I said I wouldn’t post… but oh well. Enjoy.
You know you’re old when the words, “Ohhh, my backkk” roll off your tongue like you were born to speak them. Well, my back hurts, but for good reason. I went to climb at 3PM today and didn’t get home ’til 8:30. It was good times though. In exciting news, Kate comes tomorrow morning! I go on my Amsterdam trip shortly after and then the Gtown crew is rolling into London Town for their Spring Break. I don’t anticipate posts for 2 weeks so until then… see ya.
I saw Noah and the Whale at the ICA near Trafalgar Square and I have to say, the ICA is a hidden gem of a venue. I was right up there at the stage (I took the picture to the left) and although it was sold out, it had the intimacy and electric vibe of the 9:30 Club without the crushing crowd that sometimes encroaches my personal space.
We arrived promptly at 7:30, but decided to hit the pub and wait it out for a little while. After a pint of Kronenbourg and healthy conversation at a really spacious pub near Westminster, we headed back to ICA. A trio of guitarists/singers were on stage and they put on a pretty good show, although a little lacking in full sound.
Noah and the Whale came out dressed in blues and yellows. They fit the stylistic bill for many indie acts these days, but their sound set them apart. In one song I hadn’t heard before, the fiddle came in with a riff similar to the one in “Sweet Child O Mine” and got everyone bumping and clapping. The bassist had a full-time job playing the xylophone (or something similar) and harmonium in addition to his bass. Laura Marling shook the shit out of the egg shaker but was still a little timid. With her new haircut, fresh from last Monday’s in-store, she still won me over, but I wish she’d realize how good she is and come out of her shell. They played… around seven songs including “Five Years Time,” “Jocasta,” “Rocks and Daggers,” “Mary,” “Give a Little Love,” two or three others I didn’t know, and an encore cover of The Smith’s “Girlfriend In A Coma.” All of their live versions had more energy and momentum than their recorded versions, but that’s saying a lot since their recorded stuff is great. Look for their songs on Hype Machine.
These guys deserve to get famous immediately. And also… I want a cd. So far, they’ve only released two singles on vinyl. Bah. All I know is I’ve found myself a new favorite band. Catch these guys at SXSW for anyone going.
That’s all for now. I’m finally seeing Juno tomorrow! It hit the UK on Friday. Bye, friends.
Ok, time for a happy entry. This past week, I just got a little tired of being away from the States and family and friends. I watched You’ve Got Mail three times to give you an idea of my dire straits. But then a series of good things happened.
1. I received a mixed cd from a friend at UCLA, combining the excitement of mail and new music all in one glorious yellow parcel.
2. I actually went climbing when other LSE climbers were there. Yes, I should’ve been making a greater effort to go when other people were going, but it takes some will power to drag myself climbing when class finished at 6PM Friday and work starts 9:30AM Saturday. Luckily, I had the will power this week and did my first lead climb (where you clip into the wall) to prepare for Sardinia. Afterwards we hit the pub and I rewarded my efforts with a pint of Kronenburg, my favorite beer here.
3. Jared’s parents visited. More than just a complimentary dinner, I received a bit of the parental love that Jared couldn’t absorb.
4. Work. I was exhausted today, but yesterday was fun somehow. For every asshole that claims prices are “puh-THET-ic” in that posh English accent, there’s four or five customers that make you feel good about your day. And of course, my co-workers.
5. I read The Kite Runner and am possibly the last person on earth to finally read it. Anyways, I liked it a lot. I’m onto a new one called Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin which is good so far.
Alright. I’m going to a sold out concert tomorrow at the Institute of Contemporary Arts to see Noah & the Whale. Check them out.
I am just back from a lecture given by Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia at LSE. Strange to think that the only lecture I have attended so far at LSE is one by an American. Much of the audience was American and simply showed up to see what Scalia would talk about. His speech, although I forget the title now, discussed Scalia’s well-known criticism of the Constitution as a living document as well as his disapproval of the role of the Supreme Court as moral arbiters.
He made the audience laugh with some good quotes:
-In response to a question on limiting the power of the state with some reference to the Nuremberg Trials, he said, “Hitler made a fine automobile.”
-In reference to the overturning of sodomy laws (I forget where he was referring to specifically), he said he is willing to “accept that homosexual orgies eliminate social tension and ought to be encouraged.” Irony, of course.
-I forget the specific quote exactly, but it’s referenced in wikipedia. In reference to his criticism of the “Living Constitution, he says he’s “skeptical that societies always ‘mature,’ as opposed to rot.” That the Constitution was written and defined so that future societies couldn’t do whatever they want.
-He also criticizes the politicizing of the process of nominating new Justices. Every nomination “is like a mini-constitutional convention.” “It’s crazy,” he said.
-Oh, and on the topic of the profile of the next judge to be nominated, he said “Probably a woman. A Hispanic woman… that’s Protestant.” Haha.
As his speech progressed, I became increasingly uneasy about the future of law in the U.S. I don’t know why exactly. Scalia is undoubtedly intelligent, witty, and sharp-tongued. I would not want to be on the receiving end, as some students were during the Q&A, of his criticism. The U.S. is in, if not safe hands (for some minorities), capable hands. But knowing his opinions on hot topics like abortion and same-sex marriage, although he didn’t explicitly express them, is worrisome to me. To Scalia, that society (or at least parts) wants these to be legal is a sign of “rotting” than “maturing.” True, Scalia is not final say on these issues, but it just struck a chord with me.
I think I need to be more politically active. I’m not apathetic by any means, but I feel like more is at stake than I first thought. How in jeopardy is Roe v. Wade right now? With aging Supreme Court Justices and the possibility of a conservative present appointing conservatively minded judges, it’s certainly not in the clear. I don’t know. I don’t think about these things often enough, I suppose, and thinking of them now, I’m just a little worried. Lots of laws seem to be very abstract for people. They can get worked up about them but at the end of the day, they are unaffected by the ultimate consequences. It’s easy to be that way, but fortunately or unfortunately, the issue of abortion is relevant to all women.
Anyways, some more uplifting stories to come at some time in the future when uplifting things occur.
I didn’t mention that I traveled to Stone Henge/Salisbury on Sunday. It was my first real journey outside of London and the 2-hour train ride there revealed some British countryside that reminded me a little of the American Midwest with a few more hills.
So… Stone Henge. Some people claim to be disappointed by it, but it was very near to what I expected. Located in the Salisbury plain, it was pretty damn cold and windy. Sheep were chilling out nearby but kept away from the Stone Henge area by a not so inconspicuous electric fence. The road is right next to Stone Henge too. I must say, the 20-minute bus ride there gave me a newfound appreciation for London buses. Sitting on the top-deck of the bus, it felt more like I was rocking in a boat.
I tried my best to listen to the free audio tour guide thing, but my fingers were freezing as I held it to my ear. My Stone Henge travel pals, Gabor from work and his fellow Hungarian friend, relied on me for listening to the important bits and relaying the information. I won’t go into what I learned, because that would be (more) boring… but it was a good time and I’m glad I went. In the gift shop, I flipped through some photography books of Stone Henge from 1900-present and was kind of shocked to see the vandalism that persisted at Stone Henge until the ’70s. People put tables and chairs on the lintels and drank up there. They chipped bits of rock away for a souvenir. And they wrote on the actual stones. So… needless to say, visitors are kept a safe distance away. Good.
We also ventured into Salisbury itself, home to Salisbury Cathedral which boasts a.) the tallest church spire in the UK; b.) the largest cloister and largest Cathedral Close in Britain; c.) the world’s oldest working clock from 1386; and d.) the best preserved of the four surviving original copies of the Magna Carta (we unfortunately got there 5 minutes too late to glimpse it). Who would’ve thought…
It was cool to travel with Hungarians and ask them about their country/history. They kind of laughed about it and all the arbitrary borders for Hungary and neighboring countries which are home to many Hungarians also. It’s also a feat to overcome mistranslations, as they speak “British.” They’re what I would call fluent, but things still go awry with accents, pronunciations, and American/British colloquialisms. Anyways… that’s a wrap.
The in-store took place at the tiny Rough Trade West, a tiny record shop in Notting Hill off of Portobello Road to celebrate the release of her first record, Alas I Cannot Swim. Laura performed behind the counter with just a microphone and her Gibson acoustic. She did her best to talk a bit with the audience but her shyness showed through, as she sang with her eyes downcast for most of the songs. Her eyes would occasionally drift up and look above the audience at all the posters and when the guy who was front and center, arms wrapped around his girlfriend, scrambled to silence his ringing cell phone, she smiled wide. I was right up front, just behind a slightly pungent man that took too many photographs. I could even see her fingers grey from all the guitar picking. She played six songs or so and then returned to sign some cds and singles.
As I listen to her album now, I prefer her live versions, especially of “Alas I Cannot Swim,” (listen to below) a favorite that sounds a bit like its a traditional story sung in some traditional style that I can’t put my finger on. Somewhat unfortunately, it is inconveniently hidden away at the end of the last track. Some album versions are a bit more elaborate compared to her stripped down versions at the in-store. Luckily, I will get to see her live again… next Monday when she performs with Noah & the Whale at ICA and in March with my free ticket included with my purchase of her song box.
Edit: I’ve listened to her album several times through now and I think I need to give it more praise. Listening through my headphones and not my crappy laptop speakers, the loveliness of her live performance came through in her album versions. Very nice and calm to listen to as I did my morning Econometrics problem set.
I don’t really know how to write real “reviews” so I will just conclude by saying that the in-store made me feel good. A bit of tugging at heart-strings and a bit of smirking at her bashfulness. At only 18-years-old, I think Laura Marling’s song-writing is amazingly mature and intelligent. I hear her single “Ghosts” has been snatched up by a mobile phone provider so perhaps she’ll go the way of the Feist-Starbucks marriage and be propelled to international stardom, complete with Ipod commercial.
Music has been a bit of a savior for me here in London. I’m really lucky that I’m right here in the middle of it. Hopefully, I keep taking advantage of it all.