Another friend

It totally throws your life in relief when people visit; DeLillo’s right yet again. Small tics, foot shuffling, unnecessary explanations, a slip into dialect, compulsive cleaning, one random wet towel. Whatever.
Our 48 hours together were a crash course in London’s great sights.

Yesterday was Emily’s only whole day in London, so: we had English breakfast; caught the end of a mass in St Paul’s Cathedral (I lit a candle for my family and cried, like I did in Sacre Coeur); walked the Millenium Bridge to the Tate Modern; made fun of their modern art; ate a pasty in Waterloo; South Bank for the Cologne Christmas festival; experienced German mulled wine and took pictures of the Eye/Big Ben/Parliament; Parliament to Trafalgar; Covent Garden; British dinner at one of my favorite pubs and introduced her to Strongbow-with-black; “scenic” bus ride back to New Cross;  cocktail at Amersham Arms with Chris; finished with a box of Square Pizza.
She explored by herself today when I was busy nodding off in classes. I sincerely hope she enjoyed herself, despite my need to spit out every historical tidbit I’ve learned about places here.

The art in the Tate Modern is RIDICULOUS. Some of the rooms are really cool, but a lot of the stuff would be an entirely blue canvas or some scribbles I could probably paint with my toes. After awhile, our brains hurt and we began making up our own titles to the pieces. Most of them were Freudian in nature.

And I’ll be spinning in my skirts
and knitting tiny, tiny, tiny, tiny little hats.
And when my breath becomes an island,
I won’t be dancing on that roof anymore or wearing these crazy boots.
I just saw her off at the railway station on Liverpool Street and made the 40-minute trip home at my leisure. I made a conscious effort to walk as slow as possible. People looked at me funny.

I am so lucky to be here.

Chris and I are organising Thanksgiving for this Thursday to honour our heritage. We hope we’ll do it up right, but it’ll be a lot of effort and money.

Four of us are going to Liverpool this weekend. It’s costing me more money than it’ll be worth, I guarantee, from the round-trip train, hostel, Beatles tour, and food combined. Most importantly, I need to go to Wales. I need to make that pilgrimage.


vindicta mihi!

I know I should get on about Dublin, Amsterdam, Brussels and Paris, seeing as it was over a week ago. (Well, not Paris. That was 4 days ago.) Other things have been happening.

As I said, I snagged a free ticket to see War Horse on Wednesday. On Thursday night, my Shakespeare’s London professor took us to see a production of Kyd’s The Spanish Tragedy at the Arcola Theatre.
Disclaimer: if you are unfamiliar with The Spanish Tragedy, none of this will make sense to you. My review would’ve been different on Thursday night, but we talked about it during class yesterday morning. Thus, I’m stealing some opinions.

First off, the Arcola is a pain in the ass to get to. It’s on a side street in Dalston and you feel like you might be stabbed if you dawdle too long in the wrong direction. The Arcola did have a fantastic cafe in the box office, though.

The show was fantastically directed, but a little over-conceived on some accounts. I didn’t think it detracted from the show at all, but other people in my class did. I. Loved. It. Plus, it was flawlessly adapted AND I had a front row seat. (Not that it mattered much, for reasons to be discussed later.)

Revenge was manifested as an 11-year old girl swinging an axe in a pink dress and mary janes. The first dumb show put on my Hieronimo was a black box sketch that made me snort. (Overconception #1.) It ended by a character being dismembered, and it was one person per limb, which was impressive. Probably a waste of energy and rehearsal time, but great nonetheless.

I also really liked the director’s interpretation of the final spectacle, particularly during Lorenzo’s death. I didn’t think they’d ACTUALLY do the “play” in all four languages (Italian, French, Greek, and Latin) but they did.
Horatio’s death was insane. He was left hanging upside-down on stage for a good five minutes. Imagine how light-headed he must’ve felt when we got pulled down…
Hieronimo’s video montage of his son at the end was a little unsettling (Tidmarsh later told us they were “taking the piss out on Katie Mitchell” to which we said “they did who to what?”) Hieronimo’s madness in one of his extended monologues about “what it a son” was really moving– especially when he was staring right at me. When I referred back to the text later, I couldn’t find it. I guess it was added in. Unfortunate.

Unfortunate moments:
1) Joe and I had a wide glimpse of Isabella’s commando crotch during her great suicide scene. I guess the actress figured she could represent a loony mother best by wearing a slip (and only a slip.) She did the madness movingly, but she was flopping about a bit too much for my heterosexual taste.
2) Because the Viceroy of Portingale was standing in our way, we couldn’t get a clear view of Hieronimo’s suicide. We did, however, get an upfront view of Hieronimo biting out his own tongue and spitting it on the floor. (They left it laying on the floor after the show. It looked a bit like a pig tongue.)
3) The end scene had blood spilling off the desk and splashing onto the floor, which was a great effect. The sound effects were mostly subconscious but all brilliant. The fire alarm during Balthazar’s murder was a little too jarring. People were freaking out about whether it was “real” or not, and I was thoroughly convinced it was because Hieronimo grabbed a stage lackey by the neck and threw him. They would’ve legally had to stop the show and wait for fire trucks to come before they could resume. I didn’t realize this until later.

I give the actors credit because
1) they probably didn’t get paid and
2) it was a really difficult space to fill. Instead of a proscenium stage, they had to occupy a transverse. That is, a stage that splits the audience into two groups stretched along the walls, facing each other. Who am I kidding? It wasn’t a stage. We were in a black warehouse studio with a garage door and four fire exits.

Lots of blood and death, yet I loved it.
If it wasn’t in Dalston, I’d go back again and see it by myself.

my face
Fuh. I made crepes for class yesterday morning.
We talked about containment and Jung. AGAIN.
Set my thoughts a-rolling.

Emily invited me to go with her to the jazz festival happening in town tonight, but I think I’m getting sick. It’s that time of the year. Main brand chicken soup over here sucks. Makes me a little homesick.
Here’s the odd part . . . I know when I go home, I’m going to miss: PASTIES; treacle and pudding; Strongbow or Strongbow-with-black; the accessibility of things like fish & chips or Afro-Caribbean accoutrements (tamarind paste); EVERYTHING blackcurrant-flavoured (which has been outlawed in the US). I’ll have to make my own pasties and wish for the best.

ALSO last night, aside from ziti and the rugby team, we got suited up and went to Venue down the street to check it out. We got in free since it was before 11pm and we had the dance floor to ourselves, which was both awkward and cool. There was a Blondie cover band on the second floor. I waited for them to play “Heart of Glass”, but instead I left. I plan on going back to Venue on December 11th to hear their Smiths cover band. Until then, these cover bands are lined up for the rest of 2009: Queen, Kings of Leon (people go CRAZY over them here.), ABBA (will definitely NOT attend), Arctic Monkeys, Robbie Williams, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Spice Girls, Tina Turner, The Killers, the Blues Brothers, and Queen B. Whatever.

I bought a POUND of chocolate (450g) for £2,50 yesterday. That’s $4 of delicious Cadbury Dairy Milk. Another thing I’ll miss: Cadbury vending machines. But for now, I’m eating fishcakes and mushy peas, readin’ The Information.
Load of b-b-bull.
Eating mushy peas with a fork is like trying to pick your nose with your pinky finger. Interpret that as you will. I don’t even know if it’s true; I just felt it needed to be said.

"mushy peas" by Natalie Dee
I’m fat.

Come on home…

…The poppies all are grown knee-deep by now.

I got to see a free West End show tonight. Daria texted me that her class had 3 extra tickets for War Horse, so I grabbed one and we all got to the Drury Lane theatre on time.

Act one was exceptional. Character exposition was okay, but I was so impressed with the horse puppets. (Each puppet took three people to control, and you could ride on them too.) I can’t imagine how long it took to block the play or how many times they had to perfect the movements and tics of the horses.
One of the characters was blown off his horse by a “mortar shell” at the end of act one, and I loved the way it was done: a flash, blackout, and then you see him backflip off of the horse, aided by a four-person lift. 

For a minimalistic play, it was well done.

Act two had a bit of unnecessary drama in it, but I can understand why: to wrap up the “heartfelt story part” of the play and make trench warfare a little more realistic. It was mostly climax and then no denouement, which left the Goldsmiths kids feeling bored. To really appreciate the play, it had to be viewed on at least three different levels: historical, theatrical entertainment, and the technical employment of the puppets/body language of the characters. (You gradually forgot that the horses were being controlled by 3 people. Those guys deserve an award– they had the toughest job of anyone on stage.)

The stage itself was unusually wide, and all black with a large horizontal ripped screen of white paper, which projected the countryside on it. Alternately, it showed the war charges or other extraneous information. I guess you could say the ripped paper representated a pure thing that can never be made whole again. You could say that.
Horse puppets, I already talked about. Loved ’em. During one part of act two, they brought on their interpretation of a tank which must’ve taken at least 6 people to manipulate. Very cool.
war horse

It really made me appreciate WWI like nothing else ever has before. (History Channel, my father, history classes, etc.) WWII wasn’t the only war ever fought that was atrocious, you know. WWI’s where everything changed. Try picturing riding a horse into a wall of machine guns, tear gas, and mortar rounds, armed only with a sabre and 140 rounds on a shitty rifle. And those who didn’t die came back like ghosts. 

Someone in our party said they felt no emotional connexions to the characters; you really had to forge ahead and make your own rather than have it shoved in your face, particularly in act one. Act two had more opportunity to connect, but it might’ve been too comical to take seriously.
Music was okay although, again, someone said it was too dramatic. He compared it to Howard Shore’s score for The Lord of the Rings. I disagree. A lot of the music were war marches from WWI.
Also, it was neat that part of the play was in three different languages and I understand all of the French and German. Yeah, I’m proud. Deal with it.

People around me kept hacking and sneezing and it made me want to puke. Completely distracting when I’m trying to watch this play. Both of the girls next to me kept coughing wetly in my direction when they weren’t twirling their hair or talking about what they ate for lunch or how hot the room was.
It was distracting and it was rude. A large group of disinterested young people. They’re the ones who have to discuss the play in their class. I kind of want to go back and see it again.

Overall, I left the theatre feeling enlightened, alarmed and disturbed at the general lack of intelligence in my age group, and more than a little disgusted at how many germs were coating my body.
I was pissed off by how bored the girls next to me were, and everyone’s general agreement that it was “ok” and not “important.” Then I was pissed at myself for feeling the need to be the devil’s advocate for this play.

To make matters worse, I experienced trouble with my Oyster cards in Holborn, so I assumed people went on without me and I set out by myself, relieved. I understand I was being irritable, but I couldn’t take another minute of farting around with 1) people I’ve spent the last twelve days with or 2) the girls who kept coughing on me / being baselessly judgemental.

“Why are people partying more than usual today?”
“Oh, it’s that veterans day… What they were talking about in the theatre before.”

Idiots. Jesus Christ.

During the curtain call, all of the actors came out wearing their poppies in support of the British legion. This was a little disorienting, as I remembered the poppies from French Canada referring to secession.

I am so tired of being a part of a group.
I need serious alone time.
However, blogging about my Euro-trip is not on my agenda.

The chances

More on the weird things I keep seeing that remind me of home:

I was in the library toilet reading the bathroom graffiti and someone wrote a Joyce Kilmer poem into the stall door. Scrawling “a poem as beautiful as a tree…” etc onto the door wasn’t enough, they had to physically etch it into the wood. Examine how weird this is: there are three stalls in that toilet, and three toilets in that library, and how many toilets in the other student buildings in the vicinity.
I chose that one.

People who went to Joyce Kilmer School wouldn’t even be able to recognise a Joyce Kilmer poem, but I chose that toilet and that graffiti chose me. Weird.
Sort of like how I saw some William Carlos Williams on the tube.

I missed the Seamus Heaney/Beowulf event yesterday, even though I found out Joe would’ve been willing to go with me. Sue me. He won’t die yet. I refuse to allow it.
Joe couldn’t have possibly gone anyway, because he was busy seeing THE WORST PRODUCTION of Annie, Get Your Gun EVER. Ever.

The nightlife isn’t the only thing I’m going to be severely missing when I come back to the States. What about our favorite store, Iceland? Where else can you get a day’s worth of food for 1 quid? Two ham & pineapple pizzas; a box of sage & onion turkey breast; two liters of assorted juice; a dozen eggs; a tub of ice cream; kilo bags of chips. All of these things are 1 quid. Gonna miss the Iceland pizzas.

Another thing I will sincerely miss is the quality of the cinema.
(Here comes my movie review, on top of my first British cinema experience.)
I hopped on the bus to Greenwich and promptly realized I didn’t know where I was going. Luckily, some intuition led me to the right stop for the Greenwich Picturehouse. It’s brilliant.
The ground floor had a tapas bar/full-blown restaurant, as well as a cafe bar-cum-box office. I paid 5,50 for a concession ticket… Not too outrageous, but those are Monday prices. The first floor had a nice bar, but I didn’t go into it.
The theatre I went into for Imaginarium was a good size, but it was assigned seating. The seats were incredibly comfortable, red plush, reclining. Some German couple had to sit directly next to me because it was assigned. They said they would move once the movie started, but they never did. To make it worse, she started laying all over him and looked like she was ready for a nap. I was trapped between them and a “veddy-veddy-British-don’tchoo-know” family, otherwise I wouldn’t moved too.

In America, you have 10-15 minutes of really horrible coming attractions. In Britain, you have liquor/auto ads. All of them were either for Tanqueray gin or for Volkswagen+Volkswagen sponsorships.
HOWEVER and oddly enough, Volkswagen sponsored a little short documentary on “Dudeism”. That is to say, it was all about The Big Lebowski. I was trying not to interrupt the European ambience by yelling “EIGHT YEAR OLDS, DUDE.” Thankfully I did not.
Okay, I’ll get on with it. The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus.

I think the negative reviewers haven’t taken several things into account. Chiefly, Heath Ledger died halfway during post-production, so they had to go back and salvage it by adding THREE new characters and a semi-alternative ending. Well done, I say.
Additionally, the critics have CLEARLY never seen a Terry Gilliam movie before. It’s very colorful or it’s very monochromatic. It’s what I imagine hard drugs to be like. Sometimes there are plotholes, but it never really matters. It’s sort of like the saying “It’s not about whether you win or lose, it’s about playing the game.” As much as I despise that, quod scripsi, scripsi.
I had low expectations for Lily Cole, because she’s seen as some public object rather than a human being, from time to time. The acting really was quite good. And you know what? I liked the ending. I went into the theatre knowing what would happen, but my friends who saw it the day before me complained that the movie needed to be two hours longer: one hour for more exposition and one for more denouement. Keep it simple, I say. The whole movie’s manipulated with a wonky Christopher Plummer-induced deus ex machina without being cheap.
Can I talk about Tom Waits? I think I should. He is SO GOOD at playing these sorts of characters. (I’m thinking of his own foil in Wristcutters, obviously.) I couldn’t imagine a better devil. When he danced a tango with Lily Cole, I thought I was going to lose my mind.
One important fact: When we initially walked into the theatre and the screen was black, the establishment was blaring Tom Waits’ carnival music. WHAT A GOOD IDEA, OKAY. The British woman was like “What IS this?!”

Our bodies get bigger but our hearts get torn up.
We’re just a million little gods causing rainstorms,
Turning every good thing to rust.

I’m so scared for this trip, which starts in three days. I’m not even concerned for my own safety as much as I’m worried about how I’m going to fit everything in my backpack. Whatever I’m going to bring. Three countries–or four, if you include the fact that we’ll be driving through Belgium– and eleven days.
Have to bring my good camera and the charger.
Have to bring my registration papers for my Ramapo courses.
Everything else is up for debate.
I know I made fun of it for months, but I’m glad I have my money belt.

old toast

French onion soup was totally what I wanted today.
I’m getting fat; I should just eat soup for a week.

Oy. Since I’m done with classes for the day, I think I’m going to head over to the Greenwich Picturehouse to finally see The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus. It came out a week and a half ago and I have yet to see it, although the people I hang out with have seen it without me. Not their fault, just weird, since I talk about it every time we’re on the tube.

Imaginarium doesn’t come out at home until… Christmas? But it’s directed by Terry Gilliam, so I expect some serious wonders a la Brazil. (“Hi there. I’d like to talk to you about ducts.”)
I love Lily Cole. As much as one can love someone who sits around and looks striking, if not pretty. Her eyes are bonkers, but I wouldn’t mind being her one bit.
lily cole

And did I mention I LOVE when Tom Waits acts? Yes, he’s doing the heaven-or-hell thing again.
Also, Heath Ledger died halfways through the production, so this is me paying my final tributes with my 6 quid. He’s not the reason I’m going though.
Heck, I’m excited just to see the picturehouse. Apparently it’s assigned seating with fully-reclining chairs, a cafe-bar, and a Euro-centric tapas bar. Nutso. Good thing I’m going by myself- I reek of onions.

BTW at a Sainsbury’s in Brixton last night, I saw “roasted ham and mustard” flavoured crisps.

I’ll let you know what I think on all of this later.

But I only got a ha’penny!

So tired.
We took a trip to ASDA yesterday, which is the English branch of Walmart. (Hate mass consumption and production if you will, but there’d be no supply without the demand.) ASDA is pretty brilliant; you really can buy anything there, but we stuck to sweaters. I got a fantastic acrylic capelet for 8 quid.

Today we took the bus to Peckham High St to go to Primark. Nothing too interesting, other than my hot pink shoes (picture to follow…)

Tonight is a spot of resting, and then perhaps all migrating over to the New Cross Inn for tonight’s band. We missed last night’s open mic because of Taco Tuesday.

I was seriously contemplating learning Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You” or making Andy learn it on his mini-travel guitar, so I’d sing it at the open mic. That’s something I’ve never done before. AND I’d be reppin’ North America. Hey-o.
I felt bad about belting it in my room when I remembered that the girl next door is deathly ill. As are we all. I’m in the process of drinking a litre of orange juice.
Every American is just dripping with illness and people like to cough on me on the bus as if I’m a sick magnet.

Both yesterday and today, Daria and I had English Breakfast at the Goldsmiths Cafe. Talk about binge eating… we go half a day without food and then eat as much of the all-day breakfast as you can. It usually consists of a combination of : egg(s), chips (fries), hash browns, sausage, bubble, bacon, tomatoes, beans, mushrooms, toast, tea/coffee. All served on a plate that’s roughly the size of my backpack, with bowls of condiments.
Examine one labelled example:

I finally figured out what “bubble and squeak” is: fried leftover potatoes with vegetables, like cabbage. I’ve heard it mentioned in Dylan Thomas’ Under Milk Wood, when Willy Nilly Postman and his wife eat bubble and squeak for breakfast. Examine:
Total, the traditional English breakfast + a cup of white coffee comes to 5 quid. So that’s like a meal at IHOP.
It was weird because the guy remembered us, and commented on how we were earlier yesterday. It’s okay because their coffee is delicious. (Coffee-starved.) I just realized it’s probably Turkish because I thought I saw him strain it. Like either a French press or a Samovar. I like to pretend it’s a samovar because that’s far more exotic, and the guy is some type of Middle Eastern.

Anyway, the true highlights of today— besides pink shoes– are these:
1) Went to the Goldsmiths Uni library, where you can rent movies for free. It’s got a bizarre collection and an even weirder system for organizing them, but I picked up Slaughterhouse-Five and Woyzeck, because I haven’t seen either of them. That’s right… I own the Herzog/Kinski box set and Woyzeck is the only one I can’t bring myself to watch, so I’ll do it here.

2) A woman rushed up to me in Primark while I was looking at sweaters, she turned to face me, and screamed. It was either a “Hey, do you remember me!!!” scream or a “OH MY GOD, YOU’RE THAT FAMOUS GIRL ____” type scream. Either way, when I turned to face her fully, I just said “NO.”  I don’t know why I said ‘no’ at her, but it was probably the right answer. Without any note of apology or admittance, she abruptly walked away. This has been bothering me all day. WTF WAS THAT.

3) Everyone’s been talking about this guy in a blue jumpsuit who spends all day with a bucket of water and a broom, washing the same spot repeatedly. I saw him yesterday before we went to ASDA and I assumed he was a civil servant cleaning up a spot of vomit from the night before. I thought that was nice of him. However, I came back five hours later and he was still there. In the same spot. Today, I went to Primark at noon, and the man was still there scrubbing at 4:30pm, when I talked to him. Apparently he’s some kind of performance artist as well as being a student here. I tried googling him/all combinations of “New Cross broom guy performance art space art”, but I can’t find anything. He is a new phenomenon. I’ll talk to him more tomorrow if he’s still there.