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.

London, City of Dreams and Stuff

“How can you be bored in London? Go for a walk! There’s always something to do, you just have to look for it.”

So a friend of mine once chastised me when I complained of occasionally having nothing to do in my first year at UCL. I of course realised shortly afterwards that he was absolutely right, and took to taking the odd moonlit stroll through the city to see bits of it I hadn’t before and narrowly avoid getting mugged. I did a lot in my first two years of university – I took in places like the British Museum in my own time, took a boat trip down the Thames and discovered delightful little shops, cafes and pubs hidden away in plain sight.

So far this year, however, I’ve found myself too busy or too exhausted to entertain that particular fancy of mine, which is a shame. With the pressures of third year kicking in on top of running a society, I find myself with relatively little free time, and what little I do have I often prefer to spend resting my aching feet rather than sending them off to discover new places. Still, maybe all I needed was a little nudge to keep my head above water – I think I shall take a walk. Well…maybe tomorrow.

The Jazz Society held its great Garage Theatre Workshop show last week, Ray!: The Abridged Version. Billed as ‘reviv[ing] the music from the Oscar® winning film Ray! by cutting out all the boring bits like plot and dialogue’, it was certainly an entertaining three nights, so to those of you who didn’t come along, shame on you. Don’t worry though, there’s a chance to redeem yourself: our big Bloomsbury Theatre show, Sax and the City, is looming at the end of November. With tickets starting as low as £4, it’s a TV and film music-filled night not to be missed. Hope to see you there.

Back in Blighty II

So we’re back in town once again. Sadly the return seems to have coincided with a splitting headache and illness on my part, which is a shame as it prohibited me from celebrating a 21st birthday in Bath this evening (and getting some much needed trumpet practice in to boot). Still, that aside I intend to enjoy the bank holiday weekend as best I can.

I played a little Lego Batman with Jonna this afternoon – I’ve been a big fan of the Lego games (which have included Star Wars and Indiana Jones in the past and have recently added Harry Potter to the mix), with their quirky sense of humour and fun gameplay. The one niggle I always have is the camera angle and the same-screen multiplayer problems, but it seems they’re trying split-screen for Harry Potter so we’ll see how that goes.

I also recently ordered Mass Effect 2 and Bioshock 2 on Amazon for (relatively) dirt cheap which I’m quite happy about. A recent Penny Arcade comic and post did get me thinking about the used games market and its effects on developers, but frankly – and it does pain me to say this as I’d love to support them in whatever way I can – I just don’t have the cash to flash to keep buying new games at initial retail price which can be anywhere between £40 and £60 often. So I buy second hand. It’s probably selfish in a way, but that’s my vice.

In and around the fun of flat-hunting (friends of mine are starting to Facebook and tweet about their new flats so I’m getting antsy) I have to prepare for a gig with the UCLU Jazz Society Big Band at a civil partnership at the end of September, giving me the unique (at least apart from the other guys playing) get-out for any other events planned that night of: ‘Sorry, I’m playing at a lesbian wedding.’ It’s all rather exciting. Maybe I’ll wear a fez.

Funny Old World

People often have a lot to say against public transport in London, and it’s easy to see why. It’s expensive, it’s often late, it’s susceptible to breakdowns almost as frequently as they suspend it for maintenance work. In summer, particularly, it can be almost unbearable, yet many of us are possessed of a singularly British reluctance to show to anyone that we object to the sweaty fellow who insists on holding the handle and pushing his armpit in your face. It’s passive-aggressiveness without the aggressiveness.

That said, there are few things that make a person appreciate the relative merits of British public transport more than trudging back home in the rain from a station in the Austrian countryside because the next train isn’t for another 90 minutes. I now feel I can make that statement with some degree of confidence.

The music in this hotel has moved from the sublime to the ridiculous; I thought the apex of strangeness had been reached a few nights ago when our ears were treated to the dulcet tones of Bavarian yodelling, but earlier today I found myself listening to something that seemed to tug at the memory. The tune sounded familiar but I couldn’t place the words, and then I realised: the song was You’re The One That I Want from Grease – in German. Perhaps I’m alone in this, but I’ve become far too accustomed to hearing English music on foreign radio that this took me completely by surprise. To me, this was tantamount to seeing The Simpsons or Scrubs in German (which, incidentally, have both been on the TV this week)!

I created a new page for links to groups and people with whom I’ve played – at the moment there’s only the UCLU Jazz Society and Thames Youth Orchestra, but I’ll be adding more to it soon. Until then – farewell!