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

-Elsie

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!

-Elsie

08 September, 2010

F '10 Scavenger Hunt #1- Like the pink dogs, these things probably exist, you just haven't found any yet

Part of the appeal of studying abroad is the possibility of immersing yourself in another culture and meeting new people from around the world.  However, it can be all too easy to find yourself immersed in an American bubble once you get to London, living and studying with your fellow students from Ithaca.  In an effort to try and pop this bubble and open up more opportunities for immersion, Elsie is creating a scavenger hunt spanning the Fall 2010 semester.  When the final judging is done it will be based on the sense of immersion that the entries show (Elsie won't mind you playing to her vanity, either), so be creative.  Everything is open to interpretation.

The creation of this hunt is the product of evaluations from past students who said that they wished they had been more immersed in London life.  While here you will have opportunities to join clubs with students from British universities, and we hope that you take advantage of this chance.  Many of the classes running this term involve getting out in London for walks and tours.  This is a great way to see London, and can be used as a great spring board for immersion, but the leg-work is up to you.  Housing yourselves was one of your first initial experiences in getting to grips with life in London.  You met landlords, saw what people's homes in London look like and possibly even met your new neighbors. This scavenger hunt will be easy in comparison.

We are working with a loose interpretation of the word 'immersion'.  We can't force you to walk up to a stranger, introduce yourself and share the stories of your lives with each other each weekend at a different pub in a different area of London.  In envisioning this scavenger hunt with an eye towards immersion, the onus of getting out, seeing new things, meeting new people and experiencing how life is lived in another country is on you.  So when you are sent out to scavenge it is in the hope that you will treat this as a suggestion for an opportunity to immerse yourself.  The things themselves that you are being asked to find are more likely to be on the periphery of immersion.  We want you to go to concerts, festivals, sporting events, exhibitions and plays, we want you to meet new people and we want you to explore beyond the traditional American hangouts.

Throughout the term Elsie will post things for you to find.  As the deadline for entries will not be until the end of the semester, take your time and keep your eyes peeled.  In no particular order, here are some guidelines for the hunt:
  • All entries must be submitted in photo form.
  • The back of the photo must have the location it was taken and the entrant's ID# (don't put your name on them).
  • All entries from an entrant must be submitted at the same time.
  • All entries are subjective and will be judged by Elsie on the degree of immersion that they represent.
  • Unless stated otherwise, all entries must be photographed within the UK.
  • Please make sure you have permission to photograph your entries.
  • You don't necessarily need to submit entries for every object in the hunt.  It's quality that's important.
  • Teaming up with a partner (no more than 2 working together) is allowed, or you can go it alone.
  • The entrant must appear in at least 5 photos, showing them interacting with the objects that they have found.
Good Luck!
-The Three Dogs (none of whom are pink)
    *    *    *
    London, originally created as a Roman outpost, is a reflection of nearly two millenia of inhabitants.  It has been a magnet for migrants for much of its existence, from the Romans to the Saxons to the French Huguenots to the Ithaca College London Centre staff.  In turn, these migrants become locals and make London their own.  Steeped in history, so many Londoners have left their mark somewhere (lucky for Bill, he can't be identified as having graffitied Stamford Bridge).  The plaque marking Christopher Wren's burial place in St. Paul's Cathedral says, "Reader, if you are looking for his monument, look around you".  So, we would like you to find the most interesting burial marker or memorial, whether it be a headstone, a monument or anything else that serves as a reminder of a person (but don't bring a photo of Christopher Wren's, that's just unoriginal).  Many of you may be new to London, so this may seem like being thrown into the deep end, but that is what immersion is about.  Dive in! (Actually, if it's diving you are doing, don't necessarily try it in the Thames.  It's cold and has a strong current.  The Thames Barrier is a pretty cool landmark to see, but rather than traveling as a human boat my recommendation would be to take a train to get there.  That also saves you needing a change of clothes, so that's one less thing to carry with you.  I'm not speaking as the voice of experience or anything, but just taking a really educated guess.)  To pay tribute to migrant populations we would also like you to find some Danish cuisine.
    -Elsie