The Insistence

Okay, so let me catch everything up to speed.

Last week, I went the London Zoo. It was surprisingly lame (despite being like, one of the oldest zoos ever) – in fact, I felt that the St. Louis Zoo was more exciting – and I hate going to the St. Louis Zoo. Although, I will admit that the Giant Galapagos Turtles nom’ing on some grass was adorable.

Furthermore, last week I was informed of tutorial for Introduction of Philosophy of Religion. So tutorial, for those of you who aren’t British education-savvy is essentially a meeting to discuss your coursework (comparable to your professor sitting down with you to go over your paper). This is pretty crucial, because the British do two separate gradings per assignment, one by the lecturer, and then a second by another individual (often outside the institution) to make sure the grade is fair. Seems like useless outsourcing, but whatever!

My lecturer actually wasn’t the one who graded my work, but rather, it was some PhD student who was incredibly nice. He explained to me that my content was good – that I knew what I was talking about (much to my excitement, especially since I thought I epic failed this paper), and that I was largely marked down on typos, grammar and structure (he asked if I proofed my work, and I lied, of course :P). I received a low 2:1. A 2:1 is a solid B, so a low 2:1 I would guess is a B- more maybe a C+ – but who cares! I passed nonetheless, which is what I was hoping for, and, a PhD student said I knew what I was doing, so that was all good.

But anyway, the best thing of the past week was I witnessed a protest. Unbeknownst to me, a protest brewed in London while I was travelling about. I made an aftermath protest, but it was pretty awesome. I noticed as I was walking to a bookstore that anarchists attacked an HSBC bank – spray-painting profanity, breaking windows and paintball gunning stuff down. Police officers were even hit. Furthermore, people gathered around picketing and sitting in the middle of a great intersection, effectively stopping traffic. There was more tagging along the road; the best was one on an art school down the road. The school had a window that was of a picture of a police car attacked and spraypainted; they painted over it saying “Do it for real.” I took pictures, it was legit.

But, the highlight of this was listening to an old guy yell at this girl who was observing the picketing. He was shouting about whether or not she pays taxes and that it is horrible what she was doing (to be precise, he said she was disgusting). Honestly, the girl was just standing there watching everything; he was definitely targeting her because she looked like a protester (I mean, she was in hipster-gear, who wouldn’t assume that)? The best part was the girl wasn’t fighting back, she was saying that she did pay taxes, she wasn’t protesting with people, and that she respected his opinions and she has her own. She even said “I tweeted that the protesters shouldn’t cover their faces, because it makes them look intimidating.” You hear about social media being used for political activism, but in fairness, once you hear it in real life, it sounds so bloody ridiculous.

Here is a link to better pictures than mine (which I am posting below): http://london.indymedia.org/articles

(Title comes from the 2009 album entitled “The Resistance” by the band Muse.)

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I Love Camera

Okay, I am lying, I don’t love camera, but I like it enough to share photos that I have been needing to share since forever because I am so horrible at showing pictures! Anyway, here we are! :D

Also, I have more pictures, so look out for them (particularly the ones from Stratford-upon-Avon, but I need to load them to my computer! In time you will see them).

(Title comes from the song entitled “I Hate Camera” by The Bird and the Bee.)

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In a City, Dark and Deep

Time to update life.

I have been busy trying to stay afloat on readings. This week especially. There have been, however, two and a half very important and cool events that happened this week that I would love to talk about.

First off, I was invited by my Religion: the Social and Political Context lecturer to a trip he planned to Hendon Central. I love this lecturer; he is just funny to interact with (he is from Russia, short, and often stumbles on his sentences). I thought his invitation was incredibly nice and I was really glad I decided to go. The trip to Hendon Central was to focus on the Jewish community living there. I thought it would be interesting to attend, especially because of my secret fondness for Judaism (Islam is slowly taking a backseat!), and also the fact that I live near Golders Green, which itself is a rather vibrant Jewish community. Not only did we go to a synagogue, but we toured the area a bit.

The synagogue was especially interesting. I’ve been to many before, do not get me wrong; but this one was a different style and discussion. We went to Hendon United Synagogue, which is a “modern Orthodox” (perhaps more on the style of Conservative Judaism moreso). Our discussion was less theologically focused and more sociologically focused (which I loved, because I’ve learned too many times the basic precepts of Judaism). For example, we discussed how the bar/bat mitzvah’s accounted as a social process, and how a bat mitzvah theoretically always existed in Orthodox/Conservative communities, and it is only the ritual that accompanies it which developed later that is prominent. We discussed the Jewish communities ties to the greater London community, and the focus on charity as seen through volunteer work (giving of time) and charity of money. Overall it was an incredibly experience; it definitely makes me more interested in Judaism (who knows, I may just drop Confucian/Chinese religion altogether and go in that avenue!).

Secondly, today, I went to a play. This play was Neil LaBute’s newest, premiering this month in fact: In a Forest, Dark and Deep. It was full of secrets, mysteries, sibling rivalry, possible alluded incest and so much more. It starred Matthew Fox (from Lost) and Olivia Williams (from Dollhouse). I never watched Lost, so I was especially surprised a Fox’s ability to act. He definitely stole the show (although Williams’ was not bad, but I will comment that her US accent forced her to speak a bit more forcefully, which made it sound like she was screaming all the time – but overall, she was lovely; she definitely had the harder of the roles, and I think she did it really well – her tears felt totally genuine). The play was about two siblings, who are seemingly estranged, who deal with a bunch of secrets as they clean up an old house in the woods. I thought it was wonderful, in fact, I bought the theatre booklet AND the actual play book. It also sparked up some interesting ideas for maybe a conference paper (Fox’s character, Bobby, consistently focuses on this idea of truth and sin and morality). All in all, I loved it.

Now for my half; on Tuesday, I went to go to an Amnesty International International Women’s Day event. It was in Camden Town, however, it turned out to be really lame, so I bailed early. However, I realised how cool Camden Town is – I later explored it a bit. It has this MASSIVE market with all sorts of vintage clothes and food stalls (I definitely want to go back), but also has the London Zoo and the Jewish Museum. I am going to head to the Zoo tomorrow, because I bet it definitely makes the St. Louis Zoo pale in comparison. :P

(Title comes from the 2011 play entitled “In a Forest, Dark and Deep” by Neil LaBute.)

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An Almost Springtime’s Day

Okay, before I start. I have lots of pictures to show you all. I know. I just keep forgetting to put them on my computer. I will put them up, I promise! But you will just have to deal with my paltry, less-interesting typographical symbols. :(

Anyway, this belated post will discuss my birthday, for the most part. Everything else is cool (first coursework finished for Introduction to Philosophy of Religion, although I am not sure I did well and I am pretty sure they wanted me to do references in Harvard – but this was never mentioned to me!) and I have been accumulating books. My scholarship money finally transferred into my bank account, so now I have money to do things and live and be happy. Religion: the Social and Political Context is growing to be really interesting, and it along with German Gender Politics and Confucian Ethics are my favourite classes (although Confucian Ethics is somewhat getting lower on this scale; I like the readings more than the actual class).

But yes, to more important things. On February 26th, I turned 21. My day was not with much fanfare, I usually do not like celebrating my birthdays big anyway. My Facebook was lambasted by birthday wishes and everything nice. My parents sent me two cards and the day was rather nice. I decided prior to my birthday that I would participate in a IFSA-Butler sponsored trip to Warwick Castle and Stratford-upon-Avon. I thought it would be really good to get out of London (something which I have been somewhat dying to do and cannot wait to do more of). I had to go to the IFSA-Butler office in Pembridge Gardens (which is pretty far from where I live, by the way) and we took a two hour bus ride to Warwick.

Warwick Castle was really interesting, or at least, the actual castle was. It was a tourist attraction no doubt, and it was pretty commercialised. They had people dressed up in “authentic” century dress and little Sword in the Stone booth. I was somewhat underwhelmed by the show they put on; perhaps it was because I have been to many a Renaissance Fair in my time and that sort of distorted my feelings. I was able to climb the ramparts and the towers and venture into the Great Hall where they displayed some artifacts that were left behind. Warwick Castle grounds consisted of a falconry area and a peacock garden; the falconry part was particularly cool, because they put on a show where they showed off the birds (there was this one bird, a sea eagle, that was incredibly massive and almost tore of people’s heads – it was brilliant). Little did I know, I could have left the Castle and explored Warwick in general. I wish I did, because nearby was St. Mary’s (formally the Collegiate Church of St. Mary), which looked particularly amazing.

After Warwick, we took a 30 minute drive to Stratford-upon-Avon, most popularly known as William Shakespeare’s birthplace. Honestly, Stratford-upon-Avon was the most idyllic, peaceful places I have ever seen. The tourist traffic was limited to largely one area (Shakespeare’s house) and the town was just lovely; it possessed a river cutting it down that had boats to take you back to London (water taxis!), a massive park, statues from the play Hamlet, a lovely church where Shakespeare was buried, and just a bunch of nice, modern things that made the place really shine. I enjoyed myself there, even if I did not do a lot of active things; I more or less just loitered and relaxed at the park. I bought a tiny souvenir for a friend and snapped some pictures of the Shakespeare-y stuff. All and all, it was a good day.

(Title comes from the play entitled “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” credited to William Shakespeare.)

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A Farewell to Days

Okay, time for an update. Is that cool with you? Great!

Classes are going great. German Gender Politics has me excited for every Thursday; it has definitely beat out Confucian Ethics for my favourite class. On the second day, we met our new teacher (our previous one, Dr. Daniela Tepe, was going on maternity leave – which is somewhat ironic, when maternity leave is one of the topics of the class! :P), Isabelle Hertner, who is actually a Ph.D candidate at another UK university. While a bit timid of a teacher, she is incredibly nice. On the first -real- day of class, she asked us who the first feminist was. Someone rose their hand and answered Simone de Beauvoir; her reply was “Yes, Simone de Beauvoir was an important feminist thinker, but she was not the first.” I rose my hand and answered with Mary Wollstonecraft, the writer of A Vindication of the Rights of Women. She smiled and class resumed. She later asked if anyone had read anything of A Feminist Mystique; I was the only one. Does this mean I will get a good grade? Let’s hope, haha! :)

In the past week however, I have been just attending classes. I have more or less seen everything in London there is to see (except for a couple places which I plan to see later in the year). I’ve e-mailed Dr. Olson and he mentioned attending St. Paul’s Cathedral for evensong, which I am definitely planning on doing. But the most important thing LAST week was Judith Butler.

Oh my gosh, Judith Butler. Now I haven’t read anything substantial of her work, but as a feminist, you do get to learn a couple points of theory when you read a widespread amount of blogs. :P Judith Butler talks about the idea of gender being a performative act, meaning, as one of my blogs has explained it, “the repeated performance of gender which actually constructs the physical condition of sex while simultaneously hiding that construction.” I know, hard definition is hard – but basically, it boils down to the idea of gender being a way in which sex has social meaning. Nonetheless it is pretty cool, and I cannot wait to read some of her stuff (I actually will be able to read some of her stuff because of The Year of Feminist Classics – although, I am still needing to finish Wollstonecraft AND Mill :().

I went to see Judith Butler at the London Review of Books, but the thing is, she didn’t talk about feminism or gender; instead, Butler talked about the writer Kafka, and the claim by both Israel and Germany that his works should be considered culturally theirs. She argued that art has constantly been used for propaganda, and that the claim by Israel for Kafka’s work, because he was  Jew despite the fact that he disagreed with Zionism, is a nationalist claim that could create a precedent for Israel to take the work of OTHER Jewish artists and say it is a part of their own unique, creative heritage. The claim by Germany is another type of nationalist claim, in that they wanted to use Kafka’s work as a premiere example of migration standards. They argue that Kafka could write in perfect German, and thus, all other migrants (because he was a immigrant from Prauge, I believe) should meet his standard. So not only is this nationalistic, but also racial/xeno-focused. Problem is, comments on Kafka was that he barely could speak German well and that his writing was probably doctored up. Butler spent most of the talk discussing how these claims are ultimately problematic. It was rather incredible.

But then came this week. This week is Reading Week – which means it is a week where there is no school and all I do is read and prepare/write coursework. I have one assignment due at the beginning of next week (for Introduction to Philosophy of Religion) on St. Augustine and David Hume. I am nervous because I am not sure I will be able to write what my Simon Cowell-impersonator teacher wants from me. We shall see I guess! I also want to get out of London sometime this week, but my money issue is rather tight. Not only that, but I am finding it incredibly confusing trying to figure out how the trains/national buslines work. I want to visit the Eden Project which is on the southwesternmost tip of England. I also want to visit Glastonbury and Avebury (both suggested by Dr. Olson), the first because of the whole New Age vibe, and the second to see a henge. Yes, I need to see Stonehenge still – but I am waiting for two lovely ladies to come to England first before I see it.

Last thing I wanted to mention is that today I went exploring some more where I lived. I found this really neat church, St. John’s-at-Hampstead that had a graveyard built around it. I think I love the fact that old churches in older countries do this: burying the dead in close graveyards. Definitely really cool. But the more important discovery was Hampstead Heath. Hampstead Heath is a park, or more like a giant park. And when I mean giant, I MEAN BLOODY HUGE. I found one section of it, and where I travelled was probably like 1/10 and not even that of its real size. Hampstead Heath was the place where one of my favourite movies, Scenes of  a Sexual Nature, was shot at, and it has one of the most spectacular views of the London skyline. I couldn’t figure out where the spot I needed to be at, so I wandered through a forest (mind you, this was frightening because people randomly appeared out of the bush – I kept dodging and weaving :P). I will definitely take pictures when I go back Wednesday.

Also, I have more pictures to put up, so look for those soon!

(Title comes from the 1929 semi-autobiographical novel “A Farewell to Arms” by Ernest Hemingway – whom I do not like, but whatever. :P)

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The Digital Visions of Michael Anderson

Here are a couple pictures that I should have put up a long time ago. I am a pseudo-overworked, lazy arse. Sue me. :P

Also, sorry about the format of this. I can’t be bothered to figure out how to make it nicer. I’m reading German Gender Politics homework. School comes first, right?

(Title comes from the 2006 novel “The Mercury Visions of Louis Daguerre by Dominic Smith.)



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Unsunny Weekday

So last week, I had classes. This week, I also had classes, but there were other things happening as well!. Let’s just catch up, shall we?

Simon Cowell’s class was less daunting than last time. Mainly because I had the opportunity to read. Although, I will still say that UK students are still intense and intelligent as a knife. Religion: the Social and Political Contexts is actually starting to get fairly interesting. Last class we talked about modernity, but this past week we discussed religion and globalisation. It was pretty cool! This week was also the week that German Gender Politics finally started. I was really nervous for this class, mainly because it is only meant to be taken by 4th-year European Studies/German students. But my fears were quickly assuaged. First, because a girl sitting next to me talked with me, and she hoped that the class was not so much focused on “politics.” Second, the class is a politics class, and from what the professor mentioned, the European Studies department doesn’t have a lot of pure politics classes – which means that Religion AND International Relations-majored me will beat everyone. Lastly, we are going to talk about feminist theory next class.  Confucian Ethics was a tad dry this week, mainly because we are talking about Confucius’ life. CE better watch out, because German Gender Politics is slowly gaining steam to be my favourite class here.

Also, this past week, Cassi came into London. Cassi isn’t studying in London, rather, she will be in Cardiff studying at Cardiff University. She came to London for IFSA-Butler orientation. I was able to meet up with her and hang out (and get a free meal!). It was nice being with someone that I knew and didn’t have to feel awkward trying to interact with. I only wished I could have hung out with her for a longer period of time! We originally thought she was going to stay at the St. Giles, which is where I stayed at, but it turns out she went to some place in Bayswater which is quite a distance away from anywhere I was. But, I will say, I got to know the Tube system a thousand times better. I think I win because of that. :D

There were only two interesting things of note left from this week. First, I went to a couple research seminars – but, to be honest, I found them completely boring. One was about a man trying to isolate the Lord’s Prayer in Maricon (which is a gospel, from what I listened), and another was trying to explain the term “the Son of Man” in Palestinian Arameic, and from that, conjecture a new meaning of “Son of Man.” Again, they were dry, and I didn’t have the power to really retain any of it. Second, I went to the Museum of Methodism. I know, it sounds somewhat lame, but the religion geek in me was so excited. Erin Totten told me to visit it and take pictures (although, photography isn’t allowed – but I took some videos instead :P). Not only was there a museum of how Methodism arose in England, but also, I went into John Wesley’s house. Nonetheless pretty cool.

Oh yeah, and I haven’t made any friends yet. I weep. I keep forgetting to join societies while I am at the university. For some reason, my student ID doesn’t want to work for the online registration, so I have to sign up for things in person. Lame, I know. I’ll work on it next weep.

Lastly, I have said that I have like a billion pictures to put up. And I have even more, including videos! I will put them up soon, I promise! Next blog post, I will do it this weekend, and it will have all the pictures/videos/etc. And I’ll also be making more interesting posts like certain critical thinkings on London/modern art/any random thing. Don’t fret everyone. Realise, these couple posts are just the opening overture – soon we will have a grand display. ;)

(Title comes from the song “Sunny Sunday” by Chic Gamine.)

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