Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Whipping it Up

I have to admit that I was rather looking forward to last night's play, Whipping it Up, which was a find of the Boy's and a transfer from the Fringe. We'd actually tried to get tickets during the original run, but it was very much sold out after the amazing reviews and had to wait until the transfer to the West End. I couldn't really imagine a more perfect combination: my dorky politics self, my dorky politics Boy, and a political comedy set in had all the makings of a Yes, Minister marathon-like thing. In the end, my sides weren't splitting with laughter, but I was amused and generally glad we'd gone.

The essence of the story is that the Tories have secured a 3-seat majority in the Commons under Prime Minister Cameron. A leadership challenge masquerading as a rebellion on a Tent Poles Bill (don't ask) is keeping the whips busy, as they work to contain the threat, try and delay the vote until the PM is back in the country, unravel (create?) a sex scandal, deal with a particularly dogged journalist, and play tricks on the opposing party. I thought bits were quite inventive, until the Boy informed me at the intermission that a great number of the 'tricks' were copied out of a book written by a former Whip. Still, he was generally impressed at the play's accuracy.

The acting was excellent all around, but some of the characters did a much better job at hitting all of their punchlines and connecting with the audience. The Labour Whip, who hardly spends any time on stage, was absolutely fabulous. I was also highly amused by the little white Christmas tree (the play takes place a week before Christmas) decorated with blue glass balls and topped by a blue rosette. Nice touch. Less amusing were the elderly Tory and his deaf partner who were sitting next to me. I really didn't need every joke repeated, dears! And said Tory actually cried out at the revelation that everyone thinks that Tories are snobbish twats and take particular pleasure in their downfalls. Um, duh?

In all, it was funny. Not brilliant, but good. I'm glad we paid preview prices for seats in the back of the Stalls. I might not have been so amused at full price.

(On a side note, price is the reason we're not seeing Equus. As the Boy pointed out, we can see three shows at the National for the same price of only a half-decent ticket for nekkid Harry Potter. Shame, really, as the first night reviews were stunning. And because of his acting, not just his abs. Oh, and for this, I love the BBC. The EU Constitition will eat your BRAAAAAINS!)

Saturday, February 24, 2007

The boy and I went to see Hot Fuzz last night, done by the same guys who did Shaun of the Dead. Just as that one was a zombie movie spoof, this one was an action movie spoof, which (thankfully) you didn't have to actually have watched an action movie to 'get.' That's because so much of the humour was very much related to making fun of the English countryside, which I, as a Londoner, can very much enjoy. J/K. Countryside, you're lovely. Anyway, I was a huge fan until we got to the actual action part and then I was bored. Ooops. But, le boy, who apparently thought Bad Boys was the best movie EVAR at 16 was more amused. Mostly, I liked the swan. :-)

As for the rugby...well, I'm just glad I'm on my own tonight. The Quins pulled off a win by doing a great job on penalty kicks against the #2 team in the league, which totally wasn't supposed to happen. As for the England match, that one was all downhill after the very emotional playing of the anthems (the England-Ireland match was being held at the Croke in Dublin, home of Gaelic sports, and site of the first 'Bloody Sunday' where the British army opened fire during a match, so playing God Save teh Queen was a HUGE deal). Anyway, I couldn't bring myself to watch the second half. Disloyal? Maybe, but hey, it's his sport, not mine!

Tomorrow night, hopefully pub quiz! Hurrahs! And, then off to Mexico really, really soon!

Thursday, February 22, 2007

KB, LIMUN, Toby & the Oliviers

So many things to talk about, when one's a rather irregular blogger....

I really should deal with the one that's turned me into a bit of an emotional wreck today. Just when I got into work (which means it was sent in the 20 minutes that it takes me to get from home to the office), I had an e-mail from Earlham professor Bob letting me know that a fellow member of my London program had committed suicide. It was really, really upsetting news and I had to leave for awhile to cry and gather my thoughts. I sat by the Thames thinking about him and centering, because that's what an Earlham grad does when they're upset about something or someone related to their time at Earlham. I have such good memories of this man, who was the person who convinced me that I wouldn't turn into an alcoholic with one drink and who really took the time to make sure that I was ok in a really rough patch of my life. He had such great stories about his visits to the very, very gay clubs, pubs, and bars and always had fantastic insights into the books that we were made the rest of us VERY jealous. I remember tromping home together in the snow and the night we had to get him home from the pubs in Dublin and the few great conversations that we had back at Earlham, afterwards. I really don't want to get any more e-mails like that one. All of you, and all of my friends are too dear.

Moving on...our Model UN conference, LIMUN, went very well last weekend. We probably had 550 students (out of 650 registered) and a great time was had by all (with the possible exception of those who suffered from some Titanic-like scenes at the HMS Belfast). My committee was very small and did an excellent job. I was surprised that they wanted to talk about statelessness first, but am glad they did because the debate got really intense when we switched to human rights and sexual orientation on the third day. It was so bad at first that I had to lay the smack down and remind delegates that they needed to be representing their states and not themselves. The delegates even did some of that amongst themselves, most notably in shutting up the delegate from Brazil who wouldn't stop talking about "Adam & Eve, not Steve & John" (which isn't even the right annoying anti-gay rights slogan!). I had to remind Mali that he was 90% Muslim and he pointed out that he was 100% gay. We decided he could be an NGO instead, thus transforming his transition, while not as dramatic as from male to female, from a "small" African state to a huge international NGO (I paraphrase). Still, we never had to deal with an amendment, because they were so good at working out compromises and consensus and the work was pretty darn high quality (esp. on the sexual orientation, where I didn't think they'd really be able to get anything done). Oh, and a big thanks to the United States for this: "We have excellent homosexual laws. Massachusetts even allows gay marriage." Riiiiight.

Otherwise, last week was very busy getting ready for the conference, but the Boy did a lovely job with Valentine's Day and took me to see Underneath the Lintel, a one-man play featuring Richard Schiff (Toby! from West Wing). He's a older Dutch librarian who becomes obsessed with figuring out who returned a book 113 years late and ends up travelling around the world in search of the person he thinks might be the wandering Jew. He did a tremendous job, marked for me, at least, by the fact that after the first 30 seconds I was no longer thinking of him as Toby. Pretty impressive for an actor whom I've watched for seven years, no? The play resonated deeply, this hunt to find a place where we belong, displacement, and fascination with the mysteries that we simply can't solve. If you're in London, don't believe the critics. It was great. I'm sure the Boy wrote a beautiful review, but I'm not as insightful as he is. It was lovely and afterwards we took our now-traditional walk over Waterloo Bridge talking about a fantastic piece of theatre.

Finally for me, and speaking of theatre, the Olivier Awards were handed out last weekend. They're the West End's Tonys and I remember being annoyed with the nominations because I hadn't seen so many of the plays or actors/actresses. Turns out that I/we did pretty well after all, having seen Sunday in the Park with George (Best Actor/Actress and most of the techinical awards), Blackbird (Best New Play), and Caroline or Change (Best New Musical), and all of which I thought really deserved their awards. Although, I wasn't overly impressed by the actress in Sunday... and I think that either it or Coram Boy could have taken the technicals. But, perhaps, I'm biased.

This is long. I'm done for now.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


I'm not sure that I can adequetly explain the extent to which Shashi Tharoor appearing as a guest on the Colbert Report is perhaps the coolest thing that has happened this decade. OMFG, awesome.

Shashi, I feel, is my own personal (not-resigned) UN Under-Secretary-General. He spoke at Earlham two years ago and even has an ECMUN shirt. Woo! He made me think. It was nice. Watch out, Stephen Colbert (and, yes, I love you, too).

Speaking of which: happy half-birthday to me! And happy early Valentine's Day to all of you. Le Boy is being mysterious about the whole thing, but I don't think anything can beat the creepiness of last year's not-date to see Blackbird. Child 'rape' and sexual psychology! What fun! Awesome play, though.

And, this weekend's LIMUN, so stayed tuned for more MUN fun. I might even update from committee, if I get bored, although it's unlikely.

Oh, and the other awesome thing? LSE didn't have power yesterday (flood...Holborn...power cut?) and had to cancel everything. It made me snort a bit.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

What a lovely Sunday...

Today was just perfect.

Got up late, made pancakes, dozed while England won the cricket (other people cared much more than I did, clearly), had lunch and nice walks around Stoke Newington with my lovely friend from LSE who I see not enough of, had a quick look around the Borders in Angel, met le Boy in Clapham to go to a pub quiz with his friends, won and got a taxi home with one of them because we missed the last tubes north.

And, now, to bed, before a VERY busy week. *happy sigh*

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Well, le Boy's watching the Wales-Scotland rugby match and I can't bring myself to focus on a second match in a row. England just beat Italy in a VERY Dull match. Seriously. I fell asleep and the most exciting thing were all the shots of Princes William & Harry & Kate in the crowd. Which touched off a whole conversation about Harry's parentage. As it would.

Last night we went to see An Oak Tree, a VERY Edinburgh theatre piece in which one of the actors is a guest star and has no idea what the play's about or is going to happen. It was...slow? I think, as with some of the other stuff that we saw in Edinburgh, that it's a more interesting exercise for the people performing than for the audience. But, I wonder if it'd be better or different with another second (or, really, first) actor? Thursday night was Sofie O..., the women who was in Hotel Rwanda. Ours was an actress who was in Markey Boy at the National. I think I was going to be disappointed by anyone who wasn't David Tennant. It was also a very 'Guardian' reading audience. And we got cake afterwards.

I also met le Boy's parents in an odd lunch. Survived, if nothing else.

BTW, my new internship is lovely. Between it, ECMUN, LIMUN and outreach sessions, I feel like I'm living in a little Model UN world. It's nice in here.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Lindsay's book meme

Le Boy has been blogging lately and being very deep and insightful about topics as varied as movies, campaign finance reform, and rugby and I'm feeling more than a bit shallow. It seemed as good a time as any to work on the book meme that Lindsay tagged me with...oh, in December?

1. One book that changed your life?

Special Providence: American Foreign Policy and How it Changed the World, Walter Russell Mead.

This one’s probably a bit obscure unless you happened to be taking Doug’s National Public Policy class with me in the spring of 2004. Mead talks about four major categories of foreign policy thinking, each named for a president: Hamiltonian, Wilsonian, Jeffersonian, and Jacksonian. I recognized myself as a firm Wilsonian, but he only explains the origin of the school in religious terms (basically, missionary work). This book raised questions about the origins of my own strong beliefs in the importance of human rights (and revealed to me that I had them), even as I rebelled, as a bit of an agnostic and a person who’s a bit wary of proselytizing religions in general, against the idea that this tradition could ONLY be rooted in Christianity and religion.

This book coincided with the semester that I spent driving back and forth from Indianapolis twice a week for an absolutely crap internship (lots of thinking time) and it was the semester that I really and truly realized that my true calling was not to be a employee for ye olde state of Indiana, but somewhere out there in the world. The idea that I had bigger questions to answer about human rights comes out of reading this book and it’s what ultimately led me to the LSE. I also realized that I needed answers because I wanted to “do” human rights with my life.

2. One book that you've read more than once?

Nine Hills to Nambonkaha: Two Years in the Heart of an African Village, Sarah Erdman.

Yes, it's a Peace Corps memoir. My friend Libby suggested that I read it, just as a group of her friends did, to get somewhat of a better understanding of what life would be like for their West African volunteer. And because I was really starting to do some serious thinking about joining the Peace Corps myself.

I obviously haven't been a volunteer myself, but I really did get a sense of the extreme emotions that can come into play from absolute elation to frightening depression and frustration (even if I think she does focus more on the positives). It's an incredibly vivid set of memories for Erdman and she does a fantastic job of painting a picture of her villagers and village life for someone with absolutely no real life experience with which to interpret her images. It also gave me fuzzy feelings about the work that Peace Corps volunteers can do and sad feelings about the way in which her country disintegrated very shortly after she left.

I read this at two very different times. The first one was during the trip to Kenya and Tanzania. I have really distinct memories of sitting in our tank, wizzing past people and villages and reading about this woman who spent two whole years getting to know a tiny, tiny corner of that huge continent. I was jealous and disappointed with my inability to do the same (at least on that trip). I read it again after I got back from Niger and suddenly understood words and had my own vivid pictures with which to compare to hers. I also understood how much of a Peace Corps volunteer's life she left out and knew new things, like how important the interaction with other volunteers can be in the life of a PCV. It was sort of a way of cementing my Niger memories, showing myself that it really happened, if that makes any sense.

3. One book you'd want on a desert island?

Hmmm. I think I'll take one of my LSE coursepacks. I think the one that I purchased for Human Rights of Women (can I have both volumes?), the class that I could never take because the amazing Christine Chinkin was on sabbatical last year. It would be absolutely lovely to be able to sit down and digest a whole coursepack and to think about how all of those things fit together. In other words, I'd like to relive my LSE education, but at a much, much slower pace (I assume I'm going to be on this island for awhile) and without any other pressures or distractions.

4. One book that made you laugh?

Recently? Then, Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch, Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett.

So, Juliana's been bugging me forever about the brilliance of Neil Gaiman and the Boy put the first of Pratchett's Discworld series in my hand, so this is sort of because of both of them. I adore Pratchett's satire and this book didn't let me down. I was giggling a lot with images of overloaded scooters, angels who had drifted downwards, the four horsepersons of the apocalypse, and so on. It's times like these that I wish I caught more bible references, as it would probably have been even better! Yay for English people's incredibly dry wit.

5. One book that made you cry?

26a, Diana Evans.

Oh, god, I was a huge mess after this book. It's about twins who grow up in north London, in my adopted constituency (see also: Zadie Smith's books) and who are incredibly insightful and promising. Then, there's event in thier childhood that drives them apart and just throws everything off the rails. It ends tragically and I was so utterly heartbroken. I think I saw a lot of myself in those twins, their cozy hideaway in the attic reminding me of the nests I used to make for myself at home, the innocence and blind enthusiasm with which I used to approach the world (and frankly, try to still), the way that one moment can shatter that innocence forever and change the course of your life. I still wonder what my life would be like if my parents were still alive and I think that Georgia and Bessi reminded me of those questions. Utter and complete mess. Huge tears.

Right. I'm only halfway done, but it's late! Off to bed and to be continued some time soon, I hope.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

I forgot one thing...

I forgot one comment on the Kosovo thing. Look! Gender! w00t!:
Kosovo shall establish a comprehensive and gender-sensitive approach for dealing with its past, which shall include a broad range of transitional justice initiatives.

Good for whoever was drafting this thing.


My favorite Kosovar sent me a link to a more detailed summary of the Kosovo plan than I'd seen on the BBC. It's here if you'd like to read it.

Here's what I wrote back to him as a reaction:

You know, I saw this plan summarized on the BBC and sort of went "what the heck?" I don't really understand how you can be a state and not a state, even more than you already are. Plus, you just wouldn't fit into the Westphalian system and it creates two classes of states.

I wonder the extent to which this mirrors (if at all) the UN mandate in Timor L'este? Is this precedented? It also reminds me of Iraq, but at least there we try to pretend that the international community isn't running the place.

I also don't know if Kosovo has any other choice; I doubt that full independence could happen now and having the world pretend you're a state has got to be better than them pretending that you're not a state. At least that way you can get a passport.

Finally (and sorry that this is sort of a stream of consciousness as I react to the more detailed plan that you linked), I wonder if it isn't awful to have the EU so fully involved in helping develop your country and creating institutions (and, again, the way that the UN did in East Timor). It reminds me of the way that the organization tried to reshape Eastern Europe in its own image after the end of the Cold War. If you're being groomed for membership, then it might be a very good thing.

Still, I'm glad he might finally get a country and a passport, if the Serbian government decides to stop being total pricks. He's certainly been waiting long enough. Yay, Baaaa!

MUN & Bobby

Yesterday was nice.

I went and met with students and their teachers at a North London school (Brent, woot woot) to start preparing for LIMUN and talked about doing a school conference once we get through LIMUN. Or maybe with another school that's also been in touch and with whom this other school already has links. I love MUN and I love fostering it (ESPECIALLY with high schoolers). And I never thought it would be something that was so high on my agenda. Anyway, it seems like an amazing project and one that would tie right in with my starting-on-Monday internship with the UN Association, working on their MUN stuff.

It's also amazing to realize that without meaning to, I'm suddenly doing things that make me a more attractive Peace Corps candidate! Ack! How'd that happen?

And, I dragged the Boy to Bobby last night and it kinda stunk. The previews were sooo much better. I mean, I understand how amazing he was and how hopeful things seemed because of my parent's stories (my mom was one of the people who got locked in the Indiana Secretary of State's office when he came to file for the Indiana primary and he ALMOST used her comb (read: her friend was quicker on the comb draw)), but the movie didn't make me feel warm and fuzzy and certainly didn't work if you didn't already know something about Bobby's impact on the United States. (As the Boy put it: "You had to already buy into the Bobby myth.")

I think the final diagnosis was "lrazy", although there was some great acting (OMG, can Martin Sheen be my boyfriend, as well as my grandfather and my president?) and some cute moments. Also, Lindsay Lohan has so many freckles that I really worry about the skin damage she's done to herself. Hope she goes to the dermatologist regularly. And there were some parts that were pretty cringeworthy (any part with Laurence Fishbourne...barf! although he's an excellent actor). And Elijah Wood's eyes are so pretty!

Thursday, February 01, 2007

new phone!

Yay! I have a new phone!

My old one got left somewhere. Someone called my flatmate (who had tried to call me) where it was and, I think, left it there, where it got snatched.

Anyway, apparently O2 gives you some credits every month that you can save up toward a discount on a new handset and so it was £30 less than the retail price. So, my £90 phone was on sale for £80 and purchased for £50 (really my cheapest option, everyone, and yes, phones are pricey). A good deal, considering, I think. And it's so much shinier than before!!! I'm sort of taken with it and it's lovely new screen. So Pretty. My precious. The Boy had a whole theory about technology depreciating, but I'm excited, as my old phone also cost £80 and wasn't nearly this cool.

This is also a reminder that I need phone numbers, having lost them for anyone who I didn't have on my SkyPE list. So, if you're not Ian, Alison, Ana, the Blacks, Duchie, Grandma, Juliet or Juliana, then could you send me your digits? Thanks!