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Dancing Philosophers

Last night, I discovered the Secret of the Shower! No more hair-washing in the sink for me! So you take the right-hand handle, push the lever until you see it rise, and pull the handle toward you until you see the handle almost start to screw off the fixture. Then you get warm water. I feel like I have performed a minor miracle.

Again, only Wake-Up Service given to me was provided by a very handy, very compact, very efficient, convenient, and annoying travel alarm clock. And I was actually a good enough hall-mate to go and wake up Anna and make sure that she wasn't too late for breakfast (so much for the Nikki'n'Anna Wake-Up Service). I'm a good neighbor. Go me.

Upon coming downstairs (down the IV section, then around to the front of the building to go through the front door, which at that time of morning was unfortunately locked), I was greeted by a small group of other programmers, one of which was Brian, who approached me, saying, "I've got something for you, Haaaayyyleeeeyyy..."

Faced with a greeting like this, of course, I ran. Today is Fight Friday (so named by Nikki), and this week is water-balloons, so I figured that Brian had watery humiliation in store for me. Being as out of shape as I am, he caught up with me. Not a water-balloon. It was a bean -- one of the ones that attacked him on his run this morning, the description of which almost killed me yesterday (the choking on the honeydew incident). So he attacked me with the bean. Better than a water-balloon, though. Thankfully, the idea of Friday Fight died and there were no lobbed water-balloons today. I can have my guard down until next Friday.

More tired people this morning. Lots of people napping on the couches in the lounge area and scrambling for coffee or any caffeine of any sort. But me? No. I read Descartes. Actually, it's only A Very Short Introduction to Descartes, but still, it's Descartes, and I definitely hate it. I'm being a good girl and reading the darn thing, even taking making notes and marking pages with post-its, but Lord. I hate Descartes. Yes, "I think, therefore I am" is nice and all, but the rest of his stuff? Totally overrated. I could care less about his math and his physics, and his philosophy? My God, his "proofs" are ridiculous. ...I'm not even going to go into that insanity here. There's enough insanity elsewhere.

Then again, my only introduction to philosophy (besides Existentialism in English class, and I don't even have sources for that, and Absurdist plays in Theatre, which is weird enough as it is, and Nietzsche from Mr. Crawford) has been the Bruces' Philsophers Drinking Song from Monty Python. Though it is a very good list of The Philosophers You Should Know.

Immanuel Kant was a real pissant
Who was very rarely stable.

Heidegger, Heidegger was a boozy beggar
Who could think you under the table.

David Hume could out-consume
Schopenhauer and Hegel,

And Wittgenstein was a beery swine
Who was just as schloshed as Schlegel.

There's nothing Nietzsche couldn't teach ya
'Bout the raising of the wrist.
Socrates, himself, was permanently pissed.

John Stuart Mill, of his own free will,
On half a pint of shandy was particularly ill.

Plato, they say, could stick it away--
Half a crate of whiskey every day.

Aristotle, Aristotle was a bugger for the bottle.
Hobbes was fond of his dram,

And René Descartes was a drunken fart.
'I drink, therefore I am.'

Yes, Socrates, himself, is particularly missed,
A lovely little thinker,
But a bugger when he's pissed.

Hopefully I'll learn a little bit about these guys in IB Philosophy come the start of the school year with Mr. Crawford.

First lecture of the morning was just pretty much depressing. It was about the Great Exhibition of 1851 (not nearly as cool as the World's Fair, unfortunately). Made me feel cynical about the world (especially my own home country) and history repeating itself and human nature and... stuff. Ugh.

Programme Notebook Entry:

In Dr. Henry Speck's lecture, "The Great Exhibition of 1851," we were presented with the history of this event and its great significance. This event was really an exhibition of British supremacy, as was most of the Victorian era. Take for example the construction of the Ashmolean museum during this period with its great pillars. This building says, "We are Great. We are the new Rome." What scares me, though, is examining that attitude, how Britain struggled so greatly for a century afterwards with two World Wars, and how I've often heard the United States described as imagining itself as the new Rome -- Pax Americana. While we may not have that Victorian optimism, it is undeniable that we have our nationalism and even our elitism. It's a scary thought, that America could be the next Rome, and could be the next to fall.

Then the scrabble for coffee. The tea is usually ignored. We need the caffeine. There was a rather unsuccessful Scrabble game that went unfinished -- I really need more practice -- and more Descartes. Not the happiest of mornings, really. But then, when I asked Ms. Wallace about getting our submitted Programme Notebook entries back, she told me how she loved my theory about art being an invitation for thought and she wants to use it in her English class! Yay! Go me! Take that, Dr. Speck. I have an English teacher's approval of my opinion. I don't need you.

Related to that last lecture was yesterday's visit to the Randolph Hotel. Really, it's actually relevant.

Programme Notebook Entry:

The Randolph Hotel is another architectural reminder of the Victorian era, with its great optimism, nationalism, and sense of British supremacy. In its Victorian Gothic style, it is grand and intricate, showing wealth and power. Though the Victorian era was also the Age of Industrialism, I can't imagine how the country seemed "dirty and ugly with industry" as Dr. Henry Speck claimed in his lecture, "The Great Exhibition of 1851." The building is beautiful. That age created beautiful things, many beautiful things along with the progress of industry. Power and wealth has the ability to create beautiful things, and the Randolph Hotel celebrates that.

Next lecture. World War One (the lecture on the Great Exhibition was a lead-in to this lecture). Much more interesting, and almost brought me to tears. Dr. David Robertson, the lecturer, could really hit home on a personal level with this history, communicating the impact this war had on Britain so eloquently and poignantly. History is so often examined at such a distance; he brought it to an individual level that just... effects you.

Programme Notebook Entry:

In Dr. David Robertson's lecture, "WWI," the group was presented with an unexpectedly emotionally charged history of Britain, Europe, and their roles in the Great War. Being a war of attrition, one of the main goals was to destroy morale, and the war certainly succeeded in that aspect. I was so shocked and emotionally struck by this sense of pain and despair that these countries felt after this war; Dr. Robertson was able to articulate these feelings so eloquently and on a very emotional level. It seems of no surprise to me now that this war inspired such new artistic movements, such as Dadaism and Existentialism, and after WWII, Absurdism (which is along that same vein). There was so much new feeling and pain that of course new art had to appear in order to express it.

I have got to find the musical Oh, What a Lovely War. That would be a great read, I think.

Lunch was quite interesting. Sat around a table with Maira, Jennie, Madeline, and Daniel, and the male of our party told us the story of the two girls who got kicked out of the programme last session in early July (since he was there to see it). Speck had told us that there was an incident in which "two young ladies were sent home from the programme," but would not go into the details. He was of course using it as a "don't even think about bending the rules" sort of talk, but for it actually to have happened?! What scandal!

So apparently two girls, against all better judgement, met a couple of boys while out in town. They said that they were students of one of the college and, hey, would you wanna come to a party tonight? They say "Why, sure!" I'm sure you can already sense where this is going, and why a high school girl should never speak to a college-aged boy.

The girls took the bus to the party at one of the colleges on another side of town. Only God (and a bunch of college boys) know what went on there, but they did leave the party with the intention of making curfew (not the Back on the Grounds by 10:00pm curfew, but In Your Rooms by 12:00am curfew). ...But no buses run at that time of night. So they tried to call a cab. No cabs run that late either. They were stranded.

They walked all the way back to St. Hugh's, and by the time they got there it was nearly daybreak. Had definitely missed curfew. ...And they had been missed (how in a group of over eighty, I don't know how that's possible, but anyway). Someone had noticed that they weren't around, and when it got late, panic spread. All the adults went around searching for them -- in every student's room, across all the grounds, even into town.

When they got back, Dr. Speck was waiting for them, and told them to pack their bags. They were sent back to the airport to go home that day. And it was early on in the programme, too, apparently. We asked Daniel if he was surprised -- "Y'know, were they the type?"

He said that he wasn't surprised. "Well, where were they from?" Texas, Daniel thinks. [sarcasm] Speck must have been so proud. [/sarcasm]

And, y'know? All this could be absolute rot, and I'd still be fascinated in knowing what happened. I love gossip in that way, just like I love soap operas. I don't have to know the involved persons to want to hear the gossip -- I don't even care if the people are real. You could tell me gossip about completely fictitious people, and I'd still hang off every word. I just love stories, and scandalous stories are the best.

So Anna and Maira have their tutorials today with the mysterious and elusive Dr. George Garnett. I told Maira to give me a full description of what manifestation he takes. She's still got her money on a fire-breathing dragon.

(--Also, Maira's hair-stick broke today, so her hair was no longer in the conservative bun that it's always in, but instead let her hair down!--)

Everyone was off to the Ashmolean museum this afternoon, but I've already seen it! I love being ahead of the game. The programmers who didn't go off to the Ashmolean went to the library, but I've already got my books. I just need to read. So that's how I spent my afternoon, and goodness gracious sakes, do I hate Descartes.

But we got back our first bunch of Programme Notebook entries! Huzzah! ...Except that I can't read Ms. Wallace's handwriting. Woe.

So it has come to my attention that a lot of my fellow St. Hugh's programmers (yes, that's what I'm calling them now) are reading this blog/journal/thing. Hullo, friends! I hope that I'm doing you all justice, and that you are entertained by reading about yourselves. You are now forewarned of the dangers of hanging around me. (This potentially has the power to make me either very popular or very unpopular -- to use the blog for good or for evil, that is the question...)

Also, Ms. Noonan has suggested that I begin to post pictures on this blog, along with the entries in order to illustrate the insanity and serve as proof for the silliness and hilarity that ensues here.

O Matt, stepfather extraordinaire? How would you advise that I upload pictures here? Or is that even possible?

Next was dinner. Maira informed me that her tutor, Dr. Garnett, is apparently not scary, and is in fact the epitome of the Oxford don. He has stacks of papers and books all over his floor, and he has stuffed armadillos in his fireplace. I want to be an eccentric college English professor so badly...

In other news, the boys here at this programme are very odd. Each pair of boys makes a game of wearing matching clothes against the other pair, and they keep points for how often they match (and for the best "yo' mama" jokes -- though wouldn't it be "your mum" jokes here?). When Jamie & Mike informed Brian & Ryan that they'd gotten double points for matching accessories, Brian yelled across the tables at them, "Lies, lies, lies!" It was classic. You'd think it'd be the girls who would be so interested in matching outfits, but as soon as you make something competitive, it's all for the boys.

Almost all the boys also had to ask what a "tart" was (derogatory term for a certain type of female, not the dessert). Very odd.

Ms. Noonan and I have started a campaign for Brian to change the spelling of his name to Bryan -- "i" to a "y" -- so that the unit of Brian & Ryan can merely be shortened, in text form, to (B)ryan. We thought that this was very clever, but Brian with an i refused, for he said that he knows Bryans with a y and wants to be differentiated from them. Not a good enough reason for me, personally. (B)ryan is really quite clever!

Brian tried to find out what the mysterious purple bean was for me while he was in the library. "...But that can wait 'til next week," he finally decided. So maybe he can keep the spelling of his name. Fine.

So I almost killed Ms. Noonan with a butter knife that fell off of my plate as I was standing up after dinner. That was exciting. (You can tell we get some serious excitement, here...)

But tonight was an early dinner, for tonight is the night of the first dance class! The optional dance class was on the original schedule, but then taken off (due to lack of interest in the previous session is my guess). The outcry was almost deafening, but the class is really Madeleine's resurrection. Almost the very first day of the programme (first or second, I can't remember), she passed around a petition to bring back the dance class. Every single member of the programme signed it, though some of the boys had to be coaxed into it. And when I say "coaxed" I mean either threatened with bodily harm, which is fairly effective when the girls outnumber the boys two-to-one, or very bluntly reminded of how every boy is going to get his first pick of dance partners, being that the girls outnumber the boys two-to-one. This also fairly effective.

So yes, it's really all Madeleine's resurrection, in creating that petition, but she claims that she was just "speaking for the people." Word up. You go, girl. Rock on. Or rather dance on. Oh yeah.

What boggles so many of the minds of us girls is how the boys don't seem to realize the great power of being able to dance. The phrase "chick magnet" was repeated a couple of times. The ability to dance can make almost any guy instantly attractive. Why can't boys realize that dance classes are actually to their very great benefit? And boys at an Oxford Summer Programme ought to be smart. Well, they were smart enough to sign the petition, and to actually show up for the class.

I changed clothes into what I figured would be more dance-y. This was the third time I'd changed my clothes today, but this time I actually had a purpose. Nikki said that I was cute in my black dancing outfit. Huzzah! I can dress myself and be cute. The outfit consisted of a black asymmetrical swing-dancing skirt, black knee-high tights, black Mary Jane shoes, and the black short-sleeved sweater that Claire Miller, knitting teacher and British friend extraordinaire, made for me that has a lovely low neck with an X across it.

All the chairs in the lecture area were stacked and put away (with the help of Big Strong Boys), and the class was given by a lovely, balding, and elderly British guy with a big pot belly and snow-white hair, but, Good God, the man could dance. Was not seeing that coming. His name is Bruce.

Connection to the Bruces' Philosopher Drinking Song? Coincidence? I think not.

There was much of the feeling of being in elementary school again and being picked for sports' teams (which, if you know me at all, was never a happy memory), except that this is a dance. There's the awful hormonal boy/girl factor that makes this so emotionally-charged. (There are often thoughts that actually go along the lines of "Will he pick me, omg?" and I can't even imagine what the boys were thinking.)

We learned the Cha-Cha, and then the Slow English Waltz, which is supposed to be the easiest dance to learn, but is completely counter-intuitive and really, terribly hard.

I brought a camera. And unfortunately for Madeleine, who had the bad fortune of being my partner, and who I think actually wanted to dance, I practically sat out the whole Cha-Cha and took pictures. I took so many, they practically animate. And some of the couples were really good. Nikki and Brian, my god, they really got into it. They were tearin' up the floor, all flair and spice. And Ryan and Farah -- they were definitely having a good time, all smiles as they "got down." They were over in our corner, those two couples.

The dance teacher went on and on about how the Cha-Cha's all about shakin' the butt (which is very interesting to see demonstrated on a man of his build), and Mike really embraced the concept. He was shakin' that butt everywhere. I got lots of pictures (potential blackmail?) -- Madeleine and I both, we were photo-documenting practically every step. She'd brought down a camera, too.

...I'm not that horrible a person for not dancing with Madeleine at first. I had been showing her all the photos in my camera and we were both sort of inspired to take more pictures...!

...It's not just that I'm terrified to dance. Really.

...Eh. Just keep tellin' yourself that, Hayley...

Finally, when I realized that I was being an awfully bad partner to Madeleine, I handed off my camera to Ms. Noonan and Ms. Wallace, and I pulled her over to dance, but made her be the Boy (after all, if we're going to be stereotypical about Boy/Girl Dancing, she was in pants, and I was in a skirt; it's just what made sense). It took us ages and intervention from the teacher, but eventually we pretty much got the basic step. The teacher actually danced with me for a while so I would be sure to get the hang of it. All the stuff about form and steps -- those swing-dance lessons came flooding back to me, and memories of how awful I was at it. (And Bruce had bad breath; not good for a dancing partner.)

I got to be passable with the Cha-Cha, and then came the Waltz. Dear lord, the Waltz. Madeleine and I were hopeless at the Waltz. Eventually, we all changed partners, and Maira (briefly) showed me how. She's good; she'd been the teacher's partner. Then the teacher went on to show us how to do turns and whatnot, and that was completely beyond me. This is why I don't do musical theatre. I am not in-tuned enough with my body to know which foot should go where. I can't even run properly.

I practiced with Anna in the corner. Step two three, step two three, step two three, step two three... Usually by that point you've run into someone. I was so pathetic at this that Brian took me in for a pity-dance. I, of course, was terrified ("OMGBOYTOUCHINGME" or something along those lines), but he was really good at this. ...Can't exactly say the same for myself. At all. Brian was counting the steps aloud for me, and the first few seconds sounded like this:

"Okay, so-- one two three, o--"

"[expletive deleted]!"

One could tell how often I was making mistakes by how often I was swearing, but Brian whipped me into shape. He floated across the floor, dragging me along like a dead weight as I tried to remember these bloody, completely counter-intuitive steps. Then, Brian handed me off to Mike, and we tried floating around a bit, but there was lots of knocking into other people and having to start over. That's what's awful about the Waltz -- lots of traffic.

Elsewhere on the floor, Brian danced briefly with Ms. Noonan, which was absolutely hilarious, because Brian had gone barefoot after about a minute of the Cha-Cha, and then Ms. Noonan stabbed his foot with her high-heel while waltzing with him. He danced with Ms. Wallace as well, but I don't think that there were any injuries there. It was just sort of cute.

Sometimes, the girls would dance with themselves, just to twirl around and watch their skirts flare out. Me, Nikki, and Jennie were all culprits of this, just to name a few. But as for same-sex dancing couples, go Anna and Andrea! They really got into it, and they were good. I guess there's no threat of cooties, there, which is a valid concern, as we do still at times tend to act like pre-teens at a school dance. Jamie and Mike dancing together was just amusing (it was all posing for the picture, anyway).

There were so many good couples; it was really intimidating! Jamie and Katie were really going at it, as was Mike and Risa (they were even wearing almost-matching outfits). Fred and Jennie seemed to be having so much fun, but Jennie smiles and laughs so much anyway, how can one tell? So cute. And Janine and Daniel! They were always off in a corner, quietly dancing together. And Daniel was always looking down at his feet to make sure that he was getting the steps right, so he was leaning in very close to her, bent down as if to kiss her. Made for some great pictures. So sweet.

Isn't it just so lovely for a group of young people to get together and engage in good, clean, and cultured fun--? ...I'm going to stop there. I sound old.

Eventually, as I was still so pathetic in how bad I was at the Waltz, Maira stooped to be on my arm (and she does have to stoop -- she's much taller than me), and agreed to stand up with me. Ha. I've never gotten to use those phrases before. What fun.

We tried just dancing across the floor, but apparently I was supposed to be leading and I can't see over her shoulder, she's so tall! So we slid off to a corner and tried not to run into anyone else, and she drilled the steps into me. Finally, we tried the floor again, but she led this time, and we floated.

I'd only just got the hang of it, and it was time for the last dance. The masses called for the Cha-Cha again. Maira agreed to dance with me again for this one, but basically had to re-teach the whole dance to me in the process. But I got it eventually! And I could cha-cha her across the floor, I could...! (Ms. Noonan, who had my camera, promised that she got at least some pictures of me dancing.)

We all profusely thanked Bruce, the Lord of the Dance, with many rounds of applause, and he bid us farewell until next week. Everyone's mind still on the dancing, the boys discussed how maybe mats on the floor with the steps drawn out might help, but Mike was all for the idea of having a dry-erase board with the steps written down on it -- like an American football game-plan. As a demonstration, this eventually turned into a dancing/football commentary, and then into fight-dancing, which is like karate with more swivelling of the hips.

Oh. And the Italians across the way from us (the language students in a different St. Hugh's programme, so named "The Italians" by Dr. Speck, despite the students' variety of nationalities) are apparently having some sort of drunken party, according to Janine, as I sit here huddled in the computer lab. Yay for drunk language students. The party also included loud music and frightening fireworks for Janine and I to flinch at.

Janine and I wish each other bon soir et bonne nuit, and off to bed.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 16th, 2006 05:11 pm (UTC)
Posting Pictures
Hmm. Well, what you would need is a card reader. Sometimes laptops have them. Unlikely that the computers in the lab would have them. After that, it is just a matter of copying the picture off the card and uploading it. You might want to check out a local equivalent of radio shack, or a an electronics store. They are usually pretty cheap. And they have USB connections, so any decent computer should be able to connect.

-- O Matt, stepfather extraordinaire
Aug. 18th, 2006 04:21 pm (UTC)
Yay!!! Black Velvet Touch Sweater (now with sleeves)!!! Yay!!!

I look forward to seeing photos.
And to finding out more about this violent bean.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )


St. Hugh's Crest
Hayley Elizabeth Rushing

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