End of term, and not a moment too soon

So I shut my finger in a lift door for 4 floors a few weeks ago, and typing is still weird for me as one side of it is still kind of numb. On the plus side, I…well, there isn’t really a tangible upside to it, but people laugh at the story and give me that look that implies it’s exactly the kind of thing they’d expect me to do, so there’s that I guess?

We’re a little way into the Easter holidays now, though it’s only felt like it for a few days for me – contrary to my belief up until about a week ago, 6000 words on the comedies of Aristophanes do not, in fact, write themselves. That said, setting the general essay-panic of the last couple of weeks aside, I found the whole process quite enjoyable – I kept finding interesting articles and the like that I wanted to shoehorn into my dissertation (it was technically an ‘extended essay’ but dissertation sounds as though I did more work for it), and it made me glad that I’d sent in an application to do an MA next year. Well, you don’t want to be doing something you don’t enjoy, do you? Besides that, I also found this wonderful blog that presents a…somewhat different take on a number of myths. Hysterically funny stuff.

Speaking of next year, the Bloomsbury Theatre will be in for a treat in the form of UCLU Musical Theatre Society’s Guys and Dolls in the first term, directed by a schoolfriend of mine, Nick Goodman, and with myself as MD. It’s going to be a cracking show and will probably be the first week of December or thereabouts, so keep it free! (Also keep it real.) More details as and when, but for the time being I need to brush up on my ‘waving my arms around like a loony’ skills.

I’ve been preparing for various gigs and the like coming up by shopping around to see about upgrading some of my equipment – new mutes, a clip-on bell microphone, things like that. Have to say, Dawkes seem pretty good and they come well-recommended. I’m also looking forward to finally buying a flugelhorn this summer, at long last. Any recommendations on that front will be duly noted! Oh, and money. Gifts of money.

Other exciting upcoming events:

21st MayDown for the Count bring you a fantastic live gig at Winslow Public Hall: On The Town! Celebrating a brand new recording, signing up with several new agencies and even a music video (I know right), it’s set to be a brilliant night. Get tickets from their website before they run out!

4th June – UCL-goers et al, take note: UCL Jazz Society are going to be rocking up to the Summer Ball this year. After the success of Sextetera last year, the Jazz Soc have been asked to bring along a full big band to wow the crowds this summer. Not to be missed – buy your tickets around UCL or head to this site to avoid disappointment!

There are a few other bits and bobs coming up, but I’ll keep them to myself for now to avoid jinxing them…so watch this space…

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The Gatsby of Campania

I return to The Smoke tonight, having come home to finish off an essay on the Cena Trimalchionis from the Satyricon of Petronius which was driving me mad. Only 1,500 words and it ended up taking days to complete satisfactorily. I found myself asking a question usually saved for when spiralling circumstances deposit one in the gutter with a bottle of whisky (probably something embarrassing like Bell’s) in one hand: how has it come to this?

The answer is typically multi-tiered (short attention span definitely factors into it), but I’ll just go ahead and say that a big consideration is that we’re probably not getting our money’s worth at university (cue cheers of affirmation from many humanities students). I’ll make it clear, though, that – by and large – tutors themselves aren’t to blame. Plenty of my own lecturers are passionate about their chosen topic and manage to convey that excitement and interest to their students. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the classes and taken great pleasure in reading around the subject and picking up more information on it.

Unfortunately, although that’s certainly what I had hoped to get out of university, the methods of assessment don’t really seem to want to look into that. Even at a tertiary level of education, we’re encouraged to memorise and regurgitate for exams, and to write essays according to a series of arbitrary rules that seem to me – someone with, I like to think, at least one creative bone in my body – designed to produce a set of twenty nigh-identical papers. I of course value the merits of proper citation and bibliography and the like, but in the course of research I find myself reading articles and books with a decidedly personal flair to them – first-person perspectives, narrative passages, sentence fragments and even the odd bit of slang for good measure – in exactly the manner that would get red pen scrawled over one of our essays. Are we paying those fees for something that feels alarmingly like secondary school all over again?

To put it another way – for £3,125 a year (and more for future students – but that’s a topic for another day) I get between 6 and 8 hours of lectures a week, a maximum of two (restrictive) essays a term, and plenty to complain about. Not really value for money, is it?

But enough of my whining. The new term is beginning, and that means shows and gigs coming up. We’re heading up to Bristol on the 12th February, so if you’re in the area come see a joint gig between the UCLU Jazz Society and the Bristol Uni Big Bands. Warwick Uni Big Band are also coming down to London at the beginning of March, and we have our second term Garage Theatre Workshop show towards the end of term. On top of all that, Down for the Count have a live gig in London planned at some point over the next few months, so watch this space! Or their website, that works too.

Holiday Wishes

My my my, it’s certainly been a while. And what a while it’s been. Shows, gigs and whatnot galore, and now we get to settle down, maxin’ relaxin’ all cool (b-ball shooting outside of an educational institution optional). So before I launch into the inevitable winter festivity hogwash, a brief rundown of a couple of exciting things over the last term:

– Sax and the City, the UCLU Jazz Society Bloomsbury Theatre show back in November, was marvellous. Though not the sell-out spectacular we’d hoped for, the big band, jazz choir (the artist formerly known as vocal group), small groups and soloists all performed fantastically and had a great reception from the audience. From the screaming Gonna Fly Now (as recorded by Maynard Ferguson) to the more relaxed tunes like The Way You Look Tonight, to cheesy favourites like Soul Bossa Nova (from that one movie about that guy), it all looked and sounded tight as hell. And we even got the culmination of a year and a half’s worth of Anchorman jokes with a little rendition of Afternoon Delight. Groovy times.

– Anything Goes, this term’s musical, was simply sensational. Easily the best musical of which I’ve been a part, so kudos to UCLU Musical Theatre Society for that. And for their choice of the angel Gabriel too. I had a number of people tell me afterwards that it was West End standard, and a couple who even said it was better than the 2003 run – and that one had John Barrowman, so we must’ve been good.

– I stepped in for a recording with Down for the Count a month or two ago, and recently did another gig with them (at an RAF base of all places). The CD is sounding fab, so head on over to the website and order a copy or ten! Sadly it won’t be in time for Christmas, but hey, you don’t need an excuse like that to buy it right? Right.

So, before I depart to sleep soundly, eat too much and fret over an essay on the Satyricon (which is basically about sex), I wish you all happy holidays, a merry Winter-Solstice-Festival-Of-Your-Choosing and best wishes for 2011, which I hear is going to be a pretty sweet year all things considered, though sadly bereft of those novelty new year glasses it seems.