Monday, January 31, 2005
It has also come to my attention that Barb Wire, in which Pamela Anderson plays a crime-fighting dominatrix, is supposed to be based on Casablanca.
I went to the first day of my new classes today, and let me tell you they're a HUGE relief after the nightmare that was last semester. Despite the little voice in my head reminding me that plenty of my issues with university still remain to be solved, in a really wonderful way being in that classroom with those people and that professor felt like home. Not like I was back at UW or in America, but like I was somewhere I belonged. This is how it should have been last fall.
This semester I'll only have two classes to go to at any given time. I have three classes total, and they're all taught by the same man. In a bittersweet development, that man is an utter and complete weirdo. Bitter, because he speaks in a relentless monotone from which it eventually becomes impossible to extract words or meaning from. Sweet, because this speech mannerism has some kind of hypnotic effect that results in missing chunks from my memory. I look at my watch and it's 2:30. I look 10 seconds later, and it's 2:47. That's what his voice does. This is obviously terrifying, but on the other hand it passes the time quite efficiently.
It's not that I spent the whole class period waiting for it to be over, it's just that the whole time the professor was speaking I was waiting for him to not be speaking anymore. This might seem like a rubbish approach to learning, but (1) it literally becomes a struggle to work out what he's saying, and (2) the class discussion took on a life of its own and I got a lot more out of that than...what I wasn't listening to.
I just hope this professor doesn't say anything important for the next 12 weeks because I can assure you I will not catch it.
My second class is European Cinema, which will be the first (and possibly the only) class I will have taken this year that will actually fulfill one of my degree requirements. Wow, it doesn't sound like I've accomplished much this year when I say it that way. Luckily, I can say it another way which makes it sound a lot better: I'M GOING TO SPAIN IN TWO WEEKS, BITCH. I DON'T CARE.
Seriously, I just need to get out more. I'm bouncing off the walls in anticipation of my upcoming travels. "Travels?" you ask. "Don't you mean travel?" "No," I answer, "I said travels and I meant travels. I thought I told you never to correct me on the internet." "I'm sorry," you whimper, "Please don't put me back in The Box."
What I'm trying to tell you is, I'm planning a trip to Germany in April since we get most of that month off. I think we've established that staying at home and having a month to myself is a horrible idea, so I'm heading off to Deutschland to stay with my friend Josh (who's studying abroad in Tübingen from UW) and visit my friend Kristina (who lives there for real).
My belated New Year's resolution is to get out of town as much as possible. Not just out of the country, but around the UK too. Aberdeen was enough for the first four months because everything was so new and I was just getting comfortable making new friends. Now, it's a testament to how at home I feel here that I'm looking for adventure elsewhere.
In short, the new semester is off to a decent start.
Sunday, January 30, 2005
Best and worst of 2004
As I mentioned, movie release dates here in the UK are a bit out of sync with what I'm used to back home in the US. Sometimes this can be annoying (getting The Phantom of the Opera a month early), other times it can be even more annoying (not getting Kinsey for another month now). I usually put together these year-end lists just in time for New Year's Eve, but with all the big end-of-the-year award grabbers finally getting here all January long, I decided to put it off until I could check them all out. Anyway, here's my late, mini-sized 2004 wrap-up...
Best of 2004
1. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Intensely surreal exploration of a failed relationship through a man’s attempt to erase it from his memory -- literally. Abandoning linear narrative in favor of dreamlike image association for much of its duration, Sunshine taps directly into powerful emotions connected to all stages in the arc of any relationship.
2. I ♥ Huckabees. “What the fuck did I just watch?” But in a really, really good way. That rare movie that will make you seriously question the meaning of your existence while laughing until you pee.
3. Code 46. Try to imagine a science-fiction version of Lost in Translation. The story of two individuals connecting in a cold, sterilized (yet frighteningly plausible) vision of the future. Haunting and atmospheric.
4. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Brave enough to sacrifice large sections from the book in order to make the best film possible -- most importantly, one willing to grow up with its main character.
5. Million Dollar Baby. The first two thirds make it really, really good. The last third makes it great.
6. Bride & Prejudice. Bollywood take on Pride & Prejudice filled to the bursting point with great music, comedy, and GORGEOUS visuals. I enjoyed plenty of movies this year, but this one made the happiest.
7. A Very Long Engagement. Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s brilliant (and sometimes bizarre) style is applied to the story of a young woman who clings to the hope that her fiancé has survived the war.
8. Japanese Story. Simple and heartbreaking, with a wrenching performance from Toni Collette.
9. Primer. Microbudget time-travel thriller that seriously backs up its ideas -- and doesn’t bother waiting for us to catch up, making it chillingly believable.
10. Mean Girls. The smartest, funniest teen movie since Clueless. Lindsay Lohan rules. Tina Fey’s screenplay rules slightly more.
Plenty of great movies I saw this year couldn’t make the list as a result of my attempt to spread out my choices between lots of different types of films. So here are ten of the best from the rest (in alphabetical order):
The Bourne Supremacy
Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events
Worst of 2004
1. The Raspberry Reich. As a lover of cinema, I am bound to identify it as by far the worst film of the year. As Eric, a weirdo, I have (almost) nothing but love for it. At least I can make it #1 at something!
2. Soul Plane. Not that I saw it or anything. Or paid money to do so. Um, it was Greg’s idea.
3. Exorcist: The Beginning. The only horror this film inspired in me was the realization that I actually couldn’t think of anything the filmmakers could have done to make it any worse.
4. The Phantom of the Opera. Maybe it’s because I expected so much from it. Maybe it’s just because it sucked.
5. Shark Tale. Not as bad as I was expecting. And yet, still shit.
Saturday, January 29, 2005
AU: still not making it easy
On a more positive note, I figured out today that the University of Aberdeen is slightly less evil than I believed 24 hours ago. The new semester starts on Monday, and yesterday I decided it might be a good idea to figure out where and when my classes were meeting. I know, I am the model student. Unfortunately, the way things are set up, you have to do all kinds of detective work just to match up your course code, course title, the day of the week, which tutorials you will or won't be attending, which weeks it will be meeting, etc. It took me 45 minutes to put it all together into a coherent schedule, and only then did it become apparent that I was scheduled to be in two classes at the same time 4 days of the week. But that's not all! Both classes were apparently taking place in the same classroom at the same time.
Anyway, the happy ending is that Marianne told me they must be 6-week courses instead of 12-week courses, so one would finish up as the other started. It's still really annoying that I had no way of knowing that, because meeting times and places are located exactly nowhere on the official department website and there is no such thing as a time schedule at this university. I don't even know which class is happening first. And I have an inherent distrust of 6-week courses because that's what I thought my Celtic class was and we all know how THAT turned out.
So, I have a clearer idea of what the next 12 weeks are going to be like now. That makes me feel better.
You know what else makes me feel better? People here say the word "tortoise" so that it rhymes with "more toys." The same goes for the word "porpoise." I just think that's awesome.
Wednesday, January 26, 2005
I told you I wasn't finished going insane
To begin with, I started out the month saying goodbye to Luke again. That tore me up for a couple of days. But his visit made me think of the big picture again for the first time in ages. The rest of my life still exists. I am not on vacation. I like to think I understood that before just now. But I can't be sure.
This month I've felt more lonely than I did when I first moved here. Nobody I knew was in town. There were no classes to go to. Nowhere to go on a regular basis. I wasn't drinking, which wasn't hard itself, but the activity of going down to the gay bar was a completely different experience. To clarify, it was one that involved little to no fun. A night out felt like an eternity and I suddenly felt incredibly foolish for spending so much of my time in a state of inebriation over the last several months. But it's not like I regret it -- I had great times with my great friends and never put myself in danger (except for the once), but for some reason everything is different now.
During one of my 11-hour essay-writing marathons last November, I realized that maybe I've made a huge mistake going to university. I think I wrote about it on this blog, actually. Last semester, I was taking classes totally irrelevant to my degree. I laughed in the face of my academic responsibilities because I felt so confident I would do well when it came to my own turf, but the new semester starts next week and now I'm starting to remember what it was like back home to feel like an imposter in your own department because what you can't do is precisely what you're expected to.
Between me and my degree is a semester of classes here and quarter of classes back home. Oh, and an honors thesis. Who knows if I'm capable of doing any of that? What happens if I do get a degree? Where does it get me? WHERE AM I SUPPOSED TO GO? WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO DO?
So those are a few of the questions hanging out in the foreground of my mind lately.
Maybe this is a case of "there's nothing too do and I'm going stir crazy spending so much time in my own head." When I spend this much time by myself and there's nothing I'm strictly supposed to be doing, I remember that it's up to me to use this time to write. Unfinished stories, essays, screenplays, whatever. This kind of free time is a luxury I won't enjoy for long. But I sit down to write and nothing comes out. There are too many distractions to write anything. There are not enough distractions to drag me out of this funk. (Not the Chaka Kahn kind of funk, either.) I feel so alone, but being around people is so hard.
Well, that's all for today! I hope you've all learned a valuable lesson from all this: racism is bad! Why do you look so confused? Are you saying racism isn't bad? And I thought I was crazy.
Monday, January 24, 2005
Reality television is an entirely different concept in Britain compared to America. We seem to have an endless supply of variations on the whole "how to make unreasonably beautiful people marry strangers and/or freakshows" thing. Here, that idea is largely replaced with "how to give your home a makeover with a time and/or budget constraint." At any hour of the day or night, you can watch British people furiously redecorating under any conditions imaginable. I saw "30 Minute Makeover" in the TV schedule and got all excited because I thought it would be like a half hour version of those romantic-comedy montages where the heroine discovers she's actually a hottie underneath her thick glasses and frumpy wardrobe. Instead, it was half an hour of turbo-redocorating with a little timer in the corner, kind of like 24 if it was nothing like 24.
It's really random that I watch so many of these shows just by default. The other kind of reality television that's really big here is more documentary-style, day- (or week-, or whatever) in-the-life programs that are actually generally pretty thoughtful and fascinating. And it happens that a decent amount of them seem to be about transsexuals, for some reason which I don't know but find really interesting. (I'm still kicking myself for missing "Teenage Transsexuals," but last week I caught one about families that have stayed together after one parent has a sex change.) I've seen programs about single parents, old people having sex, women working in brothels, people living with morbid obesity, people living in foreign countries, etc. They're not sensationalized or superficial in any way, they're simply about what people's lives are like that are (probably) different then your own. How awesome is that?
Maybe it's because I never watched much TV in America, but as far as I know we don't really have programming like this, except maybe on PBS, which nobody watches. (Or maybe I have my cause and effect backwards here.) Do we have primetime programming, on the big networks, that are interesting because they're about something? Do have shows we walk away from knowing more about the world around us? I've seen so much of it here, and find myself actively thinking so much more just from doing something as simple and lazy as sitting in front of the television once in a while. All I remember from watching TV in America (besides more commercials than you can shake a stick at, and I've shaken my stick at quite of a few of them) is a media that pretends most of us don't exist, and we feel bad because our lives don't look much like The O.C.
At this point I would like to stop, take a deep breath, and point out that I'm not saying I don't enjoy my share of trashy, thought-free programming. Like I said, I find myself watching a lot of home improvement shows. (Slightly less than I can shake a stick at, but still -- a lot.) And yes, I have been known to watch the soaps, sometimes instead of people in wheelchairs leading perfectly ordinary lives. And I haven't exactly been strangers wiith Celebrity Big Brother. Shut up. I'm just trying to tell you I'm not getting all high-horsey about this.
But seriously -- Who Wants to Marry a Midget?
Friday, January 21, 2005
It's still my birthday, dammit
Yesterday was my birthday, but tonight is the party, and I'm so excited I can barely keep my clothes on. I don't know what that means, but I will tell you one thing: I'm stark naked right now.
When I was growing up, my parents' policy toward birthdays was that they lasted all month and you were supposed to receive special birthday treatment the whole time. Since mine is so late in the month, this usually had the effect of everyone being sick of my diva demands by the time the actual birthday came along, resulting in psychological issues with attention that torment me to this day. No, that's not true. It just spoiled me for the rest of the world. Luke doesn't buy it at all, especially when we lived together.
Eric: It's still my birthday. Do my laundry, beeyotch.
But really, it's all good because I've been annoying people about my birthday for the past few weeks and nobody has killed me yet. This year it's extra special because I'm in a foreign country with no family within thousands of miles, and it's special enough that I even have people to celebrate with. How bizarre is it that these people I spend almost every day with, I didn't know existed 5 months ago (except for Marianne)? Even if I fail this semester too, I can go home knowing that someone as socially incompetent as me was able to move to another country and build a happenin' social life. And that someone...lives down the street. No, that someone is me!
Do you think any of this will mean a whole lot to the University of Aberdeen when I try to convince them not to chuck me out? They haven't said anything yet, but I'm trying to think ahead.
I did have my first alcohol of 2005 last night, and oh god, even I'm appalled at how low my tolerance had gotten. My tolerance was underground, yo. I took two sips of something like a Smirnoff Ice and the room was spinning. Okay, the room may not have been spinning, but my whole body went tingly and I was like, "Rosie? What's in this? More importantly, DO YOU WANT TO DANCE?" I went out clubbing for the first time in forever. It was an all right night, but it was totally weird to drink again even though it's only been 3 weeks.
Well, now I'm off to a birthday lunch with Laura, then setting up for my party tonight!
Thursday, January 20, 2005
HEY GUESS WHAT IT'S MY BIRTHDAY
But this isn't about my last birthday! It's about THIS birthday! My 22nd birthday! So I don't gain any special privileges by turning 22, but it's like I'm properly in my 20s now, so that's exciting. And it's always nice to be the center of attention for a day. So woo!
Also, here are some photos from the last month or so...
When Luke was here, I spent a day showing him around Aberdeen, mainly the university and the beach. Here, here, and here are some other random pictures from that day. (And this was just pretty.)
Look what Laura (the American one) sent me in the post for my Christmas/birthday present! Isn’t it horrifying? But after the initial shock, we sure did have some good times.
In a single photograph (taken on New Year’s Eve), here is why I decided to quit drinking until my birthday. There are more from this set, but you don’t want to see them.
This is Union Street on New Year’s Eve. It was absolutely packed, especially towards the center of town, where there was a stage set up for something or other. Something New Year’s Eve-y. Probably. God, I’m never drinking again.
Here’s Laura (the British one) holding a “mince mouse” Pip gave her. That’s not a real type of mouse – that would be a horrible present. It’s like a mince pie in the shape of a mouse.
Laura dying Pip’s hair. DOES THE WACKY EVER STOP?
Dear god, how I love crisps. Pip started that night with two 24-packs. There was nothing but empty packets left when I got through with those bitches. Oh yeah. Oooooh yeah. Crisps.
Wednesday, January 19, 2005
The day after Boxing Day, I got on a train back to Aberdeen (actually, the first of three trains). 9 hours later, I dragged my suitcase up the stairs to my flat and Luke was there waiting for me. We spent the week together. What can I say about his visit? It was amazing. Perfect. Everything I spent so much time daydreaming about. Except that it was only one week instead of a thousand.
I haven’t felt like myself this month. I don’t know how much of it has to do with Luke coming and going. Seeing Luke in Aberdeen was like a crossover between two of my favorite television shows. Worlds collided, I tell you. And when I said goodbye to him, I found myself wishing I could go with him not just because I didn’t want to let go of him again, but because for the first time since my initial culture shock, I wanted more than anything to be back in America.
Maybe there’s nothing strange about wanting to go back to your home country after being away from it for almost five months. Maybe this feeling is just one of many factors that have led me to spend all month asking myself, “What am I doing here?”
Everything has changed since classes ended for the holidays in December. Everyone I know scattered across the country to their respective hometowns, and since New Year’s Eve they’ve been coming back one by one and they’re so different. Or maybe I’m the one acting different. Since I came back to Aberdeen, I haven’t felt all that comfortable hanging out with people. I’ve only been out a few times since New Year’s Eve. In more straightforwardly social situations, it’s become even harder.
Speaking of New Year’s Eve, I haven’t had any alcohol since then because on that night, for the second time since moving to Scotland, I got Too Drunk and ever since then I’ve felt completely turned off to drinking. After New Year’s I set a date to be okay with drinking again: January 20th, my birthday. Even then, it's unlikely my drinking will achieve the heights it reached in December ever again. Not only do I not miss it, but do you have idea how much money I’ve been saving?
Oh yeah, tomorrow is my 22nd birthday tomorrow! Hooray!
There have been good things going on this month. I’ve been to the cinema nearly every day for the past two weeks. All the good movies that get nominated for all the awards come out in December in America, but over here they all come out in January. So it’s only the last few weeks that I’ve been able to see films like Million Dollar Baby, I ♥ Huckabees, Sideways, Closer, The Aviator, Being Julia, etc. In that respect, it’s been a goooooood month for me.
Also, I have dived headfirst into my Buffy the Vampire Slayer education. Pip, as the proud owner of all seven Buffy box sets, is my professor. So far, I’ve watched season 6, then seasons 1-4 in order. I’m not just an addict. I’m a full-blown junkie, yo. I want to know everything there is to know. I listen to all the commentaries and everything. Why have I never seen this show before? How did I ever get by without it? Shit.
I bought tickets to fly out to Spain next month. I’m terrified at the prospect of going by myself to a country where I don’t speak the language, but at least I’ll have Jen to guide me. I showed her the glory of Aberdeen, and she in turn will open my eyes to the wonders of Cadiz. (I’ll let you know if that sentence is sarcastic or not when I get back.) (Just kidding, Jen! Seriously, there’s no way Cadiz will not be prettier than Aberdeen.)
Well, I have to wrap this up or I’ll be writing for hours, but I am going back to the “every day if possible” blogging routine. As for why I didn’t post for the last 3 weeks, all I can tell you is that I’ve been feeling kinda down and kinda lost (things I have not finished bothering you with, I’ll have you know) and I didn’t have it in me. Sorry! Thank you to those of you who are still with me!