Dickinson College Humanities Program in Norwich

Not gonna lie…

August 26th, 2009 · 3 Comments

It seems appropriate to explain right off the bat that I slept through E.L.F in almost their entirety. I loved Phantasm, I thought the way the weaved in and out of pieces from phantom of the opera was incredible. Further, having played french horn since the fourth grade(stopping in college for lack of time and monetary excess), I absolutely love hearing one played.  He was probably the crispest played I have heard in a very long time outside of a philharmonic.  But yes, they were so amazing, they put me to sleep, which is something that happens with me around classical music–doesn’t matter where or who is judgingly starring.

Afterwards we went to the National Gallery where, as many others have noted, the only British people there were grumpy workers.  the art was neat though; especially one painting called A Girl at the Window, by Louis-Leopold Boilly.

A Girl at a Window

A Girl at a Window

  I really like how it played with illusion. The painting itself was meant to look like a mounted print. It is almost as if she has caught us spying on her, an intimately understanding, yet coy smile. I must admit, I’m not the biggest fan of art galleries. Now you’re saying to yourself: Andrew, you fall asleep in concerts and you don’t like art galleries; are you total rube? And I might be, but I must at least attempt to defend myself.  The art gallery was an interesting look into the distinction between American’s and the British.  Firstly, there were barely any British people in the National Gallery, despite it being free. This is quite the contrast from the Philadelphia Art Museum or the one in DC, which frequently has art students and locals visiting and checking it out. Even the British guards seemed unhappy to be there. This can very easily be chalked up to the fact that it was a week day and in the afternoon because it seems strange that a nation so entrenched in their history would not care for their renowned artists.  Further, I would wager that the National Gallery is far more maticulously organized. Comparing the websites(The American National Gallery and the National Gallery in London) shows this. The London National galleries website allows you to look up paintings by letter of artist’s name, period, and style– down to the exact painting. The latter gallery does not, instead only giving overviews. Everything was micro managed, down to the path you would need to take. Most galleries i have traversed have allowed for more free movement, and directional choice.

We left the gallery to peripatetically wander and instead came across an anti-zionist movement.  What I thought was amazing about this was how volatile it seemed–on both sides.  In America, for the most part, at least the cops remain calm (out of fear of being sued more than anything). Evidently the PM had returned from a vacation early.  I have liked in a college environment for a good many years, so politcal discussions are commen place, but I have heard people talk about how strange it is to see protests and then post-protest discussions.  People here just seem eager to debate, which I love. By that time Paul was in need of a Pasty, so we attempted to make our way back to tottenham court tube station (where it seems the best pasties can be found). While there, a brawl let out between an African fellow and an Indian fellow. They both seemed to speak english. There was evidently a problem with rolling over someone’s foot. It quickly escalated into a serious fight though. They tumbled into a carphone warehouse eventually. What was most interesting was the managers expression: he just seemed to annoyed by the going-ons rather than anything else. Like he was thinking ‘seriously? in my store?’ My two fellow travelers were thoroughly distressed by the situation, but it was startling how little anyone else seemed to care. In fact, the two fighting didn’t really seem to mind either. The Indian guy, hand on bleeding head, simply got up and walked away from the scene.

This post seems to be going a bit on the long side, so I won’t detail(and definitely should not) the clubing experience. But I will say it was interesting to watch the group dynamic, and our interaction with the Europeans, who seemed to not like dancing until American girls showed up.

There is no other way to describe Westminster Abbey other than ‘overwhelming,’ in every sense of the word.  But if anything, I would say Westminster Abbey is not really even a church at this point. It is more of a mausoleum at this point: both for dead face people and British power.  It has essentially become a 15 quid tour of the who is who of Britain passed, which is sad. It has very little to do with religion at all in fact. Don’t get me wrong, the building was glorious and unimaginably beautiful. Our tour guide was impecably brilliant and knowledgable. But I feel, the Abbey stands more in praise of England than in praise of God.  I was most intreged by the enormous amount of symbolism cramed into every ounce of work. Masterful wood and stone working laid out generation long stories about struggle and triumph. I would have loved to just sit at one of the memorials and break down eat of the images.  It also inspired me to pick up a life goal i had all but given up around the age of five: become a knight; we’ll see how that goes.

Afterwards we went to St. James park, which was full of tourists trying to feed bloated ducks. It even had an overpriced resturant in it. What was beautiful, howe

ver, were the flowers. They were exquisit. This is a very stark contrast from Hyde Park, which I had been to earlier in the week. Hyde park had much more local activity: children playing football, lovers and the homeless sleeping and runners running.  Evidently, people were being charged to sit in chairs at St. James park–honestly, what is that?

We had our own bout with swindly prices today though. We stopped at an italian place to eat, and I got to laugh as almost everyone fell for the old still-water trick. Of course the joke was on us all when we realized we were also being charged for the seats.  More and more I am realizing that pubs are the only safe place to eat or drink, everyone else just tries to screw you over.

Water Buyers


anyway, cheers

Tags: Andrew R

Compassion at the National Gallery

August 26th, 2009 · 3 Comments

The National Gallery

The National Gallery

Laid out in an absolute beautiful mosaic, England’s National Gallery reminds its visitors in a striking fashion to show compassion to others. On the entrance landing (a spot over which all must pass and, therefore, hopefully see) the image of an angel bent down to aide a suffering woman seeks to spark in those that see it a desire or state of consciousness to remember others in need. With this image and reminder being placed before the artwork, the message of compassion is engrained in one’s mind before he or she even begins to look at the paintings he or she is there to see. How true does the message ring in us though?DSCF0271

Many of the paintings portray their subjects in states of need and, thus, excite a feeling of compassion for said subject in the viewer of the piece. One particular piece stood out to me. In the Degas room (room 46- the most impressive room in the gallery in my opinion), an unassuming painting of a woman hangs on the wall. The painting is relatively small and can be passed by without much notice. It displays a woman in a dull black dress facing away from the painter. She stands alone in the sparsely decorated, white room with just a table and chair (both entirely simple and plain themselves). The color of her skin is so light that she would almost blend in with the surrounding wall if it were not for her brown hair and dark dress. If you happen to see this painting in the mix of a beautiful collection of colorful Degas works, you cannot help but be transfixed by it (at least, that was the case for me). The woman appears so lonely- completely isolated in her unnoticed state. My reaction was a desire to reach out and just comfort the woman. Clearly, this cannot happen- she’s just in a painting, I realize. But the painting is a beautiful one that strikes in the viewer an overwhelming sense of compassion for the woman. Success on the National Gallery’s part? Maybe.

Maybe not though. When I was finished looking at the painting, I gathered up my things and proceeded to elbow my way through the crowd of people waiting for me to get out of their way so that they might also have a chance at viewing the painting or the one next to it. Crowds can bring out the worst in people though so let’s put that example of selfishness aside for now. Just outside of the gallery, a man stood with a sign asking us to “say no toracism”. Though he was talking with a man and thus clearly making some strides in his campaign, how many others had passed by without paying him any attention? Besides pausing to snap a photograph, I’m one of the guilty. But, sadly I would argue, I’m certainly in the majority here. Now I don’t know what the man was really hoping to get across. His sign was provocative but not informative. But if I really had learned my lesson to remember to be compassionate, to think of others, to want to help others, wouldn’t I have stopped to at least inquire what he was proposing to tackle such a feat as conquering racism? And yet I walked by. The gallery’s fault? Not at all. But I just hope that its reminder of compassion was more readily remembered by its other visitors than it was by me.


Tags: Audrey · Museums

Westminster Abbey and Feelings of Awe

August 26th, 2009 · 4 Comments

Today we went on a tour of Westminster Abbey.  I had an idea of what I would be seeing but I had no idea what I would be feeling.  I am not a religious person in any sense of the word; it must have been years since I last stepped into a church.  Yet ever before entering Westminster Abbey I could tell there was something different about this church.  It gave off the appearance of grandeur and made me feel in awe.  Upon entering I knew that this church was different than any I have ever been in before.  Though filled with tourists, I could imagine the Benedictine monks of the past walking silently, in deep thought and prayer.  There was something about that mental image which was very appealing.  Spiritual silence; complete and tranquil.

On top of all this was the sense of being surrounded by great individuals, long gone but not forgotten.  The burial ground of the “Unknown Warrior” was particularly striking.  The story behind it was incredible and the fact that this British soldier was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor is all the more remarkable. Everywhere I turned I saw more and more famous individuals, whether Henry V, Mary Queen of Scots, Sir Isaac Newton, Charles Dickens or Charles Darwin.

With that in mind, I am glad that someones ideas we think challenge religious belief is actually buried in Westminster Abbey.  Charles Darwin’s name has been thrown around to promote this and that and whatever else.  But the fact that this man is buried in one of the greatest churches on the planet is a testament to the human ability to reconcile differences and respect one another, no matter what.  Belief in God is certainly no prerequisite to feel the sense of awe and peace within Westminster Abbey.

Tags: Andrew F