Posts tagged culture
Note: Today marks the beginning of my new weekly series of music-themed posts. While I was in Scotland, I had no access to a piano, guitar, or choir, and therefore got my music fix from studying theory and, of course, listening, listening, and listening. As a result, I not only drastically improved my composing and arranging skills, but also increased my overall appreciation for the beautiful complexities of both contemporary and traditional music.
I still love my actual majors, of course, but I’d be lying that I said I didn’t scroll through this year’s upper-level music classes without some degree of envy!
I never was a big fan of trick-or-treating. As an easily frightened child with a penchant for ornate and ridiculously elegant Halloween costumes (all of which, I should note, were handmade by my extremely talented mother), the potent combination of other kids’ creepy getups and Volcano’s constant state of mud made me traditionally prefer giving out candy to visiting treat-seekers.
If the houses distributed free mini-concerts instead of fun-sized Snickers bars, though, I may have reconsidered.
Ithaca’s Porchfest is an annual community-wide music festival that takes place right outside musically-inclined residents’ houses. The “audience” strolls around in search of gathering crowds or the sound of joyful fiddling: because there are so many bands playing during each one-hour time slot, observers drop by performances at their leisure.
With local bands and an outdoor setting involved, it seems like I should’ve been writing happy blog posts about Porchfest long before my last year in Ithaca. Still, during the handful of hours that I spent down in Fall Creek this afternoon, I heard some great tunes and, most interestingly, learned the following random musical tidbits:
- Trumpets are, shockingly, not the root of all evil.
Yes, I love music, but that doesn’t mean I’m absolutely in love with every instrument imaginable. My favorite instruments (excluding the voice) are acoustic guitar and theremin. After that, the hierarchy gets a little bit messy, but I do know one thing for certain: trumpets are at the bottom of the barrel.
Granted, it’s usually not the trumpets themselves but their players’ tendency to go out of tune that’s at fault. And since trumpets are loud, brash, and often have the melody (sounds an awful lot like first sopranos, doesn’t it? (hey, I can say that because I’ve been a first soprano!))…well, when they go bad, they go bad. But today the trumpet section of the Ithaca College Wind Ensemble convinced me to give those blaring brasses a second chance! It did help that the group was performing a series of Broadway showstopper medleys, including sets from My Fair Lady and Les Mis.
When I was in high school, I only usually saw our wind ensemble right after I performed with the Chorale for the multi-ensemble semesterly concerts. I would creep up to the balcony, melting in my heavy black concert dress, and focus most of my attention on watching my band friends as closely as possible. The IC Wind Ensemble , on the other hand, performed in DeWitt Park, surrounded by a crowd of toe-tapping, engaged Ithacans, and this unusual venue gave the experience a completely different vibe.
- Covers are crowd-pleasers.
You’d think I’d already know the power of covers: after all, my beloved college a cappella style very rarely forays into the realm of original songs. Still, whenever I dredge up that old dream of becoming a professional musician, I always discount covers, worrying that my audience would hold me to the unreachable standards of the original artist.
My favorite group of all those I saw today was the charming duo of Gary and Leeann Reynolds, who appear to also go by “The Old Reyns.” Don’t get me wrong, I loved hearing traditional folk songs and original contemporary music, but when I first heard the familiar strains of “Happy Together” drifting down the street, I got as excited as I do when Pandora finally plays a song I don’t want to skip.
See, as long as the performers share the audience’s enthusiasm for the song–and the very upbeat and talented Old Reyns certainly did–that idea of comparison never even comes to mind. Instead of providing competition for the original singer, the cover becomes a testament of love to the audience: and, on a less sappy level, just a heck of a lot of fun.
- Music doesn’t end after college!
When I left high school, I was worried that I would stop playing piano and guitar as much as I did at home. Since I wasn’t taking lessons any more, how would I be able to prioritize time for music? It’s true that I don’t have the practice schedule as I did when I was younger, but the lack of such a strict structure actually makes me love playing piano even more.
Still, I continue to fret that once I graduate and leave my singing group behind, my musical ensemble days will be over. After all, how do Those Real Adults even have time to sing in a choir or perform in a band?
Though we as a society may envision the average hit musician as a hip (or hipster) young thing, Porchfest reminded me that (I do apologize for the upcoming cliche) music can be part of your life at any age. Today, I saw grandparents harmonizing with their teenage grandkids and elementary school kids covering the greatest hits of classic rock. The degree to which the performers–and the audience–celebrated music was so inspirational that I wish I could’ve spent all day meandering around the block and listening.
And yeah, okay, I also wished I had brought my electric keyboard to a porch of my own. (Is that enough to make me want to stay in Ithaca next year? That remains to be seen.)
I may not like pubs, ‘football’, or the cold, but there is one UK stereotype to which I am helplessly addicted: castles. Though I’ve visited ‘Iolani Palace and have some vague memories of a castle in Connecticut (Google informs me that it’s Gillette Castle I’m remembering), my fascination with ancient fortresses remained relatively latent until I came to Scotland.
After this weekend, my palace tally has increased to (a Tolkien-apropros) nine, and I plan to nearly double that before I leave at the end of May. Who wouldn’t want to explore ~15th century ruins for about the cost of frozen yoghurt, right? Even if all the masonry and empty moats start to look vaguely similar in a few weeks, I’m pretty sure I will never pass up a chance to see a castle.
I cross paths with Edinburgh Castle on a daily basis: it’s visible from Arthur’s Seat when I take walks, Princes Street when I’m shopping, and the top floor of David Hume Tower when I’m going to class. I was putting off the visit inside the castle for as long as I could, though–I’d been told by several sources that it wasn’t worth the hefty admission price. Still, since I believe in giving all castles a chance, I coughed up sixteen pounds and strode up the Royal Mile on a bright Saturday morning to see what all the fuss was about.
Well, like I said, I was warned.
In all fairness, I’m sure Edinburgh Castle would be amazing for military history buffs. There are several museums within the castle complex that chronicle the past few centuries of military activity in Scotland. Since guns, swords, and other instruments of war are rather my least favourite material objects, though, I wasn’t particularly moved. (I did learn one very fun fact: nineteenth-century soldiers were totally into needlepoint! The men were encouraged to take up handcrafts instead of spending all their free time drinking and gambling–and, for whatever reason, some did. Maybe I should try that technique on some college students I know…)
I hoped the interior of the castle itself would save my experience, but the restoration of the royal chambers didn’t impress, and the queue for the Crown Jewels was so claustrophobic and nightmarish that it made a trip to Disneyland in the middle of July with seven kids look comparatively relaxing.
Determined to improve the day’s castle sightings, I impulsively caught a train out of town to visit the stunning Linlithgow Palace. Unlike Edinburgh Castle, Linlithgow is no longer in use and is therefore considered a “ruin”–which basically means that children (and whimsical college bloggers) are free to explore its turrets and secret passages at their leisure. No guards, no queues, and certainly no awkwardly ‘conserved’ unicorn art objects.
If you’re a traveller just starting to get the hang of solo castle pilgrimages, I highly recommend Linlithgow as a first trip. The palace is about a three-minute walk from the train station, and the town itself is adorable and perfectly safe–nothing Glaswegian here!
Reaching Craigmillar Castle, my most recent conquest, is a bit more challenging. Craigmillar, located in the outskirts of Edinburgh proper, is best accessed via a ten-minuted bus ride to the Royal Infirmary from Old Town. After disembarking, intrepid tourists must sneak behind the University of Edinburgh’s School of Medicine to take a backstreet path up to Craigmillar Park, where the castle is surrounded by rolling fields which apparently contain an intriguingly named ‘Adventure Playground.’
Craigmillar’s halls and chambers were darker, smaller, and utterly more uncanny than Linlithgow. At the latter, I only feared a surprise attack from a small child pretending to slay dragons, while the former featured wild flocks of pigeons with no notion of fear. Still, the view of Arthur’s Seat–and from the one angle from which I had yet to see my favourite volcano, at that–was phenomenal!
Weirdly, I loved Linlithgow and Craigmillar because they were so unlike museums. Each room was labelled and dated with a simple plaque, but other than that, viewers were encouraged to discover the historical past through individual visual analysis and observation. Staring up at the random nooks in the stone walls, I could draw my own conclusions about how this building looked in its prime–which engaged me in a different way than reading or viewing a reconstruction.
Or that’s my professional justification, anyway. I really think I preferred them because I could put my hair in a vaguely Renaissance braid and dash up the spiral staircase pretending to be a rebellious princess on the run. Hey, everyone needs a break from the liminal weirdness of quasi-adult college life from time to time.
There’s nothing like a little tourism to transform a tired town into the thrilling country it was when you first stepped off the plane.
Given that I still say “thanks” instead of “cheers” and can’t even jog through Holyrood Park without taking a dozen pictures, I probably still qualify as a tourist–albeit a bit of a jaded one–but it was quite invigorating to introduce my friend Natalie (a first time Edinburgher and the lovely lass I visited in February) to the city that’s been my home for three months.
Natalie and I spent our first Scottish morning together writing in a little cafe near Cowgate that just so happens to be the fabled birthplace of my least favourite boy wizard. To my immense relief, The Elephant House featured more pachyderm-themed trinkets than cheesy examples of Potter paraphernalia (although its washrooms had one too many graffiti’d references to the Chamber of Secrets for my taste).
I left my friend in the cafe’s capable hands and headed to the National Gallery of Scotland for this week’s installation of my Medieval Rome class. Although the 18th-century drawings of 12th-century apse mosaics we examined in the print room were interesting, I was glad to rejoin Natalie and escape to–you guessed it!–Holyrood Park and Arthur’s Seat afterwards. Even taking my prior ramblings into account, this was actually my first time visiting St. Anthony’s Chapel, a ruin abandoned on the Holyrood hillside in the fifteenth century and left elegantly overlooking the wee loch below.
That night, we completed a task previously deemed impossible by the Council of Keely:
I went out after dark.
Now, if you’re expecting my next paragraph to include wild pub shenanigans or at least an encounter with some bizarre supernatural figure in the liminal twilight hours, perhaps you should close your Internet browser to avoid disappointment.
Our rockin’ adventure instead took us across town to the Pleasance Theatre to see American singer/songwriter Anais Mitchell (Natalie’s favourite) and some dude perform a new rendition of selected ballads of the British Isles (my favourite). The pieces in question were all taken from the Child Ballads, a collection of British song texts that first came to my attention in ENGL 2100: Medieval Romance. Thanks, Cornell!
As much as I loved the ballads, however, the opening act stole the show. We sat in our front-row seats expecting Anais and her musical partner to walk onstage and were surprised to see three jovial fellows burst into the world’s most gorgeous a cappella song about the wretched lives of chemical workers. I never thought a song with the words “I’ve stood knee-deep in cyanide” would fill me with such joy. To any stateside collegiate jokers who think their a cappella groups are all that: you lot better hope you never have to take on a musical duel with The Young’uns.
But before this turns into a music review/Young’uns Appreciation blog, let’s skip to Saturday! The rain persisted, so we spent our last full day at the National Museum of Scotland.
At this point in my study abroad adventure, everything seems so bipolar. I’ve seen phenomenal Netherlandish art in Edinburgh and France, rekindled my childhood fascination with the ancient peoples and magics of the British Isles, and discovered two phenomenal books that have permanently altered my understanding of effective storytelling. Before this weekend came around, though, I was desperately homesick for my family, my dogs, and Cornell’s professors.
As I finish re-reading my favourite passages from George Mackay Brown’s Greenvoe and listening to my newly-purchased copy of The Young’uns’ album on repeat, of course, I would say time abroad is worth it as long as you remain on a theoretical IV drip of culture. Wouldn’t it be lovely if Cornell Abroad sent all program participants a halfway-mark care package with relevant CDs and books (and perhaps some American bagels and Maranatha natural peanut butter)? Little notes of encouragement such as Go to a museum today! or Everyone feels lonely sometimes (unless they’re listening to the Young’uns) would also be more than welcome.
(Oh dear. Looks like Bob Ross/the “Hang In There!” kitty/[insert ridiculously positive and kind-hearted person here] managed to take over this post. Next week’s update promises to be a lot less WeHeartIt-worthy.)
Visit The Young’uns here–if you like music at all, I swear on the Precious that it’ll be worth it! You may also be interested in checking out Child Ballads by Anais Mitchell and Jefferson Hamer–and, of course, if you’re really feeling down…
The jealousy started about three weeks ago, when the bragging did. Fellow classmates casually shared their plans to go to Vegas and Prague, Facebookers posted statuses like “My mom booked me a surprise spring break Bahamas cruise!” (you may think I’m exaggerating, but I assure you, that’s a true (though paraphrased) story), and even my friends began revealing how excited they were to have a chance to go home and relax. Like a collegiate Phantom of the Opera, I was forced to crawl away into my secret lair in the basement of Risley Theater and write dark music to express my spring break sorrows.
Then a miracle occurred. As it turned out, I managed to book bus tickets (Greyhound there, Cornell’s Campus-to-Campus back) to New York City for this weekend. Thanks to the hospitality of my mother’s college friend, I experienced the whirlwind joys of the quickest, most action-packed mini-spring break imaginable.
As soon as I disembarked my bus (which, by the way, was disappointingly not a “true” Greyhound but a New York Trailways. So much for my Simon & Garfunkel dreams!), we rushed over to Times Square to pick up same-day tickets for a Broadway show, and, after a long period of waiting and dodging the black-hatted temptresses encouraging queuers to attend Chicago, we scored seats for Warhorse, the Tony-award-winning play based on a similarly acclaimed novel.
The most praiseworthy aspect of Warhorse is its use of phenomenal life-size, equine puppets, each controlled by a group of three handlers. These horses move across the stage, breathe and are ridden so naturally that it’s very easy to forget they’re not alive. Considering what I’ve been studying in my Shadowplay seminar, this example of Western puppetry was an excellent contrast to the wayang kulit performance I saw the night before.
Speaking of connections to art history, Saturday afternoon’s activities included a trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Many of the pieces at which I had the pleasure of looking were discussed at length in my Renaissance & Baroque class last semester–it was certainly thrilling to see these classic paintings as something bigger than a Powerpoint slide!
Of course, as much as I admire Rococo paintings or works from the Northern Renaissance, my favorites are, as always, examples of ancient and medieval art. The Met didn’t disappoint there either: notable exhibits include a Byzantine gallery (featuring fragments of clothing and books) and a really impressive Egyptian collection, complete with an in-house reconstructed temple and tomb. My childhood dreams of becoming an Egyptologist (though honestly, how many children don’t have such dreams? Ancient Egypt is so romanticized in our society) returned to haunt me as I wandered around glass cases of sarcophagi and lapis lazuli jewelry.
Our final stop of note was at the American Museum of Natural History, where I learned, among other things, that Night at the Museum totally lied about everything. Still, it was an incredible experience that included stops in the exhibits about marine life, African mammals, Oceanic peoples, Precolumbian art and tribes of the Amazon (which annoyingly kept referring to the Amazonian natives as “Indians,” which I object to simply because they are in no way from India at all. Ugh!).
Thank you to Lydia for taking me on such a grand adventure, and to my parents for not totally freaking out when I had to stop at the relatively sketchy Port Authority bus terminal! All in all, it was an amazing weekend, though I’m definitely looking forward to spending some quiet time in the natural beauty of Ithaca and riding the TCAT instead of the subway.
These days, the internet is filled with folks affirming their individual awesomeness by annoyingly lamenting the degration of our society. If you spend any time on Facebook, tumblr, or any other image-sharing site, you’ve probably seen those poorly-crafted MS Paint images that bemoan the world’s supposed lack of culture. Typically, such pictures juxtapose two popular figures, one “bad” and one “good”–let’s say, for example, Miley Cyrus and Aristophanes. A caption over Hannah Montana will read “If you know who this is,” while the Helvetica text superimposed onto Aristophanes’ sad little bust will be something along the lines of “and don’t know who this is, then YOU’RE what’s wrong with the universe/today’s culture/[whatever].”
As much as I hate following trends, I feel it’s necessary to create a comparison of my own.
If Cornellians bought out every seat of the massively large Bailey Hall to see some aged pop singer talk about his college drop-out days, drinking habits and bad relationships for three hours (okay, and sing like five songs as well), but an extremely sophisticated performance of Javanese wayang (shadow theatre) piece by a world-renowned master didn’t even draw enough of a crowd to fill up the orchestra level, there must be something wrong with the world.
The opening of the exhibit I helped to curate for my Art History seminar (Shadowplay: Asian Art in Performance) was meant to coincide with the residency of Ki Purbo Asmoro, a famous and incredibly talented dhalang. Before I took the class, my knowledge of shadow plays was based on a single performance I attended during “New Year’s Day at Sturbridge Village” when I was six or seven. The show featured a costumed 19th-century granny singing a pitchy (yet kitschy) musical story that featured the charming refrain of “The bridge is broken and it must be fixed!” Because that’s all I remember (which is probably for the best), I had relatively low expectations for wayang.
A dhalang, however, isn’t just some history buff who pulls on leather boots and high-necked crinoline each January 1st. (Please note that I am in no way hating on those who work at historical reenactment sites like Sturbridge Village. Honestly, that’s probably my ideal career.) A puppetmaster like Purbo Asmoro has to be a poet (composing the narration), an improv comedian (tying in popular culture to his plays–for instance, a puppet Barack Obama made an appearance during the comedic interlude last night), a musician (leading the gamelan ensemble), and a business manager as well as a skilled actor capable of giving each one of his hundreds of characters an individual voice.
Our exhibition focuses on a very old Javanese tale, the Arjuna Wiwaha (translated as “Arjuna’s Profound Meditation”). Characters like Arjuna were carried along trade routes to Indonesia when the Mahabharata traveled from India. The Arjuna Wiwaha story, however, does not appear in the Indian epic at all. Arjuna, the protagonist, is aptly described by my professor as “the playboy of the Mahabharata.” The princely Arjuna manages to find the perfect balance between being a charming, intelligent ladies’ man and a formidable warrior. In this story, Arjuna’s attempt to live an ascetic’s life and commit himself to meditation are interrupted by the gods, who fear that the raksasa Niwatakiwatja will destroy the heavens if Arjuna does not stop him. I won’t go into the rest, though, because you can go to the museum and read it yourself! (I helped to write the wall panel that appeared there, anyway).
There are many factors concerning why Billy Joel’s show had a larger audience. Asmoro’s performance was a rarely-mentioned event on a Thursday during prelim season, while I received a Facebook invite to Billy’s Friday night talk months before tickets even went on sale. Still, last night’s performance was one of the best shows I ever seen–not just at Cornell but in my entire life.
(And I’ve had the pleasure of watching both The Phantom of the Opera on Broadway and They Might Be Giants in concert. So, you know, that’s pretty high praise.)
This is the blog post that shouldn’t be.
I had some fantastic writing lined up for this weekend, I promise! On Saturday, I planned to travel with my dear friend to Seneca Falls in honor of International Women’s Day to view various landmarks of feminist significance. This trip was free, courtesy of Residential Life’s activity programming.
As I double-checked the marigold-colored itinerary, however, I realized that we were scheduled to return at 5PM, and not (as the trip’s Risley sponsor had previously stated) 3:30. Because I already had a 4:30PM commitment (a movie date with my ”little sister”/mentee in the Ithaca Youth Bureau College Discovery Program), I was left with no choice but to slink away sadly while everyone else boarded the bus. Hey, Balch? Thanks a lot for neglecting to pass that friendly li’l change on to us Risleyites. I really appreciate it. (I’m not bitter at all! I swear, on the Precious!)
Therefore, if chance will have me sans Seneca Falls, why, chance may…give me the opportunity to assess the Cornell Shakespeare Troupe’s production of Macbeth instead.*
I was very excited to put on my metaphorical snobby theatre critic’s hat and write this review of the tragedy I saw at Risley Theater on Friday night. (In case you were wondering, said hat is a slouchy beret made of cruelty-free faux silk. Metaphorically speaking, that is.) Since “the Scottish play” is my ultimate favorite work written by Shakespeare ever ever ever, I was all prepared to be absolutely scandalized by what could only be a horrible performance. What can I say? I’m an optimist!
Sadly, hats or otherwise, I’m unable to be as critical as I’d like. Most actors were good, and some were incredible, particularly the Macduffs: Lady ‘duff should win an award for Best Female Performance Shorter Than Ten Minutes (though, ironically, she acted better in those nine and a half minutes than any other woman did in the entire play), and I can’t even begin to talk about Mr. MacD himself. This man is amazing. I hope someday I can sell my program with his name for millions on eBay.
Strangely enough, Risley plays are often, in my experience, significantly better than any of the Schwartz Center’s “mainstage” productions. This seems rather paradoxical: why would the plays presumably filled with theatre majors be less amazing than those done by CALS kids and poli-sci peeps who only act in their spare time? Granted, Macbeth featured a lot of the Schwartz/theatre major folks, and they certainly didn’t give shabby performances. Perhaps the more intimate Risley Theater environment simply lends itself to a more immersive experience.
Honestly, the aspect of Macbeth that bothered me most was the unnecessary presence of weird projections cast onto the curtains behind the players in the style of wannabe-avant-garde installation art pieces. Now, admittedly, I’m sure I’d be singing a much different tune had all the projections actually loaded: I had the opening-night delight of watching Macbeth’s monologues occasionally interrupted by a giant, floating “Image Not Found.” Still, no production can be perfect, and, given the time constraints and limited budget, I will reluctantly take off my cynic’s cap (this one’s a jaded plaid derby) and admit that it was a quality show.
(Though it did irk me that the poster appeared to have been taken straight out that creepy episode of Dr. Who. And the gas mask only showed up in the play once. Come on!)
*That’s a quote from the play, in case you were wondering about the archaic phrasing. I try.
A dark movie theater (featuring a practically Classical wall mosaic and a balcony). Parmesan-flavored popcorn. Trippy visuals of intergalactic flights and a scruffy Icelandic man singing seemingly nonsensical syllables in haunting falsetto.
Sounds like the indie intellectual’s perfect college outing, right? Perhaps because I wrote such kind words about them last week, Cornell magically decided to show Sigur Rós’ concert-ocumentary Inni on a weekend when I actually had time to go to the cinema. Imagine that!
To clarify, though, as much as I enjoyed myself, I’m not really recommending this film to people who aren’t obsessed with everything Icelandic and, for that matter, have never heard of these dudes (incidentally, it’s pronounced “si-ur ros(e)”). Plus, Inni is like Fantasia seen through a black-and-white lens with, you know, more shots of lead singer Jón Þór “Jónsi” Birgisson singing into the body of his guitar (not kidding) than dancing mushrooms or disturbingly animate brooms. The music was lovely, but I have to admit that I spent most of those seventy-five minutes brainstorming short-story ideas with my eyes closed.
Originally, I planned to make my weekend even more hipster-approved by heading over to the Johnson today to assist with a concert by CAGE (Cornell Avant Garde Ensemble). Surprisingly, CAGE had everything under control, so I was given a few extra hours in which to work on all my class readings (I have literally a hundred pages for Ceramic Analysis. And I’m an English major, so I promise I’m using literally correctly in this context). On the way back, though, I thought I’d snap a few pictures of the gorges to show how…
And right after I’d spent most of winter break ranting about Ithaca’s killer winters, too.
The wannabe-hipsters lurking in front of the Urban Outfitters on Green Street have it all wrong: anyone who really seeks indie-pendance (that’s an ironic pun, by the way) from the mainstream knows that Cinemapolis is the place to be.
Tucked away between a parking structure and a (charmingly sketchy) alleyway, Ithaca’s “non-profit independent movie theater” has the enchanting feel of some rich film fan’s living room cinema. You won’t find major blockbusters or brightly-printed snackbar signs here–instead, thought-provoking (and usually foreign) films abound, and the day’s edible offerings are written on a delightfully kitschy chalkboard. (They have tea!)
Don’t get me wrong. I adore Cornell Cinema. What could be better than $3-4 movie tickets and the enormous theater in Willard Straight Hall? In fact, I’m looking forward to seeing several films at CC this semester, including Sigur Rós’ Inni (look who’s a hipster now) and Fantastic Mr. Fox. Still, Cinemapolis is worth the bus ride down to the Commons, particularly when the offerings are as quality as Michel Hazanavicius’ The Artist (which, as this post suggests, I had the pleasure of watching today).
The Artist is a 2011 silent film about…silent films (and, unfortunately for the protagonist, the lack thereof after the rise of “talkies”). Silent films (of the old variety as well) aren’t exclusive to Cinemapolis, though. While Cornell Cinema does make an effort to show more “normal” movies during their seasons (50/50 and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt. II immediately spring to mind), last year’s program featured a special series of silent films accompanied by a live orchestra to make the experience all the more period accurate.
Speaking of eras, watching all the swingin’ and short dresses in The Artist immediately rekindled my obsession with the Roarin’ 20s. Fortunately, my beloved Johnson Museum is giving me (and all other Cornellians) a chance to time-travel a couple scores of years back on February 17th for “Great Gatsby Night”!
Those (un?)lucky enough to be in a high school English class with me should be aware of my incredible, unquenchable love for Jay Gatsby. I can’t explain it. There was just something about him that made me sigh at every “old sport” as I read Fitzgerald’s amazing novel over and over again. The calendar post on the Johnson’s website claims that “fancy attire and period costume are HIGHLY encouraged.” Honestly, that sounds like the best evening ever.
As long as everyone stays away from the swimming pool in Helen Newman, that is.
Sadly, it’s time to get my head back into the 21st century. Classes begin tomorrow, and I’ve got quite an exciting semester ahead of me. Stay tuned for the riveting tales of my adventures in…ceramic analysis, Southeast Asian art, creative writing and urban archaeology!
Another busy weekend has passed, and–surprise!–I recently realized that I’ll be flying back to Hawai’i in exactly one month from today. Of course, I really can’t think about that fact for too long, because as much as I long to return to my ‘aina, going home = the end of the first semester = I’m almost halfway done with sophomore year = I’m almost done with college = I’m GETTING OLD.
Anyway, I’ll just go straight into my recap to distract myself from that disturbing equation above. The past few days marked the first time in months that I didn’t go to work at the Johnson on the weekend: weird, right? Still, I somehow managed to keep busy without help from my internship.
Thanks to the sponsorship of one of Risley’s Faculty Fellows, I was able to see a production of Sartre’s No Exit at the Schwartz for free on Friday night.
Though the play was written for a cast of four (with three main characters and a valet who only appears in the first scene) Juliana Kleist-Mendez ’12′s No Exit also featured a group of three demonic dancers that shadowed the protagonists in silence throughout the entire piece. These wide-eyed performers both reflected and influenced the actions of their speaking counterparts (and, in my opinion, were most effective while doing the latter). Since I’ve recently added “the portrayal of doubles in literature” to the grand Things About Which Keely Might Write Her Honors Thesis list, I found this directorial decision fascinating. In case you’re not so much of a fetch fan, let me explain a little. The double is a European cross-cultural phenomenon: for example, the British Isles have the fetch, the Germans the doppelganger and the Norse (my favorite, as any longtime reader knows) the vardøgr. Whether sinister or just a little weird, accounts of bilocation or double encounters are still floating around today (and I promise I’ve read about them from sources more reputable than my beloved paranormal podcasts!) in fiction and reality alike.
(Um, before I get too carried away, I’ll just wrap this up right here. No Exit was a good show.)
Since it’s getting late and I don’t feel like writing any more pseudo-intellectual blabbing, I’ll move on to another less-thesis-related weekend highlight. A little backstory first: last year, my friend and I celebrated autumn by making pumpkin bread, and, fortunately, this baking extravaganza has become our new tradition. Though we had to use applesauce for eggs and my rice cooker’s inner lining for a mixing bowl, we still created a great loaf that was far superior to our previous results. Yum!
Sometimes I feel like college is just a gallery of missed opportunities: while there are always many events that I’d love to attend, my busy schedule often keeps me from breaking out of the eat-school-homework-sing-sleep routine. That’s why I’m so glad that I was forced to attend the Gottschalk Memorial Lecture.
I won’t trouble you with a full explanation of the lecture series and its purpose (except that it commemorates a Cornell alum who was a great thinker and writer), but I will mention that because the chosen speakers are traditionally Renaissance scholars, it was by pure luck that this year’s lecturer happened to be from my own beloved field of medieval studies. Still, as much as I’m mad for medievalists, I might not have made it to Carolyn Dinshaw’s presentation yesterday if it didn’t count for my English 2010 grade–in order to encourage us to experience a Real, Live Humanities Talk, the professor not only made the lecture a required component of the course but also sneakily decided to collect our big-deal sonnet analysis papers at the event itself. Although I did see a couple of my classmates nodding off as Dinshaw tossed around her “temporalities” and “heteronormatives,” I honestly enjoyed hearing what she had to say.
Dinshaw began by introducing amateurism in the context of medieval studies–but hey, because this is my blog and not a lecture, I’ll keep things simple. You know those “medieval faire” dudes?
Well, according to Dinshaw, Mr. Ratburn and those two knights are on the right track–she claims (and rightfully so, in my opinion) that amateurs deserve respect for the effort they put into non-professional study of medieval manuscripts or history. Her argument was bookended with the delightful image of a flute-playing fellow who wore a blue bathrobe to a Renaissance fair: his simple interpretation of what “medieval” means demonstrates the underlying presence of medieval culture in our everyday (and unquestionably amateurish) lives. Dinshaw’s lecture, which also touched on queer theory and a ridiculous black-and-white movie, is far too intelligent for me to describe in full, but I certainly felt honored to have been able to listen to such a thought-provoking analysis.
Leaving the Middle Ages behind, I then dashed over to RPCC to participate in Cornell Community Programs and the Cornell Haitian Students’ Association’s Cultural Poetry Night. My poem was a rather slap-dash pseudo-slam piece about my birthplace, and though I’m pretty sure all my Hawaiian word references were lost on the crowd, it was still a pretty rockin’ experience. I know CCP has a lot of random open mike nights throughout the year, too, so any Cornellians reading this blog should keep an eye out–I might be gracing some TV lounge stage in the next few weeks!