Thursday, December 29, 2005

happy new year!

I'm off to Ireland in about twenty minutes to see the Prodigals and collect the best friend, so here's an early Happy New Year to everyone. :-)

A few things that have interested me on the BBC this morning:

5-6 inches might fall in "higher areas;" other areas might get 3-4 inches. This country cracks me up!

2) As of today, gay couples can adopt children as a couple, rather than individually. :-)

3) Tube strike looks likely for tomorrow. I'm really glad I'm flying out today.

Geez. Things are interesting when you actually bother listening to the news!

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

I get it now!

In the immortal words of Sam Seaborn: "Let's forget about the fact that you're comin' a little late to the party and embrace the idea that you showed up at all."

I now understand why Conor was going on and on about Darwin in his Hamlyn lecture ("The Crisis of Authority: Can Human Rights Survive?"), a month or so afterwards. See, I'm pretty sure he was giving us a secular response to this exchange:
"Why do we have human rights?"
"Well, because we're human!"
"But, why does that make us special?"

The religious answer is, of course, "Because God created each one of us to be special and unique and sacred (and with a bit of him/herself mixed in the pot, if you're Quaker)."
The secular answer, I think, that Conor was suggesting is "Because even if we're only here because of some random mutations of genes, it's still pretty amazing and that makes each one of us both special and vital to the continued genetic flourishing of the human race." Hence, the Darwin.

I'm not sure yet whether or not I buy that line (although I do think that the fact that humans exist is somewhat miraculous, considering everything could have happened differently), but give me another few months and I might have figured it out!

And, be proud that I'm actually doing school work!

Photos are up!

I almost forgot, but the photos are up from the European trip. People on the e-mail list also got a SEVEN page update. Phew. I might post it here later. :-) New additions to the "Europe" set start here.

A sample:
Salzburg's Aldstadt

Does this need a caption? Vienna

Demel's cake counter, also Vienna!

Europe's largest synagogue (second in the world), Budapest. And, yes, it does look like a mosque! The Ottomans invaded Budapest a few times, so the architects were familiar with the Byzantine style.

For being behind the Iron Curtain, it certainly took a long time to find some nice, totalitarian architecture!, Bratislava

Bratislava's stare mesto (old town).

I LOVE living here!

Yesterday I had one of those experiences which just leaves you with a desire to dance on the way back to the tube station; the kind of thing that makes you just go "wow! I f---ing love living in this city!"

It wasn't going to be all that interesting, actually. I was just going to the National to start reviewing notes from the past term, but found that they weren't opening until 4, presumably to give their employees a nice holiday break. I went next door to the National Film Theatre (which I had never visited before) and found that in only 45 minutes they would be showing a tv adaptation of Goodnight, Mister Tom, which is a book that I absolutely adore. I know that our favorite books change over time, but this one was actually on the top for several, several years. It is about a little boy who gets evacuated during the Blitz. His home life is horrible and involves a psychologically disturbed mother and lots and lots of physical abuse. Anyway, out in the country he ends up with the cranky, still grieving, old widower and basically they come to heal and love each other. It's not as simplistic as that, to be sure, but one of those great "kids" books that really treats their young reader like an adult.

It has been awhile since I read the book now, but I thought that the adaptation was really good! It was even in smell-o-vision, as there are several bedwetting scenes in the book/movie and the guy in front of me had an accident fairly early on. Ew. But that's really not important. Afterwards I was getting ready to leave and the lady next to me, who had smiled when I came in, leans over and says: "Can I tell you a secret?" I, of course, was wondering if she was the one who had, erm, "leaked," but instead she whispered to me: "I wrote the book." And I'm sooooo excited at this point gushing about how much I loved the book as a kid and how I thought this was a great adaptation, etc. She turned out to be a really sweet, motherly, middle-aged English woman and we chatted for about 10 minutes before she headed home to the kids and I off to IKEA. But, seriously! People can stuff Madonna or Jude Law sightings (although I'm jealous of the person who saw Clinton) if I get the unexpected chance to meet my favorite authors!

It got me thinking about how much I still love a good, challenging young adult novel and how, literally, all of my favorite books were by English authors. (Well, except William Steig & Dominic, apparently, although I had to go and look that up.) Is it any wonder I live here now?

Saturday, December 24, 2005

"Once in a Lifetime," II

Heh. I've been reading some of the reviews. And I'd just like to say that I'm getting better at being a critic. Not that I should need validation for my own opinions, but it's nice to know that I'm not the only person who thought it was unfunny and slow!

I'm baaaack!


I am returned from the 10 days in Central Europe! They were wonderful and frustrating and rewarding and fun and challenging and ugly and beautiful all at the same time! It was the first time that I had ever really travelled in a non-English speaking country on my own (Iceland, where 99% of the population speaks fluent English doesn't count) and I managed safely through three of them. One thing, however did make me feel guilty. In the back of Rough Guides, they print the Traveller's Code, which suggests that you use your guidebook only as a starting point, but to interact with the locals for the most part, as a better guide to travelling. Now, I'm not a particularly outgoing person in day to day life and I have profound issues with going to someone else's country and expecting them to communicate in my language, so I didn't really do this at all. Which was probably bad, but I suppose I'm still technically a baby traveller (especially compared to the crowd at one of the hostels, where the person who was on the road for the next shortest period after me was on a three week trip...what is it about the antipodians that they travel for 9-12 months?!?).

Right, quick rundown, since I'll do a proper post with uploaded photos later. The best thing in each city was realizing that I'd get there, be cranky and tired after travelling and have to force myself to put my stuff down and get my butt out the door to start exploring, but that at some point there would be some magical moment that would force me to stop feeling sorry for myself and start embracing the new city. Happily, this happened every single time. :-)

Salzburg:I have to admit that this was the only city where I was rearing to go at the first instant, but that's probably because it was my very first stop. The bus ride to the hostel was so dull that I was starting to think: "This isn't like the movie at all!" *pout* But, then I started wandering around, toward the town center and suddenly, down a street, I could see this big steeple. Keep in mind that steeples in this area, especially in Salzburg, are not the straight kind that we often think of as proper steeples, but the ones with little bulbs and are shaped a little like a tiered wedding cake. And then I was just like: This is perfect! This is what I thought Salzburg would be! And for those of you who have seen The Sound of Music (and who hasn't), the amazing thing is that Salzburg actually still looks like that. It was Baroque and cute and surrounded by real, proper mountains (which I'd never seen before...remember that Indiana is flat, flat, flat). I absolutely loved wandering around the town and the area around it!

Vienna: I'd had a hard train ride to Vienna. No one in my Harry Potter-like compartment spoke English, so there were four hours of happy conversation in which I had no role and no idea of what was going on. It was really disorienting, although in retrospect I should have made an effort to join in, and I was feeling so entirely foreign. I wandered around central Vienna in a bit of a grump (it had also been freezing cold and raining heavily when I first arrived, which hadn't helped). My solution to the language trauma was to go to the movies, to see Narnia (not bad, if the battle was too cliched. Liam Neeson can be Aslan or have my children any day) and to not think about being in another country for a few hours. Afterwards I was trying to head to a new U-Bahn station and ended up on Kohlmarkt, a pedestrianised, very shwanky shopping street. At the end of it is St. Michael's Square, with the gate to the Hofburg (the Hapsburg's Vienna palace). I didn't know that was what it was at the time, but there was suddenly this massive, domed, Baroque gateway to something. I walked through it and found palace on the other side! (I'd already read my Rough Guide, so I figured out what it was eventually, but that didn't detract.) Massive palaces are so far out of my daily experience that they still amaze me and it was just lovely, lovely. Outside the palace is Vienna's ring road, the Ringstrasse and more massive public buildings. I loved it from the moment I found the Hofburg and even more when I took full advantage of the so-called coffee culture. I swear, you can eat nothing but cake and hot chocolate (the best ever!) in that city and be a very, very happy puppy!

Budapest: Regular readers might be a bit confused now, because Budapest wasn't orginally on my list. I sort of was sitting over a sachertorte and realized that had four days scheduled for Bratislava, which seemed like a lot from my reading and talking to fellow travellers. So, I was looking at the map, got excited when I saw how close Budapest was and how many trains there were and took off the next morning. (I later figured out why I was so excited and it wasn't because I was Hungary once in Model UN. It was because this wonderful friend of my mom's had gone to Eastern Europe 7-8 years ago and gotten me a Hard Rock Budapest shirt, which I thought was just about the coolest thing ever. If I don't still have it, it only went in the last round of clothes redistribution. And BTW, there's no Hard Rock Cafe in Budapest, they just sell lots of the shirts.) To be honest, Budapest was a bit manky, although a fascinating study of post-Communist Eastern Europe (not too many generalizations here after only two days, of course). After almost half a day, I was a bit disappointed. Then, steps from my hostel, I found the most wonderful Christmas market! The ones in Austria had been big, but very commercial. The one in Budapest was much more like a craft fair and the food was sooo much cooler and more interesting. Add the exchange rate and I really ended up buying several things for myself and for presents and I wandered around that square more times that I can say! The first night they even had folk music. I felt so much better after that (and dinner, to be honest) and the next day was also beautiful!

Bratislava: I hadn't been sure what to expect of Bratislava. My friend Megan is Slovak and when I had excitedly told her (via e-mail) that I was going to Slovakia, she responded that I shouldn't judge the whole country on that basis. I'm not sure what she meant now. Bratislava is beautiful and fascinating (although, to be honest, I was mostly in the stare mestro (old city) and a bit beyond) and I sort of fell in love with that first pink building and the steeple on the town hall (wedding cake, again). I was also really glad to have gone to Hungary, because it gave me something to compare to, in terms of new EU members/old Soviet bloc. I'm a massive fan of going back to both countries, because I'd like to explore their non-capital city areas.

Is that enough for now? I think so!

Monday, December 12, 2005

New link

I added a link over there on the left. taking down words is all about Indiana politics, from a lefty. I'm amused, at least, and I do dearly miss my quota of Indiana political gossip!

All my stuff is moved (woot!), but the other guy hasn't vacated the flat yet, so I'm staying on my friend's massive couch. Before you feel sorry for me, please note that this couch is much bigger than the beds in Butler's Wharf! Eeesh. Anyway, its been fun...much in common with a slumber party!

I leave tomorrow for Austria. Sadly the friend I was going to meet up with in Vienna has had to go back to the States early. :-( So, I'm on my own. Which I think will still be fun and I'm really looking forward to it!

One final suggestion: Christmas and figuring out how to get presents to the US is really, really stressful! Boooooo.

I suspect I'll have something of actual interest to write when I get back!

Friday, December 09, 2005

More Theatre

Tonight a big group from one of the halls (and a couple of us who happen to be "in" with their social secretary) went to see Patrick Stewart's one man Christmas Carol. Now, I will be the first to admit that I think its a rather dull story that only actually picks up when Scrooge decides to share the limelight a little and we get to meet the Crachett family. Anyway, not a huge fan of the story itself, but he did a really good job! Of course he did, you say, he was Jean Luc Picard of the USS Enterprise! I say, of course he did, they don't let complete idiots into the Royal Shakespeare Company (although, trying to "remake" the Lion in Winter? WTF! You're sooo not the awesome and amazing Peter O'Toole. Anyway). I think it might have been harder to settle into if you hadn't had previous experience watching people talk to themselves on a speech team. Woot!

The other thing that I noticed, and frankly, this throws me everytime I leave my little South Bank haven and venture to the proper West End, is the difference in style. There's gold. There are tons of ushers trying to sell you ice creams and candy. The auditoriums feel MINUTE and the stages even smaller. The lobbies are non-existant and the theatre basically spills you on to the streets outside. I know it sounds like I think these are all bad things, but I honestly don't. The West End has its own very special place in London's theatre world, I've just realized how different it is from the subsidized theatre at the NT and in some ways, the Donmar, which is also a fairly stark place.

On the other hand, tonight's gold and gilt made me realize something that might help explain why I spend so much of my time at the National Theatre. Those of you who have known me long enough know that for many years, Clowe's Hall, on the campus of Butler University in Indianapolis, was absolutely my favorite theatre in the entire world. It was probably my first theatre, when I begged my mother (at the age of 3) to be taken to see the Nutcracker at Christmas. Apparently I had to promise to behave (and did!), even though I wasn't even heavy enough to hold down the seat at the time. Later, I even danced there (heh), in my ballet school's production of the Wizard of Oz (I was a winkie, if you were keeping score). Sometime in middle school my mom couldn't get us tickets to something or other on ice and substituted tickets to see The Sound of Music, which was part of Indianapolis' Broadway touring company circut that year and that happened to be in town. For three or four years after that we were season ticket holders, and it was a really special thing (more so than I even realized at the time). It was our girl's night: giggles about the same lady with the big hair whose season tickets were right in front of us (ack!), me always making sure that I had enough money saved away to buy a program, and becoming absolute experts at getting in and out of that parking lot as quickly as possible! We sort of slacked off when the renovated Murat Theatre opened downtown and we didn't like going there nearly as much or the year that the series kinda sucked. But, the point is that I loved Clowes; it was my theatre home. (Incidentially, I'm pretty sure that the revival of Carousel that we saw originated at the NT.)

The thing about Clowes is that it is a supremely ugly building: angular and concrete both inside and out. It's sparse, but with big common spaces and a sense of community and excitement. I don't know why I never thought of it before, but the NT and Clowes have an awful lot in common. Maybe this is part of me connecting happy memories of my parents to my life in London, even when I do it subconciously? On the other hand, I already knew that my mother was the one who turned me into a theatre-goer/lover and that I honor that legacy that she passed on to me every time I decide to take advantage of an opportunity to see a show.

In less philosophical news, I'm moving tomorrow! Ack! Must pack!

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Once in a Lifetime

So, I'm pretty sure, from reading my site statistics, that someone at the National Theatre knows how to use google to find out what people are saying about their shows. So, regarding Once in a Lifetime in the Olivier: if I'm sitting there thinking, "Gah, I really should be using this time to finish that chapter from Eichmann in Jerusalem for Thursday," it probably isn't a very good sign. Or this: THBBBBBBBB! (That was an all-American raspberry.)

I should have figured it out from the crowd; if the average age for Coram Boy was in the late 20s (guessing here), then tonight's average age was closer to 50. And, sadly, it was far better attended than those early Coram Boy's that I saw. I can see why the show isn't often performed, it was HORRIBLY dated and, frankly, slow as heck. I did have to supress a few yawns (when I wasn't worried about people falling off/down the stairs or ready to kill the next person who appeared out of a door). Good job on the American accents, though; ususally fake ones just jump out and kill me. It was the kind of show that should have had the audience smiling as it left the theatre, but most people looked like they'd just been to a rather routine church service. And maybe its just because theatre at my high school was of such good quality or because we did Anything Goes many years ago (and an AWESOME production at the NT, btw), but this felt very, very high school to me. Which is fine if you are a high school, but I felt kinda let down by the National. Which sucks.

That's very negative of me, but it really was a blow after the awesomeness of Coram Boy.

Pooh. I'm going to go read Arendt now.

Monday, December 05, 2005

A mystery solved!

Because Alice Shrock is a goddess among Quaker Historians (especially on subjects related to Earlham through the Gurney Family), I give you this explanation:

Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton, also known as "The Liberator," was an MP who succeeded William Wilberforce in leading
the parliamentary fight for the abolition of slavery. The liberation of slaves in the British Empire was approved in 1833 and went into effect in August, 1834. Both Buxton and Wilberforce were later honored w/ life-size statutes in the nave of Westminster Abbey.

Buxton's mother was Quaker and Buxton spent much of his youth at Earlham Hall outside of Norwich. His correspondence makes it clear that the Gurneys instilled imp. Quaker values in him which shaped his career as a reformer. Although he is most known for his work against slavery, he also worked w/ EG Fry in prison reform and for the abolition of suttee in India. Buxton and Joseph John Gurney were the best of friends, and Buxton married into the Gurney family when he married Hannah, sister to EGF and Joseph John.

Buxton's income came from his work managing a brewery on or near Brick Lane; the name Truman Hanbury Buxton can still be seen on one of the buildings, I think. Also, EGF lived in the East End, and is buried at the burial grounds for Barking Meeting.

So that, I suppose, is how an East End school and street would be named Buxton, and how it would connect to Quaker Street. Your historical instincts were "right on!"

Now that I'm completely sober...

I thought that maybe I should expand just a wee bit more on stuff. You know...stuff!

After I dropped Earlham friend from France off at Waterloo, I went up to the East End for the Sunday markets. Let me tell you, l thought these things were supposed to start early! Silly me. I was there around 9 and people were still setting up. By the time I left, some of the "upmarket" (the artsy stalls) weren't even done setting up. Ah, well. The Bagel shops were as good as promised and darn cheap! Can we say 15p for a fresh bagel? They're not even that price in Indianapolis, although the experience did make me miss our wonderful Indianapolis institution, Bagel Fair. Otherwise, I'd say many things about the Brick Lane area markets were a bit dodgy. You sort of got the feeling that if anything of yours ever got stolen, this is where it would end up. Too many bikes, empty bags, and mobile phones for sale.... On the other hand, I would have gotten more things if I'd had more money (so its probably good that I didn't) and this amused me:
Look! It says "Quaker St.!" (For those who are wondering, Brick Lane has an amazing history. It has been the center of new (often poor) immigrant communities for centuries. The bagel stores are because it was once the center of the Jewish population (and there's lots of architecture to reflect that fact) and it now forms the heart of Bangla all the streets are labeled in both English & Bengali. I should ask Earlham's Quaker history expert why there's a Buxton St. leading into Quaker St.)

There are a few other new photos on Flickr. They're from wandering around London with Earlham/France person and from our attempt to tour Westminster Abbey. That didn't work out so well, but we did go to their Evensong. I loved the choir, but it all felt a little too institutional. If I had to pick a favorite service, after my "extensive" experience on this matter (ha!), I would have to say that St. Paul's is the best. Seriously, they gave me warm, cooshy feelings when they prayed for the UN. Awesome. I was put off by Notre Dame's insistance that only Catholics could fully take part. St. Paul's is very inclusive and all about people coming up for "blessings," even if they aren't taking/can't take communion and starts by welcoming people from all faith communities (or not). I'm an avowed secularist, so even I am amused by having an opinion on this topic. But, see, there's a big holiday coming up and I'm determined to go to some midnight services, mostly because it sounds cool! I had to pick and I think that St. Paul's is the answer. Also the closest for walking home, since the tube will probably be shut by the time services are over.

Right, back to the regional human rights bodies.

Sunday, December 04, 2005


Awesometastic news from London! My friends here have gotten engaged! Woot! This makes me happy. :-)

And this only days after she told all of us about the pressure that they've been getting from all sides to get married and how it wasn't going to be happening for years! Oh, the irony. :-) So, yes, the Churchill Housewives League did sing happy birthday to our very special man and then one of us moved a step closer to housewifeness. Anyway, yay! What a great end to the weekend, which also saw an Earlham visit from Paris.

I think it was the champagne, but I'm not feeling too inclined to type a great deal just now. Big news this week is the impending visit of my very best friend in the whole world and the seperate visit of a cool Earlham alumni. My review got published in The Beaver, but they both cut off the last paragraph and managed to leave off the byline. It becomes difficult to show one's writing prowess off to the world when you can't prove that you even wrote it. Speaking of which, the National's other new show for the Olivier goes into previews tomorrow and I think I'm gonna skip sushi with the kids to go. And I'm slowly discovering new music, which I realize isn't new at all, but what's new is me being a fan. I know that Marjorie tried so hard with us in our British Music Class, but now I'm voluntarily listening to classicalish things. At the risk of sounding supremely dorky, I really like Elgar. And I have some very, very small opinions on such matters. I also really wanted that disc of the King's College Boys Chorus at the market today, but didn't have £5 on me. Booooo.