Monday, January 31, 2005

Drunken Adventures, part II

Okay, this will have to be brief, but I'll try to hit the main points.

• Saturday my sister and I were shown around Oxford by the Spaniard. Dinner with Oxford musicology grad students was pleasantly international (Finnish, Greek, Israeli, etc.), and pleasantly bitchy. Much wine was consumed. During dinner we learned that the Spaniard was recruited to join Opus Dei in High School, which was creepy. After dinner I told the Spaniard that I wanted to just be friends, which was both more and less awkward than expected. Got to sleep at 3:00.

• Sunday my sister and I had dim sum, which made me extravagantly happy, once again. Then to Camden market, where a bought a tiny plate. Then we prepared dinner for the house (soup; salad; casserole). This dinner turned into a crazy reality show episode. Picture it: my still rather conservative sister surrounded by six, count 'em, six gay men, with the conversation veering towards places that I would just as soon not go. The table included one housemate's Israeli ex-boyfriend, who was oddly mean to me all night, and another housemate's ex-boyfriend with whom he had just "broken up with" a week earlier, and yet, oddly, they had just spent the previous night in the same bed. Much much much wine is consumed. My sister is shown what poppers are. The various ex-boyfriends snipe.

Then the prospective subletter (a gay Pole) arrives several hours after he says he will. I, without my sister, retire to the local tragic gay bar with a housemate and the prospective subletter. Did I mention that the subletter is a guy the housemate had hooked up with in a bar, immediately after the "break-up" a week ago? When I returned the ex was storming out, upset and drunk. In the morning, the Pole was sleeping on the couch, and all the ex-boyfriends were sleeping in beds together. My sister, I believe, is getting something of an education in the ways of the mysterious, delicate creatures called gay men.

Still haven't written a lesson plan for my guest lecture at the Royal Academy of Music on Wednesday. I'll wing it, I guess...

Friday, January 28, 2005

Drunken Adventures

Okay, so the title of this post was just to get the attention a certain Berkeley library staff member who requested less quotidian slice of life entries and more sloppy drunken adventure entries. Jeez, he was an flight attendant; he was leaving for Melbourne in the morning; I had injested four cans of Red Stripe and some shots... what more do you need to know? You can make up the details for youself.

In any case, this was a week of blowing things off. Last Friday, my visit to the RAF Club to hear Morty's wacky "observational humor" meant that I blew off a musicology symposium at the RAM called "Verdi in the Victorian Parlour" lead by Roberta Marvin, which I was a little upset about, but not much. Then this last Tuesday I missed the self-same professor Marvin give a talk at Royal Holloway in Egham, because I was so worried about getting my goddam book review finished. I had already decided to blow off the Oxford musicolgy colloquium that Tuesday, so now the blown-off musicology colloquia were piling up. Oh and Monday I decided to blow off the IHR seminar (topic: Muzio "I could care less" Clementi), most because the next time I go I promised the convenors that I would go to dinner with them, and, while this will not be horrible, I'd just as soon put it off. That evening I went to dinner (Belgian mussels and fries) with new friend, literature post-doc "R." Wednesday the review still hadn't been submitted, and I had to spend the morning in the archive, so that night I blew off the Cambridge musicology coloquium. That's a total of five (5) musicology talks which I have not heard this week. And no drunken adventures.

My sister arrived yesterday. She is sleeping now. She just woke up and asked why I hadn't woken her up. I had no answer to this question.

But the review got submitted, under the wire I think, although the editor hasn't actually confirmed that. The question for the readers of Greg's London Ramblings for the day is this: I am about to publish an essay in which I call a famous, living composer a "sexist." (In fact, I believe him to be a misogynist, although I do not use that word.) This essay will be published on the web. Should I be concerned?

Monday, January 24, 2005

Big Weekend!

Well, it's been a big ol' lollapalooza of a weekend, from the Royal Air Force Club, to Popstarz, to a slutty flight attendant's apartment, to Covent Garden. Each of these deserves its own lengthy treatment, but I'm too tired. Let it suffice to say that it's certainly the best weekend I've had since arriving in this Isle. I shall for now present just one image: it is midnight, and the Piccadilly line is jam-packed with drunks leaving the bars. The train operator, who speaks in a very clear, very calm, very proper English accent, is trying to keep things running:

"Please let passengers exit the train before attempting to board. Please wait until everyone who wants to exit has left the train. Again, please wait to board the train until everyone has exited. Everything will go a lot quicker if you allow people to exit the train first. For everyone's sake, please wait to board the train." And then, apparently looking at some security camera or something, continues in the exact same cool monotone: "Or you could of course do exactly the opposite of what I'm saying. It will take longer, but it is your life, not mine."

I cannot convey in print how awesome this was.

PS: Also awesome is the fact that the winner of Celebrity Big Brother was tonight revealed to be Bez, the mildly psychotic self-confessed stoner who used to be the dancing guy in the Happy Mondays. He beat out the pretty people, the clowns, and the cute young rapper with a single on the current charts. When asked what he would do with the money, he said in his occasionally unintelligible Mancusian accent, "pimp out me ride." The fact the 54% of the British people voted for this man reflects well on the country. Things are looking up!

Friday, January 21, 2005

Questions Answered

Heavy hors d'oeuvres are:

• pieces of lukewarm lamb, on toothpicks
• mediocre meatballs, on toothpicks
• icky spreads on thick pieces of bread
• deep fried mushrooms

Soul-less investment bankers are:

• Soul-less

(especially when they live in the heart of Soho, and complain about the drunk people. I think I shall track him down and vomit on his front door.)

Williams President Morty Shapiro is:

• a stand-up comedien, but not that bad...

I am:

• drunk


So I had a sort of date tonight, with an American academic who's lived here for years. I more or less reproduced the post below during the course of dinner, with one added anecdote: while at a reception recently with free hors d'oeuvres and wine (why was I there, you ask? Long story; not interesting) I was talking to a stranger who, when I told her that I was from California, replied, "but you're not from California originally, are you?" To which I responded, with genuine curiosity, "What would make you think that?" She said "I think you have an East Coast accent." Hunh? When retelling this story, the only thing I could come up with is that I was consciously articulating my consonants in a somewhat affected manner, which I do when talking to the British in an academic context, in order to be understood. (If in a noisy restaurant you order "water," pronounced in the American fashion, you will probably be asked to repeat yourself.) So anyway, the guy I was telling this story, who again has been here much, much longer than me, says, matter-of-fact-ly, "Oh when someone says I have an East Coast accent, I usually assume it's thinly-veiled anti-semitism." Well, there it is. (He did, in fact, have a kinda Jew-y voice...)

Okay, there has been far too much complaining in this blog! I resolve that the next, let's say, three posts will have no gripes about the British at all. Tomorrow, I shall complain about the soul-less investment bankers who went to my college! Will the open bar occasion a flash-back to the eventful SF Weekly Music Awards ceremony? What are "heavy hors d'oeuvres"? I'm headed to (alterna-trendy club) Popstarz afterwards. Then the stomach-stapled, pill-poppin' Turandot on Saturday. What I am complaining about!?

[BTW, I keep setting the blog to "allow anonymous comments," and then it un-sets. I think I've fixed it, for now. Comment away!]

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Language Politics

So there was this show on BBC Radio 4 yesterday called Word 4 Word, about contemporary British speech. We all already know that the British are eerily obsessed with accent and dialect, so that aspect of the show, while bizarre, was to be expected. What I didn't expect was the position American English was placed by the panelists on the show. Whenever it was brought up explicitly, it was only ever pointed to as a source of debasement and homogenization, but again and again, implicitly, American dialect was identified as the source of linguistic progress and rejuvenation. In the page linked to above, as on the show itself, a culminating moment comes when a Shropshire youth introduces the panel to phrase "five finger discount," and this is held up as an example of vital linguistic innovation. Sorry, folks, but that's not just American slang, that is very old American slang. Whenever American influences were actually discussed, I got the feeling that all the panelists felt they were all fluent in American English, which they clearly weren't, let alone able to really appreciate its uniqueness and utility.

Incidentally, I think John McWhorter, in his last book, makes the point that Americans don't love their language, which is an interesting, and I think true insight. But I think I do love American English, and I have even before moving away. I love it non-chalance, its pragmatism, its subtlety. I also love the American "r."

But this was heading towards a point: maybe this show encapsulated something about the British relationship to America more generally: a largely unconscious blend of appropriation, ignorance, and presumption. Hmm, gee, that sounds pretty negative I suppose. I leave toning the conclusion down as an exercise to the reader. These thoughts are in part a continuation of an email exchange with BG, which began with a note I wrote when I was in a very bad mood, and had just watch Vera Drake.


1. Sod
2. Trivet
3. DUI


1. Tybach
2. Mingin'
3. On the razz


1. Bloody
2. Fags
3. Lads

Monday, January 17, 2005

Archives can be fun

After a Saturday spent inside tweaking my fellowship application (be sure to read all the way to the end of that clause, friends), I really needed a bit of a release on Sunday. I started with dim sum with H, at this fantabulous dim sum place in Docklands. At 1 I met up with my housemate J, and spent the rest of the day walking around East London. (In my Housemate Venn Diagram, J is in the "Welsh" circle, but not in the "dancer" circle.) We started at Dennis Sever's house, a "still life drama" which is too bizarre for words, and which J had had sex in. Like, in the museum, after hours, with the caretaker. This lent the experience and extra frisson. We also went to the Geffrye Museum, the Whitechapel Gallery, Christ Church Spittalfields, Spittalfields Market, and Brick Lane. Oh and for lunch we had pho, which made me ever so nostalgic. No, it wasn't as good at Pho An Dao on East 18th and Lakeshore, in case you were wondering. But it was still a wonderful, wonderful day.

Today I met the other archivist at the Royal Academy, the one who controls the documents. I spent most of the day pouring over the Minutes of the Directors' meetings, which was more interesting than you might imagine. There's not all that much to report, but I can see a picture beginning to build up. And, frankly, there is a thrill to doing what feels like "real" archival work -- the minutes exist only in manuscript, have never been edited or indexed, etc. There really is something about having seen the original. I mean, I already knew that Garcia was appointed as a professor on 10 November 1848, but now I've seen the place where someone wrote, on the 10th of November, "M. Garcia was appointed today..." It's seductive, in a way.

Oddly, the letters in the RAM collection are of negligible interest, but I have several more leads. (Where all the letters Sterling-Mackinlay cites have ended up is as mysterious as ever.) The archival work suddenly seems much bigger than I thought, but I'm trying to stay focused on what the chapter will look like. We'll see.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Busy Days

So, I got the UCHRI fellowship app all submitted, and the AMS 50 will be basically ready to go tonight. A whole day early, people! This is a big deal for me, although it hardly makes up for not getting the Mabel McLeod in at all. But I hate the Mabel McLeod people. They are stupid-heads. That fellowship was probably bitter-tasting anyway.

So I went to see my first archivist today, at the Royal Academy of Music. She was very nice, and I found some things, including two pictures of Garcia that I'd never seen before. One of these was in the over-illustrated Parisian monthly Musica, accompanying an article titled "Les Larynx Célèbres." Sometimes I really like my dissertation topic.

In the middle of the day I saw a free concert at the Royal Academy, featuring students under the direction of the period violinist Catherine Mackintosh. They played Mozart, Haydn, and CPE Bach. It was okay. The (natural) horns were really, shockingly bad.

It's time to vote, gentle readers! Should I pay £20 to attend a Williams Alumni function? It is a dinner with the president of the college, whom everyone loves but always strikes me as a bit of clown, and it takes place at The Royal Air Force Club. There is a formal dress code. Some of you may know that the last time there was a Williams Alumni function, it was free, and I went by myself and drank to excess, and insulted strangers. Well, not really insulted, I guess. Anyway, I think I really want to go, but for all the wrong reasons. Did I mention that the invitation says "heavy hors d'oeuvres and open bar"? Okay, actually, you don't get to vote... I'm definitely going.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Okay this isn't funny anymore

So the email works, and then it doesn't work, and then it works again. At the moment it doesn't work. Girlfriends at WSO, please get your shit together. (The last time this happened, it was because of a massive hack, and they sent out a note saying "uh, someone has had root access to all your accounts for, i dunno, maybe the last year or so... you might want to change your passwords." We'll hope the problem is more mundane. On va voir. Meanwhile, use gwbloch [at] berkeley [dot] edu, which some of you do anyway...

Monday, January 10, 2005

Email working again, but... seems as if messages sent in the last two days to WSO might have been lost. Please to re-send.

In other news, I have spent large chunks of the morning and most of the evening reading the TWoP recaps of Desperate Housewives rather than writing the review (due in 10 days) working on the grant proposal (due in 5 days) or working on correspondence (way, way overdue). (Sorry everybody!) The recaps suggest that the show is actually rather irritating, and way way too slowly plotted. But I cannot stop reading them.

Oh I went to an IHR seminar, where I was reminded why I hate elderly male academics. I got my advisers comments on the article, which I haven't looked at yet (because I have been busy; see above), but the accompanying email suggests that I have problems with mistakes with French genders. This is after getting the smack laid on me for my pronunciation before Seattle. Not that I'm complaining! Love her!

PS, I'm basically healthy now even thought my nose keeps bleeding.

Email Still Not Working

Okay, folks, so write me at gwbloch [at] berkeley [dot] edu, which I can still check. WSO, you have crushingly let me down.

Also I just realized that I posted the Elton John thing twice. It's just that funny, people.

Various Frustrations

So my email is not working this morning. This is annoying.

I'm worried that I won't be able to get a Mabel McLeod application in, which is also annoying, particularly because that goddam application would have to be overnighted, like, today. I'm sick of missing deadlines.

On Saturday, I was feeling mostly better, so I decided to finally carry the Ikea desk back to Ikea to return it, since I ended up buying a cheaper desk from somewhere else. Now, to get to Ikea on the train you have to all the way in to town, and then back out and THEN you have to walk half a mile. So I'm all: "Fuck that shit! I am so fucking transport savvy that I will take my big-ass desk directly to Ikea's doorstep... on a bus!" Oh, but London Transport is a cruel mistress. So, through a thought process that is too complicated to go into, I got on a bus that does NOT, in fact go to Ikea. So I'm on the bus running through fucking Neasden, with a desk, and all I can do is sort of guess about where I am, and get off, and I end up walking with my desk for a mile rather than half a mile. It is very, very cold. I am not entirely healthy. And very unhappy.

But it is not over. I finally make it to the "Returns" desk, and I'm supposed take a number. I take 1422. The sign says "now serving 1370." I figured there was some mistake, but no. I had to wait about an hour to return the desk, which is just as well, because it allowed blood to return to my extremities, etc. At this point I feel like I am going to pass out, so I go get some meatballs (I do love me some Ikea meatballs...) then I feel like I deserve to walk through the store, which I hadn't planned to do, since I was upset, AND I was going to have to walk back to the tube station, half a mile away.

So I buy the lamp and hike back through the cold cold night to the Tube stop and -- as I would have known had I just taken the tube in the first place -- I discover that there was no service on that line today. The British euphemism is "Planned engineering work." So I had to walk another half mile back to catch the horrible bus that I took in the first place. At least this time I stopped to buy a newspaper, so it went quite a bit quicker. But I got through the door at 9:30ish, six hours after I left.

All's well that ends well, I suppose. Also, whenever I need cheering up, I can simply look at this link, which came in my inbox recently. Book your tickets now!

Hey does anyone have access to a copy of the last ReadyMade magazine that I read, probably the Christmas issue? There is a brief piece about a website where you can turn black and white images in to cool big posters to be printed out on individual pieces of letter-sized paper. If someone can give me the address, I'd really appreciate it.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Still Sick

So, not to complain or anything, but I'm sort of tired of this cold. I thought I was feeling between yesterday afternoon, but then I had an awful night. I would say that I'm feeling better now, but I don't want to jinx it.

I have unfortunately rediscovered television. I watched the first episode of Desperate Housewives last night, and I could feel myself being drawn in. Alas.

Finally, since being in France I've been on the email list of the Opéra National de Paris. Today what should I find in my inbox but an announcement for a "concert exceptionelle." What can I say?

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

New Years and Junkie Diva

So, it is Tuesday evening, and I am sick. It hit me (as they say) like a truck. Or perhaps a train. Or something. Blech.

As it was coming on, I initially attributed my sore throat and congestion to an excess of cigarettes on New Year's Eve. It is perhaps not unrelated. I may have told some of you that I was going to Paris, but this seemed like too much work, and I couldn't get a response from Ali, so I took my housemate up on his invitation to go to a friend's house in Kilburn. It was billed as a quiet, intimate evening, but turned out to be surprisingly lively, considering there were never more than eleven people there. My housemate and I were the only homosexuals, but as it happened almost everyone was from a different country: US, Wales, New Zealand, South Africa, Israel, Czech Republic, France, Peru. Although there were few of us, everyone was dancing in the living room, and we followed the Peruvian custom of eating twelve grapes very very fast at midnight. This was the first year in history that the Tube was running all night long, and more than that, it was free from 11pm to 4am. So, unlike a notorious New Year's in London with my sister several years ago, getting home was no problem at all.

For those of you who care, I sent off a new version of the article today. Including the notes, it is now pushing 15,000 words.

Before New Years, I had a lovely day with M from Berkeley, and K from Colombia, although I'm kicking myself for not getting tickets to Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake.

Finally, musicologists (and others), are we all up to date on the shocking revelations of Andrea Gruber? (Thanks for the tip, G!) If it were in a British tabloid, the headline would be "JUNKIE DIVA SHOCK!" As everyone (well, G) is saying: "Not since Anthony Dean Griffey told us that his schizophrenic mom beat him up dot dot dot"