15 May, 2012

In a Relationship

The cat's out of the bag, and the congratulations are in.  I thought I would let the whole event sink in and settle down, and now that it has, it's time to interview Bill.

Claire Mokrauer-Madden: I just heard about you and Elsie!
Bill Sheasgreen: What about us?
CMM: Umm, that you're in a relationship?
BS: We are?
CMM: That's what it says on Facebook.  Doesn't that mean that it's real?
BS: Oh yes, that, of course.  I thought you were talking about something else.
CMM: Have you and Elsie done something else?
BS: No.
CMM: ...ok.  Um, I'm a little confused, so let's draw a veil over that one.  So!  You and Elsie are in a relationship!
BS: A business relationship.
CMM: Is that so?  What kind of business?
BS: Music and fashion mostly. 
CMM: Does she do the music and you do the fashion?
BS: No, I do both.  She keeps the books.
CMM: Oh, right... so what kind of music is it?
BS: For legal reasons I have to call it "Beatles cover" music, even though McCartney and I both know who wrote all those songs.
CMM: Please, let's leave the man out of this.  Tell me about the fashion side of the business.
BS: I'm rewriting what it means to be cool.  I'm turning the conventions that you take for granted each day up on their heads.  I'm putting suits on the rugby pitch, high heels on the beach and making hats at weddings obsolete.
CMM: This sounds uncomfortable, inappropriate and needless.
BS: Yes!  You've hit the concept on the head!  Why be conventional when you can set yourself apart?  I'm doing this on all sides of the business.  Don't you want to hear Hey Jude performed by an oompah band?  Or, one that I wrote for very personal reasons, Can't Buy me Love in its original Russian?
CMM: Please!  I asked you once already to let it go for a moment.  Sir Paul would prefer you not speak about him.  Tell me about Elsie's role in the business.
BS: Yes, Elsie, my business partner.  She manages our bookings and works as the company's agent/marketing department.  I wear my designs when I perform "his" songs, and often she helps coordinate my costumes.  We make a great team!
CMM: It sounds like you're the front-man and she's the power behind the throne.
BS: Oh no!  Elsie's very much in front of the throne.  I travel on a throne upheld by five professional throne-carriers, but she travels by public transportation, which is obviously much more efficient.  So she always arrives in front of the throne.
CMM: Hmm, that's a somewhat more literal interpretation of what I was saying than I expected, though that seems to be par for this interview.
BS: Yes, it is...
CMM: ...and do you have anything coming up, either in music or fashion?
BS: Well, now that you mention it, Elsie is working on her own fashion line at Top Shop.  She's sort of riding on the momentum of Kate Moss's work there, and she's feeling really good about it.  To my taste it's all a bit vanilla, but as she often reminds me, vanilla's a pretty amazing flavour.  I tried recommending she incorporate more plaid into her designs, and when she was finally done laughing, she ignored that suggestion.
CMM: That's great for Elsie!  When will we get to see her designs?  Are you doing her marketing?
BS: We're looking at a date in September, but nothing's quite finalized.  We've had an idea to do pop-up fashion shows in advance of London Fashion Week.  We'll be doing a few around London, so keep your eyes peeled!
CMM: Thanks for the heads up!  I definitely will!  Listen, this has been a great interview, minus the excessive bile towards Sir Paul McCartney.  You really should consider therapy for your issues with him.  Maybe even the two of you going to couples counseling or something.
BS: Couples counseling?  Elsie doesn't have nearly as many issues with him as I have.  I don't really think it would be worth her time.
CMM: Never mind.  Thanks anyway for the interview.  As usual, it would have been great if you had actually participated in it, but you didn't.
BS: I never do.
Elsie likes long walk in the summer and sitting along the Thames Embankment.  Bill likes Arsenal and QPR.

14 May, 2012

In Honour of William Shakespeare

In honor of the World Shakespeare Festival happening in London right now, Elsie has made her own attempt to festivalise Shakespeare.  She's making up words, borrowing other people's stories to make them her own and poaching deer in Warwickshire. Here's a quick sample.

Shall I compare thee to a winter's day?
Thou art more frosty and more cold:
Rough winds do shake the snow drifts away,
And winter's lease is all too short I'm told:
Sometime too chilly the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his icy pavement slippy,
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature's temperature is nippy:
But thy eternal snowman shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that carrot nose,
Nor shall Spring brag thou melt'st in his shade,
When in eternal top hats and stove pipes thou are froze,
So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives winter, and winter gives life to thee.

My spud's eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red, than this pepper's red:
If snow be white, why then this lettuce is dun;
If sprouts be wires, frayed wires stick out from under this bread.
I have seen roses damasked, red and white,
But no such roses see I in this radish;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in this salad, for which I'm kind of gladdish.
I love to hear cheese curds squeak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound:
I grant I never saw green goddess since long ago,
But this dressing, when it's poured, spills on the ground:
And yet by heaven, I think my lunch as rare,
As any salad belied with false compare.

Elsie's not setting the world on her fire with her sometimes iambic pentameter, but I'm sure Shakespeare wrote some rocky rhymes in his day.  For the mean time Elsie should hang onto her day job, but as soon as she gets her first play produced Bill, Sarah, Heather and I will be in the front row of the otherwise empty pub theatre.
Standing in front of Shakespeare's tomb I heard, "Richard, what's your Shakespeare face?" This is what I saw.  No joke.

11 May, 2012

Elsie's Exploits on Facebook (or Elsie Exploits Facebook)

What did you learn in school?  Share with others.  Don't run with scissors.  8x5=40.  Don't be accused of being a creepy stalker by Facebook because they won't let you make friends for a week.  Not that the last one is something specifically on the curriculum, at least I don't think it is.

But this is what Elsie learned this week.  Technically not in school since we're in London. She learned it at university.  Here's her side of the story:

I'm a bit new to Facebook, but I thought I would give it a go, since I've made so many friends at Harrington Gardens in the last 40 years.  After my birthday party in April I did some serious soul searching, as one is wont to do when they have a round numbered or milestone birthday.  Over the years so many friends have come and gone, and I would like to reestablish contact.  As I'm in a relationship with Bill (purely professional), I had a peek at his friends and asked the ones I knew from years back if they would like to be my friend, too.  Unfortunately I've been going by my casual name on Facebook, and forgot that many people may not know me as Elsie.  My more formal name, the Ithaca College London Center, or sometimes just the London Center, is how most people were introduced to me.  I understand the confusion that can ensue when you meet a person and are told to call them one thing, only to find out later that they prefer to be called something else.  So when the postman, the gas man or TV Licensing come to the door I go by my full name, but as I get to know the students, they come to use my nickname, ISee Elsie.

Hopefully I have cleared things up with Facebook.  I have my postman name in light grey parenthesis after my nickname in the hope that old friends who didn't recognize my nickname will know who I am.  I'd like to phone up Mark Zuckerberg and just say, "My bad," but instead I've quietly accepted my week-long ban from inviting more people to be my friends.  I promise I'm not a stalker.  Real stalkers get restraining orders taken out against them.  I just want to make friends, something else I should have learned in school in my youth.  Anyway, I mostly just post things on my Facebook page off my Twitter feed, because I think everyone wants to know when I have a new blog post up or what the weather is like in London.  Sunny with a chill in the air right now, as it happens.

I welcome old, new and future London Center students to friend me.  I'm keen on staying in touch and keeping you up to date with what's happening at the Center.  I look forward to telling you what's playing on the Austrian radio station in the front office (It's Raining Men, by The Weather Girls, not Geri Halliwell), or that Bill is nearly done with his marking and more than ready to focus on the Olympics conference, or that Sarah and Claire really liked the apple tea that Jim Swafford gave them from Turkey.  There's less inane information to pass on as well, but these are also the things that give me character.  I'll try and find a balance between relevant info about London and the London Center and the minor aspects of daily life around here.

Thank you for listening,

(P.S.- I also have a fan page!)

09 May, 2012

Photo Competition, Spring 2012

Similar to the Travel Writing Competition in searching out experience and a sense of encounter, the Photo Competition finds the photos which ICLC students deem best express this.  Congratulations to Anne Carlin and Kiersten Swete for their winning photographs in the areas of People, Architecture and Landscape!
People- Istanbul, Turkey, March 2012, photo by Anne Carlin

Architecture- Christ Church Greyfriars, London, UK, April 2012, photo by Kiersten Swete

Landscape- River Liffey, Dublin, Ireland, March 2012, photo by Kiersten Swete

03 May, 2012

Book Report

Around the London Center I think it's fair to say that the staff are reticent to give recommendations on life decisions.  Ask as much as you want, the staff genuinely have no way of telling students where a good place for you to live in London is, if this is the right work placement for you, if you should take that class. 

But if we're anything, we're all avid readers.  As a non-mandatory assignment, we usually choose a book of the term which has some relevance to the semester abroad, whether it be about London life, Shakespeare, or the nature of being abroad.  So this is where we take the opportunity to make recommendations. 

I was intrigued by a previous book of the term as students have come back with strong feelings about the controversial nature of the narrative.  The book The Reluctant Fundamentalist, by Mohsin Hamid, is the story of a Pakistani man, Changez, who graduated from Princeton in the spring of 2001 and proceeded to work for the next year or so in New York City.  He experienced what it was to be a New Yorker and a foreigner at the same time, and as tensions mounted back home between Pakistan and India and nuclear war became a growing threat he gave a detailed description of the range of emotions he experienced.

I think this was a good choice for the book of the term because one of the things the author does best is describe what being a foreigner feels like.  "In a subway car, my skin would typically fall in the middle of the color spectrum.  On street corners, tourists would ask me for directions.  I was, in four and a half years, never an American; I was immediately a New Yorker."  Most of our students are unlikely to become British, but as soon as you have a place to live, you're Londoners.  Take a step back and imagine yourself feeling like a Londoner.

Some people have described this book as anti-American.  I disagree with that opinion, without saying that it's wrong.  It depicts the emotional range of a person on September 11, 2001 who is not American.  It depicts the wider repercussions around the world after 9/11 and Changez's response that came with feeling more and more foreign in New York in the year that followed the attacks.  Reading this book I saw through my American eyes the perspective of a non-American.  During and after 9/11 I remember the fear of war and a complete shift in the world I had grown up thinking I knew.  After 9/11 Changez went through a similar series of emotions, though his were tied into his own struggling love story.  Much of what happens in the romantic plot influences his actions thereafter, so we diverge from there, but the surprisingly shared perspective remains a common thread.

I went on to study abroad the following year, and I became aware of what it meant for me to be the foreigner.  I felt so very at home in London that semester, but I knew that as soon as I opened my mouth and spoke I was labeling myself as foreign.  The question is, what do you do with that information?  Do you thicken your accent?  Do you have a Big Mac when you feel homesick?  Do you immerse yourself in the local culture and ride the tube silently?

Many of you may have completed your time abroad, others may be about to come abroad and still more may have returned abroad.  For me, nationality was never something I thought much about until I knew I was a foreigner.  I live happily in my foreignness, and I hope I have successfully embraced it. 

*These are my opinions, not those of the ICLC.