I Believe…In Planet Orlando

I spent Tuesday in London with a flatmate, essentially killing time until the real reason we were there:

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We wandered through Chinatown…

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We stopped in at one of the best comic book shops I’ve ever visited (Orbital Comics — if you are at all into comic books, graphic novels, good/weird art, or other interesting finds, you won’t be disappointed with this shop), then we had lunch at Spaghetti House. I ordered the pappardelle with Yorkshire venison & wild mushroom ragù. It was simply prepared and delicious. There’s no picture because after the server piled my dish high with fresh cheese, a mountain of dairy is all you would’ve been able to see.

We went by the Prince of Wales Theatre to see if our tickets were available for pick-up. We collected them from the box office, and I took the opportunity to immortalize the moment 🙂 :

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We headed to Waterstones determined only to use their facilities and not buy anything (because there’s a Waterstones in Guildford town centre, which I’ve visited approximately 8 billion times since I’ve been here). But of course I couldn’t escape the pull of the shelves completely and ended up buying two books: A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness (which I’ve been looking forward to reading for ages), and YOLO by Lauren Myracle (the unexpected (for me anyway) follow-up to her teen trilogy of novels written entirely in Instant Messenger format). After losing my flatmate and finding her again, we went to Caffe Concerto for dessert…and I ended up eating a duck & roasted pear salad (after having had profiteroles covered in a sheet of chocolate, and some hot chocolate to drink).

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After we ate, it was finally time…!

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I grabbed a cocktail before the show that I promptly spilled onto my seat and the seat in front of me (have I ever told y’all how clumsy I am?), but only a bit — most of the drink made it into my actual mouth 😉 The screen pulled down over the stage had a dreamy scene of clouds and the moon painted in blues and purples. I saw it and immediately heard the opening bars from The Princess and the Frog (🎼The evening star is shining bright/So make a wish and hold on tight/There’s magic in the air tonight/And an-y-thing can happen).

The first half of the show was pretty funny, and I loved the character Arnold Cunningham (so awkward, sometimes creepy, and always funny). My favorite songs from Act I were “Hello” (because it absolutely had me flashing back to the time a pair of Mormons came to my door, and memories of my own childhood door-to-door experiences as a Jehovah’s Witness), “Sal Tlay Ka Siti” (Lucy St. Louis sang so beautifully!), and “Man Up.” I liked Act I well enough, but I wasn’t particularly wowed by it; it generally went the way I expected it to story-wise. Have you ever been exposed so heavily to something that you start noticing patterns in people’s work? The humor, storyline, and song lyrics in Act I were pretty much what I expected from the guys who created South Park and Robert Lopez, the co-creator of Avenue Q (another musical with hilarious songs that I have to see one day).

Act II is where things really picked up for me and I started getting excited about what was happening. I L-O-V-E-D “Spooky Mormon Hell Dream.” Easily my favorite number of the entire show. I credit about 85% of the reason why to the line “I can’t believe Jesus called me a diiiiiiick!!!!” and the look on Jesus’s face as he haughtily glided away. I. DIED. Those were two of the best things I’ve ever witnessed. Period. Runner-ups for favorite number are: “Baptize Me” (the actors were so into it! If you weren’t laughing during that one, you were dead. Only excuse.), “I Believe” (especially when Elder Price went to see the general. YEESH…), and the reprise of “Hello” because it was just perfect.

Act II took some turns I didn’t expect both musically and with character development. While the performances in Act I were fun (and funny), the performances in Act II blew me away. Most importantly, the way the story progressed and ended made me see the purpose of religion a bit differently. I’ve always seen it as a tool of hope and, as a result of past dealings with it, have certain opinions about the workings of religion within specific contexts. However, realizing how much hope it can give to people whose lives are an endless nightmare was incredibly heartwarming. The musical also points out that it’s possible to appreciate what religion can do for someone without believing the claims of said religion yourself. I love hope. It’s gotten me through some terrible situations. But I have a whole new appreciation for it now, which is something I, hands down, did not expect to come away with after watching this show.

I am so impressed with The Book of Mormon and can’t recommend it highly enough. My message to anyone who hasn’t seen it: buy tickets. ASAP (unless you’re very easily offended, in which case it may not be your cuppa). The cast is crazy talented, but it’s easy to see that everyone involved also takes tremendous care in putting this show on. Afterwards, the actors told the audience about a charity called Acting for Others — an organization that collects money for actors and theatre staff who are having a hard time either because of disabilities, severe illness, or because they are responsible for children with special needs — and they, along with some members of front-of-house staff, collected money for it in the lobby. I gave as many loose £s as I had on me.

See this show. That is all.

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Adventures On Foot

On Saturday, I took it upon myself to explore Guildford. I’ve been in and out of the town centre, but usually limit my visits to a couple of streets that have the shops I’m looking for. This time, I widened my net considerably.

I started in the city centre, wandering familiar streets. I stopped at Kokoro, a small Japanese restaurant that has sushi as well as bowls of meat and rice. I opted for the “small” serving of Chicken Katsu Curry (which was actually quite a portion!) for takeaway. I walked with my food to Guildford Castle and found a cozy little bench to sit and eat on. After finishing my food (and getting dive-bombed by a bee), I explored the castle grounds. There were so many pleasant areas to sit and enjoy your surroundings! I found an old gazebo, and a sculpture of Alice passing through the looking glass to the world beyond. It turns out that the house Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll) kept his husbandless sisters in was on that same bit of property. I read the plaques and then wandered out toward a sign that said “Guildford Nature Trail.”

I walked along the left side of the road. I happened upon a dark, semi-hidden area. There was a small staircase that led up to paths going in opposite directions. The left-hand path seemed to go back in the direction I came from, so I took the right-hand path. Both looked like they’d been untraveled for years; there were overgrown plants at my feet and 5-inch-high scatters of autumn leaves.

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I felt like I was in the movie Spirited Away (my favorite movie) and had happened onto a magical roadway. I kept going, a bit scared because I had no idea where the path would lead. I came out into a neighborhood. To my right, the path led to the main roadway; I could have gone back the way I came. To my left was a sidewalk that went deeper into the neighborhood I’d found myself in. Ahead was a dead-end street. I took the dead-end street because it was bright and beautiful. I met a pair of dogs and their owner on the way. A Golden Retriever and a black mutt. They were gorgeous, and made me miss my bad little cat-babies so much ❤

At the end of the street was a curve that looked like  a cul-de-sac. I walked to the edge and my breath left me. I was at the lip of a field that looked endless.

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My mind was blown — I’d found exactly what I’d been wanting to find since I got here. I hovered on the outskirts of the field, thinking there was no way I could get closer to it. Then I saw a couple heading towards me from the middle of it. They were on a footpath. I looked to my right and found the entrance.

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Dazed, I stepped onto the path. I passed the couple, nodded, and smiled. I was amazed by how beautiful everything was. I felt like Elizabeth Bennett. I gazed all around me and thought for the first time, “I’m living in England. I can’t believe it.”

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I had to be traveling some mystical lane that would transport me to Hogwarts, the Shire, the Twilight Zone — anywhere but the place I’d been living up until that point. Before reaching the neighborhood that led me to this footpath, I actually passed a bike trail on the right side of the road. There were so many people on it that I decided to skip it. I’m so glad I did! While there were tons of people on that path, I only met 3 sets of people (and pets) on this one: the couple I saw at first, a family of at least 3 generations, and a woman & her dog. I asked the last person I ran into where the trail let out as her dog happily rested her front paws on my chest. She said if I followed the path she had taken to get there, I’d be back where I’d started in about an hour. The other path in the fork led to the edge of the field and another town altogether. She said continuing through the fields would take me to a narrow country lane (and that I should be careful of passing cars) if I chose to follow the trail all the way across the field to the end. I’d already come this far, so I decided to continue on rather than turn back.

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I ended up on a path that made me feel like I was fleeing the Nazgûl.

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It was wonderful.

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When I got out onto the road, I kept close to the edges so as not to be run down by a car. An old woman from a farm started walking in front of me and disappeared onto a wooded footpath. At first I passed it by; but after being confronted by a slew of automobiles, I backtracked. I went down the path the old woman had apparently taken, but didn’t see any sign of her. I walked ahead and followed the trail into the woods until it ended.

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That set of steps were ahead of me. They were incredibly steep! The trail in the second picture was behind me. I felt so accomplished when I got to the top of those stairs (and too tired to move my finger away from the lens).

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My mind was completely muddled by this (^) point. But I finally made it out of the woods and found the road again. I passed a house where someone was outside with her dogs. I asked her if I was headed in the right direction if I wanted to get to Guildford. She said yes, but that it would take a bit for me to get back; it was a half-hour walk. Seeing as I’d already walked I don’t know how many miles, I said I didn’t mind walking 30 minutes more to the place I was trying to get to. In the end, I made it back to Guildford with no trouble and in one piece.

It was amazing finding that path. It was exactly what I’d been wanting — exactly what I’d thought the English countryside would be like.

Right now, I’m in London exploring and looking forward to The Book of Mormon, which I’m seeing at 7:30PM. I will absolutely report back 🙂

Talk soon!

*All photos in this post are my own!*

Poetry Pit Stop

I don’t write poetry as often as I used to, but I tried my hand at it last night while attending a seminar given by the author of a new novel. I’m posting it here because I want it to be somewhere that feels wide open (not just on my computer screen and bouncing around inside my head).

You/Who/I/Where/We Belong
Maybe you belong with someone
cutely quirky
Not fractured & carrying
all the broken plates of her past
which still stab with their
sharp edges held close
For, as much as they sting and dig
I am protecting them
For they are mine
They are me
Without them, I
don’t exist.

You don’t even know how old I am
Thinking me not far from
hand-holding, crossing the street
But I have memory
of the burning fissures in
the Earth when it was new
I have sipped and supped
and been driven mad
by bowls of spirits
Trying to chase the
demons, run them screaming
from my mind.

Do I lack
because my brain is not
always
at the ready
to give service to
the piecing together
of the so-called
Big Ideas?
Who are you to decide
how I should occupy myself?
Circuses of the insane
Do they smile beautifully there?

© 2014 Gianni Washington
(b/c I’m oh so professional)

Thanks for reading 🙂

alfhjkdsahjahsflhdhasfhalksajfhls…

I (FINALLY) got my loan money last Friday, which means I got to take care of a few things that needed doing (paying for accommodation, buying a bus pass, buying…um…food?). But I ALSO got to give myself fun stuff to look forward to in the coming months. SO! In order of what’s coming up soonest, here zey arr:

OCTOBER
The Book of Mormon
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I have been wanting to see this for so. long. And now — next Tuesday @ 7:30PM to be exact — my dream is finally coming true. I’m all for equal opportunity ridicule, and apparently this show’s got it. I was never a big enough fan of South Park to watch it regularly, but it’s pretty funny. Team America is my jam, though, so I feel pretty safe trusting Trey Parker and Matt Stone to keep me entertained (and singing/laughing along) for hours.

Halloween in London
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OK, so this isn’t something I’ve bought anything for yet. However, it would be kinda hard to buy a costume and go to London with no money, so moolah definitely makes this possible. I haven’t decided what, if anything, to be this year, but past costumes include the Mad Hatter and a mime. I was a rag doll in 2011 (last time I dressed up), but I didn’t have the yarn wig to go with it, so people didn’t really have any clue as to who/what I was supposed to be. Anyhoo… I’m expecting Londontown during Halloween to be epic. Hope I’m right!

Mime Time, circa 2006

Mime Time, circa 2006

NOVEMBER
Sam Smith
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I’ve had Disclosure’s album Settle since it came out, but paid no attention to who Sam Smith was until near the end of last year. One of my best friends sent me the video of him doing an acoustic performance of his song “Nirvana,” and I lost it. I was like WHERE has this kid’s voice been all my life?!… when it turns out I’d already had a track on which he’s featured in my possession for months. *WOMPwomp* I actually bought my ticket for this show last year, so it doesn’t count as a Hallelujah-my-loan-is-here purchase, but it’s still something I’m really looking forward to. He’s playing the Eventim Apollo November 6th & 7th. My eardrums will melt and my vocal chords will have disintegrated by the end of this show.

Day trip to Cardiff, Wales

If you asked me a single thing about Wales, I’d pretend to concentrate really, really hard like I’m trying to remember that super fascinating thing I learned that one time… but really I’m just stalling, hoping you’ll get bored and change the subject. I don’t know anything about Wales, except that Ioan Gruffud (who I was in looooove with in 11th grade) is from there, and that Cardiff is the (gorgeous-looking) capital (…which is also where the pink, lady-victim from the first episode of Sherlock was from). But Wales, and Cardiff in particular (at least according to the brochure), has a lot to offer, like “innovative architecture,” “unique attractions,” “quality shopping,” and “top class entertainment!” Anticipating checking out these wonders and amazements in person. It’s always fun to explore a new city :D.

DECEMBER
Daley

Aside from the fact that he looks cool as f*ck (especially when his glasses are on), this dude’s falsetto — no, his voice in general — does things to me. I don’t think I need to elaborate. Above is a video of him covering “Chandelier” by Sia (that song everyone is covering now? Yeah, you know the one). My favorite originals of his are “Be,” “Alone Together,” and “Love Somebody.” Favorite cover: “Love and Affection” (originally by Joan Armatrading). Ever heard of Maxwell? Daley is the young, English, pop-soul version of him. Islington Assembly Hall, December 9th. I may or may not attempt to throw myself onstage.

Disneyland Paris
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Y’ALL. There are NO words for how excited I am about this. It’ll be the perfect way to end the semester. Also, hey…Paris. (!!!!!!welfiergfuiewgeulwgliwI;EWIU;WIv;bednsljbf;djigwkewfkywqflqwufgkjhdfjwkabfkw!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

To sum up, I’ve got a LOT of awesome coming my way. I’ll be sure to report back with all the deets when the time comes :). Now I really need a good camera…

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Nothing Like Affirmation

So this week’s been an interesting one. There’s been more good than bad, but the bad was, admittedly, threatening to pull me underneath a wave and drown me. However… let’s discuss the good 🙂

I had my first meeting with my supervisors this week. I submitted pages before the meeting — over 2000 words of my novel’s beginning, and a page on how I think the critical and creative portions of my thesis will fit together. My supervisors are great, not least because they seem genuinely excited about what I’m working on. It was such a pleasure to watch them bounce ideas off of one another, and to participate in a discussion with both of them at once. They’re both incredibly knowledgeable and I just know I’m going to come out of this loaded down with the things I’ve learned from both of them.

My primary supervisor is a published fiction writer, my secondary is a scholar of the Gothic in the English Literature department. Both were very encouraging and offered a number of suggestions regarding literature I should check out and ideas I should consider. I was particularly happy with my primary supervisor because the things he pointed out in my manuscript that needed fixing were things that I felt funny about myself — so I know I can count on him to catch the things that aren’t quite right in my pages. When I first sent him my work, I was beyond anxious. Ever heard of Imposter Syndrome? It essentially amounts to a feeling that you don’t deserve whatever it is you’ve accomplished, and that you’ve somehow bamboozled everyone into believing you’re smarter than you actually are. Camila over at The Things I Am Crazy For wrote a great post on it (check it out!). I attended a workshop this week called “Welcome to Your PhD” and the woman running it included a slide on the condition in her PowerPoint presentation. She said it’s a common feeling among grad students, and I’ve definitely been feeling the symptoms since I’ve been here. But after I met with my supervisors, it finally started to fade. My primary said a few things that made me feel like I’m undoubtedly on the right path with what I’m doing. One of my favorite soundbites from the meeting was when he said he wanted new pages from me because “he wants to know what happens next” in the story 🙂

One of the students who studied in this program before me, Liam Murray Bell, actually had interest in his manuscript for publication before he even graduated. He’s now published two novels, the first of which was his thesis for this program. His first novel is called So It Is, and it follows a young girl who grew up during The Troubles in Northern Ireland. The narration is split between close 3rd and 1st person, covering her childhood into adolescence & her adulthood as a paramilitary respectively.

The 3rd person narrative voice is thoroughly Irish, naturally incorporating the colloquialisms of the culture. It’s an interesting read. His second novel, The Busker, was released in May of this year. It’s about a folk singer hoping to follow in the footsteps of Bob Dylan, but who ends up stalling out on the road to success. I haven’t read it yet, but I intend to.

I’m going to work hard with his success in mind; if I stay focused, maybe I can accomplish the same. There’s an event here called the New Writers Festival, which includes panel discussions by writers, literary agents, and publishers. I’m really excited about all of the opportunities to network and get your work heard here. I’m going to a vintage fair today, and one of my friends & I are planning a trip to the Tate Modern (which I’ve wanted to go to forEVARRRR) next Friday. I can’t wait! I’m loving what’s available to me now that I’m here, including the possibility of getting a new tattoo by a crazy-talented artist.

Stay tuned 😉

Toh-may-toh/Toh-mah-toh

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I’ve met a number of Englishmen so far (as you can imagine). But last night was the first time one of them teased me about my accent. I went to the on-campus grocery with some friends on a wine run, but found a brand of cider I wanted to try. They were in packs of 4, held together by those environmentally unfriendly plastic rings that are the bane of ducks everywhere. I looked at the price and got excited. £1.25? For 4 cans of cider?! What an insanely (and suspiciously) good deal! Hi. My name is Gianni… and I’m a bonehead. I grabbed the ciders and went up to the register. Quick aside: more often than not, I get a cute cashier when I buy stuff from this shop. The one who helped me last night reminded me of a more handsome Daley with braces, mostly b/c he wore these sweet, black frames around his eyes. I am absolutely in the right country. ANYWAY… when I got up there with my cider, he asked if I wanted a bag for them. I said “Sure.” He laughed, shook his head, and parroted back, “Suuuure,” with an emphasis on the ur. I started laughing and asked, “Is my accent ridiculous?” and he said, “No! I love it!” (and I of course had to stop myself from immediately leaping across the counter and into his arms, but I digress).

So here’s where the I-am-dumb part comes in: He tells me the price is £5. I’m like, saywhuhh? Then I think about it and decide (much to his disappointment) that I don’t want to buy them after all. I offer to put them back and get a good look at the price when I do. As I suspected, in the tiiiiiiiniest print possible, the word “Each” is printed on the label above £1.25. I don’t know if this is true for the entire United States, so I’ll just speak from personal experience. As far as I can remember, in the American cities I’ve shopped in, you are indeed able to purchase alcohol in individual bottles and cans. But they are also displayed individually, as in not part of a plastic-ringed set that you then remove the desired number of bottles/cans from. So, instead of getting the deal of a lifetime, I actually succeeded in demonstrating an embarrassing lack of observation skills. But hey, I’ve been enlightened.

So I pulled one can out of the pack I’d been holding — and even though I knew it was the appropriate thing to do, I couldn’t help feeling like I was getting away with something. That’s right; I’m a criminal f%*#ing mastermind. If you hear about any cider heists on the BBC News, y’all know the Robin Hood responsible. I brought my lonesome little can up front and explained my faux pas. Luckily the cashier was a nice guy and didn’t give me any grief about it. I said to him, “I’m buying this. For real this time,” and he grinned and said “Fuuurrreal.” Hahahaha. From now on, I’ll be flinging American-accented phrases around like confetti in a parade. There are definitely perks to being a foreigner 😉

P.S.
Hooray for marriage equality in North Carolina!!! 😀

Getting Comfortable

During the awkward, post-info-session lunch with the other members of the English Department at Surrey (which our refreshingly blunt Program Director warned us would be awkward), I met one accomplished academic after another and, despite our PD saying we shouldn’t, did in fact feel unequal to the other scholars in the room. I came here with a clear idea of what I want to research and the story I want to tell…yet I felt silly talking about it. My supervisor took me aside before leaving and said something like “It wasn’t until the very end of my PhD that I got comfortable discussing my work. Don’t worry, it’ll get easier,” which made me feel simultaneously grateful and self-conscious. How do I sound talking about this? I thought. I actually think he may have overheard me at a point when I’d decided to change tack and, rather than give my scripted answer to the “what are you writing about?” question, distilled it down to the bare essentials: violence, murder, and insanity (the Big Three, amirite?). The same feeling of ineptitude crept in the other day when a flatmate asked me about my writing.

Creating anything is extremely personal. Add to that the fact that the mere thought of reading is extremely boring to some people, and that my writing occupies a somewhat small niche. All of this amounts to me deciding for the person I’m talking to ahead of time that they won’t be interested in what I have to say anyway — by all accounts a terrible habit. There’s no need to be apologetic when discussing your interests (unless your interests involve poking other people with sticks. Then you should definitely apologize). Especially since one of my favorite things about being in England so far has been the reaction I get when I answer the question, “What are you studying?” People have actually been excited when I’ve said, “creative writing” (and, incidentally, have made me feel like I could fly to the moon and back fueled only by awesomeness and the occasional Irn Bru). So, in addition to having amazing adventures here, my goal is to get much more comfortable discussing what I’m working on. Because if people didn’t really want to know, they wouldn’t ask, right? (Unless the question is, “You alright?” in which case they really don’t want to know.)

Monday, I opened a UK bank account (yay!) with Barclays. I’d heard so many good things, and so far everyone is right! The service there is fantastic, and…::drumroll::…NO FEES! I have never said (or typed) this before in my life but, YAAAAAAAAS!!! The only fee I’d have to pay is a flat rate to transfer funds in or out of a foreign account (£15 for EU accounts; £25 for non-EU accounts). But no monthly “maintenance” fees, no (in-country) transfer fees, and I do not owe them my first-born. ‘Tis glorious.

Before my bank appointment, I wandered around Guildford town centre. I found places I knew (like Waterstones, Pret A Manger, & Primark), and ton(ne)s more shops and restaurants to try. I’ve already eaten at Nando’s and Jamie’s Italian (both delicious).

I joined the mailing lists for a few organizations including the Postgrad Society, International Friends, No Wave Alt Music Club, and the Harry Potter club (RVNCLW4EVR), all of which have had some sort of welcome event that I’ve missed because I’ve either been in my room or in the library, reading. Didn’t the veteran PhDs say something about having a life outside of school…? Yeah, I should probably work on that. There are some pub crawls and quizzes happening in the near future that I’d like to do. I also reconnected with a friend in Oxford, and another working as an au pair in Spain, so I’ll be making my way to both places eventually (and around to as many other parts of the world as humanly possible), and I will blog about it here. LOAN MONIES, WHERE ART THOU? Srsly tho… where my money at.

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Now all I need is a UK mobile, a bus pass for ’round these here parts, and a railcard and I’ll be all set! I also think I’ve zeroed in on a good estate agency. Anyone out there work with Foxtons before or know someone who has? I’m itching to start seeing/doing things other than words/reading (though I will be buying more books because I can’t help myself. Don’t judge).

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Happy Wednesday, y’all!

The first rule of clone club is…

I mentioned in my last post that I’ve recently gotten (all the way) into Orphan Black. The third season will apparently debut next Spring, which is perfect because I’m still puzzling out everything I learned in seasons 1 and 2. I dream about this show — it’s become a problem. In any case, it got me thinking about how seldom human cloning is addressed in entertainment. Seldom compared to how often I expect people think about it (then again, just because Orphan Black is taking up mega space in my brain doesn’t mean anyone else gives a flip about clones, right?). The main thing I’ve been turning over and over in my mind is the possible purpose of the clones in the show. Some years ago, I read Never Let Me Go, which is also about clones, and since I started watching OB, I’ve been comparing the two.

So let’s talk about clones!

Orphan Black

I’ll try not to spoil any specifics in the show for anyone thinking about checking it out. The main deal is this: Sarah Manning (English chick from Brixton, far left in the picture) comes back to the United States after 10 months. Her aim is to get out from under an abusive, drug dealer boyfriend who she works for/with, and take her daughter (whose been in the care of Sarah’s foster mom for the past 10 months), and her foster brother, Felix, with her to start a new life elsewhere. Her first night there, she sees a woman, who looks exactly like her, kill herself. She takes maybe 10 seconds to be openly horrified before snatching the woman’s purse and taking on her identity. Eventually, she learns that this woman wasn’t the only one in the world (or even the immediate vicinity) who shares her face, and she starts coming into contact with the others. They tell her what little they know about the whole thing, and begrudgingly accept her as one of them in their mission to learn more about who they are.

One insane thing after another happens in this show. But in 2 whole seasons, after everything they’ve learned, they still haven’t figured out why they were made or whose DNA theirs was derived from. One of the scientists responsible gives the vague answer “we wanted little girls,” but I’m having a hard time believing this was their only purpose. After all, why not adopt (aside from the absurdly arrogant reason that, this way, they know ahead of time what their child’s DNA is comprised of b/c they synthesized it themselves, unlike with a normal child)? Another question I have is why make so many of the same girl? The clones managed to collect details on a bunch more like them in the world (who we don’t meet). With such a large number of them in existence, of course they’d eventually run into one another and try to figure things out. Is this all part of one giant experiment? If not, why not take greater pains to keep them separate from one another? The clones’ so-called “monitors” aren’t very good at their jobs…

Never Let Me Go

Unlike Orphan Black, the clones in Never Let Me Go are both closely monitored in one large group, and designed for a specific purpose that they learn of early on. They’re also cloned from different persons, rather than just one. The clones in this book live at a boarding school called Hailsham until age 16 where it is mostly stressed that they take care of their bodies. They are not taught anything that would allow them to live independently. The main difference between this story and OB is that the children are told they are clones, and that their purpose is to donate organs to normal human beings once they (the clones) reach a certain age. After they’ve donated as much as they can, they die, or reach “completion.” But knowing this doesn’t mean the clones don’t still have questions. Kathy (the protagonist) and Tommy seek out the head of their old school to ask if Tommy’s last donation can be postponed. What they find out is devastating, perhaps even more-so than what they already know about themselves. I definitely recommend reading this book, if only to give yourself a what-if perspective on an interesting topic.

Have you seen Orphan Black, read Never Let Me Go, or encountered any other clone stories?

Photo Dump & Update

Hey, y’all! (I wrote this on October 1st, but didn’t finish with it until October 2nd)

While I have yet to meet anyone in my department, today I met a bunch of new PhDs and attended an introductory Postgrad Research talk. I met PGRs studying Chemistry, Electronic Engineering, Environmental Science, and a few other subjects I can’t recall at the moment. Folks from Cyprus, Vietnam, Austria, Africa, and good ole England, too. Guess what? Our campus has a space center! I met two PhDs who will be researching there (and who will eventually be presenting their work to hundreds of NASA employees — Yowza o.0)! The talk this morning was led by a member of the Engineering faculty, and supplemented by current student researchers (in departments that include Translation, Medical Science, and Engineering) & program directors who sat in a panel up front and fielded questions from us n00bs. It was super encouraging to hear about their experiences on the road to receiving their doctorates. They advised us to set our own goals (because you can’t always rely on your supervisor to give you anything concrete to work toward), start writing our ideas down as soon as possible, but also not to let our research bog us down and keep us from living. I really appreciated their advice and was bolstered by everyone’s enthusiasm. Tomorrow is the day I get introduced to the faculty and students in my department. I am so ready to get started 🙂

I had lunch in the library with an Engineering student from Cyprus I met during the welcome talk. I poked around the library afterwards and left with 6 books (they told us to get started early!). I also bought one book at the campus bookstore titled, How Novels Work (hoping for some nuggets of wisdom). I found like 80 books at the bookstore (including graphic novels!!!!) that I really, REALLY wanted…but I was good. I will be back though, oh yes…::insertmaniacallaughter[here]::

Tonight I went to my first quiz! I sat at a table by myself and eventually amassed some teammates. I was the only girl and the only Arts & Humanities kid at the table. We ate some curry, drank some booze, and threw ourselves into the competition headfirst. We ended up coming in 7th (oof) but I had a great time joking around with the guys on my team. Besides, I don’t feel too bad about our score b/c it wasn’t far below the teams above us — a few of them actually ended up tying and only placed much higher than us in sequence b/c their answers to the tie-breaker question (“How many rooms are in Buckingham Palace?”) were closer to correct than ours. We ended up with 37 points and 2 or 3 teams above us scored 42 points. Not a huge gap.

I have my appointment to open a bank account at Barclays next Monday, and hopefully my loan money will be put in immediately b/c I am running lowwww on funds (shout-out to the airlines I had to cancel and re-book with… 😡 ). I’m enjoying myself already, but I know I’ll have even more fun once I’m able to spread my wings (read: wallet) and do some traveling. One of my flatmates and I are dead set on seeing The Book of Mormon, so that will probably be my first show in London this time around (I saw Wicked in London in 2008… amazing). I look forward to every day here. I know this year is going to be a good one.

P.S.
I binge-watched seasons 1 and 2 of Orphan Black. If you haven’t seen it yet, drop (or utilize) your computer and go watch it. NOW! Cosima is my favorite 😀

Now, photos! (Disclaimer: these photos are NOT good. A proper camera is on my list of future buys.)

A quiet spot on campus.

A quiet spot on campus.

A bit of sculpture.

A bit of sculpture.

The Rik Medlik Building (with Alan Turing taking a permanent stroll in front of it, and another abstract sculture).

The Rik Medlik Building (with Alan Turing taking a permanent stroll in front of it, and another abstract sculture).

A tile mural on the OAK House building.

A tile mural on the OAK House building.

My sweet set-up.

My sweet set-up.

Thinking about getting in on this...

Thinking about getting in on this…

Neatly laid grave markers at Brookwood Military Cemetery.

Neatly laid grave markers at Brookwood Military Cemetery.

Brookwood Military Cemetery. The inscription reads "Perpetual light upon them shines"

Brookwood Military Cemetery. The inscription reads “Perpetual light upon them shines”

Brookwood Military Cemetery. Giant trees.

Brookwood Military Cemetery. Giant trees.

BMC. North Carolina soldier.

BMC. North Carolina soldier.