20 December, 2010


I don't support censorship.  I support free expression from people and others being allowed to form the opinions as they please.  But today, due to adverse weather conditions, the majority of the Fall '10 ICLC students are still in London, even though the original plan was for most of them to leave today.  A lucky few are on their way home, but most are not.  Some have been able to rebook flights, and some have been getting friendly with customer service.  For many big events around the ICLC I am the first person to pull out the camera and click away.  But today there are a lot of fretful faces.  Heathrow's inexperience with snow disruption is not how we would like everyone to remember their four months here. 

Not that I'm trying co cover up the fact that today has been long and a little rough, but here are some fond memories from the last 4 month.  The captions are punctuated with exclamation points to make them extra exciting!
Remember how much fun everyone had at Avebury?

Making Interrelationships journals was really fun, too!

It was a great time going on walks with Bill and getting left in the dust!

Dave had a great time stealing Bill's Pukka Pad (with Gen)!

Everyone was so excited to go to Edinburgh in August!

Bill really doesn't even have to make much of an effort to get a laugh out of the girls!

Orientation, when everything in London was so new and different!

A few months ago you could go out to a rugby match with fewer than 6 layers of clothes on!

Tim Kidd enthralls another group of students in Stratford!

Wales has castles!

Wimbledon's newest commentators!
Last Friday was a slow day on the donation front.  Sarah and I were trying to get the ball rolling!
Remember all the good times we had in London!

-Claire (and Elsie)

17 December, 2010

Full Circle

This week we have a post by a guest blogger.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, the ICLC's Travel Writing Competition carries one of our most sought after prizes, a £50 note.  The other honor bestowed is the publication of the winning essay.  This term's winner is a student who acts, blogs, collects change and, if you're keeping track, is offended by backpacks on wheels.  Congratulations Max Lorn-Kraus!
Forty-four empty wine bottles sit in my kitchen. Seventeen empty liquor bottles have a place above the stairs. Countless bags of trash and recycling have been put out for collection and even more one-pence coins collect in a small Thai take-away container, the skimpy plastic buckling under the weight.

I mention this not to flaunt my flat’s drinking habits or our consideration for the environment. I don’t bring up my hoard of change to brag about the few dollars I’ll receive when I finally change the currency back. Instead, these achievements represent my four months spent in London, measured in something other than minutes, hours, and days. Time itself is easy to measure. Experience is not. And though it seems later rather than sooner to realize it, I think the only possible reflection on my time overseas must be measured in experience. But when one hundred and five days becomes twenty-nine shows, twenty-two thousand three hundred and thirty-eight words written for a single class, forty-five Facebook status updates, five Tweets, and four countries, the outcome is inevitably, in the words of a friend, a “Great Collision.” The expectations I had for my time in London meet my actual day-to-day life. Fantasy battles with reality. Like holding a magnifying glass high above a book, then slowly bringing it down, the words are, at first, indistinguishable from one another. I know what it may say, what I want it to say, but not what it really does say. But when, in an instant, the magnifying glass is at exactly the right height above the page, the letters snap into focus, the words become clear, and the true value of each experience is found. 

It’s easy to look back and say I wish I had done more. More markets, more food, more exploration into parts of London rarely seen. And not only is it easy, it’s tempting. Like everything that falls into a routine, my time in London has become life. And what is more fun to complain about than life? Taking the Tube to class, I silently swear at tourists in my way. £2.50 for orange juice? Wasn’t it on sale at Tesco for £2.25? I want to visit the National Portrait Gallery or take a trip to Windsor Castle, but I have a paper due and there’s always next weekend. So concerned with what I had to do, I seldom took stock of what I wanted to do. What I can’t do when I touch down in the United States. It was only when a friend studying in Italy visited for a few days that I finally realized that life had simply been going by.

Sitting at dinner, going over where my friend had been and what she had seen of the city, the idea dawned on me to take her to my favorite view in the whole of London. Twenty minutes later we were on the rail of Southbank, staring up at Parliament, the reflection of the Eye distorted by the gentle waves of the Thames. It occurred to me, in one of those flashes of white light, that that specific image simply does not exist anywhere else on earth. Though it seems obvious now, walking home that night was like walking through a brand new city. Passing by shops I had gone by earlier that day, words and colors exploded around me. The accents I had grown so accustomed to seemed almost comical and the notes in my wallet were once again Monopoly money, oddly shaped and seemingly impossible. The wonder of being in another country suddenly took hold and I realized everything I had done so far was enough; I just hadn’t taken the time to appreciate it. The magnifying glass was at the right height and everything was clear. Every show, every word, every Facebook status and Tweet was done out of the United States. Out of my norm. This reality alone made the experiences special, and while doing more would add to the numbers, nothing could take what I had done away.

When I get back home, I will have countless stories to tell, of absurd Tube rides, memorable encounters, and cautionary tales. I will be filled with the knowledge that beauty exists in the sloping architecture of an eight hundred year old church and serenity can be found on a hauntingly empty train. My friends will sigh when I begin sentences with, “This one time in London” and I will show them pictures proudly, sure of the fact that my time here means something to someone else, even if deep down I know it does not. I came here to see things I had never seen before. To try things I had never dared to try. And while I could have gone further, while one can always go further, I went as far as I needed to go. Full circle. I arrived with a sense of wonderment, assimilated proudly, and will leave knowing more than I did, but still open to it all.

10 December, 2010

'was' we robbed?

Forgive the Cockney colloquialism. But, last Thursday, December 2, 2010, according to most of the British press, both the USA and the UK ‘was’ robbed, stuffed, insulted, put in our place, humiliated, etc., etc., etc.  It will be long remembered, like the December 7th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbour, as another ‘day of infamy’.  Having apparently been promised more, the England bid to host the 2018 World Cup of Football earned a meagre 2 of 22 votes. Out in the first round! No chance to build on a reasonable platform after the elimination of the candidate country with the fewest votes. Football is not ‘coming home’! Half an hour after FIFA chose Russia to host in 2018, the delegates chose Qatar over the USA to host the 2022 event. A small but exceptionally rich Arab Emirate grabs the limelight from the USA. President Obama said the decision was wrong.

This rejection will leave a deep scar on the English psyche. They can’t bid again to host the World Cup until the 2030 tournament comes up for grabs [or should I say ‘up for bribes’?] In the USA, the rejection is more of a minor irritant.  Most Americans probably didn’t even know that the rest of the world was ‘cocking a snook’ at the sporting aspirations of the two major English-speaking nations. The FIFA Executive’s decisions to award the privilege of hosting the World Cups of 2018 and 2022 to Russia and Qatar, while positive in that neither nation has hosted before, fly in the face of the fundamental principle of sportsmanship – “may the better ‘man’ win”! President Obama said so himself: Qatar did not deserve to win!  For Obama it was Copenhagen all over again. Elements of the British press were more forthright, with the Daily Mirror calling Russia a “mafia state rotten to the core with corruption” and Qatar a “medieval state with no freedom of speech”. Ouch! Very sore losers!

Sore and, quite possibly, unfair losers.  Mike Lee, an Englishman who worked on the successful Qatar bid, said the nation should not blame others. While technically one of the best bids, England fell short because its early bid leader alienated FIFA executives.
England may not be getting the World Cup, but if they ever host a major international basketball tournament, I think Ed Gordon might be a future team member for England.

The underlying message in the British press is ‘corruption’. The probe in Rupert Murdoch’s Sunday Times  and the BBC’s Panorama expose did not impress the ‘dodgy fat cats’ at FIFA control. A bad odour hangs over the Zurich HQ of FIFA, and especially over its head, Sepp Blatter. After all, our Prime Minister, David Cameron of Eton, Oxford and the House of Commons, the soon-to-be Sir David Beckham of Manchester United, Real Madrid, the LA Galaxy, England, and Posh Spice, and Prince William of Wales, soon to be married to the Kate Middleton and  later to be king William V, had devoted endless hours of diplomacy and wheeler-dealing to get the games. What a waste! What a lost opportunity: it would have been a wonderful wedding gift to Wills and Kate! To compound the national misery, three to five FIFA voters even lied to the future king, to ‘golden balls’ Beckham, to our most famous member of the Bullington Dining and Drinking club.  If this were the 19th century we’d send a gunboat or two up the local creek to bang heads together. Sepp Blatter, FIFA President, even had the temerity to rub chilli vinegar into the sore by proclaiming that it was the Chinese who invented the game.  Outrageous! Every English school-child and every member of the ICLC’s SPUK group know the truth. It was the English who developed the rules and exported the game round the world. Talk about kicking a man when he’s down – 2 votes and erased from the history books as the inventor of the world’s most popular sport.

The USA will not feel the shockwaves so intensely.  Some will say: “Soccer! Who needs it when we have thoroughbred, proper, indigenous, home grown American games like football, baseball and basketball.  We’ll disclaim paternity of ice hockey as we understand our frozen friends up north have a better claim. Let the Russians and Qataris have their tournaments; we’ll keep the Super Bowl, the World Series, the final four and the Cortica Jug!” But others will recognise the lost opportunity to dig deeper roots of football in American parks, clubs, schools, universities and professional leagues. The US has the potential to be perennial World Cup champions if their best athletes rejected the siren summons of touchdowns [misnomer], homers and foul shots. American women know this. Why don’t American men follow the female lead?

The biggest surprise is that the Swiss are meant to be impartial. Now we know that this generalisation is only true of the greatest Swiss of all time, Roger Federer. FIFA does need investigation by an outside organisation. It seems odd in the 21st century that a small group of men should have so much power. Such a concentration of power invites corruption. Remember the Salt Lake City scandal. And how did London pip Paris at the post at the last minute to gain the right to host the summer Olympics 2012?


08 December, 2010

Can you find yourself in here?

I'm not trying to mope about the end of the term, but it's getting to be time to say good bye to group 77 (the students of Fall 2010).  Here are some of the things that I have learned about group 77.
1. One of our students had to be put on a harness and leash when she was a toddler because she wouldn't stop at the corner.
2. One of our students told her mom that she wanted to move out of the house when she was 5 and that she knew where she would put her dresser.
3. One of our students accidentally included me in a mass email to his family, so I now know that he is a massive fan of David Cross because he then accidentally DEMANDED that I watch a funny video clip of him.
4. One of our students lost a race on a treadmill to an eight year old.
5. One of our students organizes his wardrobe by the colors of the rainbow.
6. One of our students likes to mess up her roommates clothes hanging in his wardrobe when they are organized by the colors of the rainbow.
7. One of our students is bothered that no matter what face Jimmy Carr makes he still looks funny.
8. One of our students is either named after a car or Morgan Freeman.
9. One of our students disagrees, in principle, with rolling backpacks.
10. One of our students "sort of" dated a man here for a few months but never got around to learning his last name, age, occupation or where he lived.
11. One of our students has done more laundry than all three of his flatmates combined.
12. One of our students likes to share her top bunk bed.
13. One of our students eats McDonalds breakfast before he goes to bed in the early morning.
14. One of our students spent the time that most other people spent working on midterms beating The World of Warcraft.
15. One of our students went to McDonalds to try and download Disney movies, but their wifi was too slow.
16. One of our students was told that even though Santa may not be real, Jesus is.
17. One of our students is mortally afraid of jello.
18. One of our students got lost at a nude midget convention when she was 9.
19. One of our students has found certain situations where he likes to lick people.
20. One of our students asked what the big clock was called.
21. One of our students was asked to pose in a tourist's photos as he was trying to walk down Harrington Gardens.  Now he's afraid to walk down that part of the street.
22. One of our students thought that the Eiffel Tower was lighthouse.
23. One of our students has gone on dates with a professional footballer, a Coca Cola website designer,  a royal marine, an accountant and a club manager.

Knowing some of these things is making Bill, Sarah, Heather and me a little less sad to say goodbye.


03 December, 2010

This is not a reading list (Part 2)

And so for Colin Firth to make his second appearance in our blog is two days, I present the thoughts of Heather and Sarah for what to read to get ready for life in London.

Claire, Bill and Sarah have their own opinions of what to read and watch, but as a mother of a very rambunctious 14 month old, I am rather short on time and therefore short on the time I can sit reading.  Although I too love reading as a way to pass my time, sometimes I have to get my knowledge of the UK and world events in different ways.

The royal wedding is going to be huge.  Sure, the Windsors and their people are saying they are aware of the current economic climate and will be taking that into account when planning the big day, but seriously, all you have to do is look at the million pound smiles on the two of them and you know that it’s going to be a million pound wedding.  And who doesn’t want to learn all about it?  Whether you are interested in it because you are a wedding junkie, because you like the fashion or because it’s good car crash entertainment, you will get your information from any good tabloid.  And I put forth the tabloid, Hello! or any other tabloid for your reading pleasure.  Sure it’s not Pulitzer Prize winning, and it’s not really that intellectually challenging, but I can guarantee you that you will learn all about the people that are in popular culture in the UK at the moment.  You’ll get the lowdown on what they’re up to, what they are doing that’s scandalous and who has sold the rights to their wedding photos for a disgusting price.   One thing to note is that tabloids in the UK are very different to tabloids in the USA.  You won’t find stories about how someone is having an alien’s baby in them here. You’ll more than likely find a different spin on stories that are covered by the BBC.  There may be an element of truth behind them or not, but more than one government expose has come of a story run by The Sun a ‘red top’ newspaper here that has a larger audience than The Guardian or The Times.  Something to think about.

If reading really isn’t your bag, may I recommend the BBC website?  You can read their news and entertainment but instead do as I did nearly 10 years ago and listen online to their radio stations.  About a year or two before I moved back to the UK, I started listening to BBC Radio 1 online.  Mostly because I just missed the place too much and partly because I was sick of all the commercials on US radio stations (The BBC is funded by listener licenses and therefore doesn’t have any commercials). When I finally got back to the UK, I felt as though I really had some clue as to what was going on here.  By listening to the radio, I heard the news which told me the big stories of the day, I heard the music which was very different to the US and I just generally got a good feel for what was going on.  Not to mention a better feel for regional accents as a good portion of the DJs are NOT from London.  It was one of the best things I did to get adjusted to living in the UK.

And so above I offer two alternatives to the traditional reading list for those of you feeling short on time.  You can delve into them feet first or just dip in and out while you are scouring the bookshelves looking for the other recommendations, but think about them.  They are the up to date commentaries on what is happening and a great way to get inside the heads of the Brits.  But know that there will always be time in my life for Pride and Prejudice and that Colin Firth will always win the wet tee shirt competition for me.

Recommending books is actually quite hard for me as quite often as soon as I finish a book, I can’t guarantee that I could tell you what it was about and if you asked me for the title of the book that I am currently reading I might not be able to tell you either. This is not because I don’t want to share these great books that I have read. It is just that I love to read and go through a lot of books. I am a classic London commuter, so get lots of reading time! It is on this note that I want to share my suggestions…

Last May a lovely woman called Katie recommended a book called Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman and even left a copy behind for Claire and me to read. As soon as I got my hands on it, I read it and passed it on to Claire. To give you an idea of the type of genre, if any of you have ever seen the movie ‘Stardust’ it was based on one of Neil Gaiman’s books. If not, then he is considered to be a post-modern science fiction/fantasy author.  This is not usually my first choice of genre, especially when it comes to fiction, but I enjoyed it. The story was originally made as a mini-series for the BBC back in the 90’s, but Neil Gaiman
decided to convert it to a book. This worked out well for me as I, along with pretty much most of you, missed the mini-series! ‘Neverwhere’ is mostly set in an imaginary London referred to as ‘London Below’ that matches up with real London places. It is a good and quick read and you will recognize a lot of the places mentioned in the book when you come over. I recently lent Neverwhere to one of our current students who devoured this book and asked me if there was a sequel, so surely that is a good sign?

If you want to score some points with our London Centre Director then I would recommend some background reading into British sports, particularly cricket! The more you understand it, the more you will enjoy it and will probably make you a front runner for any quizzes Bill makes. It is also particularly important to stay on top of current affairs. Not just of the UK, but of the whole world. We are small and our news is not just focussed on the UK. This will enable you to strike up conversations with strangers, and you will stand a stronger chance of winning one of Bill’s quizzes and it can be beneficial for your classes. Lately it seems like
the news has mostly been about royalty, snow and FIFA! In fact this morning I had to wait for them to stop talking about FIFA before they would cover whether or not the trains are running because of the snow.

By the way if any of you find any books telling you how to snag the royal before he officially ties the knot, do let me know!

01 December, 2010

Reading lists? I don't think so! (Part 1)

Even now, though I'm no longer a student, seeing a reading list makes my pupils dilate.  Just a little.  I should grow out of that feeling soon.  I love reading, and I do it for fun all the time.  It's why I wish my train journey were longer between work and home, and it's why I manage not to fall asleep early on nights when I'm way too tired think think about doing laundry and washing the dishes and even holding my eyes open.  Somehow I find the strength to stay awake to find out why the doctor was willing to sneak a computer into his patient who is being guarded in her hospital room because she is under arrest for grievous bodily harm to a couple of gangsters.

In recent semesters the ICLC has recommended reading particular books to students before they arrive.  The books tend not to be too taxing, as we realize that you have classes and exams and jobs.  We just aim to point you in the direction of something that will start setting the London scene for you.  For the spring 2011 semester we have been having difficulty picking one book that we all agree on, and the thought of sending out a reading list so that we can all have our input seems a little more intense than what we are striving for when we recommend something to read.  Instead we are each having our own separate say for this coming term.  Take from it what you want.

Recently I have been into murder mysteries.  I discovered the author Ian Rankin when my mother gave me two of his novels a few years ago.  He writes gritty crime novels set in Edinburgh.  This is particularly pertinent as Edinburgh is a destination that we try to organize a trip to each semester.  The main character of these books is Inspector Rebus who drinks at the Oxford Bar in New Town in Edinburgh.  Last weekend, when we had our group trip to Edinburgh, Bill and I found the Oxford Bar and went there for a drink.  I would like to say that we then proceeded to solve mysteries and enforce the law, but, if I'm honest, my feet were cold and wet and I was happy to get back to the hostel and warm up.  If crimes were stopped that Saturday night they weren't stopped by Bill and me.  It's possible that Bill may have done some crime fighting on his own once we parted ways, though.
Nope, no crimes being committed here.

On a related note, when I was getting ready to move here six years ago I had a regimen of films that I watched on repeat.  If I remember correctly they were Pride and Prejudice (the BBC miniseries where Colin Firth wins the wet t-shirt contest), Love Actually, Bend it Like Beckham and Four Weddings and a Funeral.  After arriving I also discovered the TV shows The Vicar of Dibley, Little Britain and Doctor Who.  Everything listed here remains a favorite in my library.  Have a look at them if you have a chance.

Sir Bill of Harrington Gardens confers the honour of £10 on Dame Alyssa of Figueroa
The BIG EVENT - other than Arsenal winning the Premiership - next term, is the Royal Wedding on 29/4/11. The USA went 'republican' in1776. Britain remains a constitutional monarchy. There are upcoming films about Edward VIII and his twice divorced US wife and George VI and his stammer. Look at our language: the ICLC is located in a 'Victorian' part of London; our underground and sewers are 'Victorian', we talk of Elizabethan literature, the Jacobean period, Georgian architecture, the calm before the storm in the Edwardian period. We have a Jubilee tube line [silver jubilee] and two jubilee [golden jubilee] bridges across the Thames. Don't forget our subsidised national theatre companies, the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Royal National Theatre. Our biggest industry, after finance, is tourism. Monarchy is the core institution of tourism. Why do so many people want to see the 'changing of the guard'? Why will the world be watching two 28 year old former college flatmates get married? Why is their wedding day a national holiday? We celebrate three big events in 2012 - the Olympics in the east end, the 40th anniversary of the London Centre and the monarch's 'Diamond Jubilee'. Long may she reign over us because after her comes Charles III and his Duchess Camilla, a prospect very few are looking forward to. We have a great deal of continuity. When Eliabeth II ascended the throne and became head of State, Harry S Truman was US President. In the period since then, the USA has had 12 Heads of State while the UK has had just one. The DNA of the great 9th century Anglo-Saxon king, Alfred the Great, can apparently be traced in Elizabeth II.

The USA doesn't have this system of nomenclature & cultural identification. Nor do they confer knighthoods, peerages, damehoods. We have actors - Sir Derek Jacobi, Dame Diana Rigg, Lord Olivier, Dame Judy Dench -  sports people - Lord Coe, Sir Steve Redgrave [soon it will be Sir David Beckham] - musicians - Sir Mick Jagger, Sir Elton John, Sir Paul McCartney [unfortunately, Ringo hasn't been knighted yet] - academics, businessmen, politicians, even foreign nationals, receive royal honours.  Imagine if Brett Favre was Lord Favre of Baton Rouge, the Yankee short stop was Sir Derek Jeter, all past presidents were 'lords', etc. And opening comedy week at Madison Square Gardens next month is The Honourable Christopher Julius Rock, CBE. Even humble people who work as lunch staff at schools or 'lollipop' persons (crossing guards) in schools get honoured.

My 2nd choice would be the American Anglophile Bill Bryson's short biography of Shakespeare; 3rd would be Mohsin Hamid's terrfic little novel, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, for anyone interested in the post 9/11 world in which we live.

Your trivia question for today.Where in the UK is Elizabeth II technically not Elizabeth II?

-Claire and Bill

26 November, 2010

It's The Final Countdown

For the Fall 2010 students it is the final countdown of weeks left in London.  You are counting down your weekend trips, the tourist sites you STILL haven't been to and let's not forget the number of plays/sporting fixture/gigs still remaining to be seen.  For the Spring 2011 students it is the final countdown of days left in Ithaca before your semester in London, of days left on the 28 day holding period (if you are applying for a visa), of figuring out exactly how many credits you need to take here in London and which classes you will be taking (actually, I bet you all have a pretty good handle on that one already).

For Bill, Sarah, Heather and me we have a lot going on during this season, too.  This is the high season for competitions.  Bill has just named the winner of the dinner quiz (the one where you win a homemade dinner at his house!  I was one of the lucky winners of this one in the Fall of 2002.  That's probably why Bill knew that I would be good hiring quality in 2009).  Coming up is the Travel Writing competition, for which the prize is £50.  There is the Photography Competition, voted on by the students.  And of course the new term-long Scavenger Hunt.  The prizes for these competitions will be given out at the End of Term Event.  Fall '10 students, find info about these competitions on the board in the front entry.  But the competitions don't end there for us.  The Spring '11 students are getting weekly emails from Bill with quizzes to win a bit of cash upon arrival in January. 

Here are some reminders of the glory that comes with winning:
Dena was the first to ask a man in a kilt to dance with her at the ceilidh! That was worth £5. I don't think he wanted the dance to end.

Carrie was a bit of a quiz master in Stratford and Oxford.

Heather taking £5 off of Bill.

Back in August Theresa collects her summer winnings for answering one of the quizzes in the pre-arrival emails.  I bet £10 made her jet lag a little less bitter.

 -Claire (no help from Elsie)

12 November, 2010

F10 Scavenger Hunt #7: Tech support

You're abroad and to stay in contact with your friends and family at home, of course you use a computer!  Also, exams are on the horizon, which means essays for many classes.  You and your computer are finding yourselves inseparable.  So consider the unthinkable happening.  It's not pretty, but in accordance with the laws of thermodynamics, entropy is a fact of the world.  Nothing lasts forever.  Computers stop working, need fixing, take on minds of their own.  There is never a good time for it to happen, but we all know that it is an inevitability.

Often the phrase 'cut the cord' has to do with people perceived as being overly attached to one another.  And it's a similar principle, though referring to a different type of cord, when it comes to people and their computers.  They are such helpful things that it's hard to remember the days when we wrote letters- not emails, looked up businesses in the phone book- not on Google, saw our friends- not stalked them on Facebook.  My job might be a whole different position if I were not in such frequent contact with the United States.  So when we find our selves in situations of forced cord cutting, i.e. when your computer dies, it's a rough adjustment.  How did work happen before everyone had their own desk top and laptop computers?  Realistically, it's been a long time since the concept of a programmable device created by humans to simplify work first crept into society.  According to the Oxford English Dictionary the first recorded use of the word 'computer' was in 1646.

This week's installment of the scavenger hunt involves finding pre-computer age objects.  I would like you to find some pre-Norman remains.  They arrived in Britain in 1066, and supplanted the Anglo-Saxons, who, themselves, probably supplanted some Celtic peoples.  But have a look around London and you will find their traces.  Church foundations, place names,.... they are actually all around us.  Queen Elizabeth I, the last Tudor monarch and the last British monarch not to rule Scotland, died in 1603.  As I have decided that the computer age began with the first recorded use of the word in 1646, I would also like you to find something that is either Tudor or Elizabethan.  None of those 20th century buildings that have been made up to look like something out of the 16th century either.  Elsie expects the real deal.

Staple Inn is a rebuilt copy of what it looked like in the 16th century

11 November, 2010

Dual Citizenship

My right to work at the ICLC is based on the fact that I am a dual citizen.  I am both American and German.  Don't worry, despite some rumors, it is completely kosher and loads of people are dual citizens. The Germans are aware that I'm also American and the Americans are aware that I'm also German.  Being a German citizen makes me a member of the European Union and eligible to work in all EU countries.  Being a natural born American citizen makes me eligible to be the president of the United States.  So both passports come with perks.  Today I would like to announce the "dual citizenship" of the ICLC's blog.  Begun using Blogger, we are moving over to the IC blog format and continuously experimenting with it.  The original blog will still be there, but it is now a dual citizen of Ithaca College and Blogger.
Decoration in my office

On a side note, the ICLC will have at least 3 dual citizens coming to study in London this spring.  I have seen a number of cases of students coming over here to study, falling in love with Europe and chasing up their roots to find out if they can become dual citizens.  Even if it isn't possible to to get a hold of that second passport, digging into family history and ancestry can be really interesting.  A few years back I researched where my great grandfather on my father's side had been born in Northern Ireland.  When my brother came to visit me in Dublin, we took a bus north of the border and found the site of the family farm that his birth certificate said he had been born in.  It is now a tile shop, with very generous proprietors who gave us a large ceramic tile with a picture of a French boulangerie to commemorate our trip.
Wall decoration outside Sarah's office
There is a show that the BBC makes called Who Do You Think You Are? and I have decided that I would like to become a celebrity so that one day they will do an episode based on me.  The premise is that they take a well known figure (usually a tv celebrity) and help them track down their roots.  Often the celebrity has some sort of question about a relative that they are interested in answering.  Sometimes they trace families back to the person's grandparents, sometimes they are able to follow them backward centuries.  I have seen a few episodes where the people were even traced back hundreds of years to royalty.  My grandfather, on my mother's side, was convinced that we were illegitimate Hapsburgs.  I'm ok with this allegation because being illegitimate probably means that there isn't much of a history of in-breeding in the line I descend from.  I know that the point of the show is to get people interested in making their own discoveries about their past, but my mother and I had a look at some old papers that my grandparents brought over from Germany, and they are written in a beautiful Gothic German script that is nearly impossible to read.  The language barrier was a bit rough, too, even though my mother and I have both studied some German.  The German language seems to go through overhauls once in a while, so it was a little like trying to read your family history as if Jane Austen had written it.  No, I think I would like the BBC to help me with my research.
The Union flag with the Scottish Royal Standard sneaking in on the side
We have a worldly staff, with all members culturally associating with more than one country.  Bill was born in Canada but has spent more than half his life in the UK.  Sarah is Welsh but grew up in Holland.  Heather is American and is married to a Yorkshireman.  Choosing to remain a bit of a mystery, it seems that Elsie, who is mostly manifested in our blog, is a dual citizen of Ithaca College and Blogger.  Congratulations Elsie!

-Claire (Elsie would have helped, but she is on holiday celebrating her new citizenship)

05 November, 2010

Remember, Remember the 5th of November?

November is a month of remembrances in the UK. The most significant occurs on November 11th, the day when World War One ended, and the day when we remember and give thanks for the sacrifices of the dead, disabled, missing and survivors of all wars. And so we should remember and give quiet thanks to the thousands slaughtered in the grim trench warfare of the western front and in all subsequent wars. Retrospectively, of course, it seems like WWI – unlike WW2 - was a wholly unnecessary war. The pain of separation, wasted lives and broken bodies is greater as a result.

Another November day, the 25th this year, is a huge day for Americans, a day of family gatherings, celebration and thankfulness. November25th is Thanksgiving, not much of a day to remember for the British. They stayed put while radical Protestants took ship on a hazardous 3,000 mile journey across unpredictable waters to get religious freedom. Had they stayed and fought for religious freedom, who knows whether there would still be a monarchy and established church here! Had they stayed they would have learned to play cricket, always an advantage in life.

The strangest of the ‘remembrances’ occurs TODAY, the 5th, Guy Fawkes Day. Like Thanksgiving it is meant to recall the ‘freedoms’ of the English. These freedoms began in the 12th century when the monarchs summoned lords and commoners to a consultative process called ‘Parliament’. In 1605, 400 years after the birth of Parliament, Guy Fawkes and his associates tried to blow up the Palace of Westminster during the State opening. The plot was rumbled in the nick of time, the king, his chief ministers, the bishops, gentlemen from the shires and the royal family were all saved to rule or misrule in perpetuity. Hence Nov 5th recalls English liberties, a reasonable enough event to celebrate.

But, there are two puzzles about our celebrations today. First, should we be celebrating in the way we do? Fireworks are OK, but they do paradoxically suggest that the attempt was successful. What is critical about November 5th is that there was no explosion! Second, the bonfires are even more problematic as participants in the riotous celebrations are meant to hurl ‘guys’ onto the fire and watch them burn. The throwing of human effigies or ‘GUYS’ on to huge bonfires in our city parks recalls the religious zealotry of the wars of religion when Catholics burnt Protestants and vice versa. But Fawkes and his co-conspirators were not burnt: their crime was high treason and punishment for this most serious of crimes was being dragged on a hurdle head down through the streets of London, from the Tower to Westminster in Fawkes’ case, there to have his genitals cut off and displayed in front of him and then to be hung drawn and quartered. Ouch! The same happened to William Wallace three hundred years previous.

I’m not so sure that we should be ‘remembering’ the 5th of November and man’s brutal inhumanity to man.


04 November, 2010

A Letter to the NFL

The NFL road show, featuring the San Francisco 49ers and Denver Broncos, with Jerry Rice and John Elway in tow, plus scores of hangers on and media technicians, arrived in London last week. Almost 85,000 people attended the match at the brand new Wembley Stadium.  This 4th in the NFL’s annual series of ‘international’ matches was a close game, dull in the first half, more exciting in the second, when 37 of the 40 points were scored and two critical refereeing decisions shaped the outcome. The 49ers came out on top, a bit fortuitously, but any win is good when a team has a 1-5 record. The game turned on penalties that negated two explosive Bronco touchdowns. The Broncos’ place kicker also missed a conversion which would have brought his team to within a converted touchdown of the ‘Niners’.  “Wait a minute,” I jokingly commented to Gen at the time, “a skewed conversion reminds me of the ‘spot betting’ scandal in the recent Test series between England and Pakistan.” Had the Broncos place kicker found a betting shop in central London? What are the odds on a missed convert, one that is not even blocked, not even close? Shades of “the 5th ball of my 4th over will be a ‘no ball’”. To say nothing of the officials who were decisive in turning a game Denver should have won into the 49ers’ second win of the season**.
All dressed up for the game!
Over here we believe that American football developed out of Rugby which in turn developed out of football/soccer. Both parent games are played on a wider and longer pitch, for longer periods [80 minutes and 90 minutes], with fewer substitutions and no time outs. When substitutions are made in football’s Champions League the distance the player has run is shown on the screen: for example, in last night’s Tottenham Hotspur v Inter Milan game, the Spurs winger Aaron Lennon was substituted in the 80th minute having run over 10km. [He also made tackles and was tackled.] Spurs have a minimum of 38 games each year and are allowed just three subs per game. To play football at this level the players need to be very fit. No doubt the same is true in US football, but the game doesn’t show it. No US player would run 10km in a game.

The main novelty the Americans introduced was the forward pass. Much of the equipment and the sophisticated strategy came later.  The biggest difference between US football and its grandfather, Association Football or soccer, and its father, Rugby, lies in the amount of time the players actually PLAY the game.  I am not challenging the supreme fitness of the players, nor the sophistication of the strategy which calls for numerous substitutions and time-outs. But for the soccer or rugby public it does seem strange that US football has too many occasions when fit, professional athletes stand in half huddles on the pitch doing nothing but drinking water and chatting amiably to each other.  US football is far slower and, arguably, less physically strenuous than other versions of the game.
Non-committal QPR hat, Bill

Check this data compiled during the first half of the Wembley match.

ACTUAL CLOCK TIME FOR 1st half: start 5:00pm; finish 6:12pm = 72 minutes
ACTUAL GAME TIME: Two 15 minute quarters = 30 minutes
ACTUAL PLAYING TIME: [from snap to end of play]
Possession 1: DENVER 37 seconds [5 plays]
Possession 2: SF 31 seconds [4 plays]
Possession 3: Denver 50 seconds [8 plays]
Possession 4: SF 70 seconds [13 plays]
Possession 5: Denver 49 seconds [6 plays]
Possession 6: SF 37 seconds [6 plays]
Possession 7: Denver 41 seconds [7 plays]
Possession 8: SF 41 seconds [6 plays]
Possession 9: Denver 83 seconds [12 plays]
Possession 10: SF 1 second [1 play]
TOTAL PLAYING TIME:   440 seconds = 7 minutes 20 seconds for 68 plays OR roughly 24% of the ‘game time’ and a mere 10% of the ‘real time’ of 72 minutes. Each play lasts on average about 6.5 seconds.

I ask these questions of the NFL.
1. Do fans attend games to watch superb athletes at the peak of their performance OR to be otherwise entertained by the razzmatazz, the cheerleaders, the Mexican waving, the tailgate parties, etc.
2. Can football players & fans cope with bursts of play that last longer than 10 seconds?
3. Do the cheerleaders, also fit, choreographed and with facial make-up [like the running backs and receivers] perform more strenuously and for a longer period of time in a game than the players?
4. Who is more highly paid? The [arguably] underperforming fit athletic footballers or the equally fit cheerleaders?
5. Are some fans more active than players in a match? Do they burn more calories watching a game & cheering for their team than the majority of kitted players?

** DISCLAIMER: The author does not believe that the BRONCO place keeper and the referees placed bets on the outcome of the match.

Thanks for this one, Carter!

29 October, 2010

F10 Scavenger Hunt #6: Wise words to live your life by...

As I sat in Purity Ice Cream last Sunday, myself and 3 friends came up with a motto that I think we should all start living our lives by.  Be Awesome, Be Funny, Get Bunk Beds.

Be Awesome:
A friend of mine recently applied for a graduate program that she was really excited about, but she had this fear that kept tapping her on the shoulder as she wrote her personal statement saying, 'This isn't your background.  Can you actually get into this program?'  Sometimes we are our own worst enemies, but having a will of iron, she muscled through her statement.  What was her trick?  She wrote the words, 'Be Awesome' at the top of the page she was typing.  In those moments of doubt she referred to the top of the page and kept going.

Be Funny:
Another friend of mine is an actor in New York.  He has a great sense of comic timing.  He said that he often thought of Michael Richards talking about his time on Seinfeld, and the fact that he wrote himself a message above the doorway that he used to make his entrances on the show.  He had written, 'Be Funny' over the door frame, off stage.  It was a simple message, but we commented that this carried the same obvious strength of the 'Be Awesome' message.

Get Bunk Beds:
This weekend, my reasons for being in Ithaca were two-fold.  I was there to help out at orientation for the Spring '11 ICLC students and to attend the Ithaca College All Theatre Reunion, as I am an alum of that program.  Having graduated in 2004, I have been out of college for less than 10 years.  Though I'm not always in amazing touch with my friends from college, most of us have a pretty good sense of where we have all gone with our lives and catching up with one another wasn't that difficult.  It made us feel nice and young.  On the other hand, we were staying in a house that is rented by current theatre undergraduates, and has been the venue for many opening night parties.  Being in that atmosphere, I felt nice and old.  We discussed this fact over our ice cream and kept referring to the film Big, not sure if we fell into the young or old category.  Because we ourselves had somewhat curious and rotating sleeping arrangements in the house over the weekend, someone was reminded of the bunk beds that Tom Hanks had in the movie, and how he invited a woman to stay over and then called the top bunk.  The four of us eating ice cream decided that to really complete our weekend, would should all get bunk beds (ultimately we didn't).

Anyway, we stuck these statements together and came up with an entire motto to live our lives by.  I think this sums up my return to Ithaca this past week, though.  It was awesome, and I laughed a lot, and even though there weren't bunk beds, maturity sunk to a new low when one of my friends was tricked into eating a dog biscuit.  And if this motto fails, there is always old faithful, 'It it's not Scottish, it's crap'.  I would like to thank Mike Myers, Patrick Stewart and the writers working on SNL in 1994 for that one.

Many people have asked Bill and me how our trip to Ithaca was.  For my part, it was great.  I hope everyone else had a good time over Fall Break, too.  To tie this to the scavenger hunt, your challenge now is to find either bunk beds or an oversize piano like the one in Big that Tom Hanks played on in FAO Schwartz (or something like that).

20 October, 2010

I saw Elsie! (Pretty much)

This is a completely true story:

This morning Sarah was in my office with me.  We were the only two in the building, as it's Fall Break and most people are enjoying some time away from the London Centre.  Weren't we surprised, then, when my phone started beeping to let me know that I had an internal call coming in!  There is the normal phone ring that you get when an external call comes into the building, but that wasn't what I heard.  The internal ring is more like a beep.  It's a repeating monotone and the caller's extension appears on the phone's screen.  The extension that appeared was 200, which is the phone on the Work Study desk across from mine.  No one was sitting there.  Last night when we were closing Sarah went through the building to make sure it was empty and to lock it up.  This is what happens every night.  I set the alarm when we left, and I am sure there was no one else in the building with us.  I was the first one here this morning, and when I opened the door, the alarm was set as I had done it the night before.  There was no one else in the building!
Elsie left her mark in push pins.  I may have helped her.  This was back when I thought she was a figment of Bill's imagination.
As I said, Sarah was in my office when this happened, and we were the only ones here, so we know that it could only be Elsie calling.  Sarah said that this reminded her of the first time she was alone in the building.  Bill, Heather and the students were away on a trip, and Sarah was working hard, when the lights of the 6 phone lines coming into the building started flashing for her own personal light show.  Only slightly unnerved, she checked with Heather and Bill when they returned to find out if this was something they had ever seen.  Heather said she had seen it plenty of times before.  So perhaps Heather has more in-depth knowledge of Elsie than the rest of us guessed?

This is what my phone looks like when I get an internal call, though I wasn't fast enough to capture it with Line 1 lit up.
Not that I'm trying to spook anyone as Halloween gets closer, but I had always thought of Elsie as the creature that would reach through the balustrade for my ankles as I ran up the stairs from locking up the basement in the dark (the light switch is at the bottom of the stairs, so it's a dim trip up).  Or perhaps she would be the one banging on the radiator behind the closed door of room 8.  I guess I just didn't expect her on the phone.  I think that one has been used for the plot of more than one horror film.  Come on Elsie, show us a bit of creativity!

I guess the moral of the story is that Elsie doesn't make outgoing calls, because if she did, it might be a worry to us all that she is going around the ICLC to phone her friends, and she might be giving the alarm code away.  But the alarm was untouched this morning, so she probably doesn't know how to work it.  On the other hand, she may not know how to dial out of the building either, so she keeps it to internal calls, which is fine since Bill, Sarah, Heather and I all know the alarm code already, so she wouldn't be divulging confidential information to us that we don't already know.  Or maybe Elsie just forgot to dial 9.  Luckily this happened when we were both in.  Tomorrow I leave for Ithaca and it will just be Sarah.  If Elsie grabs her ankle on the stairs, who will hear her scream?

And these are the things that happen in the ICLC when the students aren't in.

14 October, 2010

New Math

As students come into my office to staple their mid term essays and ask where the faculty pigeon holes are, and as I hound students for their fall break travel detail forms, I think we are all feeling the middle of this term.  That strain is only allayed by the sense of relief that comes after an exam is finished and an essay is printed.  It is one of the most pleasant feelings this world can offer us, but how did mid terms creep up on us all?
Interrelationships journals due?
I remember learning in school that Distance = Rate x Time, so I asked Google maps the distance between London and Ithaca, but they wouldn't calculate that for me, so I have had to extrapolate that one.  Wiki Answers says that the distance between London and New York City is 2,983 miles and the distance from NYC to Ithaca is 223 miles according to Google maps, so the total distance is 3,206 miles.  The time that you are here is 4 months, which is 17 weeks or 119 days.  The only variable that leaves is Rate, and since you are about to leave for fall break and Bill and I will be meeting the Spring 2011 students in a week, I am keen to calculate the rate at which this term seems to be flying by.

To find that variable therefore we must divide the Distance, 3,206, by the Time.  3,206 divided by 4 is 801.5, divided 17 is 188.588 and divided by 119 is 26.941.  Now that we have these Rates, we have to clarify the increments they represent.  Perhaps we could measure in MPH.  That means that in the 2,856 hours between your arrival in August and departure in December this semester will have sped by at a rate of 1.119 MPH.  Even in your sleeping hours you have been going just over a mile an hour.  We aren't cars and we aren't training for marathons, so I would just like to ask, where is it all going?  Where are you all going?

I can answer that with a look at the map on the board outside my office! 
There are going to be so many more initials around this map one you're back from break!
-Claire (and Elsie)

06 October, 2010

F '10 Scavenger Hunt #5: The best traits of human nature

Birthdays only come once a year (for most of us), and they are such a good excuse to spoil ourselves just a little.  Whether you are having three celebratory breakfasts or treating yourself to a lie-in, this is a day that stands out from the other 364.  If you are having your birthday while on your semester abroad you may find it a strange and exhilarating experience.  One of the best parts has to be getting packages and presents and cards from home.  Others make a special point of being out of their home country for their birthdays.  Perhaps it has become a tradition, or perhaps it is a clever ploy to ask for money to take traveling for your birthday.  Either way, there are infinite ways to celebrate birthdays.
A horse and a snake after the birthday brownies are eaten
This scavenger hunt installment therefore deals with years.  Here in the ICLC, Bill likes to keep abreast of the where his faculty and staff fall in the Chinese calendar to see which animals are represented.  Bill himself is a dog and amongst our staff the dogs grossly outnumber any other animal, so I think we all know where this bias in his hiring policy comes from.  It may also have to do with the fact that people born in the year of the dog possess the best traits of human nature.  When including the faculty into the mix I thought that the dogs topped the leader board with six of us, but much to my surprise we have seven snakes!  Snakes are deep.  They say little and posses great wisdom.  It makes sense that a college would employ people who possess great wisdom.  We also have four rabbits, three rats, two horses, one dragon and one boar.  Unrepresented are rams, monkeys, roosters, tigers and oxen.  Your job is to find any one of these last five animals.  Extra points if they are living, breathing animals.
3 horses, 2 tigers and a snake
On a personal note, when I was born I think my doctor was very excited on the occasion.  My evidence for this is that she dated my birth certificate with the wrong year.  As a result, I have quite a unique certificate which says that I was born a decade after my birth certificate was signed and dated.  My parents were there, that's not how it happened.  I don’t think she is a psychic as well as a doctor, but I don’t really have an explanation for this one.  She’s a very good doctor, so she probably just put in a better effort studying medicine than the calendar.  Birth certificates, being part of public records, can involve a lot of bureaucratic effort to change.  So my parents never did it when I was a kid, and I think it’s such a weird quirk that I have no interest in changing it myself.  When I was a kid I hoped this would help me get a driver’s license ten years early.  My dad, with more of a mind towards forward planning, thinks I should apply for social security ten years early.  Needless to say, I had to wait until I was actually 16 years old to drive, because no one would believe that a child who looks six years old should be behind the wheel of a car.  And I have no intention of trying to scam the social security system.  In honour of my wonky birth certificate, your second mission is to find something made in 1972, the year I wasn’t born.
A horse and a snake
-Elsie (as well as one of the ICLC’s many dogs)

04 October, 2010

F '10 Scavenger Hunt #4: Mind the gap created by stations that aren't used anymore

As you well know, each semester we choose a Book of the Term.  This term the book is Mortal Causes by Ian Rankin.  It is set is Edinburgh in the early 1990’s and deals with violence and the IRA, as the books we choose are meant to introduce the students to different aspects of British culture.  Now we are thinking of the book of the next term, and Sarah and I are leaning toward Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere.   Whereas we live in London Above, much of this book is set in London Below.  What is London Below, you ask?  I’m about halfway through the book and I don’t really know myself.

Speaking of the things that happen below London, the London Underground is one of the oldest continuously running subway systems in the world.  It has a fascinating history from acting as a shelter for Londoners during the Blitz to surprising pedestrians as they pass by disused stations on the street that have been closed for decades.  Because they are often not lit up at all, they can be easy to miss.  Who has seen Aldwych Station on the Strand right in the middle of London?  It’s staring you in the face just after you pass Somerset House.  Keep an eye out for this one.  Your first mission this week is to find a disused Tube Station, but not Aldwych, since I have just pointed that one out.  Here is a link to a great website that has images of out of date Tube maps to help you along with this one: http://homepage.ntlworld.com/clivebillson/tube/tube.html.  Don’t be deceived by stations that are still there but have changed names.  Have a look at the outside of Gloucester Road Tube station the next time you pass by and notice that the top of the building says that the Metropolitan and District Railways go to this station.  A lot has changed since this station appeared on one of the earliest Tube maps (1889) as Brompton Gloucester Road Station.  Also, excitingly, there were plans on the 1949 version of the map to extend the Bakerloo line down as far as Camberwell!  Alas, this would only have added to the paradise that Camberwell is!
Also, if you go to the northbound Piccadilly line platform, you can see the tiled sign on the wall saying that these trains go to Finsbury Park, as that is where the Piccadilly line once terminated
You may have also gathered by now, if you have been checking out the TfL website to plan your journeys or to figure out alternative routes during the Tube strike, that as well as the Tube there are also buses, trams, boats and bicycles on offer as public transportation options.  During the last Tube strike there were photos in the paper of the queues of people lined up to take the boats across the Thames.  So, speaking of photos and boats, your second mission is to capture the underside of a bridge.  Obviously you don’t need to be on a boat to see underneath a bridge, but taking a boat across London offers a new perspective to modern eyes and a view of London from what has traditionally been one of its busiest thoroughfares.

Good luck!

-Elsie (who loves Camberwell!)

28 September, 2010

Silly Shortstop and Third Gully!

The old adage that America and Britain are two countries separated by a common language has a truthful ring, but, if one were inventing a 21st century variant of the adage, one might say that the USA and Britain are two countries separated by their summer games, baseball [an English invention] and cricket [also English, but once very popular in the [USA]!
When first at university in the UK, my American friends and I regularly laughed uproariously when reading a cricket report. How could a popular domestic and international sport be so much like the ‘goons’? Was Spike Milligan The Times’ cricket reporter? It was a bit like reading the Law Code of Hammurabi or Einstein’s theory of relativity. Without a great deal of background, the reports would never make sense. Cricket seemed to be absurd, like the Pythons’ ‘ministry of silly walks’, ‘four Yorkshiremen’ [my favourite Python] and ‘dead parrot’ sketches.  Clearly a sentence like “Smith was caught for 15 by Harris fielding at silly-mid-off off the bowling of Johnston” is a joke! How can a ball be a ‘no ball’? How can a position be entitled ‘silly mid-off’? Would Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, or Roberto Clemente ever humiliate themselves by playing in such an undignified position?  More significantly, would Marilyn Monroe have married a ‘silly mid off’ [or a ‘silly mid on’ for that matter]? Was every day April Fool’s day in the UK?
The British can’t make sense of baseball [apparently, and rather patronisingly, just a slightly more sophisticated version of rounders, a girls’ school game], and the Americans remain incapable of understanding how a game can be played over three hours [Twenty/20], eight hours [50 overs or a one day match], or four or five days [first class matches, internationals and Test matches] and still end in a draw.  And then why are there always two batters?  [UNLIKELY ANSWER: the loneliness of a batter who is out in the middle all day – he needs to talk to someone.] Why don’t the fielders use gloves [UNUSUAL ANSWER: since its creation in 1948, the NHS has specialised in broken fingers, and it’s free!]  How is it fair, indeed part of the strategy, for the bowler to hit the batters? [TRUE ANSWER: ‘bodyline’ was developed by the English to use against the Aussies, the old rivals, a nation who could give as good as they got]. Why invent a game for 11 players that has at least 20-30 fielding positions? [IMPROBABLE ANSWER: the British invented a game that would be good for its huge and under populated colonies like New Zealand, Canada and Australia.] And what about stopping 45 minutes for lunch and another 20 minutes for tea? [ TRUE ANSWER: Nothing to do with strategy; rather an attempt to fill the belly if one had to field or bat for another 3 hours and a day. The British feel that cricket is a ‘manly’ sport that requires more fitness and hardness than baseball. Discuss this proposition over a pint. [The same is more obviously true for the comparison between Rugby and American football.]
The simplest route to understanding cricket and baseball is to play the games. There is new equipment to consider – the size of the bat, the colour of the ball, the state of the pitch or wicket, the positioning of the fielders, the need for collaboration between the two batters when running between the wickets,  sliding and stealing bases, the freedom to hit in a 360 degree area, etc.  Mindset: in cricket you just can’t ‘take a pitch’ in case that pitch knocks your middle stump 20 feet into the air.  Also when chasing a score, you need to take advantage of just about every ball. You need to know when to dig in, be obdurate, play with a straight bat, don’t take risks, slow the tempo, steady the ship, and when to attack. You need to be adept with the bat.

In baseball, you need to hit in a 90 degree area. You also get to keep the ball if the batter fouls it off into the stands. If a new ball that has just emerged from the umpire’s pocket has the slightest hint of acne – a little red mark], it goes into the recycling bin. But there are no free balls in cricket. Indeed a ball must last an entire innings, whether it be a 25 over match, a 50 over match or a test match [80 overs per ball change]. The American League’s ‘Designated Hitter’ role doesn’t always fit its purpose, that is, to make the game more exciting.
Can this expatriate choose between the two ‘games of summer’? Well, he will sit on the fence for the time being. Both games can be occasionally boring, although a 1-0 pitcher’s duel is technically not a boring event. One good thing about baseball is that you can buy hot dogs at the games. One good thing about cricket is that you can read a book, get a sun tan, have a Pimms, applaud politely or be as raucous as England’s ‘barmy army’ on tour. Cricket has been adopted by many countries in the now defunct Empire, while baseball is on the offensive trying to woo Europeans away from soccer, and rugby.

Final word: laugh all you want at cricket and baseball, or yawn if you must, but before dismissing the games, play them.  See the accompanying pictures of Ithaca students playing cricket on a very dodgy wicket in Hyde Park September.

-Bill (with no help from Elsie)

22 September, 2010

F '10 Scavenger Hunt #3: A Day in the Life

In my research of what a blog is, the trend seems to be for anecdotal stories about the events of the day or the week or the month.  Here is what happens around the ICLC:
Sarah: makes a cup of tea, fixes the internet, makes more tea
Claire: makes a cup of tea, kicks the photocopier, makes more tea
Bill: makes a cup of tea, plays some cricket, teaches some classes, makes more tea
Chris: drops off the post, makes a cup of tea, fixes the building, makes more tea
Claire's teacup
Perhaps Bill doesn't play cricket everyday, but otherwise this is pretty accurate.  Obviously we do other things, too, and Elsie would like you to guess what those things are.  The first installment of scavenged items for you to find this week is going to require a lot of stretching of your abstract creativity muscles.  If you were living a day in the life of Bill, what would your ideal supper be?  Remember that Bill is a sports fanatical, World War II and east London loving Egyptologist.  Please compose a photograph showing this meal.
Sarah's tea and strainer
Also, tea is very important to our lives everyday.  It is a reason for breaks in the day, it is a required drink at breakfast and it is part of a posh afternoon involving sandwiches and cakes.  Thing 2: Please find the most interesting tea paraphernalia that you can, whether it's a teapot, tea strainer, tea flavour or anything else related to tea.
Bill's teacup


21 September, 2010

Welcome to the 1990's

In 2004 my mother sent me an email with the subject line, Welcome to the 1990's.  I read the email to discover that she was delighted to tell me that she had just gotten a webcam.  As a result of reading this email, whenever I make a slightly behind the times discovery, I like to preface it with the phrase, Welcome to the 1990's.  Until today my most recent use of the phrase had been this past April when I bought a television, something my flat had been lacking for the previous year and a half.  I use it today to express my joy at having discovered how to link other blogs to this one.  It has led to a work filled afternoon of blog stalking not only Fall 2010 ICLC students but also family members and my high school American Lit teacher's daughter who was 1 year old when her father was my teacher.

As a result, I feel like I have had real insight into the some of the cultural differences picked up on by our students, particularly linguistically.  This seems to have been a through line.  Almost all of the blogs that I looked at had a post outlining the difference between British English and American English.  I expect that this is because there is no shortage of people reminding us that we speak differently.  I love the assumption that because the USA and the UK are both English speaking countries we must be able to understand each other perfectly, but between accents and subtle word choice differences there's no denying that we are two nations divided by our common language.  My sister is married to a man from New Zealand and I once asked them how much they could really understand each other in conversation.  We were all a little shocked when he answered 100% and she answered 70%, but perhaps this is some little known secret to marital success.  Bill exerts much energy each term pushing for intercontinental relationships to develop, so perhaps he has been privy to this secret, too.

Anyway, this is all part of the immersion experience.  It is a real shock to the system to be told that you aren't speaking your native language correctly, and I have heard many an argument that American English is wrong, because if it were right the language would be called "American".  Americanisms have permeated British tongues and are hard to avoid, which adds to the confusion of not knowing which language you are speaking.  Even in Britain things come out of left field now and at McDonalds people order fries with their burgers.

Here is the moral of the story: Bill looked at the spelling of a word and said something looked wrong.  I said it must be the American spelling.  He said that wasn't it, so I suggested that it was the British spelling.  Sometimes I get confused about which is which.  Bill said that there is a solution to not knowing whether you are using the American or British version of a word.  Stuff them both and use the Canadian way.

-Claire (with a little help from Elsie)

17 September, 2010

The things that happen when Bill leaves the London Centre

Bill Sheasgreen is a very hard working man, often the first one to work and one of the last to leave.  But not this week.  (Not that Bill isn’t working hard this week, but hopefully he is also having some down time to be a tourist.)
Alyssa trying to dodge the camera at this week's coffee talk
Bill has gone to Nantes in northeastern France for a conference this week and left Sarah as the beauty on duty, with me as her second in command.  He hasn’t been gone long, but we are pleased to report that it has been business as usual.  The coffee has been made in the morning and the newspapers have been bought.  The students are attending their classes and the internet has crashed (twice).  What makes this week different from most others?  With any luck, not much, except that I led one of Bill’s classes this week.
Work-study-Will, working
There is a feeling of great satisfaction that comes with knowing Bill is comfortable leaving the smooth sailing of the ICLC in our hands.  I would even dare to say that we have really “serioused” this place up in his absence.  While Bill has been gone there has not been student wide cooperation on a practical joke, which is good.  Mass organization of approximately 54 people is the type of thing that can lead to overthrow and revolution.  Bill may never leave the London Centre again if he will only use his time away in future to worry about what is being plotted in his absence.  No, this week flowed seamlessly into the next when Bill will be back, and everything will remain normal.  No one had any mug shots taken of them, either.
More work study work, Kathryn posting a notice
I’m not trying to say that Bill’s absence is going unnoticed, but he runs such a well oiled machine, that is the ICLC, no crucial responsibilities go completely unattended without one of the three of us here.  There may not be a walk with Bill scheduled this weekend, but that's because he's working on his tan so that he can come back for his next walk as a bronze god.

-Claire (and Elsie)

13 September, 2010

F '10 Scavenger Hunt #2: One hump or two?

Many ICLC students celebrate their 21 birthdays during their semester in London.  While it's a momentous occasion in the States to go into a bar and buy your first legal drink, you may have noticed that there is much less fuss about 21 year olds buying a drink here in the UK.  In many ways drinking culture is a horse of a different color.  The legal age is lower in the UK and pubs close much earlier than Americans are used to.  You can go to a pub for a classic Sunday roast or for a pub quiz to find out how good your knowledge of trivia really is.  There are also similarities, though.  They are major social meeting points and binge drinking is problematic in both countries.  But one thing that definitely separates British and American drinking establishments is what they are called.  Often sites have had pubs on them for hundreds of year and have names that don't necessarily make sense to a modern audience.  There are more pubs than it's worth counting called the Queen's Head, the King's Head and the King's Arms.  There's a chain called the Slug and Lettuce.  There's a pub in Notting Hill called The Windsor Castle.  My local when I was a student was called The Elusive Camel.  What do these names mean?  For some the answers can probably be found on Wikipedia (a reputable source), but other meanings may be completely lost or even made up, not ever really having had any particular meaning.  Pub names can also be influential.  The areas of Swiss Cottage and Elephant and Castle are named after local pubs (actually I think there is some debate about where the name Elephant and Castle comes from, but it sounds like the name of a pub.  The area's more official name is Newington, not to be confused with Stoke Newington which is not nearby).

Your two missions this week, should you choose to accept, are to find the most interesting pub name that you can and, in honor of my old local, to find a camel.  Dromedaries need not apply.  Only Bactrian camels.  Elsie will be counting the humps.  I have high hopes that both of these will prove difficult and time consuming, but lead to admirable creativity.  As a Londoner herself, Elsie probably feels that she has seen it all.  Show her how wrong she can be!