Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Serious as a heart attack

Steve, doing something silly with my keys: It’s an alligator!
Sarah-my-flatmate: Oh, we call them crocodiles here.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

It grieves me to say this

But England practices a bastard form of Catholicism. It’s true. I went to Mass again today, and today there was a script, so I have proof positive.

Now, I wasn’t going to quibble over the fact that, like insane people, the English stand up before saying the “our good and the good of all his church” line. I mean, I was actually, but now it’s not an isolated instance of English Catholic insanity. They stand up before the priest says the sacrifice acceptable part, when any sensible person knows that they’re supposed to wait until AFTER “good of all his church”, and then stand up. Get it right, people!

And here’s another thing that you’ve totally screwed up: The Nicene creed. For some reason the English think that they’re supposed to say that Jesus “became incarnate from the Virgin Mary and was made man”. What’s that about? Is something wrong with the True Version (”he was born of the Virgin Mary and became man”)? Is this some bizarre leftover thing about how the Virgin Mary’s hymen stayed literally intact her whole life and Jesus just sort of wafted through it, in which case he wasn’t so much “born” as “made incarnate”? That teaching is over, folks. Move on with your lives. And try to remember that it’s not “in accordance with the Scriptures” but “in fulfilment of the Scriptures”. It didn’t just happen to coincide with what the Scriptures said; it proved the prophets right! This matters!

Oh, yeah, and don’t try to say that Jesus “suffered death and was buried”. He suffered, died, and was buried. Do not diminish the suffering! There were thorns and blood and a cat o’ nine tails! You try having that done to you and then try to act like you just “suffered death”! Jack the Ripper “suffered death”! Jesus SUFFERED. His suffering deserves its VERY OWN CLAUSE, and it is NOT a transitive verb. Not the way Jesus did it!

Because, as one of my great idols said, If there’s one thing Jesus Christ cared about, it’s semantics.

(I’m joking, obviously. But for real, when I was saying the Nicene Creed and everybody else was saying it WRONG, I got really cranky and if that chaplaincy had been any bigger (i.e., if there had been any chance my actions would have gone more or less unnoticed), I would have taken out a pen and corrected it on Steve’s little script.)

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Don’t even try to tell me I can’t get in touch with Merlin Holland if I feel like it

Because I CAN. I have his fax number. That’s RIGHT. I have Merlin Holland’s fax number. Don’t mess with me because I can just fax Merlin Holland whenever I want to.

Although I acquired it on a public website, I feel empowered now that I’ve got it, like now that I have this public-access fax number I totally have an in with Merlin Holland and I can just fax him whenever and be all, Hey, dude, what’s going on? Not much here, just doing some research on your grandfather’s reputation and whatnot. Hope the book’s going well!

But seriously. Don’t let me near a fax machine. I am not confident in my ability to refrain from faxing Merlin Holland like a big Oscar Wilde groupie and telling him I wanna be friends.

Friday, October 27, 2006

One of my quiet obsessions

I love movie reviews. But most especially I love movie reviews written by Religious People. I would wash dishes on a night that wasn’t my night to wash dishes if someone promised me an endless supply of movie reviews written by Religious People. But now I have discovered Plugged In Online, and my dear dear father has sent me a link to the Catholic movie reviews page, so I will not have to wash dishes on a night that wasn’t my night.

Okay. So being also Rent-obsessed, I very sensibly looked up reviews of it, and in this case the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is cooler than Focus on Family because the Catholics say this:

Director Chris Columbus has remained largely faithful to the original — and many of the original cast members reprise their roles here — while the dissolute lifestyles of some of the characters take second place to the overriding themes of love, connection and fellowship.

Yeah, that’s right. You heard them. Fel-low-ship. (I hate that word actually.) I’ve left out the part that comes after it because really why bother? I will just say that it mentions that there is “suggestive dancing and movement”. Suggestive movement. Watch out for the movement! It’s suggestive!

Focus on Family, however, does not beat around the bush. (Teehee.) They say:

Mimi performs an extremely suggestive dance in a skimpy leather bikini. She rubs her crotch [are they allowed to say crotch?] when a patron offers her a tip. (Similarly dressed women dance in the background.) During the musical number “Light My Candle” she makes a sexual come-on to Roger. (The song is full of sexual double entendres.)

(I like their parenthetical asides the best.)

Actually I like their sum-up the best. Ready for it?

There's no doubt that Larson (who died unexpectedly shortly before Rent premiered Off Broadway in 1996) was a skilled writer, and the music of Rent is particularly good. The lyrics, on the other hand, are often questionable, and Larson sneaks a degenerate worldview past undiscerning viewers by means of that great songwriting. Whether moviegoers are aware of it or not, they're being preached at. And this sermon contains a romanticized glorification of a lifestyle -- be if homosexuality or what should now be called neobohemianism -- that despite the movie's upbeat conclusions ends ultimately in hopelessness.

Ultimately in hopelessness. Focus on Family does not love the gays. You can read the review in full (and many more!) at Plugged In Online (here) or the Catholic one (here). Hurrah! Movie reviews are glorious!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Not sure what the deal is

Is it possible to pass out from taking too long a hot shower? Because I was taking a shower of unusual longness (though not unusual heat), and after a while I was like, Whoa, when did this shower start to suck? and my eyes were like, Hey, look at the black sparklies dude! and I was like, Huh. Nifty. I’m turning off this water now, and my eyes were like, Looooook at the black sparklies, and I was like, Hey, no! No, no, what’s going on? OMG, the black sparklies, they are taking over my whole vision! BACK YOU DEVILS! and then I sat down and put my head between my legs only I couldn’t keep doing that because my hair would get on the floor of the bathroom (ew), and then I thought that everything would be way much better if I ate up some cornflakes and water, but I discovered that I was incapable of putting back on my pajamas, so I wrapped myself all up in my towel and went into the kitchen on a Cornflake Mission, but my eyes were still alllllll about the black sparklies, and then I realized that actually I didn’t need cornflakes, just to lie down, so I abandoned my Cornflake Mission and went staggering down the hall on a Lying Down Mission.

The thing is, my brain got a tiny bit confused about which thing was my bed and which thing was the floor in the hall. Very easy mistake. One I’ve often made. So I lay on the floor in the hall for a while and thought grateful thoughts about it being earlyish in the morning and none of my flatmates being up because I was only wearing a towel and the towel had not remained perfectly wrapped around me when I lay down suddenly (though really it was less of a catastrophic towel event than you might think). After a while I decided that it wouldn’t be early forever, so I got up and, after some initial confusion in my brain over how the lock on my door worked (insert key; turn), fell over onto my bed.

And now I’m eating cornflakes. And then I will drink a whole lot of water. And then I will go back to my shower and put conditioner in my hair so it will smell nice and be untangly. And then I will eat cheese on crackers and maybe a turkey sandwich with cheese.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

My history professor’s index finger, and Kate

Here is why I love going to my research methods in history class (apart from the fact that it’s dead useful and I’m learning loads of stuff): My history professor does air quotes all the time. But we’re in Britain! So he only uses his index fingers! Oh, it’s so funny! Every time I see him do it I laugh and laugh (quietly, inside my brain) because I know all along that really it’s done with two fingers. And he’s probably not even thinking “air quotes” when he does it. He’s probably thinking “air inverted commas”.

Furthermore, today he showed us an advert asking for sciencey assistance, to make the point that if you don’t know the jargon in a certain field you’re going to be totally mystified, and when he read it out to us, and when he got to the word “neurofuzzy” he started laughing and couldn’t go on.

Which leads me to a mostly unrelated story about my younger sister’s best friend Kate. Kate is like one of my favorite people in all the world, and whenever she comes over or I remember she exists, I get very excited because I love her so much. I love her so, so much that I’m going to include a picture here. Here is Kate. Aren’t you glad that I reminded you about her?

Well, anyway, there was this one time when lil Kate was in English class reading aloud part of Washington Irving’s humorous History of New York, and Washington Irving was humorously comparing Dutch ships to Dutch women, and Kate was cruising along reading (extremely well, I am sure), and then she reached the part that said, “…with a pair of enormous catheads, a copper bottom, and withal a most prodigious poop”, and it proved her undoing. For she managed to make it to “prodigious” and then it was all just way too humorous, and she burst out laughing.

(Which Robyn saw coming.)

So valiant Kate, she tried again, and yet it was just too funny and she could not restrain her giggles which escaped in spite of her most earnest attempts to control them, and in the end her English teacher gave her up as a hopeless case (and she was).

But “prodigious poop” is just objectively funny. Say it out loud to yourself. Prodigious poop. Prodigious poop. Tee-hee.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Okay, English professors, I’m calling you out

Here’s the thing. I know you think that Moby Dick is a seminal work of American literature that’s influenced everything that has come after it with a mighty influential power, but, see, it’s actually not. You know why? Because nobody wants to read it. You know why? Because it’s so ungodly boring. It may be the epitome of American romanticism, but that doesn’t speak very well of American romanticism, now does it? Why don’t you do this: Get rid of Moby Dick, because nobody will read it and the people who do read it won’t love it and then they won’t love you, and put in Emily Dickinson instead. Think how much friendlier that will be. Emily Dickinson is a major poet that you have unreasonably left off the syllabus, and she is from the same time period as Herman Melville, and she is much more quintessential, so actually you wouldn’t lose anything because she is better in every way.

Moby Dick may be a great novel on epic themes (it is, obviously), but that doesn’t make it okay. You know why? Because Melville was careless and he combined his great novel on epic themes with his definitive treatise on whaling, and it didn’t really come out all that well. You can pretend that this was just part of his genius, but I think actually it was more like a literary experiment gone horribly, horribly awry. Herman Melville was a good writer. He’s just not as genius brilliant as you think he is. And you should delete Moby Dick from your syllabus posthaste, or at least tell the students which parts to steer clear of so they won’t end up bashing their heads against the wall as they try to wade through four hundred pages of whaling information.

And while I’m on the subject, can I ask you a question? Why are we reading Ernest Hemingway when he’s total rubbish? You know you only like him because of the bullfighting and manliness. Well, I’ve had enough manliness and I am ready for something about a woman, so can we please hit up Kate Chopin instead? I know you mean well, but every single thing that we are reading from now until December is about white men and I am not a man and I would have a lot more fun if we hit up, you know, ANYTHING ELSE IN THE WHOLE WORLD.

And speaking of Southern novels, I am grateful that you added Zora Neale Hurston, but can we please please please eighty-six Faulkner and insert Harper Lee? And can we get rid of dreadful Toni Morrison and replace her with Alice Walker who is lovely? And if you really really want to spoil me, you might consider deleting Richard Wright and inserting Langston Hughes or Ralph Ellison (by the way, do you have any explanation for Langston Hughes’ exclusion from our syllabus? What about Emily Dickinson?).

Thank you for adding Ezra Pound and Sylvia Plath and E. E. Cummings (but I’m not going to spell it the retarded way because it’s retarded) and Eugene O’Neill. I am grateful for all of these things. But can I just say that if you’re not going to put T.S. Eliot on our syllabus because you’ve included him on your British lit syllabus, then it is only fair to admit that Nabokov is an American writer and give us the gorgeous treat of Lolita or Pale Fire. We do not try to pretend that Salman Rushdie is an Indian writer. I do not even try to pretend that T.S. Eliot is an American writer (although I would like to).

No more Moby Dick. Remember that. Here is a mantra for you: Moby Dick is bad and Emily Dickinson is good.

(You can alter this in lots of different ways. See above for suggestions.)

This is my syllabus by weeks, and it is the amazingly vastly improved version although it still does not have any of my favorite American authors on it:

Moby Horrible Dick
Wallace Stevens poems
Death of an Extremely Depressing Salesman, which you all read in high school already and I don’t like as much as The Crucible so let’s read The Crucible because it is a much cooler play and also then you would have an opportunity to hate on Joseph McCarthy, which is an opportunity never to be wasted
The Grapes of Wrath
Robert Frost poems
A Streetcar Named Desire (just to let you know, if you wanted to do something with someone not straight, Alice Walker is bisexual. And female! And black! Don’t you SEE the POSSIBILITIES?)
The Sun Also Rises (yes, yes, the guy has a malfunctioning willy, and it’s ruining his life. Please do not make me read this again.)
William Carlos Williams poems

and then in the spring:

The Member of the Wedding (looking forward to reading this!)
Ezra Pound poems
Their Eyes Were Watching God (yay!)
E.E. Cummings (you really aren’t going to brainwash me into spelling it the retarded way. IT IS JUST DUMB) poems
Beloved (Please can we have The Color Purple instead? Pretty please? I will give you ten pounds if we can have The Color Purple instead)
Marianne Moore poems
Native Son (nooooooo)
Sylvia Plath poems (to cheer us up!)
Light in August (Faulkner is No Good. Let’s read To Kill a Mockingbird instead. Or Ernest Gaines? Or oh! if you really want to have mercy on us, what about gorgeous gorgeous Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil? Or Flannery O’Connor, or Robert Penn Warren if you must have a white dude! Or, hell, I’d even rather read Confederacy of Dunces, and please appreciate how much I really don’t like that book.)
Long Day’s Journey Into Night
I should really invent my own syllabus and offer it to the American literature people as a favor. Then they would not have to torture their students but instead would give them a lovely syllabus. My syllabus would be more like this:

Emily Dickinson
Huckleberry Finn
one or two O. Henry stories, for joy
Civil Disobedience and, because I do not hate you, The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail
The Great Gatsby
The Awakening
Ezra Pound
Their Eyes Were Watching God
Langston Hughes
Long Day’s Journey Into Night
Dorothy Parker (pomes and reviews because her reviews kicked ass)
E.E. Cummings
The Crucible
The Color Purple
To Kill a Mockingbird and/or Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
The Poisonwood Bible
Angels in America
The Time Traveler’s Wife

My syllabus makes me much happier than your rubbish syllabus. I might toss in some H.L. Mencken as well, and Chaim Potok (because lucky everyone who gets to read The Chosen). They should put me in charge of inventing the canon. I would get rid of everything that sucked and only include things that were cool. You may notice that this syllabus consists of everything I like, and that is quite true, but since my taste is obviously perfect, there is no point in complaining, and anyway I have not chosen things at random but given some thought to my selection. Imagine what a delightful paper could be written on oppression in The Color Purple and Lolita.

If you are an teacher of American lit, feel free to steal this syllabus and inflict it on your students. They will grumble at having to read lots of novels but ultimately they will appreciate it.

Now I must stop procrastinating and do actual work.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Mm-mm-mm, Tresemme, oo-la-la

Because I get that little TRESemme (I’m doing the capitals correctly not because I care but because I can’t figure out how to make an e with an accent over it) jingle stuck in my head all the time, I couldn’t stop myself from buying TRESemme shampoo and conditioner when I was first grocery shopping here in England, and also they were two for one and I knew they wouldn’t do anything horrendous like make my hair fall out in clumps or turn it purple. So the day before yesterday I finally used the last of the shampoo and conditioner I had brought from home, and I started using the TRESemme (yeah, that’s annoying me. I’m stopping) stuff instead.

And my hair! It smells so good! Smelling my hair is my crack cocaine now! It just smells so yummy! I just can’t stop myself! I’m constantly trying to think of activities that will provide a suitable cover for what is actually me smelling my hair in public. When I go outside, I pretend like I’m keeping my hair wrapped around my hand over my shoulder because it’s windy and I’m trying to prevent my hair from flying everywhere. But in fact I am only doing it so that I can bury my nose in my hair and inhale.

This is how much I like it, and please appreciate that this is the same girl who budgeted ten extra pounds just in case she forgot something and then berated herself for overspending this week. When I run out (not soon since I have almost a liter of each), I may actually pay full price for more shampoo and conditioner. Which would be like seven pounds. So like fourteen dollars. I would spend fourteen dollars of my good money, money that could be used to buy a nice new DVD, or a lovely book, or to pay for photocopies of Oscar Wilde manuscripts and documents, on hair-care products.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go waste some of my valuable time snorting hair.

(That sounds really gross. I am not really snorting it. If I did that it would go inside of my nose, and from what I can tell, my nose is not a pretty place to be right now. My nose–well, never mind.)

Friday, October 20, 2006


Abort Playdate! Abort Playdate!

Little girl #1: Guess what my mom told me that your mom told her the other day when we were playing? She had another baby before you and it died!
Little girl #2: No, my mom said that I’m the oldest.
Little girl #1: You are now ’cause the other one died. She died before she was even born!
Little girl #2: That’s impossible! You can’t die before you are born!
Little girl #1: Yes you can. You can die before you are born, while you are born, or after. You can die at any time and you don’t even have to do anything bad.
Little girl #2: I don’t want to play with you anymore.

–Manhattan bound F train

I don’t know whose idea this was

but whoever came up with this plan for wearing miniskirts and those boots (while we’re on the subject, who came up with Ugg boots at all?), whoever came up with that plan, they should have their noses pulled off. With pliers. Nobody wins when that ensemble happens. Nobody. And don’t even get me started on the subject of adding leggings. I have a very short list of things that are never okay, and one of those things is leggings.

Poetry is her religion

My professor for symbolic imagination is so great that I feel really sorry that I don’t love the content of the class more. She is a very teeny-tiny person with big round glasses and big round eyes and an accent that I cannot place but I think is Eastern European (my money’s on Romania. Because it is big.). When she talks about poetry (or critical theory) she looks really uplifted, like she cannot believe how fortunate she is to have this poem available to read and now she is reading it and now she is talking about it and there can never possibly be anything more joyful than this in the world. She also paused in the middle of talking about Shelley’s “Ode to the West Wind” and said:

“I just cannot resist telling you this. You see yesterday when I was preparing for this class I had my copy of “Ode to the West Wind”, and I had laid out all of my papers in front of me so that I could have some kind of structure for the class–” she spread some papers out in front of her at this point, to show us how it all went down– “and I went to open the window. And I had not yet sat back down in my chair when all my papers have gone flying all over my office.” (She leaned forward a little bit.) “It was the West Wind!” (Sat back to let us absorb this.) “It is true. The wind was from the west yesterday, and although at first I thought, how to say, this is nonsense, I then thought, why am I violating this sacred moment, this mystic moment? For when I put my papers back on my desk, they were in a different order, just the way that poetry is meant to break things down and to reassemble them in a new way. It was–it was the cosmos affirming what I am doing. You see how the human imagination puts meaning into experiences. I could have just closed the window, but no, I found meaning in what was happening.”

It’s such a coincidence because I too had a run-in with the wind yesterday, and I wanted to tell her that the wind and I had had a thing or two to say to each other yesterday, and I had had some grave concerns about the wind’s ability to abide by God’s plan. But I didn’t.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

This is how tired I am

I went down to pick up some photocopies for my Symbolic Imagination class, and as I’m walking the sun’s in front of me shining into my eyes, and then the wind starts blowing from behind me, and I’m all, Oh Jesus God what is happening! and I look at the sun again, and yes, it is definitely shining towards me, and the wind is definitely blowing my hair towards the sun, and that is completely impossible because the wind cannot blow against to the sun! The wind comes from the sun! They cannot oppose each other! THIS IS SO AGAINST NATURE.

Then the wind switched directions and started blowing away from the sun, and I thought, Oh, okay, I must have been crazy for a second and imagined that the wind was blowing against the sun even though that’s impossible. Phew. Glad order has been restored to the world. And I didn’t realize that all this was completely crazy until I had already picked up the photocopies and was on my way back to the dorm.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Idina Menzel signed my Rent book! Hurrah!

I am such a loser groupie that I waited outside a stage door for over an hour and a half just to make her sign my large and beautiful Rent book. Jane P took me to see Wicked in the West End (it was my birthday present), and Idina Menzel with her gorgeous beauty and best voice ever was in it and she was so insanely good. It was just ridiculous how good she was. I wish I could have recorded the whole performance, but that would be illegal so of course I did no such thing. Ask me about my incredible restraint in this regard; I will hook you up. If I had recorded it, anyway, the louder and higher bits would have made crackly noises so the very best of Idina Menzel would not sound that good, so that wouldn’t have been any good, although my lil recorder records with fantastic quality when it’s on, very clear with very little ambient noise. I’m just saying.

We waited outside the stage door afterwards, and there were all these people, and we were all like, LEAVE. WE ARE HERE FROM AMERICA and I had my inconspicuous Rent book for signing, which I had brought in my suitcase all the way from America! In my suitcase! So I wasn’t going ANYWHERE. This guy came down and said, “I’m very sorry, but none of the actors are going to come out, they have a very small window of time between shows, you’re free to wait but they won’t be coming down.” Which nobody fell for. And then twenty minutes later, after a bunch of actors had come out, he came out again and said, “Yes, Ms. Menzel is really not coming down at all,” and then most everyone left. Why I am not sure, because now it was obvious that people were coming out so that they could eat food before they went on stage again, but whatever, a bunch of people left, and as time dragged on more and more and more people left, and ultimately it was just me and Jane and this British girl called Tracy with like five bags of stuff she had bought in the lobby.

Tracy is my hero because when the actor playing Fiyero came back (Adam Garcia from Coyote Ugly, which means nothing to me but Jane was happy), she faked crying, and he was TOTALLY TAKEN IN and we suspect he made Idina Menzel come down and hurrah! she signed my Rent book! She signed it! Hurrah! It got signed! She was in a tremendous rush to get a muffin in Victoria Station, so we did not enjoy extensive conversation, but I was really pleased.

In honor of this lovely show, I append an absolutely gorgeous rendition of “I’m Not That Girl”. You didn’t know that my sister and I were so gifted, did you? Yeah, you didn’t. Admit it. I have no fear that the Wicked people will find me and make me take this down because it bears virtually no resemblance to the actual song. See if you can tell which one of us is fucking it up.

Oh. No. I can't on this blog. No sound files. But I will still share it with you if you would like to hear it. Just leave me a note and I will email it to you ANY DAY. It is just magnificent.

P.S. Added retroactively upon transferring this blog: OH MY GOD I didn't wish Oscar Wilde a happy birthday in this post. I must just not have noticed the day. Happy birthday Oscar Wilde!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Confession of a Philistine

I have never been a fan of Jimi Hendrix. My sister was always like Mwaaaaaa Jimi Hendrix and she played me some of his music and I was not terribly impressed and that was in eighth grade and I haven’t given him another thought since. So I’m sorry, world. I’m sorry, Jimi Hendrix. People told me you were a fucking legend and I didn’t listen. And I apologize. I really do. From the bottom of my heart. Cause I was way totally impressed with that whole guitar-burning thing at the Monterey Pop Festival, and then the other day I saw this and now I’m just really really sorry for being a big Philistine loser.

Now you too can see Jimi Hendrix totally owning “The Star-Spangled Banner”, and I very strongly suggest that you do so cause it’s very eloquent. Also Jimi Hendrix has lovely lovely hands.


Once again, I regret my past thoughts about Jimi Hendrix. I accept full responsibility for not bothering to become informed. Please forgive me.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Oh I think I have died and gone to heaven

Or, I know what I’ll be reading over spring break.

God’s like trying to cheer me up about the whole favorite class dropping thing. LOOK at all those BOOKS about GAYS. There are so many! They are on so many topics! There are history ones and theory ones and ones about different countries and ones about different times and ones about different times and different countries and ones by Anita Bryant (query: why has Anita Bryant written a book? Why is that?) and one called (my personal favorite) Hello sailor!: The Hidden History of Gay Life at Sea.

If you’ve just read that and realized to yourself that in order to find that book I’d have had to go through 12 pages of results to get to H, you’re quite right, I did just that, and in fact I went all the way through all 41 pages because I am just that interested.

Hello sailor!

Mwahahahahahaha. Add one more thing that makes the Essex library better than the Middleton library. I love browsing.

Breaking news

This just in: England DOES have thunderstorms, repeat, England does have thunderstorms. By thunderstorms I mean there was one flash of lightning and some rumbly thunder, not humongous thunderstorms like in Baton Rouge (at least not so far), but behold! There is thunder and rain outside my window right now!

This is actually not that handy because I have to go buy a book at the campus bookshop which means I have to go through the rain and wind with my poor little purple umbrella that is not used to this kind of abuse, and if it’s raining that also means I have to put my hair up so it won’t pester me by blowing about wetly. But you know what the Monty Python boys say.

Irrelevant: The people in my flat do not know how to shuffle cards. I am one of two who can shuffle doing a bridge, and I am by far more proficient than they are, and when I screw it up and my bridge doesn’t work, there are no hoots of derision like at Baton Rouge High, and furthermore, when I do shuffle, everyone says I’m showing off. (But I’m not. Just shuffling.) Now, either this is just my flatmates or this is one of those differences between America and England that no one ever feels it is necessary to mention. So if you come to England, and you can shuffle doing a bridge, you might be very impressive indeed.

Bad news: In the time it has taken me to type this, the thunder has gone off. Oh well.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Dear Sociology Department (part two),

Oh, yes, you’re proper evil. I thought you were just a bit careless with your scheduling, had to make a few last-minute changes, nothing that would really destroy anyone’s soul. Little did I know the kind of subtle dissimulation of which you were really capable, the kind that preys upon American students with vicious cruelty.

First you sent an email saying the lecture had been changed to 10:00 on Tuesdays; I went to your department and got told it would probably get changed back, and the next thing I knew, I found another email saying that class had been changed to 1:00 on Tuesdays. Pay close attention, American readers, this is a trick. So I was cross but I was not destroyed to the depths of my soul because I could still have all the classes I had before, and my schedule would just be less nice. I did not go to the seminar class that conflicted with the new 1:00 time, because I believed at that time that I was going to have to switch my seminar class to the Wednesday date. I went instead to the 1:00 class, and what did I find? WHAT DID I FIND?

I found that the lecture had been held earlier that morning, that in fact the class that had been changed was the seminar portion, here called classes but in America called seminars. That in fact the class in toto conflicted with two of my quite necessary classes, being held in lecture at 10:00 (conflicting with my research course) and in class (read: seminar) at 1:00 (conflicting (though fixably) with my American lit seminar). That was crafty. Oh, I won’t underestimate you again.

Add to that the fact that the class was full of people from different countries, which means that I would have gotten the most fantastic array of viewpoints (from Spain, Italy, Britain, America, China, Japan, and somewhere else because there was another international student who had emailed the professor to say she wouldn’t make it that day) on the gays. It’s just unkind, isn’t it? You’ve forced me to take some class on symbolic imagination, which is, I know, my subject, but it is also much less cool and interesting, you great Satan! You just don’t want outsiders in your department, is that it? Only sociologists allowed? Come on! Admit it! We already know anyway!

Well, I hope you enjoy it, that’s all. I hope you enjoy your insularity. And when you become the America of the University of Essex, hated by all the other departments because you don’t want anyone else’s viewpoint, just don’t blame me, that’s all. I tried to integrate. And I will publish your infamy to the world! And in the days to come, history will judge you, sociology department, and it will not be pretty. That’s all I have to say. It will not be pretty.

Here is my new fall schedule, and I hope you’re satisfied, all right, I hope you’re bloody satisfied! I have three days off all year now! I don’t need you and your Thursday-classes-in-the-spring nonsense! I don’t need your holier-than-thou, you-can’t-take-this-class-in-the-spring-unless-you’ve-taken-the-
autumn-option, stay-out-of-our-halls parochialism.

Tuesdays: 9-1:30
Fridays: 10-12; 2-4

Really, how do you live with yourselves? Dangling the chance that I might be able to keep the one course I have always looked forward to with unqualified enthusiasm, and then snatching it away at the last minute, simultaneously forcing me to miss the first US Lit class of the year? How do you sleep at night?

With all due respect (I need hardly say what that entails), etc. etc.

P.S. (I can never resist a P.S.) My US Lit professor played us a video of Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock doing “The Star-Spangled Banner.” And it was beautiful. I was moved almost to tears. That’s what literature classes are like. Yeah. I just want you to know exactly what you’ve lost by throwing away our discipline. Just remember that. Remember that.

Monday, October 9, 2006

Dear Sociology Department,

Stop changing my schedule, you big meanies. I had a perfect schedule wherein there were no class at all throughout the entire year on Mondays and Wednesdays, and no classes on Thursdays for the entire fall term. First you destroyed my soul by trying to act like you were going to put my queer sociology class in direct conflict with my research methods in history class; and then you were all like Oh we’re probably going to change it back; and now you’re all like, You remember that thing where you had Wednesdays off because you cleverly chose the Tuesday timeslot for your US Lit seminar? Yeah. About that. We’ve decided to put the queer sociology class in direct conflict with that US Lit seminar instead, and we’re going to let you know at 5:30 so that you won’t have time to change the timeslot before class tomorrow.

So now instead of this:

Tuesdays: 9-4
Fridays: 2-4

My fall term schedule is like this:

Tuesdays: 9-12, 1-2, 3-4
Wednesdays: 2:30-4
Fridays: 2-4.

See how much less good that is? See how I have really inconvenient hour-long breaks in which to spend money buying lunch I don’t want just so I can use the chairs at the restaurants to sit and read? See how it’s not tidy and compact anymore but in fact hateful and spread-out like nasty jam all spread out on nasty bread instead of localized Cane’s sauce on yummy Cane’s chicken fingers? WHY ARE YOU SATAN?

Okay, I know it’s dumb to bitch about these things when I have a whole day off which is mostly impossible at colleges in the States. BUT STILL. It is the day before Tuesday. This is NO TIME to freak out and change everything, Sociology Department, and why in God’s name does the professor of this class want to have the lecture part and then have an hour-long break before the seminar part? How is that helpful to anyone? (Hint: IT ISN’T.)

In conclusion, POO.

Thank you for your time.

Jenny the Disgruntled Exchange Student

P.S. I also now have class at exactly the time when I’m meant to go meet my boyfriend at the train station. So you are even more horrible than I had previously believed you to be.

Having no car is not joyous and free but just unhandy

Here is a picture of my arm four hours after I got back from Tesco’s. Observe how it is still bearing the marks of carrying really really heavy bags all over the place, and bear in mind that I did not even walk home; this is just getting from the bus stop to my dorm, which is normally like a two-minute walk. That’s how heavy my bags were.

Okay, that doesn’t look very horrible, but I swear, it looks like way angrier in real life. It’s so uncool, it’s like a streaky bag-produced arm hickey. (And nobody likes hickeys.)

In other news, all I have to do for dinner tonight is give Kieran a pound fifty and I get steak pie (Kieran says: If I get a pie, just proper steak pie straight through with gravy, can I share your mash?) and mash made by Sarah and Trish who have mash seriously every single night. And then, instead of learning to read secretary hand like I should be doing, I shall watch American Dad with my flatmates.

Sunday, October 8, 2006

The Shrub: Dumb, or just dumb?

George Bush says, “The attacks were meant to bring us to our knees. And they did. But not in the way the terrorists intended.”

Yeah. Insert blow job joke.

British debate

As seen on the Daily Show

Saturday, October 7, 2006

My Very Telling Synopsis of Beauty and the Beast

I just told Steve that if I could be any Disney heroine, I would be Belle because she reads books and gets a big library.

Steve says that’s a pretty good sum-up of the film, hits all the high points, and I agree.

(But I like Eric better than I like the scary guy the Beast turns into.)

Glad I could share this with you.

Flat 6

There are exactly fourteen people staying in my flat, and here they are, in alphabetical order.

Dave is laid-back, fancies himself good at Shithead (a card game we play a lot involving much cursing but no slapping of cards, which I think takes a lot of the fun away), and has a bottle of Ouzo (observe shot glass in hand) that he shares liberally and mostly with Edward.

Edward is the youngest in our flat, has a shot of Dave’s Ouzo in his hand, and believes that AIDS was manufactured by the American government to get rid of the gays. Ebola also. I explained to him that it was not so, but he clearly thought I was simply taken in by my government.

Elliott insisted on being photographed with his, er, beer goggles, is not very good at teaching people to play Shithead, and is very interested in muscles (where they are and what they’re called).

Flick is studying languages and is totally crazy about them (quite rightly!), and her real name, Felicity, led to her being called Toilet as a schoolgirl because Felicity-Facility-Toilet, which is much more inventive than any of my classmates ever got.

Holly is studying law and I didn’t understand her the first three times she said that to me because I kept translating what she was saying into “Lor” and being bewildered.

Iva is one of two Lithuanian guys in my flat. He likes to pretend he is chewing tobacco and say “Howdy” in his level Lithuanian best at a Texan accent. One time when he and Vyga were about to have vodka shots, he said, “To Texas, our favorite state!” and Vyga said, “What is it that they say?” and Iva explained that it was “Howdy pardner” and then they both said that and drank their vodka shots and I nearly fell off my chair laughing.

I am me, and you have never seen me in a skirt that short before. It’s Sarah’s, and she made me.

Kieran looks like a leprechaun and plays drums in a band and has had his hair straightened by Sarah and/or Trish.

Memo (oh, dear, is that how he spells it? I swear that’s what it sounds like he’s saying) is of Turkish extraction but has been in the UK for at least a year, studying at the University of Manchester, from which he has transferred for his second and third year. He is usually very quiet but had an extremely loud and rejoiceful birthday yesterday (observe shot glasses).

Noriko (left) and Mai (right) are from Tokyo, and I think they are on exchange. They do not spend a lot of time hanging out with the rest of the flatmates, but they are terribly nice, and Mai is majoring in English literature! Like me! They also do cute drawings on their kitchen things, as seen below.

See? There is Noriko, and there is Mai, and there is happy toast.

Sarah very generously lent me all her clothes so that I would have a proper English school uniform to wear. She thinks she might do directing and tries to eat the gravy left over on her plate with a fork, to limited success.

Trish has a large family and feels very strongly about mashed potatoes (they are very delicious and should be consumed as often as possible, and it is little short of criminal to leave mash on your plate).

Vyga is the other Lithuanian guy, and he is very good at hauling drunk people around, and he does not like the Poles but was vague as to why. He is not going to drink all of that.

P.S. My flatmates do not normally dress funny and draw freckles on themselves and drink vodka shots at random. There was a school disco which meant everyone had to dress up, and yesterday it was school uniform night. (Actually, I found out later and to my intense chagrin, it was skool uniform night.) Like a wild woman I had a vodka lemonade, which is exactly like Sprite, but I did not dance because I do not like to. Instead I went home earlyish and was thus treated to the sight of an astoundingly drunk Memo. Luckily the Lithuanians handled up on it. Lucky for him, I mean, because I would have just let him fall asleep on the narrow bench in the kitchen. Actions have consequences. I am pitiless.

Tuesday, October 3, 2006

Official stock conversation with people in England

British person: Where you from then?
Jenny: America.
British person: Where in America?
Jenny: Near New Orleans in Louisiana.
British person: Is that near California, like?

Anyone have any light to shed on this? I have not picked California at random - that is exactly what they say to me.

Why Middleton Library is better (and worse) than the one at Essex

Okay, here’s why.


The Sloman library (for such is its name) has a handy paper inside the lifts (authentic British phrase!) that explains what sections are on each floor, so you don’t have to interpret the Library of Congress numbers when you have no idea what they’re supposed to mean. They also have it printed on the shelf tags on each shelf, in pretty specific detail. So hurrah for that! although I don’t need it because I know where the Oscar Wilde books are, and what more is really necessary?


Essex is smaller.

Revolving doors. The perpetually revolving ones that you have to leap into as they go around and walk quickly enough that they don’t smack you in the ass. What do you do if you’re extremely old? Or handicapped? That’s what I want to know.

Lifts. They also move perpetually, and they’re open, so you just have to leap on them as they’re coming and going and tough shit for you if there’s somebody getting off when you’re getting on because then you just have to wait for the next one. And it’s only two people to a lift at a time. And no children allowed. And you know what they’re called, do you know? They are called paternoster lifts, as in like Our Father, and yes, they are actually called that because you pray getting on and off that you won’t fall flat on your face or whatever. Check them out on Wikipedia and please take note of the terrifying picture. My favorite part of the post is the common misconception paragraph, which helpfully informs you that the elevator could shut down with you inside if you don’t stand totally still if you miss getting off at the ground floor and keep going down (or up at the top floor, whatever). P.S. My university is mentioned in the article as being one of the only ones left (aren’t we honored?). THIS IS TERRIFYING.

Initial Observations

So I went on a London taxi in proper traffic, and I observed the following things:

1) Lanes are very narrow indeed. Luckily this does not bother the British because no one seems to be the least bit perturbed to having the driver in the lane next to them swerve halfway into their lane while going 50 mph. Instead of braking furiously to avoid the mad driver with the lane issues, they just swerve over a little themselves. Furthermore, the lane markers are completely meaningless because every now and then one lane will get narrower and narrower and narrower and you assume it was a merge lane even though there were no signs and nobody was behaving in a manner that might suggest that they were going to let each other over. But actually it is not a merge lane, it is just that the line gets closer and closer to the kerb (notice the incredibly authentic English spelling), and then finally I guess the painters were like, Well shit, this won’t do, and a whole new sets of dotted lines appears a few feet to the right of the other one, recreating two lanes. It is totally ridiculous.

2) London taxi drivers are much less friendly than Colchester taxi drivers, and I say this based on my experience of one of each. (I drove with a London cab driver last time I was in London but it was a different kind of cab and therefore doesn’t count, and besides I endeared myself to him by knowing about Sri Lanka and thus he was bound to be a bit more amiable.) The Colchester cab driver told us that his missus always says London cab drivers are mis’rable bastards (he himself does not hold with this view).

3) It does not do any good for your nerves to watch the cab come extra close to hitting things in front, in back, and on either side of you.

4) The bicyclers wear neon jackets and they pedal furiously, and every now and then they glance back over their shoulder in much the same way as Johnny Depp in Sleepy Hollow when he is being chased by a sinister headless horseman, which they might well do because they know that the drivers of the cars are going to Run Them Down Without Mercy™. It’s true. We nearly hit like seven bike drivers, and they just kept going faster and faster, and I kept thinking, hurray, they’re escaping! but instead the taxi driver would accelerate so that he could hit them. I was always glad when they veered away.