Tuesday, 26 February 2008


I'm sending in my resume to return to the Ojai Playwright's Conference. I'm hoping that all of my magical adventures that I've had in England will play into Robert Egan saying "oh yes, I do think we'll take him back. Oh yes indeed. Etc."

I considered posting an excerpt from my resume, but I don't know if that's somehow bad form? Here's the stuff I included that's happened to me since Ojai...


Conference on Shakespearean Music
June 2008 The University of Hildesheim. Currently researching the relationship between music and theatre with Dr. David Roesner at Exeter; will apply this research to a song from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and then present it at a scholarly conference at Hildesheim.

Education Intern
Dec. 2008 Bath Theatre Royal. Helped the Theatre’s Education Department as they put on a production of His Dark Materials with teenagers. Also worked with the producer, Katherine Lazare, as a personal assistant.

Production Intern
Aug. 2007 Ojai Playwright’s Conference. Specifically assisted the production of Lloyd Suh’s American Hwangap, helping the Stage Manager and wherever needed around the conference.

Crossing fingers...

Sunday, 24 February 2008


So Ken and I went and saw Be Kind, Rewind last night, and while walking back we passed through the "sketchy alleyway" (mildly referenced in "The Wheat from the Chavs," just before the quotation of Robert Frost), and we were talking, and randomly these cherry blossom petals started falling. We looked up, and we were standing right beneath a cherry tree. Ken decided that it was our official anime moment, and that now we could be in any anime or Final Fantasy video game.

Also, I had a date (or was it just lunch?) that I don't quite know what to make of. The cherry-blossom moment helped clense me of my anxieties about it.

Friday, 22 February 2008


I was walking back to LaFrowda with Stephanie Reiches, and a thin layer of cloud had moved in front of the moon - you could still see it - and the moon was really bright. And so the light, when it went through the cloud, created a sort of nimbus-rainbow around the moonlight. It was pretty.

Thursday, 21 February 2008


Hey kids-

Just filling you in on the new KLXG updates:

In looking for a trusty sidekick, Professor Rhodes came down to two major candidates: Adelle Davidson, his long time friend and collegue, and Wendy Macleod, a wry and calculating, not to mention intensely feminist, mind. Given the choice, he decided to favor an objective business approach, and nominated Wendy for the job, although his heart was torn in two (one might even say there was a TIE of some kind). So Wendy has the job of plucky sidekick, Rhodes has asked Adelle to go back to researching Shakespeare, and to write to him, and Adelle is sadly packing her bags. Rhodes insists on seeing her off though ...

So, introducing Wendy Macleod, the Plucky Sidekick! Her super powers include:

Scene Analysis: By glancing at a room, she can easily deduce what everyone wants and how bad they want it.

Raise the Stakes/Increase Obstacle: By focusing her chi powers on the latent dramatic power struggle people are going through, she can instantly make things mean more (raise the stakes), or become harder, or both! A killer when a room full of hitmen are suddenly unable to fire with just a glare!

Women's Strike: Wendy deals +50% damage to any person with male genitalia and who identifies as a man.

But, as with Rhodes, she has many close to her who can be used against her. Her weakness is:

Sophie's Choice: Wendy's family is a competing priority to her position in the KLXG, and Professor Rhodes is in for a taste of that Women's Strike if he makes her put her job before the needs of Read, Foss, and Avery. In addition, Read, Foss and Avery could become targets, and must be extra-protected...

Be sure to vote on who will be the team's Lovable Tank, the hero who takes the most, but deals out the most damage! Who will it be......????

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Chekhov "Uncle Vanya" from the Drama Reading List

The above pun was manufactured by Clay von Carlowitz.

Last weekend I took a quick trip to Bath to see Uncle Vanya at the Bath Theatre Royal - I can't quite say it was the most amazing Uncle Vanya ever, as I'm not an Uncle Vanya conessieur (spelling?), but it was good. It was funny, it was quick, and the only part I missed was some chunk in the middle because an old lady fainted two rows in front of us (again, this was a moment where I was apalled by the amount of 'stiff upper lip' shown, though I myself was showing a good deal by simply sitting and watching while the ushers quietly rushed up and carried her away. See the entry 'Stiff Upper Lip.').

It was the first time I've seen Chekov acted by professionals, as well. It played with the old naturalist stereotypes, like a complete set, and random noises that accompany the action to give you "a slice of life." The set, for instance, had a square of floor that was the playing space (for the most part), and then a variety of furniture outisde that space between it and the cyclorama. Doors were designated with two chairs on the edge of this space. And you wonder "Mr. Set Designer, what's all this clutter over here?" Then, Act 4 comes around, and all that clutter is moved onto the playing area, becoming Vanya's room. The set from before is pushed to the back, and so the entire estate is always onstage, if not always being used. There was also an autumn birch, which didn't move, but which set the mood.

What astounded me was how funny Uncle Vanya was. I guess a lot of people say that. But they really got it down. And that they were talking about conservation and deforestation a hundred years ago - it had a particularly green resonance for me. Astrov keeps asking "how will people remember us, one hundred years from now?" His response is to plant forests to preserve the wild. I find myself asking the same question about how people will think of us 100 years from now, especially if the world tanks and global warming kicks in (I, unlike certain readers, am concerned about this...). But even then, I got a flashback to Our Town. Autumnal is how it left me.

British acting, also, amazes me. I mean, I have my qualms with the Exeter Drama department, yes, but every show that we've seen here has always been so exceptionally acted. Maybe it's just my American upbringing that gets me tricked by the British accent into thinking that everything is under control and professionally handled. That is what I wanted to get a snapshot of, and sadly (since I was denied my acting class) I don't think I will.

Moan moan moan, blogs aren't for moaning, right? (Millions of teenagers would care to disagree) I did find myself in a particular autumnal funk, though, and it stayed with me through that day in Bath, and I'm sure Ken and Clay can vouche for that. We caught some food and went to see There Will Be Blood at a tiny theater in Bath, which put me in even more of an autumnal, satirizing mood, and by the end of the day I was getting royally pissed off because people kept asking me to repeat things or kept saying that I was slurring syllables together.

I like to think it was just a funk, and that further forays into Chekhov won't induce this state in me again, but all in all it was a good day. I miss home, but I guess I can't keep saying that. I'm studying Wagner and Brecht in my Music and Theatre class, just finished reading The Weir for Contemporary British Drama, and I've got to write a paper on Safety Last, a silent film, which has ignited in me a giddy dream of running a game of Changeling: The Dreaming, set in the Roaring Twenties. Mainly, Roaring Twenties New York City. 'Twould be fun indeed...


Thursday, 14 February 2008

Royal Rhodes FTW

It looks as though, due to the poll on the right, Royal Rhodes will now be leading the Kenyon League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. His super powers include:

Mystic Sight: Using his infamous large glasses, Professor Rhodes can pierce through any veil or disguise, but only for noble purposes (never to look at Adelle in her underwear...or less!)

Aura of Tolerance: It takes a strong will to become angry in Professor Rhodes' presence. Super-villains often find themselves incredibly at ease around him, and usually end up spilling their secret plan as long as Professor Rhodes keeps his cool, which he always does.

Quotability: "Royal," as they call him on good days, can reach into the deeper substance of the Universe and quote one poetic/religious text, calling forth an effect equal to the quote. Many a time he has abjured the five fairies in the circle outside of Storer, who wanted to lure him off to a frightful, if arousing, demise, by saying "These woods are lovely, dark and deep. / But I have promises to keep..."

But alas, he has a great hero's weakness:

Unrequited Love: Professor Rhodes has a secret love, and he dare not tell anyone about it, for his enemies could use it against him. She doesn't even know, either, because he can't risk telling even her...

And now, who will be Rhodes' teammates? Vote and find out!

P.S. This has nothing to do with England, again. I'm at a loss of things to say about England, because it's currently Valentines day, and my singleness has made me desire to concentrate on other things besides my immediate surroundings, and the lack of a special someone in those immediate surroundings.

Tuesday, 12 February 2008

Nothing to do with England

... but today Stephanie Reiches pointed out that I had one eyelash, on my left eye, that was THREE TIMES as long as the others. At least. She could flick it without even touching any of the other eyelashes. Then my friend Thomas examined/played with it. Then they showed it to the French girls.

Then I took a fingernail clipper and tried to cut it off while looking in the mirror, because the thought of its existence just made my whole face crawl, but I ended up taking a chunk out of the rest of my eyelashes, so now my eyelashes are incredibly uneven. Finally, though, it fell out of its own accord. I was on my way back to the kitchen with it resting on my thumb, looking like I just pulled it from my arm, and I was hoping Thomas, Stephanie and I could blow it away and make the biggest wish ever, but when I opened the door, it blew away by itself.

So much for dreams and world records.

Sunday, 10 February 2008

Houyhnhnms and Yahoos

Okay, I'll admit it, I've never read Gulliver's Travels. Which makes the title for this post officially pretentious. I confess it. Forgive me.

I just couldn't stop myself from drawing the connection, because my recent weekend trip to London was filled with lofty, logical, socially-enlightening events, as well as silly, crazy people. And horses. Lots of horses. I'm starting to think that the recurrance of horses in my life indicates some kind of synchronicity.

It started on Friday:

After sleeping in because I stayed up late writing emails to people saying that I'd be gone Friday, I ran around quickly packing only what I needed for my trip to London (Ah, London! London! our delight...). From there, I dashed off and arranged for money for London, but, more importanly, for the horseback riding lesson that I had rescheduled for that day. I hadn't been horseback riding in two weeks, and I was missing it, and on top of that I felt bad for the girl who rode with me, who had to pay for the taxi by herself last week, and who had her fees hiked at the stables because she was the only person at the lesson. So, off I went on a BE-A-UTiful day to ride horses.

Sadly, we were inside, again. And I was riding Ginger, again. And Ginger was still itchy from having been groomed, again. Oy. On I hopped and we began the lesson.

I do feel that I actually did get something done. I finally got trotting, though my form obviously could always use improvement. I've started to realize and correct some of the ways that I've been sending mixed messages to the horse while controlling it, which might be one of the reasons I never get any respect from Ginger in the first place.


I only really started doing this after Ginger had a serious Come-To-Jesus with the instructor. Before that he was walking around, disobeying what I wanted him to do - "kick him, kick him!" my instructor would should, and in my head I'd be saying "I am kicking him!" It got to the point where Ginger actually began moving around without listening to me. He started trotting when he wanted to, turned when and where he wanted to, and I was really just there for the ride. I didn't fall off, and he didn't kick me off, but the instructor noticed and started coming over. THEN it became Ginger trying to get away from the instructor, and I was a middle-man in the arguement. She eventually took him by the reins and verbally scolded him - and odd punishment I thought, and then gave me her switch. She told me to use it if I needed it. That freaked me out.

I did end up using it, but only when she told me to. It wasn't a full-out, jockey-at-a-race-track-smack-on-the-behind, instead I held it with the reins in my hand, and when she told me to, I tapped him on what would be his shoulder. I imagine it hurt more than a tap, but that's what happened. I stopped needing it after a while.

After the lesson, I got down off Ginger and made sure to pet him a lot. This was, after all, the horse that had rubbed the whole length of myself, from toe to head, with his head because of a good lesson once. He watched me go, and I felt a little uneasy.

Taxi ride back, in which I had an amazing conversation with a really young taxi guy about how England was crazy. He told me where the word "chav" came from too: "CHeltenahm AVerages." These were average-joes from Cheltenham in the 18oo's who wanted to be like the fancy rich people, and so they dressed up like them and paraded themselves around, trying to fit in. So, the rich people referred to them as "Cheltenham Averages." Anyway, post-taxi I went to a late train to London with Clay von Carlowitz. We almost missed it, actually. We were in line for the 1:54 train at 1:52. It was intense.

Arrived at London, dropped our stuff off at the Vicarage yet again. I discovered that my mobile was running out of batteries, which sucked, because I had rather complex aspirations to hang out with two lovely people who were in London at the same time: Charlie Cromer (BADA), and Sean Bye (semester break). I ended up kind of jerking Charlie and Sean around most of the weekend, because we'd try to meet and then things may not work out, but I did eventually see both of them, and it was great, as you'll find out if you read on.

We tried to meet up with Sean AND Charlie at the Waterloo station, because Clay and I were on our way to the National to see War Horse, but there were a few issues. We missed Sean entirely because I suspected it would take less time to from Notting Hill to Waterloo than it did. Poor Charlie was waiting out on the bank of the Thames for a while, but he met up with Ken, who was also supposed to meet us there, and then Johanna and Rick Carrol as well, so they all went to dinner. Clay, Stephanie Reiches, Meghan Gibson and myself all finally made it there with about half an hour before we were supposed to be at the National. Charlie and I had an intense catching up over coke and a sandwich, and I also tried to catch up as much as I could with Rick. Kenyon, however, is still a distant and misty kind of place to me, though, despite visiting Charlie. So much has probably happened there while I'm gone - but more importantly I got to grill him on his adventures in BADA, which are both plentiful and interesting (but then again I think a class is counted as an adventure, I mean, when you have classes 9-6, one of which is an intensive Shakespeare course). We reminisced about past games, talked of potential games in the future for senior year, and of course the usual - shoes and ships and sealing wax, cabbages and kings ...

Off to War Horse. It's actually based on a children's book about an English boy - Albert - who manages to raise and befriend a horse he names Joey, just before World War I. But, Joey ends up being sold to the British Cavalry (the British started out using cavalry until they discovered German machine guns. This discovery, sadly, happens onstage. Reversal: they die.), and Albert, after much deliberation, ends up running away from home and enlisting, despite the fact that he is under age, in order to find his horse and bring him back. Both Joey and Albert go through their own adventures in No Man's Land, encountering new owners, crossing political lines, and trying to survive in a hell of modern warfare.

Sounds good, but the plot isn't the best in the world, there are deliberate coincidences - fortunate and unfortunate - that are really there just for pulling on your heartstrings. At the same time, the only play that has made me cry more is Godspell. And there's a darn good reason for that. The plot, while not perfect, was good enough, and the spectacle in the show was down-right amazing. Joey, of course, is a HORSE, but look at how well he's done:

This is Albert, played by Luke Treadaway, and Joey. The man you see holding Joey's head is a puppeteer - I tried to find out the name from the cast list, but obviously there are several people manning Joey. This man you see takes care of Joey's head, along with his neighing (done as a stylized discordant yell with one of the people manning Joey's legs), his snorting, and all the fine-tuned body language through his head and neck. He, I suspect, is holding a trigger somewhere that controls Joey's ears, moving them (independently) around in circles, or up and down, into whatever position he wants them to be in, essentially. Besides the head man, there are two people that make up Joey's body, one controlling his front two legs, one controlling his back two.

Joey is ridden. Joey gallops. Joey is whipped, shot at, and sometimes wounded. Joey has a general blown off of his back by a cannon. Joey takes part in a cavalry charge. Joey pulls artillery and carts, he kicks people, he sneaks around, he rubs up against people, he has conversations with few words, and he has an itch on his leg that he's often reaching down to scratch. At a point in one of Joey's adventures, his German owner who has taken him in is shot during a raid, and he is confronted with the new Western artillery, and has to stand up to it onstage:

This picture REALLY doesn't do it justice, but he faces down the equivalent of a panzer. It's a stunning moment.

Stunning is a good word, overall. War Horse isn't the best plot in the world, and one could easily describe it, sneeringly, as "sentimental." And, like I said, there are a few times when the script specifically toys with the audience's emotions (one of them is at the climax of the show, so I don't want to give it away.), so in some ways, it earns that jibe. As a whole, though, it seems to me that these are minor defects in a larger, greater piece, which isn't sentimental, but simply emotional. Overall, I'd say it's absolutely breathtaking - a good enough story with outstanding design. It has heavy amounts of incidental music, all drawn from the era - the songs of the Great War, but also country songs. Joey and Albert, after all, (GET THIS) live in Devon! Joey even has a line about having a bike stored in Exeter. And the acting is darn good, all around, and Treadaway does justice to Albert's wide-ranging story arc.

I've been saying I need a good cry for a while. I think I got it, or something close to it, with War Horse, and, of course, it made me want to go back to the Oakland Stables and give Ginger a big hug.

Saturday morning, we had yummy Vicarage breakfast (poached egg, toast, yogurt, orange juice, corn flakes, hot chocolate, sausage, a tomatoe, and English bacon). We went to the Tate Britain, where a friend of Wendy and Read's gave us a tour summing up British Art History. He brought us by a George Stubbs painting, featuring - get this - horses. George Stubbs, as it turns out, studied anatomy so he could paint horses correctly. The friend of Read and Wendy said it always made him think of Gulliver's Travels, how all of Stubbs' horses reminded him of Houyhnhnms, the rational and calm horses that Gulliver meets. Again, haven't read it, I'm pretentious, but that's what he said.

Saturday afternoon we went to see Othello, with EWAN MCGREGOR as Iago, in the Donmar Theatre, which is small. I was in the first row of a balcony, center-house. I was, probably, within 50 feet of Ewan McGregor, and I was at the perfect monologue-giving height, so if he looked up, I was THERE. The show itself was okay, I suppose I don't much care for the play. I found that there was a lot of yelling. The actor who played Cassio was very good, and the design was simple enough (beds, cushions, etc. combined with a French drain upstage that had water in it in Venice, which people could splash in, and which dried up in Cyprus. There were a few lighting gimicks, with monastary-like portals in two walls that light spilled in from, which were replaced with Middle-Eastern screens, with interweaving lattice-work.) Roderigo was also pretty good. But I nodded off sometimes, I confess.

For dinner, we met up with Charlie again and went to Waggamama's, Wendy treating. Waggamama's is a chain of noodle-restaurants throughout England, and they are scrumptious. Dinner with Charlie again, and then we went off to see Absurd-Person-Singular by Alan Aycbourne. Charlie got ready to depart, but Read offered to see if he could get a ticket for him at the last second. Not only was there one available, there was one available right next to where we were sitting. I had tried to work something out with Sean, but it didn't work out, and he met me outside the theater. We made plans to eat lunch together on Sunday before I left town, which happened, though not without further complications.

BUT, in the meantime, Absurd-Person-Singular was certainly funny, but as far as I can tell it didn't have much of a plot, or if it did, somehow it illuded me. Funny though. And afterwards, we got to go backstage and have wine with one of the actors, who Wendy was friends with, and who's going to be in the movie Valkyrie, which is coming out soon. That was fun, though we were cut short by the backstage requiring that people leave by a certain point.

After that, Clay, Charlie and I adjourned to a pub called "The Volunteer" on Baker Street, which was pretty okay, and we hung out until 12:30, when the pub closed. We bid Charlie goodnight, and as Clay and I wandered towards the bus station, we were accosted by two partily-dressed and presumably inebrated teenage girls. The disccusion went something like this:

Girl 1: Excuse me, excuse me, do you know where the bus station is?
Me: Yeah, I think there's-
Girl 2: Where're you from?
Clay: America. (indicated to himself) Ohio. (indicating to me) Pennsylvania.
Girl 1 (in an American accent): America? That's totally cool.
Girl 2: We're heading to Paddington.
Clay (to Girl 1, sardonic): That's a great impression.
Me: Yeah, well supposedly there's a bus station somewhere down here.
Girl 1 (to Clay): Really?
Clay: Yeah, it's like, Valley-Girl.
Girl 1 (to Girl 2, impressed): Valley-girl...

Then I think they ran away to the bus station nearby, because they saw a bus for Paddington leaving. Clay and I processed this peculiar run-in and decided it should go like this:

Dramatis Personae:
Mr. Subtle: Clay von Carlowitz
Mr. Obvious: Griffin Horn
Yahoo Girl: Girl 1

Yahoo Girl: Where're you from?
Mr. Subtle: We're from America
Yahoo Girl (thick, fake American accent): Oh my gosh, America? That's, like, totally awesome!
Mr. Subtle: Oh, that's a great accent, there.
Yahoo Girl: You think so?
Mr. Subtle: Yeah. It's a great version of a Southern California Valley accent.
Yahoo Girl: Wow.
Mr. Subtle: You're talented. We've got to go catch our bus.

Mr. Subtle and Mr. Obvious leave. Mr. Obvious stops and turns back before he goes.

Mr. Obvious: WHORE!

Exit Mr. Obvious. Curtain. End of Play.

They're probably perfectly nice girls, in reality. Our little play is pretty mean-spirited, but this kind of run-in happens so often, it seems. I like to think I'm not really reacting to them, I'm trying to deal with that kind of run-in through humor. Sean mentioned that one of his friends told him "British people'll make fun of your accent, but they'll be secretly jealous of you because you sound like a movie-star." But, this did give Clay and I the idea of forming a two-man comedy troupe, Mr. Subtle and Mr. Obvious. Someone earlier in the weekend suggested we have our own radio show.

Sunday morning, another tasty Vicarage breakfast, and sadly the last one I'll have on K'Nex, because we're not going back in to London as a group again. I had friend eggs this time.

We hung around the room for a bit, Clay, Ken and I, and finally took the Tube up to Morningston Crescent, where we were meeting Sean. We got there early and had lunch - Clay was videotaping a bunch of things on his digital camera, and I accidentally almost broke it when I bumped into him, which was scary. Then we met up with Sean, but Ken, Clay and I had already had lunch, meaning that when we did get food, it would be Sean eating and the rest of us full. Big cock-up on my part, cause Sean made clear the night before that we'd be meeting up for lunch, and since
Sean is a regular reader of this blog, it makes it even more of a cock-up because I would feel bad not reporting how much of a cock-up it was. Cock-up.

Anyway, we went through Camden, the part of town nearby Morningston Crescent, which actually had had a huge fire the night before in its main market. Luckily, this had not hit the part of the market with the comic book store that I, at least, had wanted to hit up with Sean. I got a fairly mediocre story arc of the X-Men called "The Extremists," which was just slightly less disappointing than the Ultimate Galactus plot that I had read in the Devon Library earlier that week (which SUCKED). Ken, however, bought a book called Iron West (I think?), about a bunch of robots in the Old West. Sounds weird, but it's not only wonderfully drawn, but it's a great, funny little story. Perhaps even worthy of the phrase "graphic novel." I'd recommend it and I only read the first third.

Then on to second lunch, where we all hung out. Then off to a train and away to Exeter. I got a little further in G.K. Chesterton's The Everlasting Man. It goes through human history, and combined with my reading done while I got there, I've made it to the dawn of civilization.

Anywho, I don't know quite what to make of the repeated horses this weekend. Maybe I need to get in touch with my passionate side? Maybe I need to open up to the concerns of people around me? Who knows. If it is synchronicity, though, it will acausually connect to some kind of meaning.
Think dream-logic and meaning. Any thoughts?

Peace out cub scouts.

Thursday, 7 February 2008

Magic Carpet Ride

Just a neat note-

On the way to the library tonight, someone stopped me. This was our conversation:

"Excuse me, mate-"
Instantly I thought of all the canvasers I'd met this week, particularly from the Evangelical Christian Union on campus, but also from various other people who wanted me to go somewhere or something like that. Were they still out this late?
"Do you know anyone on campus that sells weed?"
"No, sorry."

Without thinking. "No, sorry." It's the utter truth as well, but there was very little difference between him asking me about weed and someone stopping me before going into Devonshire House asking me to come see their production of The Miracle Worker or visit a nightclub they worked for.

I'm also sure this happens tons in America, but since the UK is currently reconsidering their declassification of cannabis to a class 3 drug (or is it class 2? It's lower than usual), I figured I should throw that in.

Also, there was just an investigation of the whole campus done for traces of cocaine, and guess which toilets had the most cocaine on them? The administration building's toilets...

Funky times at the University of Exeter.

Wednesday, 6 February 2008


This could also be called "My Life as a Contact Drama."

I had a wild and crazy day that was, on the whole, British. I think. Maybe it was just cool. Judge for yourself.

Start of the day, I checked my diary (which is a datebook in England, not a little locked doowacky with rose-colored pages) to see what was going on, and WOW everything was going on. 11-1: Comedies, Comedians and Romances. My first seminar after sitting around and watching It's A Wonderful Life and Groundhog Day the two previous classes, which the professor did not attend, since they were just viewings. 1-1:45ish, LGBT Lunch. 2-4, Contemporary British Drama, in which we were discussing The Beauty Queen of Leenane by Martin McDonough. Then Pancake Dinner, how the French celebrate Mardi Gras is that they make a bunch of crepes and eat them, and since we usually have Wednesday Dinner in Lafrowda with a bunch of French people, it was decided to have Wednesday Dinner as Pancake Dinner, despite the fact that Mardi Gras was yesterday.

And on top of that, it was Ash Wednesday! So I had to make it to a service somewhere. And it was 10:50 and I had to run to the Queen's Building for Comedies, Comedians and Romances.

Which turned out to be amazing. Not quite as free-form as I had expected a seminar to be, but amazing.

First off, I'd never seen either of them until I watched them in the screenings, and WOW what good movies. It's A Wonderful Life for all it's old-timey goodness, had genuine frightening moments in it. If you've seen it, go back and watch when Jimmy Stewart's in the dystopic Pottersville, when he goes to what was his home and it's a run-down wreck because his wife never insisted on buying it and fixing it up. The policeman and the taxi-driver, once the comic duo, become zombi-like exuders of menace as the follow the seeming-crazy Jimmy into the house. Like seriously, look for it. The light from the taxi-driver's car shines from behind them and blots out their faces, except for a quick glimmer in their eyes. It's frightening.

And Groundhog Day made me long for Pennsylvania, even with it's crazy groundhog traditions. It opens with Bill Murray doing the weather, talking about how a storm is going to blow in and hit Altoona, and I got a sudden pang of nostalgia, cause I know someone who lives in Altoona! AND I know PLENTY of people that live in Pittsburgh! Pennsylvania, its lawns, or level downs, and flocks grazing the tender herb ... But Groundhog Day gets a lot of the small town insanity as well. Go back and keep an eye out for the "Pennsylvania Polka" that's played in the background of the groundhog festival.

So anyway: class. The professor divided us into groups and asked us to answer certain questions, and thankfully I was in the group withe the questions I wanted to talk about: COMPARING AND CONTRASTING. Yes! I ended up having a really cool discussion with the professor about exactly that, how both movies use the force of comedy for a kind of moral force, to teach their main characters how to be better people, and he added how they also welcome both the main characters into the small-town American community, and we had come up with that point as well, which was great...

During the break while people had gone, the professor leaned in to me and said, "Are you from Kenyon?" "Yes," I said, beaming, "yes I am." Kenyon students are highly competed for by the English professors at Exeter, and I was happy to be an in-demand commodity. And also representing my school well and all that. That too.

Then, after break, we watched a television program, made by Rowan Atkinson, about comedy, which was, yet again, amazing, as he played most of the characters in the movie, but also demonstrated, very effectively, why each technique he investigated worked. For instance, he talked about physical comedians as developing characters that were, essentially, uncanny. Or alien. They were similar to humans, but from another world, and they were often possessed with an odd innocence to this world: this creates many gags in and of itself as these clowns encounter normal physical objects that they don't understand, and their battles with these objects imbue the objects with a kind of life of their own. Rowan Atkinson demonstrated this with a skit about washing his hands. He'd go to wash, and the soap would slip out of his hands. He'd pick it up and it would slip out again, and this grew into him chasing the soap around the sink, like he was beating a drum, until it finally flew off camera and he went to get it. He didn't come on for a few seconds, and then the soap bar flew across the screen and hit something on a shelf above the sink.

I learned A LOT about why I like to clown. I think I should drop out of Kenyon and go to clown college, except I don't know what kind of plays they read in clown college.

So on to lunch, which was fine, except my food took a while to get out, and I had to scarf it down and leave for class.

Contemporary British Drama was a big discussion about Beauty Queen, which I had already been a part of when I took Playwriting with Wendy last year, but nonetheless it was good to revisit it. Mmm... good plays...

From there I went home and caught a quick nap, then on to pancake night, which was YUM. I started out with a ham-and-cheese crepe, then a cremed spinach crepe, then another ham-and-cheese crepe, then a strawberry-blueberry-nutella-and-whipped-cream crepe (whipped cream is called "Squirty Cream" here! SO FUNNY!), then a bananna-nutella-blueberry-and-whipped-cream-crepe...then I think I might've called it a night. I can't remember it specifically.

But, during conversation, someone mentioned it was Ash Wednesday. "Oh no!" I said, "I haven't been to a service!" Then Meghan McClincy, a new K'Nexer, mentioned she was going to the Catholic Chapliancy for the service that night, so Clay and I joined her.

The service was uncanny, but in that clowny kind of way. The only other Catholic service that I'd been to had been inside a serious Catholic Church. I mean, it wasn't St. Peter's, but it was ornate, it had screens, and kneeling cushions, and statues and things. We went when I was a kid and my brother was playing football with a Catholic school team, and so my family essentially pretended to be Catholic for a year, I think, so he could play football. It was worth a Mass, apparently (NAME THAT HISTORICAL REFERENCE!). Anyway, I went to service once, and like the good little Calvinist I was (raised in Doylestown Presbyterian Church, after all), I was outright offended by all of the ornate garb and singing in Latin. After the service, the priest stood by the door to shake hands with everyone as they left. I refused to shake his hand. Me. At around age 12 or something. I was a snob.

Anyway, not only had I aged something like 10 years since then (I just felt really old, on top of this being Lent and having just come from being told that I was "dust, and to dust [I] will return."), but this was far from being an ornate place. I'd been to the Catholic Chaplaincy twice before, both in Freshers Week, and both because the Chaplaincy was holding a number of Cream Teas to encourage people to come see what it was about. It's described in "The Wheat from the Chavs," particularly how far it is from campus - it's actually off campus. It's a put-upon little place, the rooms are small, the building itself is small, it's not like the Anglican Church which has astounding acoustics and a ~50-foot vaulted ceiling.

So we missed the bus and had to walk all the way there in the dark, Clay, Meghan and I. All the way across Streatham campus, down Cardiac Hill, out to the very outskirts, across the overgrown path with a sign on it signifying that we were entering a Residential Neighborhood, and that the campus had ended. Through the Residential Neighborhood and finally, to the Catholic Chaplaincy.

We were late, but we were quickly shown in to a small room, no bigger than someone's family room, maybe half the size of Philo, for all you Kenyon folks. In any case, there were cushions to sit on, it was lit by candles, it smelled like incense, there was a small band in one corner, and apart from a crucifix on the wall, a power point with the responses, and an altar with some candles by the Bible, the leftovers of their Pancake Day, and a basket for a fast they were having on Friday, there wasn't much for the now-thawed Puritan in me to accuse of "graven images." The priest sat in a chair amongst the congregation (or would it be a Mass, as that's one of the Protestant-Catholic issues: whether to translate eklesia as "congregation" or "Church"), and there was a metal box hung on the wall with a flame on it, where I think they kept the Eucharist. That in particular struck me. I had only heard of that in classes like Reformation and Literature.

My first reaction to the whole place was ridden with thoughts of Mage: The Ascension, of magical thinking, talismans, etc., but I tried to put it from my mind. Next I started thinking about all the little details I learned in classes like Reformation and Literature - I found myself at a loss of what to do when we all had a response-prayer that talked about the Blessed Virgin. I ended up skipping that part, and I usually feel bad when I hear people do that in Church.

Next I was came to how G.K. Chesterton, in his book Orthodoxy (I think... I mean, I read this from a snippet in amazon.com...), asserted that people needed a kind of romantic dash of orthodoxy in their lives, in order to defend the practices of the Catholic Church. But again, these were all analytic responses. They weren't the point of going.

One of the things I did discover, though, was how downtrodden, how contrite, the Mass, the Church even, felt. Here they were in a little room with candles while the Anglicans had a complete traverse-style, all-out church and highly-competitive chapel choir. These Catholics had some candles, a power point, and a band. I found myself surrounded by that kind of contrite hope that so many people of various religions must have felt when practicing their faith by whatever means they had. Stories of the first Christians that met in catacombs and had secret symbols (i.e. the Ixthus, the "Jesus-Fish") to alert each other of whether the meeting was on or not. Protestants that were repressed under Bloody Mary, Catholics that were repressed under the Protestants. Joan of Arc, Jews, Muslims ... the Cathars, the song "Anatevka" from Fiddler on the Roof... But the hope that was present there, despite the semi-bleak world outside, was almost tangible. Looking back on it now I can think of Bill Caine, the Jesuit priest / playwright I met at the Ojai Playwright's Festival, who visited the Tower of London and was appalled by the sign that read "No prisoner was ever killed in the Tower" - a blatant lie - and even more appalled by the fact that a Jesuit's cell had been turned into a gift shop. How that Jesuit carved words into the wall that Bill read.

Maybe it was just the change of pace, but I felt a lot more awake to everything there, much more alert. Everything was very present. It was really fitting for Lent.

And the priest showed us how they made the ashes for Ash Wednesday, by taking out a blow torch and burning in a bowl some of the palms from Palm Sunday, grinding them up, and then (I think) he added holy water. He sang part of the pre-Eucharist prayer just like Karl Stevens did, and presumably does, at Kenyon, which made me feel like home again. While he was blessing/breaking the bread, "...in remembrance of me" was skipped over, and I wondered if it was to emphasize the transubstantiation rather than the commemoration of the last super, which was a big argument in the Reformation. Then after he blessed the wine, he added "...in remembrance of me," and I was really happy. That's kind of my favorite part of the Eucharist.

And then I got to walk around with ash on my forehead, and a bunch of people literally said, "uh, Griffin...you've got something..." My friend Thomas suggested it looked like a penis. But I just laughed it off and came right here to write about it to all of you.

Have a lovely night, everyone.

Friday, 1 February 2008

Decimation: Free Time

Dear All-

I'm sorry I haven't updated this blog in a long time. As it turned out, I needed one heck of a break.

After classes ended and I had that wonderful talk about families, my week was kind of depressed by news of my mark for Lysistrata. Actually, I didn't even ask for the mark, because my professor's first words when I walked in were "Well, Griffin, I don't think that worked."

That was the first Monday of my first week of being 21. The rest of the week I spent setting up a variety of pen-and-paper RPGs, specifically Hunter: The Reckoning, which I was more than pleased to get going, but also to finish. With Hunter out of the way, me and the rpg group have moved on to a much more fun game, in my opinion: Changeling.

My poor little computer has broken, fixed itself, broken, fixed itself, and it seems to have entered into a more permanent phase of being broken, which sucks, because not only did I have all my Changeling pdfs on there (that was another magical adventure, downloading them on the exeter network and printing selections out to show to my players), but it has all of my plays, and with the Kenyon Playwriting Festival coming up, I'm somewhat at a loss because not only all of my half-started story ideas, but my older drafts of previous works, are on that computer. I'm endeavoring to take it to a tech guy in town, but I doubt the price will be much good.

And finally, Clay von Carlowitz and I are trying to host a Murder Mystery party. After 10, yes 10 hours, of brain wracking and plot-devising, we decided that making our own was too far over our heads, and we settled for downloading a premade one online, which is by far the MOST HYSTERICAL SCRIPT I'VE EVER READ because it's so awfuly bad. I guess that's the point though. We literally have two days to get it set up, too.

Today I'm missing my horseback riding lesson because I didn't realize I had a class during it, becuase said class was supposed to meet all this week, but decided that by "this week being the first week of classes" it would make Friday the first class, meaning that I didn't have any classes until Wednesday, because Drama delays their classes a week after exams. So, although I've had absolutely no academic requirements, except attending this class today and Wendy's class, I have been utterly innundated with planning, creative activity of the less-fruitful, more-spontaneous kind, and assorted other wonderful things. And I'm actually very tired. My brain hurts.

My classes this semester include:

Music and Theatre: Drama. We examine the history of music in theatre and what makes it work. Apparently a lot of opera, but we have a final project on Shakespearean songs.
Comedies, Comedians and Romances: English. The history of comedy in movies and Hollywood, includes analyzing When Harry Met Sally.
Contemporary British Drama: Wendy. That's right, the class that was all the rage last year is now MANDATORY for the Kenyon-Exeter group because Wendy's teaching it, and oh-how-sweet-it-is to be garunteed a seat. Sure, Turgeon isn't helping out, which would be fun, and most of the students aren't Drama students so there's had to be a quick going-over of Aristotle's Poetics, again, but after our first class on The Homecoming I am very excited to see where this goes. Sillily, I didn't read The Homecoming, but instead read The Caretaker, which is just as fun, but in less prostitution-y ways.