…September. That’s pretty unacceptable. I’m sorry for neglecting to write for such a long time.
I hope to share much that’s happened since then, for admittedly A LOT has happened.
I think I’ll start with academics, because that’s the main reason I’m here. My program, Directed Studies, is still a grand lot of work, and is still, if not even more, rewarding. Last semester we worked our way through the classical world of Greece and Rome, and ended in the Middle Ages. Highlights were the Aeneid, Livy and Polybius and Tacitus, and Dante. DANTE = AMAZING. Blew my mind.
This Semester we started with the Renaissance and we’re currently in the 18th Century. King Lear is arguably Shakespeare’s greatest play. Don Quixote is more meta than most other, even post-modern, things; Cervantes was brilliant. Hume is my favourite philosopher we’ve read so far. He’s the first to whom I’ve really said, “I think you’re onto something true.” Not necessarily dogmatically so, that is to say, he leaves his argument open to qualification and further distinction if the need arises. But his arguments for the formation of ideas from impressions (abstract from the sensory) and the the non-rational belief in the Uniformity of Nature as the basis for human knowledge from experience are convincing. And these notions make his concept of morality very convincing too. I think this week I am going to write my paper on Hume.
My Latin class is also very compelling this semester. I’ve continued on from first semester, and now we are done with grammar and we have started to focus on readings! It’s really exciting because we’re reading texts in the original Latin of writers I read in the first semester of DS. Lately we’ve been reading Cato, Cicero, and Livy, and we’ll also be reading some Lucretius, hopefully Tacitus, and eventually Virgil, which I’m so excited for. It is really gratifying to already be reading such real works after only one and a half semesters of study – but there’s definitely still much more to learn!
The Alley Cats are continuing to be an unbelievably amazing opportunity for me. Two weeks ago, we had our biggest concert of the year, Cham Jam (short for Champagne Jamboree), which every year draws hundreds of people, including alumni from around the world. Each member of the group had a solo, and we also prepared an original dance number, as is the annual tradition. This year, our Performance Director envisioned a Michael Jackson medley/epic narrative, involving “The Way You Make Me Feel”, “Bad”, and an insane spoken word passage. It was ridiculous. Once the video is up on youtube I will post it here.
In two weeks, we will be touring to Germany and Switzerland for the two week Spring Break. I am very excited, because not only is it my first international tour with the Alley Cats, but it is also my first time traveling to Europe! I’m pumped to say the least. I will post pictures!
Theatre is consuming much of my life only partially against my will. I have already been in one show this semester, called Is He Dead? by Mark Twain, a recently rediscovered play that went up on Broadway. Mark Twain is not known for his drama (not without reason) but nevertheless this was an entertaining production. This coming week, I’m very excited to be performing in a Yalie-written play, entitled Brilliant Disguise: an Animorphs Musical. You may or may not remember a certain children’s book series called Animorphs, in which a group of kids gained the power to morph into animals in order to fight a rampant alien invasion of Earth. Well, four Yale students have kept their passion for Animorphs alive all these years, and decided to write a musical about it, using Bruce Springsteen tunes with appropriately rewritten lyrics and and epic storyline. Wish you could see it, it’s going to be a phenomenon if there ever was one.
After Spring Break, I’m in another Yalie-written show called The Mating Game. It’s a very good piece of theatre, hugely funny, about a rather odd jungle in which the animals have all very human habits and interactions, and in some way seems to point to our own social foibles. I play a zebra named Ziggy Stardust (the writer is an inconspicuous Bowie fan, as is most of the cast, funnily enough), raised in the zoo then released back out into the wild. Hence, I am socially incapacitated and ticky. Other characters include an emotionless Iguana, an overly-propitious elephant, a demagogical Rhino, an anorexic flamingo, and a “homospotual” leopard (the leopards and panthers in this jungle have rather different mating habits). Needless to say the play is so funny it is hard to rehearse because often we ourselves can’t keep it together for more than five minutes at a time – but that’s the best way to rehearse and become a close cast if I ever knew one.
The Control Group, the experimental theatre group I’m a part of, just finished an original production on Valentine’s Day weekend based on the text of The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T. S. Eliot. It’s a favourite poem. The show involved seating guests (audience members) around a table in a old mansion basement (reinvented as the Ragged Claw Cafe) and producing various vignettes and impressions in succession as the text demanded, including a darker take on the laughing women, a performing duo, a tie man, and Prufrock himself, narrating the play from his seat at the table. There was toast, and a peach. The lighting was very cool. I wish I had pictures. I may soon.
I’m also involved in theatre not as an actor, which I’m really excited about. I’ve helped to create the lighting plot for the annual Freshman show put on by the Dramat, the large theatre organisation at Yale. The play this year is called Laughing Stock, and is put on completely by Freshman, so it’s definitely an experience. I’m also excited to be the Assistant Director for a show going up after Spring Break, called Dog Sees God, a vision of the Charlie Brown characters once out of childhood and into adolescence. The director and two of the actors are also Alley Cats, so it will be a fun experience to work together on a theatre project.
I haven’t gotten a chance to go up to the Yale Farm lately, but I hope to after Spring Break once the Farm begins to come really back to life. Instead, I’ve been working to find a job on campus, either working in the Yale Art Gallery (one of my favourite places) or in one of the departments at the Sterling Memorial Library. The Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library would be my first choice. It’s a marble structure (the stone filters the light to preserve the documents) full of old treasures. I’m planning to go there soon to see a set of Botticelli’s charcoal illustrations for Dante’s Inferno. Amazing. While I’m there I want to check to see if they have any original prints from Gustav Dore’s set of engravings for Paradise Lost. It’s so cool to have access to such incredible resources.
I’ve also been working lately on solidifying my plans for the summer. After touring with the Alley Cats around Hawaii, Japan, South Korea and China, I’m hoping to continue on to one or two destinations for research on educational disparity and reform. I’ll tell more once my plans have been finalised.
Recently, I went to a concert with Yale Symphony Orchestra and Yale Glee Club. They performed Brahms’ Nanie, Mahler’s Adagio from Symphony No. 10, and Dvorak’s Symphony No.7, Op.70 in D Minor. The concert blew my mind. It was amazing. From Brahms’ revelations of the value of passing beauty and the acceptance of death to Mahler’s entropic vision of musical progress in atonal chords and simple resolutions to Dvorak’s clear commitment to preserving his cultural identity in blending folk themes with high German Romanticism, the concert was powerful and gave me a lot to think about.
I also saw a production of Ibsen’s Ghosts the other night. It was very moving for me.
Jumping back to last semester, I was very happy because I was able to travel up to Montreal over Thanksgiving Break (a week in November – American Thanksgiving) to visit friends, especially Morgan. It was really nice to be back in Canada, visit Montreal (such a cool city!) and get some air from Yale. As much as I love it here, I recognise that I need to get out once in a while. The experience is so condensed and multifaceted here that I need to leave periodically just to keep a perspective on the world, and experience that is greater than any institution. I’m excited to go traveling.
Well, I think I should stop here because I really need to be a responsible student and finish my reading for tomorrow. I’ll try and post more frequently and I think I’ll include some pictures to give some images of my life. One of the best feelings living here is walking around all day and having constant moments of awe just looking around at where I live. It’s beautiful.