages and all)

- Nutella

- Martin McDonough

- Richard III

- Lady Macbeth

- Cid Highwind

- Doctor Who


Drop a post with who you think should be in it, with details. This is purely for fun, as I'll be in Ireland for the next few days starting on Wednesday, may not post until after that, and so it'll be interesting to see what piles up.

Sunday, 30 March 2008

An Improbable Sunday

Here is a sequence of events. Believe of them what you wish, but I'm telling you that they happened. Of course, the whole point of this blog is that England is merely a figment of everyone's imagination, so you have a perfect reason to disregard what I'm saying.

- Daylight savings time started in England. As such, I was late for the Methodist church service I wanted to go to.

- Half an hour late for the Methodists, I hopped over to the Exeter Cathedral's 11:15 Mattins service, where the pastor ate a tin of dog food during his sermon.

- At some point either before or during the tin of dog food, Helle Slutz - a friend from Kenyon who was studying abroad in Cork, Ireland, but visiting her sister studying abroad at the University of Kent and so travelling with her sister and two of their french friends, one of whom had a passion for seeing cathedrals - noticed that I was attending the service, and waited with her friends in the cathedral, who were wandering around being tourists.

- After the service, Helle tapped me, and we all went over to the nearby Cafe 21 to have an authentic Devon Cream Tea.

- I decided to write this blog entry.

- I wrote this blog entry.

And that is how a minor time shift drastically affected Griffin's day, for the better.

And actually, looking further back, there's one missing piece to the puzzle, if not causually, then thematically:

Saturday Night, before Daylight Saving's Time began:

- I watched Stranger Than Fiction.

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

An Hour in Dawlish

Today I went to Dawlish. It's a £2 train ride away, and, according to Lucia Pizzo, there's really good ice cream there. I even think I remember her saying there was an ice cream FACTORY, but I don't know whether I made that up or not. So I put on my Orvis British-looking rhinohide jacket, my Orvis British-looking madras cap, grabbed my Young Person's Railcard and saddled up to catch a train.

It's vital to know that I had £20 pounds to live on the rest of the week - I've got decent food supplies but I could use a re-stock on several key items, like bread and milk. £2 train ride to Dawlish, 18 left.

St. David's station was its usual self, except this time, while walking there, the notion of spring hit me like a ton of bricks. Things have really gone green here, and there are little flowers popping up everywhere. The sun actually DOES come out, and consistently as well! And it really reminded me of how happy I was to be at Exeter, not somewhere in London (sorry, Londoners), because of the sheer amount of life.

Dawlish is the first stop on the train to Paignton - I don't know where that is, but it's apparently further towards Cornwall than Dawlish. It's also one of the few trains that I've taken that goes AWAY from London, and the trip showed me an entirely new part of Exeter, and the countryside. I'd never taken the Paignton line before.

One thing I saw was the ocean. Within 10 minutes. We passed by Topsham, where I'd been, on a train line that crossed the bay and I thought to myself how I'd seen this train from a ferry only 5 months before (see Nanci Griffiths is my Porn), and then we passed by Powderham Castle - even more specifically, I saw the road that I nearly hiked on with Wendy et al. to get to Powderham Castle, I was riding the train that was right next to it. Through a tunnel we went, on the other side, I had a moment where I looked out at the ocean, and the sky was cloud-covered, but light. And since there wasn't enough blue in the sky to make the water blue, it was whitish, and I really had another moment where I couldn't tell where the horizon was, where the sea ended and clouds began. I felt distinctly like I was on the train in Spirited Away.

I got off the train on a sunny day in Dawlish - the station was rusty, since it was right next to the sea (literally). I got off, and there was no crowd, no rush, no hurry. The train itself really resembled more of an ancient transport system used by a fallen technologically advanced civilization in Final Fantasy VIII (Esthers, were they?), or IX (I'm thinking Lindbulm post-getting-the-crap-blown-out-of-it), or VII (Midgar +500 years.). Actually, that's probably in most FF games. Anyway, the point is that Dawlish, from an American standpoint, is an odd mix of the Jersey Shore (sans the complete tourist attraction), a carnival, a small Florida town (sans the warm weather), and with a dash of Wisconsin (in that there's an odd obsession with dairy products). The town center is really more of a town oval, revolving around a park and a stream that runs directly into the ocean (it's about 3 ft. deep, max, and you can literally play in it as it heads out into the sea.), and a big green in the center. Around this oval are a variety of neat stores, and pastel-colored houses, which you only ever seem to find in seaside towns.

The beach at Dawlish is more or less just the space near the ocean. There were the remnants of something nearby the mouth of the stream, but it was really just for kids to play in. The jetties seemed useless as waves never got too big, and the sand is brown and pebbly. No lifeguards, no entrance fees, it's just there. You deal with it. More on that in a moment.

Dawlish does have a love of ice cream. As I said, Lucia Pizzo told me of great ice cream adventures to be had. Mmm, I thought to myself, an ice cream factory. I'll go find it. Either a) Lucia mislead me, or b) I exaggerated in my own mind. Dawlish has no ice cream factory. I stopped in to get a pasty (I'd had nothing to eat that day) and, after paying, tried to pull a suave, Final-Fantasy-esque talk-to-the-non-player-characters-to-garner-information. Either I botched my Charisma role, or I just flat out made myself look stupid, but I walked up to them, suave, and said that someone'd told me there was an ice cream factory around here, and I wondered if they knew where it was. They looked at me funny, as if I'd come in and said "excuse me, can you point the way to Willy Wonka's chocolate factory, a magical place of mystery and wonder?" They told me there were ice cream shops, but no factory. And I got the distinct feeling that if I talked to them again, they wouldn't repeat what they were saying over and over again. After recieving my pasty (you recieved "pasty"), I apologized and left.

Dejected, I found a place on the green to eat my pasty, and was approached by a seagull, that literally emmitted a cooing kind of noise and kind of grovelled. I think it'd learned how to beg. I felt bad giving it a pasty though, which has meat in it, and so I ate the whole thing in front of it and threw away the remnants. Does that get me dark side points?

Resolved to enjoy my time SOMEHOW, I wandered the town oval, deciding to go to anywhere that advertised ice cream. The first was Gay's Creamery, which claimed to have locally produced Devon ice cream, and take away cream tea sets. Yum, think I. But, as it turns out, Gay's Creamery was not really much about the ice cream at all. It was really just a freezer behind the counter and some cones, just barely more advanced than Shaker Maker (see Uncanny/Milkshake). What they did have, though, was large quantities of locally produced sweets, and more. Devon chocolates, Devon toffees, Devon clotted cream fudge, and, of course, Devon cider. In case my Topsham trip went poorly, I bought myself an emergency bottle of Devon cider.

After getting my ice cream cone, my cider, and a tub of clotted cream (YES), I found a little bench by the central stream and ate my ice cream cone. It wasn't that bad, I thought. Yes, I was alone on a day trip while other people, like Ken, were in Paris, and yes, I had yet to find the mythic ice cream that Lucia had mislead me to seek, but I had ice cream. I had clotted cream. Inspired by an option in Gay's creamery, I went to dip the one in the other, but slightly broke the tub of clotted cream trying to open it. Not enough to spill it, the cap was/is just unsecure. But ice cream + clotted cream ended up equalling "okay." Things weren't that bad. Then my cone broke, not sufficiently enough to ruin the ice cream, of course.

I decided, at that moment, that was my trip to Dawlish. It's pretty nice - SNAP.

But, in that, it had its charm. There were the gulls and ducks I kept passing on my frantic search for ice cream. The bush of what I came to call "Sommerset Roses" after the red rose faction from the War of the Roses, that sense that you were actually involved in some kind of cosmic comedy. I kept thinking of the idea of "comic angels" in stories, like It's A Wonderful Life and Love Actually. I finally found the tourist center, and I asked the lady there about ice cream, and she pointed me to a little shop on the sea side of the oval, called "Sticky Fingers," that looked more like a newstand. Except, on the sign above it, was the store's claim to fame: it'd won some nation wide ice cream contest. So I went in, got myself a brownie-cream scoop in a chocolate dipped cone, some clotted cream chocolates, and went out to the beach.

The beach, like I said, is really just where the ocean meets the shore in Dawlish. Maybe there's more attention in the summer. The train is propped up by some cement supports that make it resemble its own little Normandy beach - shrunk down to 50 ft long. The train heads off into another mountain, and if you go out onto the jetty, you can see one of those rock formations you often see in pirate movies, where there's the cliff/mainland, and then a sort of lower-case "n" shape of rock that sticks out into the water.

I went as far as I could go on the jetty, and was alone, and sat there. Me and my ice cream and the gulls and the sea. I came to a series of conclusions:

First: I was missing a variety of things. These include:

- Someone else. I'm still mastering the art of traveling by myself, for myself.
- A camera.
- T.S. Eliot. I couldn't help sitting there and thinking back to lines like

"At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves and the sea.
Quick, now, here, now, always -
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well..."

Okay, so not the whole thing, but Dawlish requires Eliot. Bits and pieces of that kept bubbling up. It's a very meditative place, the end of a jetty. Think of this bit from The Dry Salvages read aloud on a jetty:

"The river is within us, the sea is all about us;
The sea is the land's edge also, the granite
Into which it reaches, the beaches where it tosses
Its hints of earlier and other creation..."


"That the future is a faded song, a Royal rose or a lavendar spray
Of wistful regret for those who are not yet here to regret,
Pressed between yellow leaves of a book that has never been opened.
And the way up is the way down, the way forward is the way back."


"... And right action is freedom
From past and future also.
For most of us, this is the aim
Never here to be realised;
Who are only undefeated
Because we have gone on trying;
We, content at the last
If our temporal reversion nourish
(Not too far from the yew-tree)
The life of significant soil."

T.S. Eliot demands light waves and a jetty.

Second: I was going to have to come back, because I couldn't really accomplish Dawlish without at least one of the three missing things above.

So, with a bit of sorrow at a side-quest uncompleted, I went to go get on the next train home. I had spent about an hour and a half in Dawlish. But before I left, I slid down the seaweed encrusted part of the jetty to get as close to the water as possible. On the train ride back, I kept smelling some fishy, grimy smell. Then I realized it was my shoes. And I was happy.

"Every poem is an epitaph. And any action
Is a step to the block, to the fire, down the sea's throat
Or to an illegible stone: and that is where we start."


I had one of those "oh" moments today. My stomach was sick from the ice cream and the cider, and Stephanie Reiches said something like, "you look so sick. This is what you look like." and she imitated me. And I said to myself, "oh. That's the nature of drama. Right."

Monday, 24 March 2008

Norwegian Euphamisms

My Norwegian friend Thomas and I were talking about euphamisms regarding the bathroom today, such as "taking the Browns to the Super Bowl" et al., and he informed me of some interesting Norwegian ones, loosely translated into English:

"Taking the Browns to the Super Bowl" = "Calling for the Moose"

Vomitting after a night of heavy drinking = "Talking in the Big White Telephone"

I'll continue to report on this as new euphamisms arise.

Sunday, 23 March 2008

This Blessed Isle

Now that I've come at least three quarters of the way through my English experience, I have to sit here and wonder, what does it take to be British? Is it just the tea, the class struggles, the calling of things what they're not usually called (i.e. cookies = biscuits, etc.)? Or is it something else?

Because the dissimilarity between British and American culture is readily apparent. I was talking to a lady in church today (separate story, but I went to Easter Communion at the Exeter Cathedral. It was pretty sweet.), who was originally from New Mexico but had moved to Bristol and stayed there. For the most part she spoke with a Bristolean (?) accent, but here and there I could sense semblances of American left in her voice. She showed me around to the grave of Charles Wesley's brother, who was an organist in the Cathedral and got his own burial place beneath it, and we just talked about differences in cutlure: across America, across England. How New Mexico and Santa Fe were one world, and Bristol was another. The geography, the cultural influences (in this case, the presence of Spanish/Mexican influences on Easter practices), political climates, so on and so on.

Of course, the similarities are just as easily visible: England imports a lot of American culture, and returns things like ideas for American Idol and Dancing With The Stars. And Doctor Who. The only two places a musical can be "born" and recieve any amount of success is either on Broadway or in the West End. And, I mean, we both speak the same language.

But what kind of life do you have to lead in England to become English? Do you have to be raised here? Apparently not, since I know at least two people I'd consider English who both were raised in America. And if it can grow on you, what does it take? A proclimation of ideals? Do you renounce manifest destiny, the hope of becoming a movie star, and the American Dream in favor of taking up the Realm, politeness, and the Queen? What on earth is a national identity made up of, and is it a conscious choice, or is it just a sort of lump of all the experiences you have rolled into one?

I love being different here, but I love fitting in. Not that Englishness and I have always gotten along very well, as the occasional emo-rant on this blog can illustrate. But when it comes down to it, I do love being in dialogue with Englishness and English culture, as an outsider. But then, I get offended and start ranting when someone honestly suggests that "American" is a separate language. I rant to myself about how that's denying my cultural heritage.

But is England my cultural heritage? The English are said to have two books: the Bible, and the Complete Works of Shakespeare. That's what was put in the time capsule in Our Town. To what extent is the American experience a reinvention of the British one? We both had bloody civil wars. We both struggled with the question of when it was right to overthrow a king. What is the American Cultural Heritage, anyway, if not somehow connected to where we all moved in from anyway? Apart from whether democracy can work, and what the equality of man could be, in the end, what major questions has America answered in 300 years? What are our defining characteristics? All I can think of is what we're percieved to be. We can be perceived as wealthy, or idealistic, or business-driven, or stupid, or laid back, or wild, or any number of things. But among all these percieved characteristics, I can't think of one thing that it takes to be American. And maybe it's as simple as national identity not existing at all. Maybe it's just a label and a handed down set of themes that historians and literary critics dictate to us. Maybe it's that in America you can be whatever you want to be. That sounds oddly sappy.

When I was in Bath, I was talking to a high-school-age student involved in His Dark Materials. She said that she couldn't understand why anyone would ever come from America, to England. England, she insisted, was dull, and slow, while America was fast-paced. I told her England was quieter, and I don't remember exactly what else I said but my feeling about it is that England is more profound, that still waters run deep. And, in that, I can't see why anyone, being English, would want to go to America. I mean, a change of pace is always good, and of course people often don't appreciate things until they step back from them, and maybe not everyone in England particularly likes the English lifestyle, but if you've got this inborn connection to the culture on this peculiar, wonderful little island - if you can tell someone's birthplace and education just by hearing them speak, if you've endured the weather here, and been brought up with the BBC, and lived among solid history - why would you want to leave? Why would you want to give that up for the American experience, which seems somehow more superficial, or at least less profound? I mean, I've got a family and friends in America, what have you got, Hypothetical-British-Person-To-Whom-I'm-Speaking? You're just a conceptual target for my direct address. You don't even have feelings.

The clouds move faster in England, and the weather is more sporadic. Tea solves everything. Faith is easier to talk about, but only %2 of people attend religious services. When you turn 18 you get a bigger pint of beer than the one you're used to (apparently). People are most commonly nice, though some get frustrated by little things (like paying before you bag your groceries). Lots of people have dogs but only a few let you pet them. No one talks about personal subjects unless you corner them. More people have seen Shakespeare than you would normally expect. Grape jelly doesn't exist, clotted cream does.


I'm headed off to Dawlish and Glastonbury soon, so I'll try to get in some good travel writing about them. Thanks for keeping up with my adventures so far, my readers, even if they don't often make much sense.

Friday, 21 March 2008

A Ghost Town

Just writing to say that Exeter is a frickin' ghost town when everybody leaves. Like everybody. Ken left this morning, meaning my only source of entertainment - his copy of Super Smash Brothers Brawl - is unaccessable. Whatever is a boy to do.

I'm trying to get an RPG going when people come back, either Exalted or Werewolf (possibly of the Wild West variety). Leaning towards Werewolf, but there's plenty still to learn...

Wednesday, 12 March 2008


I had a quintessentially British moment the other day:

Two of my friends from my Music and Theatre class went out to lunch in the break between our two three-hour sessions. They came back covered in mud. In the best way, these are the kind of girls who are energetic enough, and human enough, to still play in mud. "What happened?" everyone asked, and they said they'd found a big patch of mud behind the Imperial (the nearest pub, across the street in fact), and they'd had the sudden unresistable urge to tackle each other and goof around. I just realized this could sound sexual, looked at in the right way. It wasn't. It was utterly pre-school. They spent the next few hours laughing crazily, saying how it had been such a release for them, to just go and play in the mud and have fun.

After class, they implored me to come play in the mud with them. Hesitant, I obliged, saying I'd just come and hang out, and not play in the mud myself. The mud was literally just a patch on a hill behind the pub, between some tables set up outside. It existed because patrons walked on it a lot, and the weather was, as usual, wet. I decided, what the hey.

The game was run at the mud as fast as you could, and then jump onto your knees and see how far you could slide. This included sliding on your side, chest, face, etc. I managed to get just my jeans completely covered. This is what happens when you don't have SNOW IN THE WINTER!

After about five minutes, someone from the Imperial came out, and in the plainest and calmest of all voices, asked what on earth we were doing. My friend tried to explain that they were playing in the mud, to cheer up the other girl with us. Again, plain and calm, though the ire lurking in wait was starting to become visible, the man fussed at us about the sod costing hundreds of pounds to redo each year. My friend answered that it wasn't much damage at all that wouldn't have come up from people walking on it anyway.

Then, politely (but boiling - my friend insisted he was laughing inside), the man told us to sod off (i.e. fuck off, for those unfamiliar with the term).

And it hardly detracted from the experience at all. If anything it made it funnier. I even thought of a good comeback five minutes later:

Mr. Impy: Sod off.
Me: Sod off, get it? Get it? Cause we're on his grass. Sod off. No? No?

I think it's funny.

Anyway, in retrospect, this just rang true to me as inherently British. There is some kind of rigid authority, Victorian in its love of rules and not showing feeling, who can't see past the commodity of the grass to the joys that the younger, more innocent (dare I say, Dickensian?) children see in the mud. And the children play in it, not caring about what he thinks. And he yells at them, though material arguments don't make a dent. Finally, he concludes with the most polite equivalent of "go fuck yourselves" that I, as an American, have ever heard. And this discipline does not matter at all, it's in fact just a way of life, part of the game. We packed up and went home after that.

My jacket still has a patch of mud on it, and I wear it like a badge.


Ken took us to a milkshake place that he found recently, called the Shaker Maker, or something like that. The central conceit of the store is that the "menu" is really just a big wall of practically any kind of candy, biscuit, fruit, ice cream, whatever! You name it, they'll stick it in a blender with some ice cream and milk and give you a milkshake. I had a milk-chocolate-hobnob milkshake. They'd never made one before, so they took three milk chocolate hobnobs, put in some vanilla ice cream, some milk, blended it, then let me try some to see if three hobnobs was enough, and asked if I wanted more. I settled for three, which ended up being a good number. It was amazing!



And, for your viewing pleasure, here's an old favorite:

Monday, 10 March 2008

When November Ends

English weather is, essentially, many months of November. Actually, since November, it's been November. So about four months of November. Just last night there was one of the larger storms in the year, with winds ripping through Exeter and tearing things apart, blowing trash everywhere, and so on. Now it won't stop being windy, and November has broken.

November being over is a joyous occasion though. No longer are things dull and only partially green. The green's flaming up all over the place, the flowers are blooming, and even though things are wet most of the time, things are growing.

The sad version of England, I'd like to think, is falling away. For a spring season, I feel oddly autumnal. I'm preparing to leave, after all. It's not quite to the get-your-ducks-in-a-line stage, but I'm encountering people I haven't spoken to since last semester, and I'm reminded how much I need to hang out with them before I leave. Maybe I'm just too wistful for my own good.

Saturday, 8 March 2008

Medieval Echoes

"Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future,
And time future contained in time past."

-T.S. Eliot, "Burnt Norton" Four Quartets

"So our human life but dies down to its root, and still puts forth its green blade to eternity."

-Henry David Thoreau, Walden.

"Glory is like a circle in the water,
Which never ceaseth to enlarge itself,
Till by broad spreading it disperse to nought."

Call me pretentious (again), but I had to include these quotes.

I just went and saw Henry VI, parts i, ii, and iii, in addition to Richard III, all at the RSC's theater in Stratford, all by the RSC, and, together with the Henriad which I saw in January (mentioned earlier in "The Difference Between a Cow and a Bean" and "The Dirty Duck"), means that I have seen all eight major Histories, and only had to read one of them. It's odd, I can't think of any other way to see any of them, including the often-performed Henry V or Richard III. In the second scene of Richard III, when the body of Henry VI is wheeled on and Richard tries to seduce Ann in front of it, how can that have any meaning without seeing the rest of Henry VI? Henry's wounds open up again in the presence of Richard and bleed before him, but without seeing Henry's pilgramage in the other plays, or the scene where Richard murdered Henry (or did Henry martyr himself? He spends the scene subtly prompting Richard to murder him), if you hadn't seen Richard rip a Bible to shreds and proclaim that he was no man's brother, that he was himself alone, and then whimper, how could this scene be anything other than an awkwardly timed seduction? What on earth does one think of ex-Queen Margaret when she comes on and curses the entire cast of the play (in this production she carried her dead son Edward's skeleton around in a bag for the whole play, and opened it during the curse, assembling another part of the skeleton with each prediction), except that she's some crazy deposed monarch? Actually, she's lead armies against the Yorks, had one of their young children murdered and stuffed the blood-soaked hankerchief into the father's mouth, sacrificed much for her son Edward's sake, divorced Henry VI for his attempts at peace, but you can't get any of that without having to sit around for another 10 hours of Henry VI.

The effect of producing all eight, from the RSC's perspective, is that no show is divisible from the others (though for some reason they set Richard III, and only it, in a semi-modern world with uzies and Kevlar vests, but even then it draws on the other seven.). The weighty significance that people put on one moment, or one scene, or even one show (like Richard III) was nullified, spread out into the larger whole, and ultimately for the better. No one had any "Here's My Famous Speech" moments. It was all just the rampant course of history. This fits in with the theme of the plays as well, so much is gained in the course of the Histories, and so much is lost. Henry V takes his entire play to gain land in France. By Henry VI, that land has been lost because of the War of the Roses. There's nothing close to the certainty of the Divine Right of Kings, although people throughout the play keep trying to invoke it. No one can trust each other because they've spent the whole time stabbing each other in the backs. By the end of Richard III, when Henry Tudor finally takes Richard down and ends the War of the Roses, you're happy just to be on the upper end of the wheel, but you're fully aware that history repeats itself.

The other thing I really liked about the play, as in the script, is the character of Henry VI. In Richard II, Shakespeare told the story about a more introverted, sensitive man who happened to be born as a king, and what a tragedy it was that he was such a thoughtful person (somewhere - Richard can be a serious ass most of the time), but he couldn't manage a state. Henry VI is another such person, a generally good person who was born a king, and crowned at a very young age. Throughout Henry VI, part i, you see him innocent and young, and oblivious, as machinations happen all around him, and you think "Oh gosh, he's gonna get it by part iii, SO bad." Part ii begins like that, but then he actually realizes how much he's been used (as the War of the Roses begins all around him), and gosh darn it, he stands up for himself (or tries). And he doesn't die (yet)! It's so refreshing to see someone who's a pretty okay guy not get corrupted by a position of power. He doesn't make the best political decisions, but he holds his own. And then by part iii, it's not that his incompetance finally undoes him, it's that he realizes that he wasn't cut out to be king, though he tries to use his power to stop the War of the Roses, rather than getting too caught up in it. By the time Richard gets to him, Henry is more a king in ceremony than practice, and although he's been captured by the Yorks, he uses his time to study the Bible and meditate. In such an inherently war-time drama, it's good to get an outside perspective from the violence, and that's exactly what Henry helps you do. And it's even better to see a potentially tragic character get his act together and pursue self-actualization, without having to die for trying (he dies cause Richard can gain things out of it). Richard II approaches this state by the end of Richard II, but he realizes it right before the murders come to get him.

And it's these two characters, Richard II and Henry VI, that I really care for the most, out of all the Histories. It's these two that only ever get a shot at the deeper meanings behind what they're doing, from Richard's "now doth time waste me" (mentioned in The Dirty Duck), to Henry's contemplation on a grassy hill:

"Would I were dead! if God’s good will were so;
For what is in this world but grief and woe?
O God! methinks it were a happy life,
To be no better than a homely swain;
To sit upon a hill, as I do now,
To carve out dials quaintly, point by point,
Thereby to see the minutes how they run,
How many make the hour full complete;
How many hours bring about the day;
How many days will finish up the year;
How many years a mortal man may live.
When this is known, then to divide the times:
So many hours must I tend my flock;
So many hours must I take my rest;
So many hours must I contemplate;
So many hours must I sport myself;
So many days my ewes have been with young;
So many weeks ere the poor fools will ean;
So many years ere I shall shear the fleece:
So minutes, hours, days, months, and years,
Pass’d over to the end they were created,
Would bring white hairs unto a quiet grave.
Ah! what a life were this! how sweet! how lovely!
Gives not the hawthorn bush a sweeter shade
To shepherds, looking on their silly sheep,
Than doth a rich embroider’d canopy
To kings, that fear their subjects’ treachery?
O, yes! it doth; a thousand-fold it doth.
And to conclude, the shepherd’s homely curds,
His cold thin drink out of his leather bottle,
His wonted sleep under a fresh tree’s shade,
All which secure and sweetly he enjoys,
Is far beyond a prince’s delicates,
His viands sparkling in a golden cup,
His body couched in a curious bed,
When care, mistrust, and treason wait on him."

Yum yum yum.

And having just come from a "what on earth am I doing in England?" crisis, to a "oh, I'm a capable person" revelation, it's good to see an unsure king discover who he is and what he can do.

And speaking of capability, my adventure in Stratford didn't just include the plays.

We had tickets to the Henrys, that's for sure, but Richard III had long since sold out. But, the theater reserved ten tickets that it released only on the day of the performance, first come, first serve. So, after Kenyon-Exeter resolved to be a part of this, I, and I alone, woke up at 6-ish in the morning, and was at the door of the Courtyard Theatre, with both a meager breakfast of digestives, hobnobs, and coke, along with a copy of The Everlasting Man, and I was the first in line. I waited there until 9:30 - the rest of Kenyon-Exeter showed up at around 7:30, but one other person had arrived in the meantime, meaning that we didn't get all ten tickets. Patrick Smyth and Ann Pedke, among other people, ended up waiting in line for no-shows right before Richard III, and the two of them ended up scoring SWEET seats house center, ground floor.

But I waited for hours for Shakespeare tickets, and that is enough reward for me. I've never woken up early to get in line for anything before! Not a concert, not Star Wars, nothing. It's intense.

Plus, the girl who showed up in the meantime, who got the second spot in line, was really nice, and we ended up sitting next to each other cause we both got crappy early reserve tickets. Her name was "Veritie," and as soon as I heard it, I said "oh... 'Truth.' " She said not many people get that. And she was pretty and stuff.

I just thought it was very Morality Play of me to sit watching Richard III, which centers on a character based on Vice characters, while I was sitting next to Truth, who was a pretty, early-twenties Uni student.

And I had one final moment of Shakespeare geekdom. I'd never seen or read all of Richard III before. In fact, of the Histories, I'd only ever read Richard II beforehand. I'd never seen the end of Richard III, but when we got to it, and Richard was killed, and Henry went to crown himself, he says the following:

"Abate the edge of traitors, gracious Lord,
That would reduce these bloody days again,
And make poor England weep in streams of blood!
Let them not live to taste this land’s increase,
That would with treason wound this fair land’s peace!
Now civil wounds are stopp’d, peace lives again:
That she may long live here, God ..."

-- And then, the actor paused, I mean he'd been pausing all the while, but there was just enough time for my thoughts to align themselves. I had been going with the meter, going with the logic, and it was the very end so I was extremely attentive, and, although in retrospect I suppose it wasn't that hard to do, I intuited the last two words of Richard III. I mouthed them with the actor silently while he spoke them out loud:

"... say amen."

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

An LGBT with Olive

We were discussing the acronym LGBT today - Ken, Patrick Smyth and I - and it was put forth that "LGBT" should be some kind of sandwich. But what would it have in it?

Barbecue Chicken
and Tomato?


Lamb fries
and Tom Basinger?

I'm interested to hear.

Also, we studied Voyage today in Contemporary British Drama, which made me get out my Cambridge Companion to Tom Stoppard last night and read up on his politics. My Companion was published in 2001 - before Voyage - so it wasn't much help finding material relevant to the play, but it re-introduced me to all of the reasons that I like Tom Stoppard. Beyond the wordplay and the prismatic structuring (a term used often by Wendy in class), Stoppard refuses to provide a singular voice or message in any of his shows, because a definitive answer would stop, or at least oppose, an individual's questioning abilities. Larger over-arching movements - like the post-modern movement he is so often shunted into - are, as one essayist described it, "countries" that he moves through: he speaks the language but is only ever a periphery member, never a citizen. Becoming a citizen would give his shows a voice, they'd suffocate his ability to toy with an idea.

And beyond that, the "never a citizen" bit is always interesting, considering his relation to Vaclav Havel and the Czech revolution from the USSR. He actually really got involved in it - USSR agents stole a petition he was taking back from Prague for Amnesty International!

And this isn't hero-worship, by far. The real Mr. Stoppard would probably hate talking to me and I've accepted that we'll probably never bump into each other. It's more that I've been reading his work for years, now, and I always come back to his plays understanding more and more. It's a neat little phenomenon, that.

Cheers, Mr. Stoppard.

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

Teeny Todd

For your viewing pleasure:

We discussed this in Music and Theatre. That's right, we discussed THIS in Music and Theatre. I heart that class. It features "You Could Drive a Person Crazy" from Company.

Monday, 3 March 2008

Level Up!

This is the tale of a sidequest:

First step, rally funds. This was tricky, because the exchange rate is never pretty, but I managed to get together some pounds to head out to Tesco with.

Next, at Tesco, I got to run around and select from whatever was leftover. It was six in the evening, you see, and the large parade of Monday shoppers had come and gone. It turned out that I was missing a green pepper, tabasco sauce, worchestire sauce, french onion soup, and red pepper - I think that was it. But all other gumbo ingredients were purchased, and some were finagled. The only sausage they had there were British, breakfast, cumberland sausages, which was not what I needed. The only chorizzo they had there came in thin slices! So, I bought some cumberland sausages and made due. But, I did get two secret bonus items!

Extra Virgin Olive Oil - why settle for less when the oldest in the world drinks two glasses of it a day? It's supposed to work wonders for almost any and everything in your body

Quinoa: (keen-wah, like Quina!) a super-food that Clay von Carlowitz got me on to. It was tucked back amongst other healthy foods at Tesco, and I checked the bag out. It can be substituted in for pasta or rice...hmm... Aquired Quinoa! ::Zelda item song::

Next, loaded with groceries, I began to return home, but made one final stop at the Co-op to look for a green pepper, and there it was! Aquired Green Pepper! ::Zelda item song::

Alas, when I got back, I got back late, and had to go make buckeyes with Ken, which was an amusing and rewarding experience in its own, but a complete and utter side-quest to my already important side-quest of making gumbo! I got to eat some though, so it was all good - you throw a buckeye in front of a roving Griffin, and he'll stop to eat it. It works much better than sylkis greens or kupo nuts.

But, once they were finished, and even though it was 11 p.m., I went about making my chicken-sausage gumbo. At first I thought I had too many vegetables, but then a sauteed them, and they shrunk. Then I had to deal with the cumberland sausages, which aren't meant to be cut up before they're cooked so they kind of squirted around. I managed it. Then there was cooking chicken, and I'm a huge freak about salminella, and how I don't want to get it, so that was interesting. And I almost set off the fire alarm with all the smoke in the kitchen, so once all the ingredients were cooked I stopped and waited for probably 5 minutes and just vented the kitchen.

Then came the making gravy from powder (because NO OTHER GRAVY EXISTS IN ENGLAND), and straining out all the little chunky bits that didn't want to disolve. Then I split the soup contents into two pots cause there was too much, so I had to halve everything I was doing. There was this awkward phase where I was putting a little gravy and then a little cream of mushroom soup for the broth, then stiring. And it was all working, until I put the soup in first, and when I went to strain the gravy chunks, I left the strainer on top of the just-plopped-in soup, so I had this gravy-soupy mass stuck to the bottom of the strainer, it was all quite amusing. Then stuff started sticking to the bottom of the pan, it was crazy.

Then I cooked the quinoa. An interesting experience, because quinoa, when it's cooked, looks like this. It's crazy! It has naturally occuring swirls in every bite! And it fills you up right quick, especially when served with chicken-sausage gumbo on top of it, which turned out to be AMAZING.

And I know this sounds absurd, but the sheer act of cooking in the kitchen for probably something like 3 hours, followed by the discovery of quinoa being good, followed by the even better discovery of the gumbo being good, has really made my, well, not life, but week, at least. I don't often get things right - I get things close enough to good, or acceptable, or something, but there's aren't a lot that I can claim to have done outrightly right. This gumbo was right, because it was tasty. And I'm kind of ecstatic about it.

Level up!

Utopian Brain Gumbo

I have three adventures planned for today:

Firstly: I have emailed my dad and procured the tasty, tasty recepie for his Chicken Sausage Gumbo, which I intend to make on Wednesday, when all us Americans gather round with all those French people and all those people of other nationalities and make dinner. I have my shopping list, and so there are two sub quests here. First, I, like Quina the Blue Mage, must go and procure all the tasty ingredients, although, unlike Quina, I have a definite gender and do not fight using a fork. Then, once ingredients are found (some optional ingredients, like Okra, will probably involve me completing some kind of side quest, dressing up in drag a la FFVII, or some such business), I get to play Frankenstein with them and experiment until I finally get something resembling gumbo out of them. It'll be a fun time tonight.

Secondly: I get to read Voyage, the first part of The Coast of Utopia by Tom Stoppard. It'll be an adventure.

Thirdly: An email just went out from the neuroscience department - I signed up in the beginning of the year as a volunteer in science experiments - and they want people who are interested in wearing a tiny camera for a few days, and then later are shown some images that it took while under an MRI. And if you bring a blank CD, you get to keep your brain pictures! And you get £15! I think I'm doing it, I just need to check my schedule. Meaning, that on the days that I'm wearing this camera, I need to be having magical amazing adventures so that I can remember them. They specifically ask to have you doing something rather than just sitting in your room. A call to adventure!

It'll be fun.