Children of Men

I’ve been negligent with updating my blog over the past few days, so I’m going to catch things up.

On Monday, we discussed Philip K. Dick’s Ubik, J.G. Ballard’s “The Voices of Time,” and New Wave SF. It was my duty to talk about New Wave, which entailed me going to the usual sources such as The Cambridge Companion to SF and The Encyclopedia of SF. I had hoped to use my SF notes from Lisa Yaszek’s 2002 course, but my notebook is missing everything past Golden Age SF. I don’t know if I let someone borrow my notes, or if they are in another folder back in the states. In any event, the SF Lab website has a New Wave page made by Laura Rich that was useful for refreshing myself with Lisa’s New Wave material.

Monday evening, Sunshine had a Canadian Thanksgiving Day Dinner shindig. There was much merry making, and plentiful provender. I met a lot of people including Robin, Jean, Linda, and Kevin. Those are just the names that I remember, but I can recall the faces of everyone else. To read more about the Thanksgiving shenanigans, read Sunshine’s blog.

Tuesday rolled around and I had my first Research Skills class. It’s the most Mickey Mouse thing that I’ve encountered at the University of Liverpool, but I checked with Mr. Sawyer and there is no way for taught MA students to exempt out of the course (just research postgraduates). So I’m left with having to accomplish these three harrowing tasks (besides listening to the monotone death rays of the instructor): 1) create a 30 entry bibliography related to our area of study (done) 2) complete a proofreading assignment (done–work-shopping research papers and copyediting a book) and 3) write a book or article review (done several times over). Those of you who know me understand how much I hate doing double work. So it goes.

That evening, I went out with Andrea to see The Departed. I had a really great time with Andrea. We talked about all sorts of things from sports to cultural differences between Germany, the UK, and the states. After the movie, we spent a couple of hours at a pub on Myrtle Street that has an open air patio. We ran into Charlotte and some other folks that I met at Sunshine’s Canadian Thanksgiving Day Dinner on Monday. I hope that Andrea and I go out again soon.

Yesterday, I finally finished reading Dawkins’ The Selfish Gene. I also watched a few episodes of the 2003 reincarnation of Battlestar Galactica, which I can recommend to no end! After doing the reading for today’s Consciousness and Time seminar, I went out with Sunshine, Christian, and A.P. to Eddie Rockets for burgers and milkshakes. After leaving there, we went to see Children of Men at the FACT. Children of Men is an impressive film that really imprints itself on your psyche. It isn’t heavy-handed or explicit in its message. Everything is there for the audience to see. It is a movie about showing instead of telling. Don’t expect a movie of great twists, but it is an interesting journey movie that triumphs in projecting our future’s dystopian reality.

Before going out yesterday, I called my folks with skype. We talked about the usual stuff such as how everyone was doing and what my dad had been up to on our house in Hortense, Georgia. Then, my mom told me that Duke Gardner had drowned on Saturday. I just got an email from my cousin, Ian Cox, that said they had just found his body yesterday. A long time ago, Duke and I had been friends, but he said something to me that unsettled me–a lot, at the time. Since then, we had only said greetings in passing. I have to say that Duke was Duke. From what I saw, he lived his life without compromise and he was always working on some kind of scheme. Despite his flaws, the world is a little less–whole, now that he’s gone. Godspeed Duke.

I’m Getting Better! I Feel Happy!

Today, Sunshine and I walked a few miles from Melville Grove to the Heritage Market (pictured above), which is located near the Stanley Dock in Liverpool. It’s an open air market, akin to a flea market back in the US. There were many deals to be had there, but I walked away empty handed. After leaving there, we searched for a bus, but we couldn’t find one that fit our schedule, so we walked back through the city. When we arrived at Myrtle Street, we had lunch at the fantastic French cafe there.

After getting our fill of the three course lunch special, we took the bus to ASDA to do some grocery shopping. Tomorrow, Sunshine has a big Canadian Thanksgiving Dinner planned, and we had to procure chickens, drinks, and other goodies. We met our friend, Christian, there. He didn’t have far to walk through because he lives around the corner. Unfortunately, my mutant cold virus has attacked him, so he is having to fight off the nasty bugs that jumped on me earlier this past week.

When our shopping was done, Sunshine and I hired a cab to take us back to Melville Grove. We dropped off the groceries at her building, and then walked back to mine so that I could lend her a book. She got to see how much smaller my room is than hers. In retrospect, it would have been nicer to have a larger room, but I’ll make do with this one. I just keep telling myself that I used to have a nice house to prance around in, but now I might break something if I do any prancing!

I’ve been preparing my notes on New Wave SF this evening. I’ve been getting a lot of work done, but I take breaks to listen to the wind whistling and twirling outside my window. That’s one thing that the wind never did for me back in Atlanta–whistle and twirl.

I have my hostel bed booked for London for the US Thanksgiving. I don’t have transportation yet, because they haven’t added the days for the end of November to the MegaBus website. It will take longer to get to London with their service, but they are about 1/10 to 1/20 the cost of any other means of transportation. Anyways, the extra two hours will give me time to get some more reading done.

Tonight, I’ve used the text messaging features of my cell phone more than I have in the entire time that I’ve ever owned one. I hope that good things come to those who text!

Sudafed, Strepsils, and Ibuprofen

I’m currently taking a concoction of Ibuprofen, Sudafed 12-Hour Relief, and Strepsils throat lozenges. I’ve also been using (literally) millions of tissues. I hope that I can shake this thing by Monday. I thought I was getting better yesterday, but today has been an uphill battle.

While hanging around the room today, I watched two episodes of Star Trek TOS, “What are Little Girls Made Of,” and “Dagger of the Mind.” I hadn’t thought of it until now that many Star Trek villains are technocrats of one sort of another. They are generally male, highly respected in their field, and in command of technological networks or particular artifacts. It’s almost as if the Enterprise and its crew are a police force designed to restrain the power grabs made by the technological elite in our future.

I’m still reading The Selfish Gene, but I’ll have to put it down tomorrow for some school work. I need to read J.G. Ballard’s “The Voices of Time,” and write up an introduction for New Wave SF. Tomorrow is also grocery day. Sunshine and I are going to an open air market, which she says are exciting places. When I talked to her, it didn’t occur to me that I had read about them in Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere.

The above picture was covertly made by Christian at the university-wide postgrad get-together last Wednesday night.

Sinuses Stage Coup d’état

Last night, my sinuses decided to launch an all out offensive against my well being. It was sudden and unexpected. Between the storm raging outside during the night, and the tempest brewing in my head, I didn’t get a lot of sleep. I’m feeling a little better now after taking some meds and trying out an old Canadian cure-all that Witch Doctor Sunshine offered me!

Today, I had my second Philosophy of Mind and Time module. We discussed I, Robot and Alan Turning. It was a good discussion and I brought up some excellent points from Richard Power’s Galatea 2.2 and Roger Penrose’s The Emperor’s New Mind.

For lunch, Christian and I went to a French restaurant for their three course lunch special. I had sliced beef with green stuff, chicken in a yummy sauce, and a chocolate crepe. Okay, so they may have had fancier names for that stuff, but I think my descriptions are more encompassing than any language that I could never master. Okay, so maybe not!

I made some more headway on Richard Dawkin’s The Selfish Gene. I really like his idea that we are merely “survival machines” for genes. Might this also be a way of explaining the superabundance of exo-suit narratives in Japanese animation?

I also finished a rough draft of my article on Marleen Barr’s Oy Pioneer! I’m going to revise it and have someone else read over it before I email it to Marleen.

Cold (War) Days

Today, I was able to take care of some more housekeeping tasks that I’ve meaning to attend to. I paid my dues to the Liverpool Anime Society, and I paid my membership fees to the sports centre. I’m looking forward to being able to use some real workout equipment again!

I finished reading Diaspora this morning, and I began reading Richard Dawkin’s The Selfish Gene. Dawkin’s book is most fascinating, and from what I’ve read so far, should be mandated reading for high school and beginning college science students. I think it would be a useful text to help students better understand what (neo) Darwinism and natural selection really are.

I met up with Christian and Sunshine at 5:00pm, and then we proceeded to the postgraduate social event that was held for the entire university. I picked up some useful flyers, and I scored two wine glasses. After the event winded down, we walked to Quick Cafe for supper and good natured carrying-on. Sunshine and Christian each had an omelet, and I had a mixed kebab with chips. After dinner, we walked back to Melville Grove, and Sunshine retired for the night to finish reading I, Robot. Christian and I headed to my building to see what was happening online.

——

My friend and fellow SF Studies peer, Christian, just headed home. I walked with him about half way to his flat, and let me tell you, it’s cold outside. Okay, it’s only 50 degrees outside, but I’m not yet acclimated to it maintaining that temperature throughout the day. I’m used to Atlanta, where it starts out cold, gets hot, and then cold again. Enduring a constantly cool temperature all day is a bit much for my temperate disposition.

As I was showing him photos on my computer, we talked about American wars and conflicts. It was a great discussion, but it’s unfortunate that it has little effect on the apparent spiraling out-of-control that recent events seem to indicate. I hope that a political sea change is about to take place in America, for everyone’s sake.

Professor Carol Senf sent me an email about an upcoming conference at Cambridge that “seeks to explore interfaces between the genre of science fiction (often studied in isolation or not at all) and more traditional, canonical literatures and discourses. There will be panels on SF and the classical tradition, SF and Shakespeare and SF and the Victorians.” I was actually taking to Joseph and Christian about prior works and SF the other day over some burgers. I’m going to submit a proposal this week. It would be great if I had a paper accepted, because I can present an early draft at the weekly postgraduate seminars held in the School of English.

English Department Postgrad Social Event

After slowly rising from the bed this morning, I first got The Rosetta Stone software working with the German introductory modules. I want to practice with another language, because my friend Christian, and his flat-mate, Andrea, both speak German. If I have some friends to speak conversationally with, I think it will substantially improve my chances at learning German over my attempt at learning French.

During the day, I read a good chunk of Greg Egan’s Diaspora, and I went for a walk to Blackwell’s and Tesco. I returned to my room with a copy of Richard Dawkin’s The Selfish Gene and two six packs of Coca-Cola.

Tonight, I went to a social event for postgraduates in the English department. I was the second person to arrive. A cute Asian girl was already there, and I promptly struck up a conversation with her. Her name is Susan and she’s from Taiwan. After my second glass of wine, I was quite the conversation maker! We exchanged numbers after I told her that I would call her once I find a place that serves Kahlua (which many bartenders apparently haven’t heard of). I also talked with Jonathan Olsen, a PhD student, about presenting a paper in the Postgraduate/Staff English Literature Seminar Series that he’s organizing. This will be a great opportunity to get feedback on a future paper! I also got to talk to Professor Dinah Birch, Head of School. She told me that she reads SF too, so we talked about that. After the social, Christian and I went to dinner with Jonathan on Bold Street. Above, I’m pictured wearing an awesome t-shirt that Mike and Diana gave me before I left Atlanta. Several folks commented on it at the social.

Tomorrow, there might be a university wide postgraduate social event. I’ll find out more about that in the afternoon. Also, I discovered that I won’t have to worry about the research skills module until next week–thank goodness!

Special Collections and Archives

After today’s genre definitions seminar, we all headed to the Sydney Jones Library to look through some books that the library was selling. I scored several SF collections, Ursula K. LeGuin’s The Left Hand of Darkness, William Gibson’s Burning Chrome, and Roger Zelazny’s The Dream Master. Pictured above are Sandor (visiting scholar), Sunshine (MA in SF), Mr. Andy Sawyer, and Christian (MA in SF). Behind them are the special collection stacks.

Christian invited me over to his place for dinner as long as I agreed to peel potatoes. I thought about this for a moment, until I realized that this would mean I could have a real home cooked meal. I told him that I would gladly be on potato duty. His place is about a twenty-five minute walk through the rougher side of Liverpool. On the way there, I passed an Aldi and an ASDA, which is “part of the Wal-Mart family.” He lives in a very nice flat with two girls. I met one of them, Andrea. She’s from Germany, and very cute. I hope that I get to talk to her again in the near future. For dinner, we baked potato wedges, peppers, carrots, and onions. It was a very tasty and filling meal!

After dinner, we took the bus back towards the university so that we could meet Sunshine and Sandor outside the Liverpool Community College. We were meeting up so that we could go see Little Miss Sunshine at the FACT movie theater. I thoroughly enjoyed the film. It’s definitely in the vein of a Wes Anderson character study, but it also had a circuitous story to tell. I definitely recommend it!

I’ve been making plans to go to London during Thanksgiving. I’ll finalize those plans once I know what my schedule looks like with the research skills module in place. As it stands now, I should have my two core modules on Mondays.

Sundays For Reflection and Studying

The picture above is from my going away party at Manuel’s Tavern in Atlanta, GA. From left: Brenda, Mark, Camille, James, Paul, Mike, and Diana. We had a great time that night, even though I passed out at some point. My friends know that I love ‘em, and I’ll see them again soon.

Today, I’ve been preparing for tomorrow’s classes. Everyone agreed to move our philosophy module to Monday morning, so I had to do all the reading a few days in advance. That means that I’ll have philosophy at 10:00am and genre definitions at 2:00pm. I don’t yet know when our research skills module begins.

I need to become a little more adventurous with my eating. My primary diet has consisted of trying every type of Subway sandwich meat on wheat bread, and doner kebabs. The fish and chips that I had yesterday were an anomaly. I look up on my shelf and I have chips, salsa, peanut butter, nutella, bread, and organic flapjacks. Don’t worry…I don’t eat all of that at the same time. That would make me sick!

I’m about to walk over to Sunshine’s place to play Scrabble. I don’t have a lot of experience at board games, but it should be fun to exercise my vocabulary and spelling skills a bit.

Doctor Who Exhibit

Sunshine, Christian, and I went to Spaceport, which is a space museum across the River Mersey at the Seacombe stop via the Mersey Ferry. Today was the opening day of their Doctor Who exhibit. It was packed with eager fans to check out props, costumes, and video of the popular British sci-fi television show.

We all met up outside the Sydney Jones Library and then proceeded to walk through the city to Pier Head. The ferry ride over to Spaceport is a fun experience in itself. And, as you might have heard, the song, “Ferry Across the Mersey,” when the boat pulls away from port.

We primarily went to check out the Doctor Who exhibit, but we took our time going through the space museum exhibits. It has a lot of hands-on stuff for adults and kids to experiment with and learn a little bit about how our great Universe works.

I was able to take a lot of photos, but unfortunately, my camera’s battery died before I was able to snap a shot of the most popular exhibit: a live action, killing, and maiming Dalek! Yes, it was spouting off about exterminating this and killing the doctor that. Also, it would have been nearly impossible to get a good photo of the Dalek, because the kids loved it and were hanging all over the exhibit!

After making our way through the museum, we went in search of food in Wirral. Unfortunately, we didn’t find anything in the direction that we walked, but a kind gentleman pointed us back to the museum area and a place called the Seacombe Cafe. We all had fish, chips, and peas. It was a good lunch!

On the way back to the dormitories, we were going to stop for coffee from Starbucks, but the queue was enormous. Instead, we settled on milkshakes from a place akin to Johnny Rockets back home. While there, I discovered that Sunshine has a bit more mischief in her than I had first thought!

I almost forgot! Last night, I went out to the first social gathering of the Liverpool Anime Society. It’s a club on campus that has social events and film screenings of Japanese animation. I heard about the organization during the activities fair held for international students. I met some cool folks last night such as Laura, Rebecca, Kevin, Nick, and Simon. I met a lot more people than that, but my memory is poorly suited to remembering names. I know everyone’s faces so I’ll recognize them when we have our first screening next Friday night.

Now, I’m going to get back to reading. We’re shuffling around one of our courses so that we’ll have two seminars on Monday, thus freeing up an extra day during the week. That means I’ll have to do a little more preparation to be ready for Monday’s discussion in the Philosophy module.

Rainy Day…The First of Many

Today is my first very rainy day. It has rained on other days, but this is the first day that I had to go out and run errands in the rain. All-in-all it went okay, but I have to venture out for one more task.

I slept until about 11:00am–the first time that I’ve slept in since I arrived in Liverpool. Last night, I was out having some pints and it rained on me while I was walking home. I guess I felt run down after getting soaked, so I went along with my body’s need for rest. Unfortunately, it wasn’t an easy night’s sleep.

I had two similar, but separate nightmares. The first was about moving out of my house in Norcross, and trying to get it sold. By the way, if you know anyone interested in a nice, big house in the suburbs of Atlanta, pass along this link to my house’s listing. The second nightmare had to do with being forced to move to another university. I don’t remember what it was all about, or where I was being made to go, but I know that I didn’t want to leave and that it was causing me a great amount of distress.

After getting up, I made my way to the English department. I asked Phil to send a FAX to the T-Mobile offices in the US so that they would waive my early cancellation fee on my cell phone contract back in the States. He helped me with that, and then I walked to the city centre. First, I stopped at a used bookshop that had a large SF collection that I had heard about. Then, I went to the Liverpool Public Library. Once there, I obtained a library card, and I checked out Greg Egan’s Diaspora. Next, I stopped by The Carphone Warehouse and the T-Mobile store to find out about their pay-as-you-go phone deals. I decided that I’m going to get a pre-paid SIM to go into my T-Mobile phone from back home. I may need to get it unlocked, but it will still be less expensive than buying a new phone outright. I also walked to the Virgin Mega Store to look at Tori Amos’ new collection called The Piano. The packaging looks like one and a half or two octaves of a keyboard. Inside, there are about six CDs worth of material and some other extras. It costs about £70, which is outside my price range.

Tonight, I’m going to the first meeting of the Liverpool Anime Society. There were some cute girls that were at their Activity Faire booth. I haven’t really met anyone outside of the SF program yet, so I’m hoping that this might lead to some new friendships and maybe more. We’ll see.