January 9, 2013

Unexpected therapy

Today was my first scriptwriting class. The instructor is quite cool, and as it turns out is also a producer at the BBC.


One of the first things she had us do was pair up with a stranger and stare into each other's eyes for 90 seconds. You're probably thinking the same thing I did: UGH. It was exactly as awkward as you would imagine it. Yet for some reason I found myself doing it with very little trouble. When my (younger, obviously) partner would begin giggling to relieve her discomfort, I would just give her a little smile to let her know that was ok, even though I wasn't laughing. I find eye contact terribly uncomfortable, so it was surprising to me that I managed as well as I did. I can't lie, I'm still a bit proud of myself.

After that we had to interview one another, the process of which would give us the chance to determine what type of rock star, politician, and movie character the other would be. After the first few groups went up and got this wonderful/terrifying analysis of themselves done in front of the class (by not only their partner but by the instructor and the rest of the class), I was dying to go up and find out what they had to say about me. Because I am forever assuming how people see me and I just couldn't pass up the chance to see how people actually see me, even if somewhat superficially.

It was possibly the most interesting and insightful thing I've ever been a part of. I won't go into details just because it would take a novel to really dig into it, but I what it made me realize is that I'm actually an interesting person with my own story that's worth telling. I know it sounds kind of like I'm fishing for whatever when I say that, but the truth of it is that most of the time I don't feel that's the case. That I'm just one of the masses. As many people probably do, or why would "Jersey Shore" exist?

Random observation of the day: As a movie character, I was the strong, independent woman. As a politician I was Hillary Clinton. As a rock star I was Janis Joplin or Stevie Nicks. I will definitely take that last one.

January 7, 2013

A new semester

Back to school!

My first class of the new semester was Professor Awesome's Japanese Film class. Our first movie of the term was Spirited Away, which is one of the most well-known Animé films out there. Naturally I haven't seen it since I thought Akira and Ghost in the Shell were the only Animé films required for geek cred, but apparently I'm wrong. At least according to Professor Awesome. Also, he totally Comic-Book-Guy'd us about not pronouncing Ringu "rin-goo" because the "u" at the end is a lilt, not a letter you pronounce. I love you, Professor Awesome, but calm down ok? At any rate, I thought Spirited Away was really beautiful and funny and sweet. It was also incredibly bizarre. Not that it's a bad thing to be bizarre, it just reminded me of the perception shift required when watching Eastern movies. After the first lecture and screening, I'm quite excited to see where this class goes.

I did some running around to register and deregister for various classes and I'm now enrolled in Contemporary British Cinema, a class on adaptation between literature and film, and a screenwriting class in addition to Japanese Film. This semester is the most film-centric I've ever had and I love it. The only down side is that I only just missed out on arranging a two-weekends-per-week schedule. I mean, class on Monday followed by two days off, then class on Thursday and Friday followed by the weekend... how amazing would that have been? I know, I know, the problems of a university student. Even more tragic than first world problems.

One of the most interesting things about this day was how amazing it felt not to be the new girl anymore. I knew where to go, saw familiar faces in my class, even helped out a new, lost study abroad student. There seems to be a lot of them, almost entirely single semester, which makes me the seasoned expert among them. When Professor Awesome started chatting with me as a group of us were waiting outside the classroom before the lecture, I thought I saw a bit of awe on a few of their ickle faces.

Until they asked if I was another one of the teachers. I laughed and said no, but in my mind I was beating them about the head with my cane. Whippersnapper Raaaaaaaage.

Random observation of the day: Apparently when the subject of Japanese adult movies comes up, I am far from the only one whose brain goes straight to tentacle porn. Either that, or Professor Awesome can read my mind. This observation could just as easily be called "things I learned in Japanese Film class today." I have a feeling this won't be the last one.

January 3, 2013

New Year's resolutions

...are a thing I never do. Or at least I haven't done in the past ten years or so. I get the whole clean-slate idea of the new year, but the problem I have with it is that January is always ridiculously stressful and it's basically impossible to stop smoking or eat healthier or exercise more or give up the television habit. To me the first day of Spring makes a lot more sense for making resolutions. Spring is a time of renewal anyway, plus we're finally shaking off Winter (or at least seeing the sunlight at the end of the tunnel) and all the stress of the holidays has finally worn off. I'll think about some resolutions in March.

So, how's your 2013 going? Lovely, back to me. Mine started with chocolate cookies for breakfast and a good friend from Köln, Germany waking up on my couch. Her time here consisted almost entirely of watching telly, which was the best way I can imagine spending a long holiday weekend. She managed to get me addicted to two series: "White Collar" which stars the luminous Matt Bomer, and "Arrow," which is one of those shows that's so cheesy you can't help but love it... plus it has John Barrowman and (at some point) Colton Haynes, two of my favorite people to stare at.

We also went to see The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, which was exactly as amazing as I had hoped. The Lord of the Rings trilogy are collectively my favorite movie not only because they are so incredible themselves but because of the mind-blowing amount of love and joy put into them by everyone involved. As the prelude of The Hobbit began and I watched Ian Holmes!Bilbo and Frodo in Bag End, it was all I could do not to shriek with insane happiness in the middle of the theater. Basically any time Gandalf was on screen I wanted to hug him. And when the travelers made it to Rivendell, my heart soared. I know Peter Jackson has gotten some flack about stretching The Hobbit into three films, but I also know that what he made isn't strictly The Hobbit. It's the gaps filled in by the entire Middle Earth collection and I thought it was gorgeously and sensibly done. Besides, each moment in Middle Earth is a gift as far as I'm concerned, so if Peter Jackson wants to make it, I'm 100% on board.

The new semester starts on Monday. That's also the day my last paper from the first semester is due, so the next four days will be devoted to getting that done. Here's hoping I don't run into the same roadblocks I had a few weeks ago...

Random observation of the day: Movie theaters in the UK (aka Cinemas) are reserved seating rather than general admission. Much like my disproportionate reaction to the folder situation here, this rather meaningless difference between the UK and the US absolutely blew my mind. We are not in Kansas anymore, Toto.

December 28, 2012


What an insane roller coaster this year has been.

A year ago I was finishing my first semester at University. I was in a state of perpetual pretzel hoping that I might be able to spend a year living in London, but had no idea if it would actually happen. I was completely clueless about how insanely difficult it would be to get here even if I could... not that it would have stopped me for a second. I hadn't started on anti-anxiety meds yet. I hadn't experienced doing homework in a pub under Tower Bridge or accidentally wandering past the BBC building or knowing that my corner shop sells bread for 15p cheaper than Sainsburys.

Now I rarely have to look at the Tube map to figure out where I'm going. I know where all the good walking-distance pubs are. I have a GP and a National Insurance Number. I've seen several mysterious filming situations and also the Lord Mayor ceremony while randomly wandering the city. I found the best pub EVER, sang karaoke, had my American-ness drunkenly saluted, danced, and wandered London at 3am looking for the night bus to get me home. There's been money difficulty and culture shock and struggles to keep up with my schoolwork. There's also been new friends and new experiences and a lot of stopping and living in the moment with wonder.

I have no idea what 2013 will bring, but I have no doubt it will be exciting and terrifying and amazing and depressing and just plain awesome. Hope yours is the same.

December 23, 2012

Christmastime in London: a picspam

First things first: I finished that damn paper. This morning at about 6am. I immediately celebrated by watching Oz and Hugh Drink to Christmas!, which was far more hilarious than it had any right to be and also kind of got me in the mood for Christmas stuff. Since I wanted to keep myself awake for my weekly Skype call with Mom, I randomly decided to splurge on a travel card and head into London to check out some Christmas-themed sights.

I started at the German Christmas Market on Southbank. Actually I started at London Bridge tube station and chose to walk about two miles along the Thames to the German Christmas Market on Southbank because I didn't think it would be that far. It was a nice morning though, and a nice walk, so I can't really complain. Plus when I finally arrived, I made a beeline for the first "Glühwein" sign I saw. Really must make some of that on Christmas this year. Overall the market was a little bit disappointing... not a lot in the way of German-themed shopping stalls. They didn't even have those giant heart-shaped cookies you wear around your neck, you know the ones... No? Alright, hold on, we'll get to that later.

Since I was just on the other side of the river from Big Ben (and the entrance to the nearest tube station), I decided to meander across Westminster Bridge. It was just a bit sunny, and I suddenly realized I was witnessing a rare phenomenon: the Westminster Bridge Dicks!

Yes, I am twelve. Also HEE! Look at all the dicks!

Close up dicks. This will never not be funny.

That might have been the highlight of my day, I'm not gonnna lie.

Next stop was Hyde Park, where they set up something known as Winter Wonderland each year. I wasn't quite sure what to expect until I walked up to the entrance and saw this guy:

Oh boy...

Basically the place was a seething mass of hyperactive children, on-the-edge-of-their-rope parents, and couples holding hands and schmooping at each other. I did my best to ignore the crowds and just take in the insanity around me. The cup of mulled mead (a brand called Viking's Blood, RAR!) really helped.

One thing I found a bit odd was how German the Winter Wonderland was. It turned out to be about 85% more German than the German Christmas Market I'd just left. In fact, they had dozens of those cookie necklace things I was talking about:

 It's a thing in Germany. Don't ask.

Another thing that was rather insane was the whole carnival set-up. It was basically like an enormous traveling circus except everything was Christmas themed. And German. They had "Santa's Mirror Maze" and a "Christmas Coaster" and the "Barrel of Laughs" in which you pretended you were Christmas Cider being spun in a cask. Frankly I have no idea what's even going on here:

 Except that it's mostly in German.

Oh, and this was also randomly happening:

 It was the "Reindeer Flight Ride." I'm not joking.

I pretty much gave up any expectation when I came upon this:

 Nothing says Merry Christmas! like a haunted house.

 That's actually a Zombie!Santa climbing the tower.
"See you on Christmas, kids! Braaaaaaaaiiiiinsssssss..."

By the time I wound my way through to the end, I was frankly kind of relieved. I'm still not exactly sure what happened inside the gates of Winter Wonderland, but I'm pretty sure I'm not supposed to talk about it or remember too much.

I next wandered down to Harrod's Department Store for their supposedly legendary Christmas window displays. I didn't get a chance to take any pictures because the street was rather busy and I didn't want to be one of those douchey types who stops traffic to snap a picture of everything. Also the windows weren't so much Christmas themed as Disney-princess themed, which isn't really my cup of tea, so I just kept wandering until I got back to the tube and headed towards Covent Garden.

This was definitely the most pleasant and Christmas-y part of the trip. It was crowded as well, but there was a bit more breathing room and the Christmas decor was a bit less... er... terrifying, shall we say? Although I did stumble upon this gem: a Christmas tree made of Jack Daniels barrels.

Traditional British decor.

Actually the one thing all the Christmas markets had in common (including Winter Wonderland... ESPECIALLY Winter Wonderland) was that there was plenty of booze to be had. Not just beer and wine either, but hard liquor in shot and bomb form. You have to hand it to the Brits (and possibly Europeans in general), they never lack in the calming restorative nectar department. Bless them.

I meant to also go to Trafalgar Square, but somehow got it mixed up in my head with Tottenham Court Road, and basically when I realized I didn't know which tube station to go to, I decided I was tired enough to head home. So I did.

Here's a bonus picture, actually taken about a month ago when the famous Oxford Street Christmas lights first went up:


(In case you can't make out the picture, it's one elf diving into a jar of Marmite while another barfs into his hat. The caption beneath says "You either love it or hate it." For the record, I'm the barfing elf. Eurgh, Marmite.)

Random observation of the day: The Little Italy bagel sandwich from Bagel Factory is one of the most delicious things on the planet. I got to have one today. Which means no matter how annoyed I got by people bumping into me or how sore my feet became by the time I went home, today was an amazing day. It's the little things that do it sometimes.