Sunday, February 15, 2009

Oxford pt. 4

So, I've begun doing research for my paper for my Shakespeare seminar, and, as I believe I've already mentioned, my focus will be on musicians and such in Shakespeare's plays. An angle I thought might be kind of cool to look at is how Shakespeare's songs have been performed for different productions, especially modern productions. 

Today, I came across a story NPR did about a 2005 production of As You Like It set in the mid 20th century. They producers of the show wanted to hire a popular contemporary band to write music for the many songs and instrumental interludes that appear throughout the play. Director, Antoni Cimolino decided that the Barenaked Ladies were up to the task. Now, I've never been a HUGE fan of this band, but I admit they do have a certain quirky intelligence that could be appealing. 

The Barenaked Ladies' songs are largely word-based, a trait that lends itself well to arranging music for Shakespeare's immaculate lyrics. According to Cimolino, he also chose the band because, "[their] melodic lines are both joyous and profoundly sad." 

After hearing about all this, a quick google search brought up the CD which i promptly downloaded. 

Here is a little taste of what the Barenaked Ladies came up with- the song I'm putting up is actually taken from Twelfth Night and so, to my knowledge, was never performed on stage. The words are taken from the opening lines of the first act- a powerful soliloquy delivered by the Duke Orsino. Orsino is asking for more music because he is frustrated in his courtship of the Countess Olivia. He muses that an excess of music might cure his obsession with love. 

without further ado,

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Oxford pt. 3

I am currently being destroyed by St. Thomas Aquinas' metaphysics. The paper assignment is to uncover the distinction he makes between existence and essence. As far as i can tell....wait a second; I turned to my blog to take my mind off this ridiculous subject for a moment. 

I haven't updated this blog very often, mostly because I have no time. The workload here is extreme, but you probably know that already. I'm not trying to complain or anything, I just am really burnt out, and it's all I can think about. After I finish writing one paper, there is very limited time to let my mind rest before I have to dive headfirst into the next one. It's a stressful way to get an education, but I am trying my best to stay afloat- or at least come up for air every once in a while. 

At our orientation the senior dean told us that to make it through the program without going completely insane, it's important to have a balance of activities, advice similar know, "all work and no play make Jack...something, something." My balancing act, which stabilizes the academic side of things, involves mindlessly surfing the internet, making my way through the complete Monty Pythons Flying Circus, wandering aimlessly through the cold damp Oxford streets, and of course, like any good American college student, drinking alcohol (among other things- there is a cheap classical guitar in the JCR that is worth a strum here and there- Scrubs is on TV more than it is in the states - LOST thursday nights with the other helplessly addicted fans - and a ridiculous british TV-show called Skins that is kind of like the OC with a lot more drug use and full frontal nudity, oh and white-trashy English gangsters, basically everything you could ever ask for). 

I've given myself two full nights a week to let loose and not think about my paper assignments. Wednesday and Friday night have become like oases in some terrible Lawrence-of-Arabia-like march across the desert that is Medieval and Enlightenment philosophy. Lecture, tutorials, and seminars are Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, so by Wednesday night a celebration is definitely well deserved. After my last tutorial of the week is over, I feel like I've more than earned the right to some rest and relaxation time. 

Wednesday nights generally involve multiple bottles of wine and a 4 pack of tall-boys (Stella, Fosters, or Boddingtons). Krista, a new friend, also from Elmhurst College, has provided some very pleasant company on these nights, and a random assortment or others have also gotten involved in the fun and games this past week. The Wednesday night activity started when some of us from the CMRS decided to check out an Oxford Secular Society event. A prominent political commentator came to give a chat about secular solutions to the conflict in in Palestine/Israel. It was a very engaging lecture, with some very interesting debate following. The four of us Americans, for the most part, remained silent and somewhat in awe of the oh-so-well educated Brits in attendance. Afterwards, we couldn't resist indulging in our own less informed conversation about the issue. 

Krista, who has an interest in philosophy, brought up the idea of a symposium. Plato's dialog of the same name had come up in her seminar (I think). Anyway, she explained the symposium, which has its origins in ancient Greece, as a gathering of minds to discuss, debate and engage with issues that were of interest to those present. Wine is an essential ingredient at a symposium, because it opens the flood gates of expression, so to speak, loosening  people up to the point where no one hesitates to openly object, or make a bold statement about their deeply held beliefs. Wine could be deluded with water if the night got out of hand, or if the conversation called for a more focused discussion. Anyway, our own little symposiums have been quite enjoyable and I do hope they continue. 

Friday nights are an altogether different beast. These usually involve dinner, then pre-game drinks, then out to St. Peter's Pub. Irish car bombs have become a favorite for the pre-game, and the Cross Keys is a local favorite at the bar. St. Peter's Pub is attached to St. Peters college (of which CMRS is affiliated), so it's usually filled with students, which is nice. The namesake of the Cross Keys is the gold and silver keys St. Peter is often depicted with. It's two parts vodka, two parts white-rum, two parts goldschlager, and topped off with sprite- tastes like cinnamon. They sneak up on you pretty quick, but, needless to say, we are responsible drinkers. No doubt. No Doubt. Nights usually end with a trip to a chip stand and returning to the commons room to cause a ruckus until we are all to tired to go on. If we're lucky, Andrew will play a song on guitar that everyone knows the words to. Reminds me of home. 

Ok, I've slacked off for long enough. I have a long three days ahead of me. Start writing this essay tonight. Monday- finish Aquinas essay by 7 p.m., finish reading Hume's Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, go to lecture on the Reformation. Tuesday- defend my argument on Aquinas, seminar on King Lear, start paper on Hume - finish by 2 P.M Wednesday just in time to defend it with Dr. Crowe. 

It can and must be done. This is week four, which means tutorials are half over!