Sunday, May 11, 2008

Fly Blackbird Fly/ In to the Dead of Nite...

So, I think I've sufficiently recovered from my adventure to write it all down for you.

So on the 12th of April I flew out of Prestwick International Airport, which is about a 45 minute train ride down the southwest Ayrshire coast, which, surprisingly looks somewhat like the area around Bandon if you take away most of the trees. I caught the 8pm flight into London Stansted arriving a mere hour later. This was to be the shortest of my layovers however ;)

I proceeded then to sit in Stansted til 6:30 am, somewhere in the region of 9 lovely hours. I watched the sun rise over London and caught my flight into Venice Treviso, another lovely half an hour outside of Venice. I nodded on and off during the two hour flight, waking to see strange looking clouds that actually turned out to be the Alps. Oops :p

For a trip that took realistically three hours of flight time, well the layovers just sucked.

Natalie met me at the airport and we caught a cab to the train depot and proceeded to wait about twenty minutes before she drug my sleep deprived self onto the train. The ride into Venice is interesting because you cross a very long causeway, probably a mile and a half, over open water, til you enter the center station. Exiting the station you step immediately onto the Grand Canal, which you'll see in the pictures. The widest canal shots will be the Grand Canal.

After we stumbled around looking for the hotel we finally located it after several sets of bridges. The manager wouldn't let me check in at first because he was confused about who we were. When he finally did he said Natalie could only go up for ten minutes or so because she wasn't on the guest list and the list was registered with the police and blah blah blah. So we made our way up to the room and all I can think of is a shower and sleep. Not five minutes later the phone rings and its the manager telling me we need to come down, it's been ten minutes you see. I've not every opened my suitcase at this point. So we wander back down quite annoyed. I call Grant and he says they're only a little ways away, coming in over the lagoon in a wonderful water taxi. So Natalie and I wander around for a bit longer and finally meet Grant and Aunt Chris at the hotel. Good to see that kid again and Aunt Christ as well ;)

So later that nite we come to find out, as Aunt Chris informs us, apparently Natalie was a prostitute and I was the john. Pretty fun huh? Ridiculous if you ask me, but such is the way it goes in Italy, get on the guest list! :p

We spent the next several days just wandering through the tiny streets of Venice, sampling many gelato stands and pizzeria's enjoying fine wine and food. We shopped a bit, took pictures of old buildings and generally enjoyed the time together.

We wandered through an old palace which is now a museum called The Rezinnico. It was quite an impressive place, so much history and artwork and right on the canal with marbled steps that slid under the waves. You'll see Grant and the pigeons in San Marco's Square or Saint Mark's Square. You'll see us on Murano the island renonwed for it's glass blowing skills. We watched the Master at work, molding a hammerhead shark out of 24 carat gold inlaid glass. We then proceeded to wander through their gallery and marvel at all the sculptures, dinnerware, etc that shone so brightly.

We also went to Burano, which is renowned for it's lacemaking. My favorite stop however was the Lido, which is the setting for Thomas Mann's penultimate 'Death In Venice' which happens to be what I wrote my undergraduate disseration partially on. The beach was empty and littered in seashells which was just beautiful. Right on the shore of the Adriatic, to breath that salty air in and picture all those moments from the story. Fantastic. The book is very short by the way, under a hundred pages, so If you need a quite read, go for it.

After Venice, which I was glad to leave, Grant headed home, as did Natalie and Aunt Chris and I made our way to Paris. Arriving there on the 17th we decided to take our time and so we slept in a lot, ate for hours and generally took our time enjoying the sights. We met Ron and Lorelei Friesen that same nite and they were gracious enough to drive us around downtown Paris in their Saab giving us a great view of everything. We spent the next several days seeing the Effiel Tower, the National Army Museum, Napoleans Tomb, the Musee de Orsay and of course, the very famous Shakespeare and Company bookstore. We also wandered through the lovely Jardin du Luxembourg which was near our hotel and even closer to the Friesens church. Also sighted was Versailles which was just as impressive the second time around and so much lovely on the edge of spring. We took in a recently cleaned Notre Damn and enjoyed the aura and awe that accompanies that building. At the tail end of our trip we wandered down the Champs Ellysee, noted the Arc de Triumph and enjoyed the lovely sunshine.

After leaving Paris, Aunt Chris and Natalie met me in Glasgow and we spent a couple days tooling around here and Edinburgh. There are also pics of this end of the adventure in the Venice/Paris gallery. Quite a rambunctous trip by the by. Click through the three gallerys below and put them on full screen slide show. You can adjust the speed settings to your liking.

Venice 1
Venice 2

These galleries here below are pics I took during the trip they don't have a slide show function, but you can pick and choose what you'd like to look at closer by clicking on the picture.

Jaunts 1
Jaunts 2
Jaunts 3

This past Wednesday I also took a trip with my good freinds Judy B and Helena the GingerFinn to Blair Atholl, a castle about two hours due north in Perthshire. We spent another lovely day in the sun, of which you can see pics in these galleries here. These last one's really are pretty though, so if you're seen to many pics already, take a break, pace yourself, it's taken me a month to collect them all, another day or two won't hurt ;)

Blair Atholl 1
Blair Atholl 2

Hopefully I've covered everything for you, any questions, just ask.

Take pride in the Pacific, I miss here vast expanse...

Friday, April 4, 2008

90 Minutes On The Edge Of Our Seat, But Still A Wee Bit Dull...

So my buddy Lance and I made our way haphazardly to Ibrox stadium, first missing each other at the Underground and me riding the train to Ibrox and back trying to find him. This in fact wasn't too bad seeing as how football stadiums in Europe are not built at all like sport stadiums in the US. After easily wading through the crowd of 48,923 we found our seats and proceeded to watch the warm up and chat about how cool it was to finally be in for a nite of UEFA Cup Football.

For whatever reason it was blowing quite briskly through the entirely match and that being said even though it was 8-9 C it felt more around 2 C. Chilly. The match on the whole was quite pedestrian with several good chances with Rangers being for the most part, obviously the better team, but they were slow, lethargic and lacked a cutting edge in finishing. The game finished 0-0 which is actually not a bad result seeing as goals you score away from home count more. That being the case if Rangers score in Lisbon next week and either tie or win, they are most likely going through to the next round where we will face PSV Eindhoven (Phillips Sporting Vereniging) from the Netherlands or ACF Fiorentina from Italy. I'll leave you this lovely picture of 5'9 Nacho Novo, after he scored the away goal that won it for Rangers back in February against Panathinaikos FC that put them through to this stage. Enjoy the passion ;)

We sat amidst some rabid fans, one who tried to pick a fight with the Portuguese gentleman who sat in front of us, despite his protestations that he loved Benfica and was not wearing the green and white of Sporting Lisbon. Green and White in Ibrox is practically a death sentence no matter what game it is due to the still ongoing nature of sectarianism in Glasgow, of which we got the full brunt of by drunk teenagers as we waiting in line for the subway after the game. Here's the link for the few pictures I took inside the stadium-

Rangers Pics

All in all it was a good nite and we'll definitely go to the next round if Rangers make it through. As for everything else, it's going well, I'm plugging away on my thesis and enjoying my time here. Thanks for all the prayers.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Mon the Gers!

In case you're wondering what the title and the logo mean, it's all about the Glasgow Rangers FC (Football Club). Tonite I'm off to see my Rangers take on Sporting Lisbon at Ibrox Stadium which just happens to be just over the River Clyde from my flat. It should be a great nite of European Football, it's the UEFA Cup and the winner of this two-leg tie will be in the Final Four if you will, of the competition. I've tried to provide as many links and pics and such in case you're horribly bored and want to know what I'm actually talking about.

Rangers were founded in 1872 and their nickname is the Gers, Teddy Bears and the Bluenoses.

More logo's...

The Rangers play at Ibrox Stadium which was originally built in 1887 and the Gers have played in this place in one form or another ever since. And today, I'll be way up in the rafters somewhere :0)

In this picture you can see Ibrox and nearly my flat, I'm off screen to the upper left just below the river by maybe a quarter of an inch, but that's how close we are, in fact we can see the stadium from our kitchen window.

Just a couple more pics of the stand, a very beautiful stadium based upon two of the greatest built in Britain, those being Manchester United's Old Trafford and Arsenal's Highbury.

Inside the stadium, lush and royal blue :)

Fun with flags!

This is the new crest symbolizing 50 league titles, which is the best in the world, no other team had ever accomplished the feat till Rangers did it. And if you're wondering about the Union Jack, the Rangers are a Unionist team who have historically supported the United Kingdom as a whole, while still being defiantly Scottish.

And finally because I'm sure you're bored, here's the tickets for tonite ;)

Tomorrow I should have more info from the game, along with pictures from inside.

Hope all is well, you're all loved.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Long Road From Abdication to Vindication

Over the past six months I've been pondering my base intentions for making this extraordinary journey into the European intellectual community. My assumptions were essentially shattered as I learned that no, there is no superior sophistication in Europe, it's much the same as back home, with the good and the bad elements thought and censorship. I came craving an intellectual purity, a new direction of thought that transcended the American paradigm and thus experience a year of out of the box thinking. The disappointment I cannot adequately convey. For these past six months I spent more time analyzing why the hell I actually believed that Europe might harbor such a fantastic prize. I've toiled under the atrocious and noxious, incredibly vitriolic whims of my Research Methods class, were arbitrary grading and a lack of clarity and purpose rule the day. I've spent many long nites in the library asking why I should care that some aspect of obscure historical methodology should have an active place in the life of today's historian.

I've survived, partially on the sense that this is only an intermediary period and that despite my utter disgust and contempt for certain segments of this university, there is in fact something valuable to be gained beyond a piece of parchment signifying my degree completion. The other factor is of course my Revolutions class, one in which intellectual development is not only encouraged, it is demanded. Is it possible to explain how challenging and fulfilling it is to be charged with applying your own theories to complex socio-historical problems and find a point to prove or disprove?

So there I was last nite, on the edge of abdication, desperately wanting anything but this life here in Glasgow. After two weeks, 16578 words, 64 pages of writing, and over 1000 pages of reading I was at my wits end. Exhausted can't fully encompass my state. I hit the floor hard, knowing I've still got two tests and presentation this afternoon worth 20% of my grade in that waste of a class called Research Methods.

Yet I left the last tutorial for my Revolutions class this morning, stepped out into the gale force winds and driving rain with a wide smile. I'd just been handed my 5000 word essay and three others whose number added up to 4500-5000 words together. First I must explain how they grade in this an A is punishable by death, no one does it, it's rare like a day without clouds here in Scotland. Not only do they rarely give A's but they also have a funky scale for the gradations of letter grades, such as A1 = A++, A2 = A+ and so on until you get A5 = A--, and down the line everything else is variations of 1, 2, 3. So I get my big term essay back and she loves it, a solid B1, which is a joyous thing, considering you can't honestly hope for anything higher. She commented on it's scholarship and well argued points and then helpfully explained what could have made it better and where I needed to clarify certain points. So far so good and I'm excited. Next she pulls out the last three seminar papers. The oldest one has a lovely little mark on the top that says A5 and I'm floored. An A? Even if it's an A minus minus, it's still a bloody A, och aye, what can you do? Again the same process is repeated, this was good, could have strengthened this. The kind of criticism that actually makes you want to do better next time. So she reaches for the second one and oops, B3, still respectable and well written, but missed on the heart of the matter and truthfully I felt it was my weakest.

At this point I'm quite content, pondering about changing my thesis to encompass this latest term paper because of it's well received nature and she pulls out the final paper, the one I turned in last week. 'This' she says, 'was your best paper.' Lo and behold an A2 is beaming up at me from the page, all saccharine and smiles. Finally vindication after all the rest of this disappointment. Not only did I clean up score wise, especially since the term paper accounted for 70% of my grade and with my aggregate seminar papers and discussion input making up the rest, but I have a realistic shot at an A5 or a B1 as a final assessment. How fantastic is that? Its about bloody time.

As for this evening, to hell with that presentation, once it's over that's's time to write this thesis and make them remember my name ;)

If you'd like to read my Revolutions Term paper and see what my new thesis may be, you can easily download it here The Reformist Tenets of the German Social Democrats; 1905-1914 (The German ‘Right of Way’)

And on that note, I'm off to finish my presentation.

Watch over the West coast for me...

Monday, March 3, 2008


It's snowing in Glasgow! Three quick pics, hopefully more this evening and no, I'm not dead, yet ;)

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

A Sunny Day In Glasgow (The Second City Of The Empire Shines)

Have you seen me lately? I heard OSP was hiring and thought, well an action shot just might earn me a badge ;)

Just thought I'd throw up some pictures my German flatmate took last week of the lovely little snowfall we had. It only lasted for about two hours in the morning but lovely nonetheless. In order you see the University building (circa 1850's), Uni again, and two statues of Lord Kelvin on the way to school. Remember you can click on the pictures to make them bigger.

In other news its been sunny all week, quite chilly, but gloriously sunny. In fact it almost felt like an Oregonian day, with a chill wind blowing and the freshness diving in off the hills. Glasgow really does shine when the sun comes out and surely she was a radiant jewel in Victoria's crown.


Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Garden of Forking Paths

Jorge Luis Borges, the preeminent author of magic realism or metaphysical text was born in Buenos Aires in 1899. A prolific writer of short stories, poems, and essays, Senor Borges lay the groundwork for authors such as Gabriela Garcia Marquez, whose books include 100 Years of Solitude and The General in his Labyrinth. If you're never read anything by Borges, I suggest you head down to Borders or Powell's or any other reputable bookstore and find a volume, any volume of his work. My personal favorite is entitled The Library of Babel and is a beautiful story about a never-ending library and the consequences of such a construct. The title of the blog of course is another story by Borges, one of the first I read, do yourself a favor and try him out. I'll give you the 300 word story here to one of his more famous musing entitled Borges and I.

Jorge Luis Borges
"Borges and I"

'The other one, the one called Borges, is the one things happen to. I walk through the streets of Buenos Aires and stop for a moment, perhaps mechanically now, to look at the arch of an entrance hall and the grillwork on the gate; I know of Borges from the mail and see his name on a list of professors or in a biographical dictionary. I like hourglasses, maps, eighteenth-century typography, the taste of coffee and the prose of Stevenson; he shares these preferences, but in a vain way that turns them into the attributes of an actor. It would be an exaggeration to say that ours is a hostile relationship; I live, let myself go on living, so that Borges may contrive his literature, and this literature justifies me. It is no effort for me to confess that he has achieved some valid pages, but those pages cannot save me, perhaps because what is good belongs to no one, not even to him, but rather to the language and to tradition. Besides, I am destined to perish, definitively, and only some instant of myself can survive in him. Little by little, I am giving over everything to him, though I am quite aware of his perverse custom of falsifying and magnifying things.

Spinoza knew that all things long to persist in their being; the stone eternally wants to be a stone and the tiger a tiger. I shall remain in Borges, not in myself (if it is true that I am someone), but I recognize myself less in his books than in many others or in the laborious strumming of a guitar. Years ago I tried to free myself from him and went from the mythologies of the suburbs to the games with time and infinity, but those games belong to Borges now and I shall have to imagine other things. Thus my life is a flight and I lose everything and everything belongs to oblivion, or to him.

I do not know which of us has written this page.'

Why am I telling you all this when my blog is supposed to be about Scotland and all my grandiose adventures therein? Truthfully, it's half past 3 in the morning and I can't sleep, which means, depending on your timezone, it's probably the middle of the evening for you. Plus Borges is a genius and I think you might enjoy the way he puts his prose, albeit, translated in many cases.

As for Scotland things haven't been moving terribly quickly. I'm finally developing a rhythm again with papers due every week, which is a godsend. How odd to say that, papers a good thing?! But honestly, I've needed a new form of accountability and this easily provides it. Classes include Grand Strategy of the Second World War, which is good fun, but not terribly enlightening as of yet. I'm still working on the German and getting better a little bit at a time, hopefully that process speeds up quite well by March. The class however that I'm very enthused about is entitled Revolution, War and the Left, 1789-1989. This class covers everything from the French Revolution to the fall of the Berlin Wall. It consists of five of us grad students, each preparing a short three page paper that answers one of the questions in the syllabus. At each session we essentially enlighten the other members of the class on our area of research and thus the discussion ensues. Last week we got into a lovely little chat about Hegel's Phenemonology of the Spirit and used his thesis, antithesis, synthesis theory to explain cycles in Marxist thought at the end of the 19th century. I very much needed a day like this, one in which I could stretch my proverbial intellectual legs and try to add something new to the discussion. Today I'll be presenting on pacifism's failure to make a larger impact in the 19th century due to nationalism and patriotism, should be interesting.

As for things beyond school I've been playing more football and treasuring every chance I get to move about on the pitch. There are good friends out there in between the heated challenges and deep runs. I've also picked up a copy of Baudelaire's The Flowers of Evil which is stunningly beautiful poetry from the mid 19th century. It's certainly worth a look if you in the store, although it is quite sensational and provocative, especially for France at the time, at which point several of his poems were banned for explicitness. If you're up for it take a look over the introduction and see if it's worth your time.

Now that I've written you a novel and gotten no closer to sleep I'll leave you to enjoy your West Coast snow, lucky buggers you all!

our sins are stubborn, our contrition lax;
we offer lavishly our vows of faith
and turn back gladly to the path of filth,
thinking mean tears will wash away our stains.
(Baudelaire 'To The Reader')