Thursday, July 17, 2008

Underwhelmed by London

I enjoyed King Lear at the Globe theater. We had tickets as "groundlings" -no seats but allowed to stand. Many people, including myself, held ourselves up by placing our arms on the stage.

I feel like a Spook with my "Tube" pass. We bought these incredibly expensive subway passes that give us unlimited rides while we're here. Single rides on London's tube are hilariously expensive.

I finished the Graham Greene book The Human Factor. Do not recommend.
7word review: Family relationships plus double agents equals boring.

When the students are late we punish them by making them wake up early and jog with me. One of the greatest moments happened today. One of the students was left behind by three others who were running frantically to make it on time. The student left behind arrived late and was punished. However, the other three students (who made it on time) felt so badly about abandoning them that all three of them offered to run in her place. Naturally, I accepted this proposition since it was legendary.

I'm very tired. I yawn wildly as I wait as these photos from Paris are uploaded.

I saw a performance of Shaw's Pygmalion tonight. I was not moved emotionally but found some enjoyment giving the play a feminist reading. In the end, Ms. Dolittle was empowered but only after the insistence of the annoying male.

I don't think I've met anyone from London. all of the servers here are foreigners trying to make it in London. The Londoners must be hiding in suits on top floors. In Paris, I felt bad because of the language gap when I was ordering food. Here, the language gap is the other way. My english is "fine" but the servers speak with accents and don't always understand what we mean.

I met a girl named Rachel at the Globe theater. She was cool. In the crowd of standing groundlings behind us a grown man collapsed. He passed out, falling onto his face. Rachel sprung into action and placed him in semi-prone where he woke up and was whisked away on a wheelchair by Globe staff.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Brokeback Mountain in Paris

I finally went into that new museum, musée du quai Branly (2006), to see the "Non-European" art (especially since I enjoyed that hidden basement of the Louvre so much). It was a fantastic choice. I was loving the masks from Cameroon and Mali and, since I forgot the camera, I was forced to sketch shitty likenesses.

Deeper into the museum I heard the gunshots and horse whinnies of an old Western movie. It was quite loud. Who the hell was watching a Hollywood Western in a Non-European art museum? Was it my imagination? No, those are gunshots. I had to investigate.

Upstairs was the "melange" section -where cultures collide. 16th Century Mayan art with clear Spanish influences, a model galleon some foreign street artist had made out of discarded coca cola cans, and a little theater with six screens that was comparing Asian cinema to American cinema.

I sat down to watch. It was quite a nice set up. There were three pairs of screens. The first pair was paused. It was some anime movie and, beside it, some space sci fi movie. In the second pair both of the movies were playing but they were only running the audio for one. The sound would switch back and forth so you could get the gist of both films. The movie on the right was Brokeback Mountain. The movie on the left --


Was that Tony Leung? Am I watching a Wong Kar-Wai film in Paris? Yes I am. That was a surprising-


Look at the third pair. I know those faces. I don't know the name of the American movie but that's Ernest Borgnine! Wait... the movie there comparing it to is... that Vietnamese Western/Melodrama that we didn't finish watching!!!

One nice and surprising thing that I have noticed about the students is that no one carries an iPod. No one is plugged in and they all walk and talk together.

Today we did the best poetry lesson that has been done in the last, oh... 150 years.
Morning: we taught all of the standard poetry terms -particularly iambic pentameter, and had them scan a classic and modern poem. Afterward they had to take a side on two questions:
1. Are classic or modern poets more talented?
2. Does close study of a poem ruin it or increase your appreciation?

Evening: Went into the Rodin museum for inspiration. They all wrote 20 line poems. Then we sat on the grass boulevard south of Napoleon's Tomb and made them condense the poem to 10 lines. Naturally, this was agonizing for them. Their reward for their hard work was to condense it into 2 lines.

Then we had them reconstruct those two lines as imabic pentameter.

A learning experience that has been informative, fun, and produced creative work.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Paris - Day 3?

I didn't think I'd ever be here again.
Landed in Paris with 43 students and 4 staff.

We've been to the Louvre twice,
The Latin Quarter for a lunch and group dinners,
Picked the statue of Charlemagne at Notre Dame as a meeting spot,
My fave building, the Pantheon,
We've done group discussions on Great Expectations,
Lunched on Rue Mouffetard,
Had lectures about and form, content, context, and great writers,
Monmartre, with a group photo at Sacre Couer and then crepes,
They've written in their journals about their own great expectations,
The Pompidou museum featuring the most traumatic art I have seen there yet: photos of Austrian genital mutilation, a video of a naked woman razoring the star of david onto her belly, a hauntingly life-like mannequin of Hitler with real hair (I had to look away because I thought I saw it move. Seriously, this thing had pores. Also it was alone in a room. Creepy. Kneeling, facing the wall so you had to walk around to see the face...)
I've fiddled with about thirty laptops to bring our digital coursepack to life (including a tiny ASUS that's running linux!)
We've had a one-on-one talk with each student about the English course, what they feel about their writing, and they just handed in an assignment designed for that specific individual to develop a particular skill.
I spotted some nice graffiti. Quality stencils of the Dalai Lama and Gandhi.
I was happy to see that they had spectacular poster sized photos from around the world placed on the gates of the Luxembourg Gardens: lava, ladybugs, airplane crashes, soldiers, farmers -there's even a picture from Canada, it's off two polar bears dancing.

We've been here two and a half days.
I take pride in overhearing students say how it feels as if we've been here for a week.