Saturday, February 26, 2005

Bill Bailey

3 blind mice go into a bar. but deriving any humour from the fact that they were unaware of their surroudings would be exploitative.

-for the pupose of remembering the joke.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

fighting chickens

so i submitted my column on schedule to the Viewpoints editor. he made his mark and sent it to a copy editor, who also made his mark and sent it on to the editor-in-chief, who looked at it and sent it to the online editor, who apparantly lost it. what an efficient system.

it's been snowing for three days straight. its pretty but its getting slushy. i'm running out of dry trousers. may have to go naked. pity.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Cold Heretics

Gamecock article for 2/22/05. I wrote it in about an hour after having to spend two hours hiking around Canterbury to find a cap gun for a monologue (i had to go into literally 8 different shops before i found one that was suitable and reasonably priced) but i actually impressed myself with my writing capacity--to write 600 words off the top of my head in an hour and have it sound okay and fall into a fairly recognizable essay- or article-format maybe doesn't take skills, but it does take a world of patience. Look for it in all its edited glory tomorrow on .

Its snowing outside, and rather than bundle up and go down to the pub to stay warm I thought I might examine a couple of entities that England, for whatever reason, doesn't have. I've been in Canterbury for about 5 months now and have gotten to know most of the ropes of this area (besides the whole driving thing) so I think I can mention a bit more than the usual “they don't have American accents” and “nobody has SUV's because they don't fit on the narrow roads“ etc.

For instance, most folks here don't have religion. Whether they're atheistic or simply apathetic, church just doesn't come into play much here. Churches are tourist attractions and are usually full of beautiful tombs and relics of old, but the actual number of people who attend services could barely fill a pew. The clout Christianity has in American legal matters is often equated to religious policy in Islamic nations by the English, so they have a hard time judging just who are the fanatics. The new constitution being written for the EU omits religion completely and, aside from irritated comments by a few Catholic groups in Poland, everyone is pretty comfortable with it. If you are religious here no one is going to hassle you, but they may smirk about it behind your back. Secularism is just the only policy that all the different countries and cultures in the EU can agree on. Better to have no religion at all than pick one and fight over which it should be. It also prevents varying religious motivations for criminal actions (like jihads, crusades, and ethnic cleansing) from letting murderers and invaders evade punishment.

Another thing the English don't have is the diet craze. When news of the Atkins Diet came to England most everyone had a good chuckle and went back to their daily lives. They love carbohydrates here. My favourite food on this continent is, hands down, the Pasty (with an “a” sound like “agriculture”, not “Cambridge”) which is a wonderful beef-and-potato stew in a thick, crusty pastry. One goes great with a pint of lager. Pie, also, is not just a dessert food. Mince pie is lovely, along with Cottage, Shepherd's, and varying Potato pies--all of them full of fat and calories. The English generally don't count carbs, you can feel comfortable eating a candy bar in public without fending off remarks about “500 calories in one sitting” and the number of Kent students who use the gym fails to justify its existence. But most people here aren't obese, though a good percentage of girls are pleasantly pneumatic. It's a good look, to have curves. Most young people here don't have cars so they walk a lot, so by their very lifestyles they stay healthy.

Unfortunately, a third thing they don't have here is sunlight. I've never been so pasty (with an “a” sound like “pain” not “amicable”) as I am since I moved over here. It doesn't help that it's chilly most of the time so you have to wrap up in coats and scarves. Interestingly, because it is chilly most of the time, the coat and scarf have become leading fashion accessories here, unlike South Carolina's winter-wear look of “I had to dig for this in the back of the closet for our one cold day of the year.”

So I guess the English are a bunch of cold heretics, but at least they're fat, happy, cold heretics. Personally, I find them to be excellent hosts, and I almost, but not quite, fit in seamlessly.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Ugh, Children

Last night I witnessed a brawl from my bedroom window. While there was nothing particularly interesting about the fighting itself, I must say I was alarmed and disappointed as to how it was handled. Besides being allowed to run on far too long at far too late an hour--i'm sorry, but ridiculous noise in a small housing court is unacceptable under any non-emergency circumstances at 4 am on a Tuesday--the measures taken by security to end this problem were dangerously insufficient to say the least.

The young man who was at the heart of the fighting, a skinny little rat of a kid who lives next door to me, was dangerous. He drove the heads of several kids into walls, used lighters to threaten and burn folks, kicked at least one male in the groin repeatedly, and continued hitting another chav around the head long after security had arrived and tried to settle things. He even audibly threatened the guards themselves. The kid was obviously angry and irrational, possibly just under the influence of alcohol but chances are on something a bit stronger, and was a threat to anyone within fifty feet of the court. Yet the security guards, after having asked the kids to return to their houses, simply left. They may have taken names but so what?

Kent University policy states that if you have a problem with your neighbors making noise, you should call them up and politely ask them to quiet down one or two times before calling security. You do not call the city police but let security call them if it comes to it. However, had I called next door and asked them politely to hush, chances are one of those nutjobs would have come over, thrown a rock through the window, climbed in, picked up a shard of the busted glass and stabbed me through the throat with it. The security guards did not actually approach the boy who was trying to crack skulls but let the other students try to restrain him. I'm sorry, but that's unacceptable.

A proper handling of someone who is persistently violent (this went on for over two hours, and security had to come over twice) requires calling the real police, having the asshole wrestled to the ground, kicked around a little, handcuffed, and dropped in a squad car to be taken to the station. Once there it is only proper to test the kid for illegal drug use, lock him up overnight, and make his mother come down from London to bail him out in the morning. Within a week the university would have him at least evicted if not expelled, and things would settle down again.

However, it looks like the kid may be getting off scot-free for this infraction. I can hear just about every word said through the walls of my house and at no point did i hear the boy being reprimanded, ticketed, or taken away. I'm sorry, but i think they're being a little too trusting. I don't care what they have to do to him so long as I can feel safe walking to my front door after the sun goes down (i.e. after 5 pm). With my current neighbor, however, i don't. I will be speaking to the reception desk for my housing development and informing them that unless they take measures to improve their security policy, i will be telling USC's study abroad office that I feel threatened. You better believe they'll talk and Kent could lose school participation and a good deal of money.

I don't want to see that happen--I like this school and Canterbury is a beautiful place to study--so I sincerely hope that something is being done about this and I won't encounter this sort of behaviour again.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Gamecock article

This gamecock article started with good intentions but began to wander and ramble near the end. Oh well--i had fun writing it. And since my editor seems to be flatly refusing to put me in print, my internet-published articles can be as lousy as i want, as i know nobody but my mother is going to read them. (Yay mom!) Anyway, I entitled it "Not So Different" but if you look at it on the 10th of February on, chances are you'll find that the published version is Quite Different from the draft I'm putting here. (They usually are, anyway.)

In going about my life in Canterbury, UK it has gradually dawned on me that, like it or not, there is not a whole lot of difference between Brits and Americans. Sure the English culture is older and has the written history and crumbling buildings to prove it, but the age of the country has little to do with the sophistication of its people. Though we may go about achieving our goals differently, in the end we generally wind up in the same place.
For instance, Brits like to pick fights with me over gun laws. They claim that England is a lot safer than America because they don't have guns. The number of Brits that are shot every year is low even in the seediest parts of London, but what they try to hide is the fact that stabbing crime is as high as ever and spreading to schoolchildren. It's because human beings are going to find means of killing one another no matter what. If they ban knives the number of people who are brained with big sticks will rise proportionally. Its just the government's cruel experiment in natural selection. At least guns level the playing field.
Another embarrassment that America and England share is the trophy wife. As much as Europeans blather on about being progressive, you cannot deny that almost every rugby, football, and even cricket player has some svelte, blonde, brainless piece of arm-jewelry waiting for him when he comes off the pitch. The girls generally have job titles like “aspiring model” or “freelance karaoke singer.” As long as they're happy, I'm not going to nit-pick. It's just that English folk seem to enjoy chastising Americans for objectifying our women. Pot, meet kettle. At least our girls dress like it's 2005, not 1992. The shoes in this country are ugly enough to replace syrup of ipecac for expelling harmful substances from the body.
Seriously, I've got to hand it to SC girls. We value comfort over style on our way to 8:00 lectures. I went to class in my pajamas once here and received scornful looks from every pointy-toed, dolled-up female who crossed my path. I almost pity the ladies here, trying so hard to look nice so that they can be upset when boys don't notice.
One would assume that they would learn before university age how male/female interaction works, but you must be patient with the English. It's not that they mature slower here, just later. Many grade schools here are same-sex and the first time boys and girls come into contact is university. The only reason I can find that they're able to grow up while they're still young enough to start families is a low drinking age.
The University of Kent has 9 bars on campus, run by the school. The drink is cheap and plentiful, the lights are kept low, and the music is loud enough to drown out your inhibitions. I'm pretty sure the function of these watering holes is to bring the students up to speed in social interaction and dating. It's a need-based drinking age. So while American kids spend the better part of a decade fretting over our inadequate bodies and drooling over that cute boy in the third row, Brits are undisturbed by teen angst as they dress in their smart little uniforms and focus on their schoolwork. We take the long road, they take the dull road, but we all wind up in the same place--hung over in some stranger's bed, searching for our underwear.

This column seems short somehow. Maybe i've just gotten used to writing 5,000 word essays full of bullshit and waffles for grades here, but i know i couldn't say all i wanted to and fit in the 600-word limit. Pity--i didn't have the heart to cut anything but i wanted to put in some sort of conclusion. Oh well.