just got back from this terms first College Republican meeting. It wasn't as gory as i had hoped. there were about 30 people, with a lady chairwoman clearly being groomed to be some republican intern somewhere. lots of 'tabling quips' (rehashed stories of being abused or loved whilst doing stalls), 'hippie' bashing, pleas for help canvassing in San Diego next month, and only one mention of the KKK ("we should have all worn suits or em.... white hoods to scare all the new people.... errr bad joke"). then the local candidate came in with pizza and coke and made a speech about the 'big tent' of the republican party and 'moderate, reagan like republicanism' "who freed slaves? the republicans. who gave women the vote? the republicans? who set up the national parks agency? the republicans" and so it went on. he even claimed the biggest section of the californian gay population were republicans.
i was hoping to be able to tell you how my second jazz theory lesson went, at which we were due to be playing a blues infront of the rest of the class. i have been practicing for a few days, asking many people what they thought the idea of the blues distilled into, reading books and tying myself into knots (after that disastrous clarinet audition i wasn't feeling very confident). however, max found a grand piano in one of the dining halls (which naturally has a wicked acoustic) and three nights ago we went there and just RIPPED and all my fears were assuaged. it was really really special man, i felt like a flying fish, fluttering around between the piano chords and finding the path of least resistance and then occasionally going for it and jumping high out of the water and holding it for as long as the atmosphere would allow and then plunging back down again and then shutting up for a while. it just sounded rounded and exciting and beautiful in parts. we went to a different piano last night with some more structured chord progressions in mind and it was a different thing we were producing but as good in different ways. for years i have been unable to make the leap between playing my own blues scale with bits of chromaticism and vaguely following the accompaniment to be able to place individual notes with specific functions and movements into the music, and therefore to extend and/or implicate the harmony of what is going on, but things are starting to fall into place now and the clarinet is looking more like a piano in my head. which makes ben a very excited boy. but anyway, the it is so lucky that i have winded up with a great piano player that is also a great person living one and a bit metres below me (he is on the bottom bunk). he is very unassuming, but you can tell he has grown up in a very stimulated environment. he just casually drops in things like 'oh, you know tom waits? yeah, he's my dads friend'. it also turns out he has a semi-broken heart, having split up with his first love just before he came here, even though she came here too! it is a long sad story with lots of victims (her brother died in a car crash earlier in the year and max ended up organising the funeral) but he still thinks one day their love will prevail. you;ve got to admire a person who is totally caught up in the mega-emotions of love and loss and is so cheery and nice you don't even notice.
talking of loss and death, a girl from the university jumped off a bridge to her death on saturday, word on campus is that her weed was laced... not very pretty man. she was 18.
but anyway, my final course choice for this term are jazz theory, music of india and 'UC and the bomb', all of which i have on tues and thurs (so i have mon, wed, fri off). the readings for jazz theory are pretty mental; it is the lectures own book and it is all about god and uniting the mind, body and spirit, and long metaphores about roses and the blues.:
"...thus, when our awareness broadens, heaven then becomes more than a place in which to either believe or refute; it can become a level of consciousness..."
"...spirituality is channeled through our spirit and uses the intuitive self and subconcious mind to translate and decode messages'
the lecturer is a really great musician, and it is great that he is taking 'jazz theory' to mean something more holistic that technical method, but i just get the feeling reading to his stuff that he thinks he is able to write down what is a really abstract concept and set of emotions in himself that are not necessarily universal. he also talks quite alot about god and implies that you need a connection with Him to truly feel the ;'creative spirit'. but anyhow, we will see what happens.
music of india is pretty cool- there are a few hundred in our class, compared to about 15 at SOAS, quite a change, and the lecturer is a great sitar player who plays in our lessons (for my fellow widdessians, alice went and chatted with the lecturer, told him the score and when he found out Widdess was our teacher, he apparently got well excited and told us not bother coming to his class cos we must know it all already from Widdess! apparently he is world famous inindian music circles. so he invited us to his graduate class, which i have so far sacked off).
UC and the bomb is very interesting- there is no teacher, it is all peer to peer learning with a couple of faciliters, which is great stuff except a bit slow as the facilitaters are hugely eager to make sure the consensus decision making is working, leading to lots of pauses. but we have had good discussions pon nuclear policy and more general foreign policy. they are an interesting bunch of people that take the class. one of the facilitators is a spitting image of Kai, and is called Kai!!!!!! the only other kai i have ever met. and even has the same hair, except longer and with dreadlocks piled on his head. we are all going on a field trip to a nuclear research facility in a couple of weeks.
went on a 'disorientation tour' with the general activists around campus, passing where they had got rid of military rectruiters, etc etc (the stop the war group were on a government list of subversive groups for a while) and ended up at this huge tree called tree 9 with loads of great branches so it was easy to climb to the top. it was MASSIVE and when i was half way up i thought i woudl stay there, but gradually i worked my way up and beat my fear and got to the top, where there was a beautiful view, a laminated photograph of the same view pinned to the tree and a interesting conversation about resurgent german fascism with a german feminist who was also at the top. but there were good people on the talk.
food is something that is occupying my thoughts quite alot at the moment. i was forced to buy a '55 day meal plan' as part of my housing contract, which means that roughly once a day it is 'all you care to eat' for me. and the choice is quite immense- every day there is pizza, pasta, burgers, chips, burritos and torillas, salads, all manner of sandwiches, industrial size tubs of mayonnaise, plus whatever food they have cooked specifically that day, like a meal or whatever etc etc and so in the beginning i was really taking advantage of all this (keeping the TAKE ADVANTAGE OF ALL FOOD OPPORTUNITIES mindset of SOAS) but then i started feeling greasy and bloated. but on the plus side, i put some bagels down my pants every lunch and then have breakfast the next day for free. it was also time for the occasional 'organic food vs cheap food' debate the other shopping day, with all the other factors playing themselves out (type of shop, type of things i needed, does coconut milk need to be fair trade?) but in the end the nicer food won, mainly because i was outside a nice shop at the time, but i went to safeway anyway because you can get 4 litres of tropicana for $5, (£3) with a clubcard. what can you do? but anyway, had delicious spinach, broccoli, strange mushroom, coconut and onion with rice last night so it was worth it i think.
on friday me and max went to see 'paradise now', a film about two potential palestinian suicide bombers, at a 'guerilla cinema' showing on the side of a warehouse on some disused train tracks near campus. we got there 30 mins late, and guess whose voice comes wafting down the train track? none other than george galloway, who is on the screen being interviewed about lebanon and being his usual aggressive self. jokes. the americans were loving it (he was wearing these red rimmed glasses). i was cringing till the end, when he really layed into the interviewer, asking her if she knew the names of any of the countless lebanese or palestinian political prisoners (hostages), but how gilad and every other isreali prisoner was known worldwide. she was actually speechless. that was quite good.
The main film was great- you got to see day to day life in palestine which was really interesting (what exactly does a refugee camp that has been there for 50 years actually look like? actually they never showed any of them, so i still don't know) and it also manages to be quite funny in parts, but the end is quite predictable.... infact the funniest thing was the redneck sat behind us who kept heckling- there is a bit in the film where the hero has to decide if he wants to spend the night with this beautiful girl or go and be a matyr, and he chooses the latter, and the redneck, completely missing the poing, shouts "VIRGIN!!!" at the screen. we got a good introduction to the proper political scene in santa cruz though- quite alot like the people at the square social centre in london i feel but a little more cheery and optimistic. there is some really good stuff going on- a 'free school' which is like a more formal skill swap where anyone can be a teacher (i suggested a make your own instrument workshop but they already had it!), also a 'trash orchestra' that seems quite radical and lots of copies of Harbinger and other good literature. we got plied with alcopops and patter though, which put me on my guard a bit (i guess they think we are new to the whole scene and need to see that it isn't all hardcore politics and anti-imperialists are humans too:)) but all good. it does have a radical small town feel, which is great. there was a demo in a town 20 miles away that is mainly populated by mexican immigrants on sunday, and i thought long and hard about going, but in the end it was 1pm and i was only half way through my clarinet practice, and i decided music just in these important moments need to be prioritised, even though i know the demo would have been great fun and a chance to see another side of the USA. they were talking at the cinema about a phone tree so when more raids happen on immigrants people can get down there quick and form a human shield or whatnot, so will be doing that i think if the time arrives.
despite all this, i am still yet to find or be invited to anything resembling a party. i think i am just not meeting the right people, perhaps because i live in a flat with a 'community assistent'. in a way it is good, because i am not getting too fucked ever and can play lots of music but still, it is irksome. i thought i could take the good pits out of american pie and at least experience the decadant american house party... maybe soon.