Thursday, March 31, 2005

Home away from home away from home

Hello all! I’m reporting live here from the exciting hamlet of Wetton, where the biggest news since last I graced these hillsides was the neighbors’ sheep giving birth. That’s right, I’m back in rural England with the family they call Heeley, and by “they” I am referring to anyone who knows them because that is in fact their name.

I spent every day leading up to my journey here in the library, including the actual day I left, because I missed so many film screenings while entertaining my various visitors to Aberdeen. It hasn’t been hard work, but it’s been time-consuming. Not that I have any complaints -- I’ve been spending my days with the likes of Bergman, Renoir, and other names I like to drop when I’m trying to sound intelligent.

The train ride down here was seven hours long, but it wasn’t too bad because it takes me about that long to get through one article of my course reading. Actually, I’m exaggerating. It took me that long to get through two articles. It really is like reading a foreign language to me. I can extract a decent amount of meaning out of the text, but only if I break down the sentences one by one and reread entire paragraphs over and over to make sure I understand what each sentence has to do with the ones before and after it.

It takes me forever, but I like film studies reading. I like the little insights into the film they give me. I say “little” insights because most of the time I feel the author could have made their point in about half the word count, which is kind of annoying because they’re wasting their time and mine drawing it out the way they do, but I guess that’s what you have to do to sound “academic.” It’s one of the things I hate about university, but oh well.

It was so nice coming back to Laura’s house. I didn’t think I would have a chance to before I went back to America, but here I am. I don’t feel like a visitor at all this time around, which is a very good thing. It’s so nice to relax in a house with a family and home-cooked meals and sleeping in a real bed and having nothing to worry about (apart from my life, but whatever).

Even the kitty remembered me. When he saw me, he yelped and ran out of the room while I chased him screaming, “HERE COME THE CUDDLES!”

Laura and I watched Dodgeball today. I didn’t think it was all that funny, but it gives me hope that Sisters By Habit may one day be a reality. It’s nice to know that a studio will produce that kind of comedy, one that plays connect-the-dots with genre clichés and asks you to buy them but also makes fun of them. I’m serious. Y’all think I’m joking with this stripper-nun screenplay, but I mean business. It’s way the fuck funnier than Dodgeball, I can tell you that much.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Winona ain't got nothin' on Nun-Clown

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Friday, March 25, 2005


It looked like spring break was being kicked off to a horrible start, what with having to give a talk to my film class about threatened masculinity in Basic Instinct on Thursday and having to present my case to a university official about being kicked out of my Film & Literature class the next day. But, to my surprise, both of these things went incredibly well.

I'm sure at some point I've written about how terrified I am of speaking in front of people. My palms get sweaty, my heart races, it's impossible to form coherent thoughts -- and that happens just contemplating raising my hand in class. It's really, really annoying. It's even more annoying whenever a teacher is like, "You're all going to do presentations for some easy credit!" and my brain switches to freak-out mode and pretty much doesn't let up until a few hours after the actual presentation is over.

Well, this time it went relatively smoothly. I could still see my hands shaking as I tried to hold my notes still so I could read them, but I formed complete sentences and more or less related them to each other, so I consider myself the shit. The only method I've come up with to deal with the horrors of public speaking is to go up completely unprepared and explain what I know as if I was talking casually to a friend. It's pretty unprofessional, since I include my stupid jokes and odd phrasing, but it's more professional than vomiting or fainting, so I consider my audience lucky. Also, it probably helped a lot that Basic Instinct is one of my favoritest movies even though it's poisonously homophobic and misogynistic and I'm terrified of what someone might get from the film if they weren't watching it with a critical eye.

Today I met with some guy about getting my credit for Film & Literature back. Actually, this was way scarier than my Basic Instinct presentation. I was never sent to the principal's office back in school, but it was generally understood to be the scariest punishment conceivable. Having never experienced the reality of it, I could only imagine a door behind which lay intense adult disapproval and perhaps a fiery pit of some sort. Going in to contest my withdrawal from the course was kind of like that. Except now that I'm 22 instead of 12, my nightmare of what would happen when I entered that office was a bit more grown-up. Instead, I imagined a courtroom drama where I was clearly in the right, but a panel of mean old men were twisting my words and scoffing at my arguments like they did to Jodie Foster in Contact and she totally did go to outer space because there was eight hours of static, okay? Angela Bassett knows what I'm talking about.

Anyway, it was fucked up that I was withdrawn from that class but I was afraid the University of Aberdeen wouldn't see it that way because they were dumb enough to kick me out in the first place. But, like my other presentation, it went relatively smoothly. In fact, arguing my credit back was so easy that it seemed kind of a shame that all the cutting dialogue I had imagined in my fantasy version of the meeting went to waste. I was only in there for 10 minutes, but as it was finishing up I started blurting out random comebacks and excuses with no context at all. I just wanted to say them after planning them out so carefeully. As he closed the door behind me, I was screaming, "You can't just give it away like that! Come on, make me work for the money! Listen to me! I SHOULD BE EXPELLED FOR THIS!"

So, after a week of both these things weighing on my mind like a pair of anvils, it all turned out fine. Spring break has commenced and I'm heading down to England and then on to Germany in a matter of days. And I'll be reunited with Laura, whom I haven't seen in seven freakin' months! She's studying abroad in London for the quarter, and she's blogging it too. Check it, yo.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

A few pictures

Here are some photos from Glasgow and Perth I never got around to posting...

We arrived at Marianne's aunt's house after a long journey and poor David had to write an essay due the next day. And poor Greg was seriously jet-lagging. Meanwhile, I watched a rugby DVD and drooled. (There aren't any pictures of that part.)

The next morning we enjoyed tea and animated GIFs.

First, we walked from town to the Glasgow Cathedral and the Necropolis. The Necropolis was way up on a hill and there was a fantastic view of the city from the top. It had a real industrial look mixed in with the prettiness.

The Botanic Gardens were amazing. They had an orchid garden, which was gorgeous, and lots of other stuff you just couldn't make up. Also, vaginas.

As if we were going to be somewhere this pretty and not have a photo shoot!

A large building on the Glasgow University campus.

Buchanan Street in downtown Glasgow.

Now we're in Perth. Here's Greg, Marianne, Rufus (the dog) and I walking up to Glenalmond College.

Normally I'm almost as afraid of dogs as I am of horses, but Rufus was a good dog because he's so passive that most of the time you would swear he was dead. Yay, Rufus!

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Missing David

David had to leave a day earlier than he expected due to conflicts with his connecting flights back to America. Basically, he booked his easyJet flight to London too close to his flight back to Seattle and it would have been impossible for him to get from Luton to Gatwick in time. The incredibly unfortunate result of this is that David had to get book an earlier flight to London -- 24 hours earlier to be exact. So he'll be hanging out in the London-Gatwick airport for 26 hours. Shudder. It took me 36 hours to get from Aberdeen to Cádiz, but at least it was broken up between two flights, two airports, and a bus ride. Not that it was a party or anything, but it's much more yuck for David. Especially considering the 26 hours is before he even sets foot on the plan back to America.

Interestingly, by the time David reads this, it will all be over and he'll be able to laugh at the whole ordeal, or possibly cry uncontrollably. I'm just saying it's interesting.

It's a shame we lost a whole day of his visit because we had everything planned out for yesterday and today, and we had to scrap the trip to Cruden Bay to see Slain's Castle. He also didn't get to say goodbye to Ballal or Iain or Marianne. (Marianne was meant to have come home on Sunday but she still hasn't shown up...) We did bring him to the film quiz last night, but it was kind of a disappointment because we got absolutely slaughtered. Who the fuck knows which Steve McQueen movie provided the loose basis for the character of Indiana Jones? And don't even tell me you knew it was Nevada Smith because I don't believe you.

There was also a picture round where they juxtaposed images meant to suggest movie titles, like Elle MacPherson and Sid Vicious to symboliz El Cid. That was one of the easy ones. One of them was a picture of Al Pacino's head on a scale, and that was meant to be Always. Al weighs. HAR HAR HAR. Yeah, it was totally bullshit. Mostly because we didn't win. But at least we didn't come in last this time. That's certainly a victory for me and Rosie!

Monday, March 21, 2005

Pissed, and I don't mean drunk

I just got out of my last class, "Boys in Trouble: White Masculinity in Hollywood," and I was all set to spend the next hour and a half with Ingmar Bergman's Wild Strawberries when I realized I was going to scream out loud if I didn't write this out and get it out of my system.

I spent the last two hours of "Boys in Trouble" listening to the straight guys in the class make complete assholes of themselves, or rather demonstrate what complete assholes they really are. After watching the scene in Pulp Fiction where Ving Rhames is raped and Bruce Willis saves him, we fell into a discussion of why the roles would never be reversed and why Hollywood would never stand for Bruce Willis being raped on the big screen. Somehow, this turned into a discussion of why the idea of a man being raped is so much more traumatic than if a woman is being raped, and why being raped is the worst thing that can happen to a man. "Are you seriously telling me you'd rather be in a horrific car crash and lose both your arms, and your vision in one eye, than be raped?" To which a guy named Dave replied in the affirmative, "because it makes you a woman." He also mentioned, "I'd definitely rather be in a car crash than have a cock in my ass."

After the class took a five-minute break, Dave sat down next to a girl he had been debating with during the discussion and said nastily, totally out of the blue, "The term rape generally refers to women being raped. Don't even try to act surprised. When you hear the word rape, the first thing that pops into your head is a woman being raped, not a man. All I'm saying is, at the end of the day, I'd rather give shaft than take it." To me, that doesn't even make any damn sense. He took a discussion of male rape and made it into, "I AIN'T GAY!" How do you do that without looking like a closet case? Oh yeah, you don't.

Next, Dave had to give a presentation on Gladiator. While summarizing Russell Crowe's previous roles, he reached a film called The Sum of Us and made a face while saying Crowe played a homosexual, and offered the following synopsis of the film: "He runs around going on dates, or something, whatever gay people do." As if we're into gay voodoo or some shit like that, which he couldn't possible understand because HE AIN'T GAY.

I spent most of the class afraid to speak because if I opened my mouth I would just start shouting at him. What I did speak up and say was that straight white people tend not to realize that the world belongs to them and don't understand why some of us can't stop complaining (i.e. striving for equal rights) when the playing field is so obviously level.

The rest of the class was spent discussing how the idea of masculinity is under threat by things like feminism, the civil rights movement, gay rights, etc. The idea of masculinity is under threat because the notion of the nuclear family is crumbling, and tradition gender roles are becoming more and more useless. Women, blacks, and gays are shown in films half the time as secondary to straight white male characters, and the other half the time as villainous threats to straight white male stability. This isn't just about Gladiator, or the movies in general -- it's about living in a society that sends the unrelenting message to gays and women and ethnic minorities that they're lesser or wrong. The message comes at us from all directions and I'm sick of people who don't see anything wrong with it, or choose not to see it at all.

I don't ususally get like this. I'm not an activist, or a ranter. So it's kind of strange to me that I'm so angry right now. Everyone once in a while something like this happens, where I'm reminded that I'm different, because it's always been deeply ingrained in my mind that I'm healthy, normal, and perfectly well-adjusted and being in love with a man doesn't change any of that. (Thanks a LOT, mom and dad.) Maybe I never rant like this because 99% of the time I'm totally oblivious to the fact that something as silly as sexual preference could make a complete stranger hate me. Being gay is far from the top of the list of ways I define myself, but days like today remind me that, for the purposes of assholes like Dave, it's the only thing that defines me.

I forget about people like Dave because I try and surround myself with people who are the opposite of them, but they're still there. Daves are everywhere. Most of the time I just do my best to avoid them, but then I forget they exist again, and something like this happens and it hurts even worse.

In closing: fuck you, Dave. I'd rather be in a car crash than be in the same room with people like you one second longer than I have to.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Three down, one to go

Greg flew out to Spain for the term this morning, so now it's just me and David, and when he heads back to America on Thursday, it'll just be me and my flatmates staying in the flat again. How weird!

Greg, David, Marianne and I spent a night and day in Perth the other day. Not the one in Australia, that would be preposterous. What's wrong with you? No, this is the original Perth, the one the Australian Perth was named after. (That's what Marianne tells me, anyway.) British colonizers named new cities after ones in Britain all the time, but the least they could have done was call it "New Perth" like "New York" instead of taking all the credit for the cool name.

Mostly we hung out at Marianne's parents' house, which is way out in the countryside near Glenalmond College where her dad works. There isn't much to see or do in Perth, but it was great to relax, eat good food, and walk around town for a bit before going back to Aberdeen. David and I stayed up until 5 AM talking about Diva D, David's pop star alter ego whose career we plan to chart in a film one day. We've mapped out her career highs and lows, but we still have to flesh out her celebrity relationships and scandals throughout the years.

I like to think we showed Greg a good time during his week in Scotland. We worked him pretty hard, and by that I do not mean to imply that any of us rode him like a bitch from hell but rather that his schedule was packed from the moment he got off the plane to the moment he got in a taxi back to the airport. We spent a total of 12 hours on the bus between our trips to Glasgow and Perth. And dealing with killer jet-lag, too. But how often are you in Scotland? I like to think he'll be able to say, "I may have been totally exhausted and miserable every second of that week, and I never want to see Eric again, but at least I had a great time!"

I don't know what's happening with this class they've stricken from my transcript, but I wrote them a lengthy email last week and still haven't received any reply. I mean, the least they can do is write back and say, "We don't care. We're not giving you credit." But this is just cruel. Argh.

Friday, March 18, 2005

The last straw? I wish

I've just been kicked out of a course I've already completed.

I would say this is the last straw, except that there will probably be many more straws before I go back to America in three months. There are only a few things that make me yearn for this year abroad to be over. Katie Price is one. The University of Aberdeen is another.

I checked my email yesterday and received an email saying that due to my poor attendance in my Film & Literature class, they "can only assume" that I am "not interested in continuing the course" and will be "withdrawn immediately." Except the course ended last week. And I just turned in a massive essay for it. Aside from the fact that I didn't miss that many classes, it should be noted that I was on the register right until the end, so the effort to get me kicked out (probably by my advisor) didn't begin until after the course ended.

Why did I come to the other side of the planet to go back to high school? To me, so much of the point of university as opposed to high school is the freedom to make these choices yourself. It's my decision whether or not I can afford to miss any given class, or whether I'm putting in enough time and effort to succeed in it. I put in the time for this course, it just so happened that more of it was spent in the library than in the classroom. I still got more out of it than pretty much any film class I've taken at UW. Why is that not okay with these people?

As it stands, I'm not going to receive credit -- from AU or UW -- for a course I completed start to finish. Now I have to appeal and try to explain myself and maybe they'll let me back in the class, except it's already over, so what was the point of any of this?

Dear AU: I'll let you know if I'm "not interested" in continuing a course. OTHERWISE, LEAVE ME THE FUCK ALONE. Love, Eric.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Learning to juggle

Oy. Since the moment I got home from Spain it's been one thing after another, or more accurately, many things at the same time as many other things. Not that this is a bad thing at all -- it's just a shame I haven't had a single spare minute to write about any of it!

Well, Josh arrived the day after I got back from Spain. We went to St. Andrews, which I wrote about. After that I had to start working working on some major essay assignments for my classes. So when I wasn't entertaining Josh (or trying to -- who knew being tied down and forced to watch me sing the charts in drag wasn't everyone's idea of a good time?) I was in class or at the library. Then Katie arrived that weekend, except she flew into Edinburgh, so Josh and I took the bus down there to pick her up. And while we were down there, it's not like we weren't going to see the city and get our party on. So we woke up at 8 AM to pick Katie up from the airport with massive hangovers, or what would have been massive hangovers if we weren't still drunk.

Katie and Josh's visits overlapped for three days, so during that time I was trying to entertain two people and still get some work done on my essays, which were both due within three days of each other. Also, Katie was into clubbing a lot more than Josh, so I spent the whole week going out every night, and waking up at 9 AM to walk into uni to return library books because they were due at 10:30 AM the day after I checked them out and I was supposed to buy my own copies but I had no money which is also why I didn't take the bus and save myself two hours every day.

I think I did a pretty good job juggling Katie and schoolwork, but it was rough, especially the night before the Big Momma Essay was due. Yes, I stayed up all night again. No, it wasn't because I put it off to the last minute. Actually, the good news is that both essays themselves were relatively painless to write. I felt like I knew what I was talking about, and had some interesting ideas to explore. What the fuck? This never happened at UW. I'm so over the University of Aberdeen, but I have to admit the film classes here are excellent.

So I finally turned in my Big Momma Essay (that's a nickname referencing its size and importance -- not implying it has anything to do with Martin Lawrence's 2000 smash hit comedy Big Momma's House) and the next day we had to take the bus down to Edinburgh so we could spend the night there and get Katie to the airport the next morning. David was flying into Aberdeen that day, and would get on the bus to Edinburgh with us three hours after his flight landed. At least, he was supposed to.

This plan was derailed somewhat by the fact that David wasn't at the airport when we went to pick him up. Which, by the way, was already a disaster because the bus we were going to catch to the airport wasn't running, so we tried the other bus to the airport, but we just missed it, had to wait 20 minutes, and the next one didn't come because there was "an accident." So we caught a taxi, which, aside from totally relieving us of our cash, took forever because there was another accident blocking traffic on the way to the airport. When we finally got there, David wasn't there. Where was David? WE DIDN'T KNOW! It seemed totally sick to still leave town when David was presumably either somewhere in Aberdeen or on his way there, but we had no choice because of Katie's flight out of Edinburgh in the morning. But we did it anyway.

Eventually, I got a phone call from David saying he had missed his connection in London and there weren't any more flights to Aberdeen until the next day. So instead, I told him to book the next flight to Edinburgh and meet us there, at my friend Sarah's house, with whom we were staying. So we eventually got David to where we were. But it was pretty much a nightmare for four hours, during which we had no idea where on planet earth David was, and no way of contacting him to find out.

Katie left the next morning (I'm trying to make a long story short but it's really just getting longer and longer) and David and I caught the bus up to Aberdeen, except we had to catch different buses because mine was fully booked. So I sent David up to a city he'd never been to in his life after having him fly into a city he'd never been to in a country he'd never been to and not meeting him at the airport because I was still on a bus. I stayed in Edinburgh until nighttime and headed back to Aberdeen, where David and Rosie were having a laugh, thank god, instead of crying because something happened like David fell asleep on the bus and missed his connection and went all the way up to Inverness.

BUT THAT'S NOT WHERE THIS STORY ENDS. No, the very next day, in addition to having a full day of classes, Greg flew in for the week and I had two visitors again. And the next day, we all caught the bus to Glasgow because obviously David and Greg were not exhausted and jet-lagged after just flying over from America. We got to Glasgow and stayed with Marianne's aunt, whom none of us have met, but it's okay because she is awesome and gave us food and a place to sleep.

The next day, which was yesterday, the three of us woke up at 8 AM (I've been doing that for a couple weeks straight now) and did Glasgow in a day, which I think we did a pretty competent job at, considering we went there knowing NOTHING. Last night we caught a bus back to Aberdeen and got back really late and now I'm at uni again because I have to start working on another essay not to mention two presentations. Also, we're going to take the bus to Perth tomorrow and spend the night at Marianne's parents' house. Because we really have gotten out enough, you know.

Upcoming plans: the day after we get back from Perth, Greg is flying to Spain to study for three months. A week later, David flies back to Seattle. Two days later, Laura flies to London to study for three months. The next week, Easter holidays begin and I'll be traveling for three weeks. And the day I get back, I have a massive essay and a 25-minute presentation to do. And I have big travel plans after that, but I just don't have any room in my head to sort them out right now.

I'm completely knackered, but also a very happy boy. I can't believe I stayed home for four months before leaving Aberdeen. I just hope I keep this up because I've pretty much never been happier than in the last month, except for a few times but I'm sure we all understand that I'm loving life right now. Can't I do this forever?

Friday, March 11, 2005

My first Red Nose Day

Today is Red Nose Day. I don’t know how far this event extends beyond the UK, but I’ve never heard of it in America, so I’ll describe it for those of you who also might have made the mistake that it is a special day of the year set aside to glorify clowns. It does, however, involve clown noses, which is still kind of sick but not as sick as giving the actual creatures their own holiday. Red Nose Day, in fact, is a nationwide charity event which basically consists of people doing silly things to raise money for starving people in Africa. But it’s a lot more fun than it sounds, because celebrities get really into it and there was an 8-hour Comic Relief special tonight where Robbie Williams appeared in a Little Britain sketch and YAY.

They also had a Celebrity Fame Academy for Red Nose Day, which lasted 11 days and was on every night. I don’t know why I watched it so much, since they’re already famous and who cares if they win a singing competition? But ah-hah, the money from the voting goes to charity, so it’s cool. We invented a drinking game to go with it, so we had to do a shot every time people did certain things, like if Adrian touched the floor, or Gina licked her lips, or Kim stroked the microphone stand like it was a thin metal cock. We just invented it on the fly one night, but it was really good because we always got really drunk really fast.

So everyone is a winner on Red Nose Day -- great television for the people at home, and a fun way to raise lots and lots of money raised for charity. The only downside to all of this is the obsession with this fucking clown nose. People have been wearing them for weeks in preparation for Red Nose Day but they freak me out, because not only are they clown noses (TERROR) but they have little faces and crazy hairstyles on them as well (SHUDDER). It’s like there’s a whole clown face on the end of your nose. Ewwwwwww.

Other than that, it’s great. Giving money to charity in the UK seems a lot more mainstream. Every Christmas they have a Band Aid single where lots of famous musicians get together and make a single to raise money for charity and the whole country tries to get it to number one on the charts. And for Red Nose Day all these comedians have done specials and one-offs and everyone is happy and loves giving lots of money to help starving people in Africa.

I’m just so relieved it has nothing to do with clowns.

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