Sunday, February 27, 2011

Emergency Chicago Trip

After discovering I had done a seriously stupid thing due to some kind of massive lapse in concentration (regarding sending important documents - visas, passport) to the wrong building in Chicago, I made an impromptu trip to the Windy City to get them back.

I spent twenty minutes on the phone talking to recordings before I spoke to an actual human being who just read out the information I already had which was listed in various consulate websites, and may as well have been a recording. After swearing and crying (thinking I was going to be stuck in America for the rest of my life without a passport, and have to harvest organs on the black market to stay alive) to another customer service woman, she told me to go to Chicago and sort it out myself. Thanks, lady.

I just re-read the information I was sent and I didn't actually do anything wrong. I'm not sure what happened. It does explicitly say to SEND ALL DOCUMENTS IN THE MAIL. I stressed and abused someone for nothing. Eugh.

I got to Yuki's late Thursday night and sat opposite her drinking her (good) beer (left over from her party when I first went to Chicago), stuffing about on the internet while she made her mid-term architecture model in a zombie-like state after not sleeping properly for three days. Friday lunch time she walked me to the subway on her way to class. I was catching the red line to Lawrence, a stop that was so far uptown that she had never been. In fact, it was so far north that there was snow and huge lumps of ice on the ground while downtown was completely dry and relatively warm (before windchill which made it FREEZING).

I really like catching public transport in other countries, even if it does freak me out a little bit at first. I like watching people on the train. And looking out the window and watching how the view changes. That was one of the things I loved about travelling in Japan, especially because we caught the train so often to get to the city in Osaka. Once the train was out of the tunnel (in Chicago) the buildings were all residential and right next to the track. They were small rectangle houses (or where they apartments? I'm not sure) about two or three stories high, with gaps in between each building. They were made of red bricks or wooden slats and they all had balconies and flat roofs. I loved them.

I also love the interior of trains and how they're different to Transperth. Chicago trains are super bland compared to the bright yellow bars and colourful seats on Perth trains. The floor and walls were cream/brown and the bars were exposed silver metal. The doors open automatically.

The people in Chicago seem more attractive somehow. And there's more variety. Of people. And styles. And haircuts. There is an actual sense of fashion in the city. I like it.

After getting my biometrics recorded (and my passport back. Instant wave of relief rushed over me when she handed it back) at the Visa Application Support Centre (or Center, I guess) I took myself shopping on Michigan Ave. I spent a significant amount of time in H&M trying to justify spending $55 on a leather jacket that was two sizes too small. I reluctantly left it behind and bought...several other things. I'm feeling a tiny bit more prepared for the arrival of spring/summer now. I own more than 3 t-shirts and 25 black singlets for layering now! Hazaar! I also bought some fake aviator sunglass because I was sick of squinting when I walked around outside, but by the time I got out of H&M it was 5PMish, overcast and getting dark. I had a look in North Michigan Shops (I can't remember if that's what it was called, but it's something like that) - a super swanky mall with marble interior and the slowest escalators I have ever ridden. I assume the lack of speed was to make you stare at the beautiful shops and think about how much money you have and how nice it is that you can afford to shop/set foot in a place like that. I left soon after realising that my ripped, muddy cons and scrappy plastic H&M shopping bag were probably not welcome and I had no interest in any of the things on sale.

I went back to Yuki's at about 7pm and we drank more beer and reminisced about Happy Japan Times. We ordered pizza and Yuki bought me a bottle of wine, with her new 21-ness, for me to take home. After noting that we always looked really happy in Japan photos, despite being severely hungover in any photo taken during the day, I noticed it was 10pm and I had fifteen minutes until my bus left. We quickly threw on our 67 layers to go outside and went downstairs. I forgot the bottle of wine and made Yuki go back up to her apartment on the 15th floor and get it for me, thinking I would be fine because megabus is usually late. I also realised I had forgotten my toothbrush half way there. Incidentally, it was on time and I missed my bus. Thinking I could have spent that $18.50 on more summer clothes but secretly glad I didn't have to buy another toothbrush, we walked back to Yuki's in the snow and I booked the train (more reliable) for 8.15 the next morning. Staying up drinking beer and watching movies until 3am, and then getting out of bed at 7am meant I was super tired on the train and fell asleep as soon as I got back to my shitbox room in Sherman.

So now I'm going to send my UK visa documents to New York to be processed and will actually receive my visa if I'm successful. Yuki might come to Champaign for her Spring Break (the week before mine. I'm thinking of going to San Francisco with an Australian girl, Mish.) and I'm going to Chicago again as soon as I get that certain form of ID in the mail which will drastically improve life.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Some things I have noticed

Americans suck at drinking.
I was discussing this with an Australian friend, Chris, at a party last weekend. We were watching people play Beer Pong, which happens at every party. Red cups are arranged in a triangle (like ten pin bowling) at either end of a rectangular table and you throw a ping pong ball (which are sold next to the red cups in the supermarket) to try and get it into your cups at the other end. Although it is apparently a drinking game, the cups are filled with a tiny bit of water (to prevent carpet stains, I think) and no one skulls in between shots. Very odd. I don't understand how that constitutes a drinking game/what the hell it has to do with beer in the first place.

The deal with parties is that you pay $5 for a plastic red cup which you can either fill with beer flavoured water or Jungle Juice. The alcohol has run out way too early at every party I have been to so far. Jungle Juice is basically vodka and fruit juice. The recipe for making such Juice is one bottle of vodka, 3 jugs (pitchers) of water, one bottle of juice and SIX BIG CUPS OF SUGAR in some kind of large container. Not only does this make it more difficult to drink than Cruisers, but it means you can't taste the small amount of vodka which would actually be in your cup. Chris and I decided that this is obviously the intention. Maybe it has something to do with being at retirement age before they can legally drink.

Not to mention, no one goes out until at least 9pm. And unless you're at a party or have a party to go to, everyone goes home at 2am when all the bars and clubs close. This means you'll be drinking piss weak beer for roughly five hours. Compared to Australians who start drinking late afternoon/early evening and then KEEP GOING ALL NIGHT AND ALWAYS HAVE AT LEAST ONE DRINK IN THEIR HAND AT ANY GIVEN TIME. As I said to Chris when he made a joke about my alcohol consumption, after spotting me with two beers in my hands, "I'm not an alcoholic. I'm Australian." The American guy I met in Tokyo, Arthur, thinks I've just met the wrong Americans. I hope he's right.

The drinking age in this country is actually retarded. I can't explain how annoying it is to be seventeen again. I've been able to legally drink for however many years and now all of sudden it's illegal again. It really shits me that because I've been able to drink since I was eighteen, I'm considerably better at it (shut up, Lloyd) than some twenty one year olds who have just started and go nuts on their birthday, have three shots and get kicked out (actually do people get kicked out here? I haven't seen it yet.). I could actually make the bars more money if they let me drink. Actually shots seemed to be more popular here, than say ordering a vodka lemonade kinda thing. That's the other thing, because I can get into bars and can get twenty one year olds to buy me alcohol, I can drink when I go out. But I freak out that every time a staff member walks passed I'm going to get caught. So I skull my drinks. Which is obviously better than just allowing younger people to drink. I'm aware it will never happen though. I've never looked forward to my birthday so much. Slash the arrival of a certain form of identification in the post.

I'm not a fan of the education system.
I'm working harder now than I ever did at UWA. It's not hard work, but there's constant work to be done. I have readings and homework and assignments and impromptu quizzes on the readings and exams. At UWA we generally don't show up to classes most days of the week, then go to the review lecture at the end of semester and cram like hell before the final exam.

The classes are compulsory and even in the big lectures that don't take attendance they say you have to come (compared to UWA where it's all online). So people go but they sit on their laptops in the class, stalking each other on Facebook. One of my big lectures takes attendance by i-clicker quizzes (like a remote control that you use to answer multiple choice quizzes and is recorded by the lecturer's laptop) so everyone goes, but it's a stupendously boring class about the Psychology of Aging (I also know a whole lot about that already) and the lecturer is Italian so it's hard to understand half the things she's saying through her accent. Now that I know the i-clickers take attendance, I go to this lecture and do homework for other classes. Like the essay I wrote in my previous post. I guess it's good that I'm doing easier psych units, I can go every now and again, study minimally and still get 70% on exams (true story. I pretty much used previous psych knowledge and 'when in doubt, choose C' in my first exam).

Obviously this system is a whole lot better for actually getting an education but it sucks for an exchange student who wants to go out, meet people, drink etc and then sleep in the next day (morning classes can eat my poo) and go travelling every now and again. In terms of academics, I'm glad I'm only here for one semester. I don't think I could do this for a whole year.

The food kinda sucks.
In Perth it's really easy to find good quality, healthy, tasty food. It's not so easy here (okay Dad, you were right). There are a few places that sell good stuff but most of it is crap. Don't even think about finding good fresh fruit. Apparently a smoothie is crushed ice and fruit syrup. All I want is a smoothie made with fresh fruit. Maybe because I eat out way more often that I ever did in Perth, so I notice it more. Maybe it's because Champaign is a really small town. Whatever.

It scares me how many people wear non skinny jeans.
I think it almost makes me appreciate Perth fashion. Imagine that!

Didn't mean to sound like such a Negative Nelly in this post. It was supposed to be more 'things I have noticed explained with my amusing comments' but it sounds more like I HATE THIS PLACE. Which I don't. Although, I think if I were to do my application again, I wouldn't come here. While it's awesome that I can drink "underage" and it's great living on a campus town with young people and everything being so close and cheap, I would rather be in a big city.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Creative Writing - I Heart Perth

Today I had my first workshop session of a my first assignment. We had to write a five page essay about "Where I'm From." The only rule for the piece was that it had to be good writing. I originally wrote a story about the house I grew up in, in Karrinyup. While I enjoyed writing it and I think it would have been at least mildly entertaining for someone else to read, it just felt like a nostalgic piece that could have been about anyone's house in any suburb in any country. I told the class I wanted to write about Australia so I thought about how I could do this without getting bored with my own writing (if say, I did a factual guide to Western Australia). So I came up with the idea to write what I handed in, a scathing, cynical Lonely Planet-esque guide to the Perth. I've wanted to write something like this for a while, and even wrote some notes a while a go which I really wish I had brought with me.

I was simultaneously terrified and excited for my review session. I'd sat through three sessions of my classmate's essays being completely pulled apart while the author sits silently as if they don't exist. The author is given the opportunity to comment at the end when everyone has finished disemboweling their extremely personal story. It was daunting. People didn't talk about mine as much as they did others. I can't decide if it's because it was good, bad or they didn't know what to say due to the cultural difference.

It was an interesting exercise writing for an American audience. I used footnotes to explain cultural differences and the use of Australian terms. Some people said they weren't necessary and some people loved them and some people wanted more explanations, so I'm somewhat confused. In hindsight, I probably should have asked an American to proof read it for me. Everyone seemed to agree that it was funny, so I was glad they understood my sense of humour. One girl said it was like I was talking about an ex-boyfriend, which I thought was a really cool description. Most people enjoyed the way I Capitalise Words That Don't Need To Be Capitalised, but a few people seemed confused by it. My first draft didn't have an ending which I sent to Sam, a friend who lives in Melbourne with a fairly intense dislike for Perth, and she said "this is ridiculously scathing and I don't know if that's a good or a bad thing." So I thought, shit, if she thinks it's scathing I should change something. So I decided to make fun of myself in the ending. Only some of my class members understood that the last paragraph is about me, but those who did really enjoyed it. I'm somewhat keen to expand on this, after some of the comments I received, so I guess it's still a work in progress. So here it is, if you're interested.

Wait. Disclaimers:
To people who like Perth: I deliberately picked out the bits I don't like. It's meant to be scathing and horrible. But hopefully funny, too. There are some things in Perth that I actually like, but I didn't discuss it here because it doesn't match the cynical tone I used.

To my new friends from Sydney: You're not allowed to use this to "prove to me that Sydney is better than Perth." Sydney is pretty much just a bigger version of Perth, so this stuff happens there too (particularly the bogans). And there must be things you don't like about Sydney.

To my friends who went on a Contiki Tour: I'm sorry. I don't think you're bogans, but you know I'm not a fan of Contiki Tours. I know you had an awesome time and I'm sorry if I offended you. If it's any consolation, I'm not doing much better here - my close friends are Australian.

I left the footnotes in for non Perth people and also because I'm too lazy to take them out. So, enjoy.

Perth: A City for People

Perth is the most isolated city in the world and has been described by some as A Hole. It's nothing like Mt Magnet, a “town” that consists of the highway going Somewhere Else, a pub and service station. But as far as capital cities go, Western Australia has fallen short. Someone Unimportant said that there is more culture in a tub of yoghurt, than in the city of Perth.

If Perth were a person at a party he would be that semi attractive guy who's friendly enough and always keen to ask about your day. Once he starts talking about himself, you realise he's bland and doesn't have much of interest to talk about. He finds his own jokes hilarious, which you just don't find all that funny, but laugh politely anyway. He often threatens to move to Melbourne, but you know he never will. Melbourne would be Perth's cool cousin who is a bit rebellious, perhaps she ran away from home. She now only wears clothes from Not For Profit Organisations and is part of a guerilla street art group. She can talk to anyone about anything and has interesting, educated and entertaining views on politics, culture and The Problem With the World Today.

Perth: Beautiful Temperate Weather

The most exciting thing to happen recently (ever) was the Great Storm of March 2010. Everyone has a story to tell about the “hail stones the size of cricket balls coming in through my windows, maaayyyte!” Later in the year, when the apocalyptic movie 2012 was released, people thought this was A Sign and any further extreme weather warnings were met with more apprehension than usual or were necessary. Nearly a year on, and people still talk about “that crazy storm in March or whenever it was”. This event wins out over the day we all got recycling bins a couple of years ago and that one day last winter when it got as cold as two degrees Celsius1.

Although the inhabitants of Dullsville don't realise, a Perth winter is simply Less Hot Than Summer. An average day of eighteen degrees2 will see people wearing three jumpers, complaining of the “freezing weather” and refusing to go out. Conversely, summer casts a blanket of dry sweltering heat over the city and surrounding suburbs, rendering everyone too lazy to do anything except go to the beach and compare Southern Cross Tattoos with the other bogans3. Driving down towards Scarborough Beach, a popular hang out for the bikini clad and shirtless bogans, will reveal the huge number of V8 Ute drivers with “Fuck off, we're full!” stickers proudly displayed in their back window. A sentiment that is popular despite their love of kebabs, indian food and sushi.

Perth: The Locals

Of the 1.6 million people who live in Perth, an ever growing percentage are over forty five. This growing aging population means there is little to do as the city caters for those content with returning home at 5pm to watch Wheel of Fortune, do sudoku puzzles and call and complain to talk back radio programs. Referendums to permanently introduce Daylight Savings have occurred a few times and each time were voted against due to the large portion of older conservative voters who are threatened by change. Despite the common love of summer, which could be maximised with Daylight Savings, residents voted against the time change due to genuine beliefs like “the cows won't come home” and “the curtains will fade.”

A night out on the town will most likely see girls drunk as a skunk, wearing a singlet as a dress and carrying their strappy stilettos over their shoulder as five too many jagerbombs has made it hard to walk; they struggle in bare feet, let alone teetering six inches above the ground. A beefed up young man, likely to be a tradie4, wearing a white v-neck shirt, tight around his bulging biceps, grey skinny jeans (because that's what all the shops sell now) and pointy aligator skin shoes, is eager to give any lucky girl Two Tickets to the Gun Show. After surviving the sticky, seedy dance floors of Leedy, Clubba or the similarly sticky and seedy streets of Northbridge5 they get a donner kebab with satay sauce and become BFF's with the Indian taxi driver (but fuck off, we're full).

A recent abundance of shopping centre openings in the town's centre has provided residents with endless places to buy more of the same clothes that everyone else is wearing. School holidays will see the Hay St and Murray St malls overflowing with fifteen year old scenesters and emos who haven't realised that those fads are well and truly over now. They trudge up and down the streets with a bubble tea in one hand, and the black nail polished hand of their greasy haired girlfriend (or boyfriend) in the other, giving death stares to anyone outside their incestuous friendship groups. They're probably planning a night at Innaloo Cinemas to see the latest blockbuster, and give each other sneaky hand jobs in the dark in the back row. Private school kids argue over who's school is better based on state rankings of TEE exam results6 and how many places they have to wear their school hat, but they all agree they're better than government school kids. At the end of November, thousands of year twelve students swarm to Rottnest, a near by island, with the soul aim of getting 'Blotto on Rotto' by practising goon and cruiser sculls7 and date rape skills after a quick game of Quokka Soccer8. At the end of that summer, their previous competitions of who has the Best Private School Education Based on Uniform Restrictions morphs into Which University Has a Better Tav Based on How Drunk I Got There This One Time.

People of Perth believe they live in the best city in the best country in the world, many are so sure of this they don't feel the need to try living somewhere else. It's common for bogans to have a Big Travelling Adventure in their early twenties that consists of a Contiki Tour around Europe where they spend $8000 to experience a finer culture, while getting drunk and sleeping with a bunch of other Australians.

The ongoing argument in Perth is about Australian Rules Football and who's team loses the least often. There are two Western Australian teams out of sixteen. Most Perth residents root for the Eagles or the Dockers and whoever is playing the other team. Derby day sees the town quivering with excitement over which team will be Perth's new heroes to a crowd (in the stadium and in pubs and lounge rooms all over the state) decked out in blue and yellow or green, red and purple. Football is Australia's religion, and Perth is no exception, despite the fact that Perth's teams rarely make it to the quarter finals.

Perth: City Living

Growth of the ever sprawling suburban spread that makes up the metropolitan area, means that a half an hour drive in any direction will see minimal change of scenery. Driving on the freeway is a pleasant experience that involves road rage, swearing and rude gesticulating as other drivers fail to merge, indicate or follow any basic practices of road courtesy. Comments have been made that Perth has one of the better public transport systems in the country – Sunday bus riders only have to wait an hour and half for the next 423 now! Walking through the train station in town, includes that awkward, determined, steely gaze straight ahead as pedestrians try to ignore the disabled man selling The Big Issue. Because they'd rather spend that money on an overpriced average tasting flat white9 and a copy of The Sunday Times, a poor excuse for journalism, than help someone less fortunate than themselves.

The Bell Tower, on the Perth Foreshore, is one of the main tourist attractions to the city. Join the hundreds of Japanese who take photos standing in front of the giant cockroach like structure, who's only purpose is to display changing coloured lights at night and house English bells. When the tower first opened it was possible to take the lift to the observation deck and enjoy the view of the stunning Swan River, a sight which was once ruined by Perth's Ferris Wheel, presumably an attempt to copy the London Eye or Singapore Flyer, although much smaller, yet now patrons are asked to pay. The admission price will allow you to read information about the origin of the bells, which you could have found on wikipedia. The multi million dollar project to construct the notoriously ugly building, claims to be the world's biggest musical instrument as the twelve bells ring once a day, unknown to most locals, despite being forced to visit at least once on a school excursion.

Perth: My City

A rare but ever growing breed of Perth residents is occurring among the tertiary educated young adults. After attending a private school they studied a Bachelor of Useless Knowledge majoring in Unprofitable Skills. They spend their week nights at small niche bars with exposed brick walls where they are served king browns of beer in paper bags and spend Sunday afternoons in the sunny courtyard of Little Creatures Brewery in Fremantle, where they complain about Perth's shortcomings. They are yet to find a job more reliable than working in a boutique clothing store or grungy cafe. They generally still live at home with Mummy and Daddy who pay for everything. These people believe they're better than the average Southern Cross bearing bogan, and are sick of the stagnant feeling of the city that only they seem to be aware of. Talentless as most of them are, despite their efforts to start a band/t-shirt making business/weekly blog, they will stay in Perth until they become one of the talk back calling complainers of their parent's generation. A lucky few will manage to leave the magnetic pull of familiar faces and streets and explore the The Whole Other World Out There but know they can always return to Perth should they ever want to. Most likely after they realise they've taken the city's simple beauty, safe and clean streets and welcoming inhabitants for granted.

1About 34 degrees Fahrenheit.

2About 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

3The Southern Cross is the star formation in the bottom right corner of the Australian flag. It is the most common tattoo in Australia and automatically signifies a bogan, who is kind of like a redneck.

4 Tradie is short for tradesman. The mining boom in recent years has created a rise in the number of fluoro wearing, broad accent speaking and Winfield Blue smoking tradies in the city. Many have fly in, fly out jobs as they work in the mines up north. They come back with swollen bank accounts which they spend on anything and everything.

5Leedy is short for Leederville Hotel, a night club that is most popular on Wednesday nights as it's the only club open on that day. Similar with Clubba, or Club Bay View, which is the only club open on Thursday and Sunday nights. Northbridge is Perth's main club and bar district in town, and is generally filled with drunk bogans.

6Final exams in Year 12.

7Goon is boxed wine, although students generally take it out of the box and scull (chug) straight from the silver bag. Cruisers are sweet, vodka mixers, commonly called Chick Drinks because they appeal and are marketed to young girls.

8A quokka is a medium sized marsupial that looks somewhat like a fat rat that hops on it's hind legs. It's actually related to the wallaby (a small kangaroo). Quokka's freely roam the streets of Rottnest, which translates to Rat's Nest in Dutch. They are a protected species and so the kids caught playing Quokka Soccer can be charged over $10,000, which used to be common ten years ago.

9Similar to a latte; I recently learnt that they only exist in Australia.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Rant: My Room and The Room

So I guess yesterday I reached that first bottom dip of the 'W' that the Study Abroad Office was talking about relation to Home Sickness. I had one of those days where EVERYTHING pissed me off. I feel like I'm not actually home sick but every time I try and verbalise it, it just comes out that way. Maybe this is what real home sickness is. I feel a bit weird writing about it here but it was one of reasons the SAO gave for keeping a blog, so what the hell. And most of you are used to me complaining, anyway.

I was trying to find a movie to watch that I had to study for my film class on streaming sites (because we're not allowed to torrent in halls) but it was failing and I kept downloading programs that my laptop recognised as a threat or whatever. I kept thinking "this would be so much fucking simpler if I was allowed to torrent." So I messaged friends who live in apartments to ask if I could come over and use their internet, but they were all out. Also my internet cable is broken so I have it held into my laptop with blu-tack, but every time I touch it, it disconnects and makes me yell and swear at no one in particular (my fire alarm is also particularly sensitive, it has now gone off twice for NO PARTICULAR reason, and is disconnected despite the possible $250 fine I could get for doing so). After a while this made me want to drink (yeah, okay, that's an unhealthy reaction. Whatever) which I can't do because I'm not 21. In the end I found a movie I could analyse on youtube (thank fuck for youtube!). I miss being able to have a glass of wine/beer whenever the hell I want, rather than whenever I'm OUT and WITH a 21 year old. This country's laws are stoopid.

Last night I hung out with another Australian friend, Farz, who used to be in my film class. She lives in Urbana in a co-op which is a house that about 15 people live in who share a common interest. Her house is called Harvest House so all the residents are kind hippy, greeny, vegetarian and/or vegan. I stayed for dinner, which Farz cooked, and was easily one of the best meals I've had since I've been here. The house was run down and eclectic (you can see me smiling, right?); it was awesome. It made me a little more fed up with Sherman than I already am.

Sherman is a really shit hall. It's really great that I get my own room and only have to share a bathroom with two other people, but I could have my own room AND bathroom in an apartment, which would also be cheaper. AND have a kitchen. Which would allow me to make proper home cooked meals in my underwear. I'm getting sick of having to get dressed to eat something that doesn't come from a packet. AND I COULD TORRENT. AND DRINK. Sherman is a dorm that doesn't have all the benefits of a dorm. The whole point of living in residence halls is that you make friends and have a good ol' social time. Most of the time I feel like I'm the only person living in this huge building because everyone has their doors closed and keeps to themselves. Obviously I'm the kind of person who likes privacy but it just seems a bit pointless to be living in this hall.

Not to mention, I worked however hard I have, and saved up however much money to come all the way to the other side of the world, to make friends with other Australians. I'm not saying I don't like them (oh hai, if you're reading this), I'm really glad I have a group of friends here that I can rely on for whatever I need, but I feel I should have a few more close American friends. Something that would probably be easily achieved by living in an apartment or co-op. I don't like Sherman, basically.

Also, I didn't bring enough clothes so I'm sick of wearing the same stuff/not having anything to wear out.

Okay. Rant over.

Thursday night, when I was at Farz's, we rode to downtown Champaign after dinner. Farz and I were on a tandem bike (Gemma: Random Tandems!) which had pedestrians yelling out "TAAANDEEM" and "SICK ASS DOUBLE BIKE" as we rode passed. When we got to downtown we bought tickets to see the cult film, The Room. This was actually part of the whole night's plan and the reason I went to dinner at Farz's in the first place. The Room is generally recognised as the worst film ever made. I'm not exaggerating, it's terrible. Tommy Wiseau (writer, director, produce and actor) claims that it's a black comedy and the awfulness of the film was intended, but an anonymous cast member revealed that he was making a serious film during production. It wasn't until it was released and audiences created a cult following to make fun of it, that Wiseau went along with the "comedy" idea. But similar to Rocky Horror Picture Show, it has audience participation. For example:
  • when the camera focuses and then unfocuses you yell out "FOCUS! UNFOCUS!
  • when there is a shot of San Francisco you yell out "MEANWHILE IN SAN FRANCISCO!"
  • when one of the characters comes on screen or leaves the screen you yell "HI DENNY!/ BYE DENNY!"
  • anything to do with a woman you yell out "BECAUSE YOU'RE A WOMAN!"
  • every time there is a spoon on screen, you throw plastic spoons at the screen
There are more things to do, and also yelling out your own comments or jokes whenever you feel like, but I can't be bothered listing them all. Basically The Room shits on Rocky Horror because Rocky Horror is actually a decent film. There have been screenings of The Room in Perth but I was busy whenever it was on, so I'm really glad I finally got to go. The audience I saw it with were pretty good, and obviously big fans. It also helped that they were drunk college students, I guess. I really want to see it again now that I know what to do. Although I don't know if I could sit through those sex scenes again; there's something about Wiseau's body that just wasn't right. Not to mention it looked like he was penetrating the girl's bellybutton, in two different sex scenes which use the same footage. During sex scenes (I think there were four) the audience yells out their disgust at the acting and their bodies, something I didn't know you were supposed to do but did it anyway. Definitely one of the best cinema experiences, despite being hit in the back of the head with plastic spoons.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Fighting Illini Part 2

Tonight I watched Illinois vs Michigan in Basketball with Kai, Kristy, Jess and Liza. We had dinner at a dining hall which was the closest thing I've had to a home cooked meal since the 9th of January when Mum made Lasagne and salad or whatever it was. And has now got me pretty keen to eat there more often.

Spag bog! Couscous! Egg!

We got the bus to Assembly Hall (which resembles a giant/small (depending on your perception of alien life) flying saucer) and watched as the stadium filled with fans decked out in orange (including a few people wearing shirts that said "Ann Arbor is a whore") from our eleventh row seat. In fact we were told before we left, that if we weren't wearing orange we'd get yelled at. There was a cheering squad lead by the cheerleaders which reminded me of swimming carnivals at St Mary's (the similarly disgusting school colour probably helped). The cheerleaders did their usual flips and jumps and what not to get the crowd and the squad going (totally made me think of Bring it On). I have to say the basketball cheers kind of sucked. They ranged from "U of I! U of I! Go! Go!" to the cheerleaders yelling "I-L-L!" and the crowd responding with "I-N-I!" There was a live band in the corner. Like a brass band, I guess. Or a marching band that stayed stationary the whole time. Although they did move their instruments to the beat every now and again which was highly comical.

Assembly Hall. The blurriness makes it seem extra extra-terrestrial.

The atmosphere was pretty exciting but different to the ice hockey match. Support for Illinois was through the roof and there wasn't as much booing of Michigan, just silence when they got a goal. When Michigan were shooting the cheer squad all moved their arms together to distract them from behind the goals which looked really cool. And every now again when they had about five seconds left with the ball they'd count down "3-2-1!" to trick them into shooting before they had to. My third live sporting event (I'm slowly experiencing the interests shared by the majority of the population! Being normal! Hazaar!) had me cheering along, oohing, aaahing and C'MONing with the rest of the orange crowd, but to be honest I was curious to see what happened if Illinois lost.

The half time entertainment was Irish dancing which made me think of my childhood love and the man I was pretty sure I was going to marry. They had little games where audience members could win $150 by playing a sort of Musical Chairs vs Basketball kind of game. The cheerleaders did their cheers a whole lot and even ran around the stadium with two giant orange and blue flags starting a Mexican wave, which had Kai beyond excited, so he was pretty devastated when they stopped before they got to us.

The Cheerleaders leading the squad with their giant flags.

The game was incredibly close with 53 vs 52 to Illinois with 16 seconds left. They called time every four seconds after that until Illinois eventually won with 54 points to 52. The crowd cheered maniacally for a whole three and half seconds before putting on their coats and leaving while the players were still shaking hands.

The screens showing how close the score is. The screens also said puntastic things like "House of PAIGN" and "BRING THE PAIGN!" (As in Champaign)

While I was walking home with Jess, she said someone told her that when Illinois lost the championships the campus was silent and no one spoke for two days afterwards. It seems stupendously extreme but I can almost imagine it happening. The school spirit here is just...nuts. I guess its like he said at the end of one of his episodes of Stephen Fry in America, "it's simultaneously preposterous, impressive, charming, ridiculous, expensive, overpopulated, wonderful: America."

Saturday, February 12, 2011

I haz a new number

I bought a phone that actually resembles a phone and not a kid's toy. It's one of those horizontal slidey ones that they all use on Gossip Girl, so I feel pretty special when I play with it, which is often. It even has an apostrophe key which for some reason my craptastic phone lacked. I got a better one so I can unlock it and take it to England with me. I'm also with a better network now that doesn't rip me off as much, so feel free to send me a text some time :). My new number is 217 607 3317.

Last night we (Kai, Kristy, Liza and me) went to dinner at this really nice sushi restaurant for Liza's birthday. I had gyoza (deep fried dumplings) and takoyaki (octopus balls) which I was pretty excited about. I thought I'd have to go back to Japan for takoyaki and I get cravings for gyoza all the time. Then we went to Murphy's for a bit before heading out to an international party that was at that cool house I wrote about a few posts ago. We were supposed to dress up in groups but we couldn't think of anything until we'd had a few drinks and went with the moustache tattoo on the inside of your pointer finger. Less is more, right? It was mainly because we had a pen at Murphy's and we were drawing on each other anyway.

The party was good, if a little low on the alcohol levels. I watched Steven, the English guy, write his name in the snow which was very impressive and hilarious at the same time. I met a guy from Armadale who tried to claim his town was better than Perth. Double ewe tee eff, mayyte? I went to Joe's (another bar) with the Armadalian and his friend and then met up with the English girls and went with them to a frat house. At Joe's, Hannah, one of the English girls, took me to the dancefloor that I hadn't seen before and we went into the dj booth which was pretty exciting after having tequila shots. I got to bed a 5am and have been lazing about watching Gossip Girl and Boardwalk Empire and trying to motivate myself to go out and buy a goats cheese sandwich that I have an insane craving for. It's probably going to take a few more episodes to get me as far as the shower. Maybe I'll just go in my pyjamas; I'm huuuuuuuungry.

Uni work is piling up now and I really should get some done, but that's also unlikely to happen today. Viva la hangover! (Actually not long live, that would be horrible.)

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Pulling skinny jeans over thermals is hard work


Also, I'm considering not publishing each post on facebook because I feel like a knob. So if you want to read about what I get up to, check here about once a week, I guess. I'll publish every now and again, maybe, or when I want to feel loved.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

I drove to Chicago (all things know, all things know)

At 5pm on Friday night, most of the international students were waiting in the freezing cold at Illinois Terminal for the megabus, which seemed like it was never going to come. We had been told the megabus is Always On Time, yet my two and only experiences of catching it, is that it's Always Late. On that Friday, on the way to Chicago, it was over an hour late. Most of us couldn't feel various extremities by the time we got a seat. The two hour and forty five minute trip north to the Windy City reminded me of the 4000 hours I spent on night buses in Japan, although it was considerably more comfortable as the American bus was actually designed for Western sized people.

When I got to Chicago, I met Yuki at the station, who took me to her friend's house for a Korean celebration of Chinese New Year. I had met the owner of the apartment, Eun, and stayed with her in Korea so it was nice to see another familiar face. We sat around, drank beer (and soju) and kalhua and ate Korean dumplings in soup. The international students were having a hotel party like we did in St Louis.

We got the train to and from Eun's apartment. I love how the train is above the ground and the wheels spark on the track, which freaked me out when I first saw it. Yuki pointed out the buildings of her university on the way. Buildings which are super ugly and boring for any school, let alone one of the best Architecture schools in the world. There was way more snow around on the streets than there is in Champaign; they got two snowdays!

Just chillin' in the snow.

The Vagina Building. A female Architect got sick of all the penises on the Chicago skyline (normal skyscrapers) so she designed this diamond shaped Vagina Building.

The next day I met up with my Australian friends and we went to Millennium Park and saw The Bean and walked across the new bridge to The Chicago Institute of Art. Then we went to the John Hancock Tower which has great views of the city and Lake Michigan. The audio tape we were given was narrated by David Schwimmer - how dare he do something other than crush on Rachel! The afternoon saw us shopping on Michigan Ave, and bumping into the other international students - it seemed everyone had the same idea.

The Bean in Millennium Park. Actually called The Cloud, despite looking nothing like a cloud.
** Okay, I've been told that it's actually called Cloud Gate and is supposed to connect the viewers to the clouds with the reflection of the sky, and not look like a cloud. Whatever the point is it's called The Bean because that's what it does look like.

A view of part of the city and Lake Michigan from the 94th floor of Hancock Tower.

We went to Uno's Pizzeria for dinner. Uno's was one of the first Deep Dish pizza places in Chicago. We had to wait half an hour for our table, but we ordered as soon as we got there so we only had to wait about ten minutes for our food once we had a table. The pizza was different to the Deep Dish pizza we have in Champaign but it was pretty damn good. We had a large Four Cheese and Pesto and small Spinach between six of us.

Deep Dish Pizza from Uno's.

I walked back to Yuki's apartment on my own. I was reluctant at first but it was super easy thanks to the grid system of the city's streets. Yuki and her house mate, Grace, were having a party for Yuki's 21st which was on Sunday. So as soon as I walked in the door I was force fed three shots of vodka as one of their strict party rules. Yuki and Grace had spent $500 on alcohol. The beer of choice among these students seems to be 312 Goose Island Beer (which I really liked). They just happened to buy 312 bottles of it. The really shocking thing is that more than half of it was left over. I'm embarrassed for the Americans. There's no way more than half the beer would be left after a party in Australia.

I knew some of the people from the night before, but I spoke to a few people I hadn't met before too. We went to bed at about 6am and got up at 12pm for blowfish soup (good for a hangover apparently), rice and meat. The international students had a hotel party like we did in St Louis.

Yuki had to study on the Sunday (what an awesome birthday present, right?) and most of the international students were getting early buses back to Champaign for Superbowl Parties. So I went to The Chicago Institute of Art on my own - it's not like you need someone to hold your hand while you stare at paintings anyway. The gallery wasn't as good as I expected but it was okay. The section on American photography from the Depression was my favourite. Then I went to a cafe across the road from gallery, attempted to do some homework, failed, and watched a movie instead. The movie was The Loved Ones, a new Australian horror film. Watch it. I can't stop thinking about it. However, its not for the squeamish. And probably don't watch it in a public place, like a cafe. I'm guessing I looked pretty weird hiding behind my hands and wincing at my laptop screen. But it was so worth the social norms I broke.

I walked back to Yuki's apartment, packed up my stuff and went to the station to wait for my bus back to Champaign (which was late again). I met up with the last group of international students, who also live in Sherman Hall so I was glad I wasn't going to have to walk back to the hall on my own at 1:30am. We waited for the bus inside Union Station in front of the staircase from The Untouchables. When I got back to my room I had a "oh yay I'm home" moment which was weird, but nice. I skipped my first class and slept in until 11am this morning, went to my second class, came home and slept until 5pm. I feel like I didn't see much is Chicago (despite apparently being very sleep deprived), but it's so close and reasonably cheap to get there so I'll definitely be going again (in three weeks in fact, for my UK Visa interview) and especially because I have free accommodation (thanks Yakitori, if you're reading this). I really liked the aesthetics of Chicago and would love to spend more time there, particularly with an ID.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

With the Snowpocalypse Came a Snowday

Apparently this is the fourth snowday that UIUC has ever had. So it's pretty awesome that we get to experience one. Or you know, Global Weirding, I guess. Despite still recovering from my Flu of Death, I was pretty keen to go outside. Not only because of all THE WHITE STUFF EVERYWHERE but also because I was really sick of my bedroom. I showered and got dressed thinking I was a lot better than I actually am, but realised I had to sit down every five minutes because I kept getting dizzy. Go Sian! Great start to the day!

Determined to leave the hall and eat something that didn't come from a packet, I met Jess and Mag (Mag is from Singapore and is Jess' neighbour on the ninth floor) to have breakfast down the road at a restaurant called IHOP, which has an all day breakfast menu. After not eating properly for three days this was a welcome sight:


Walking back from breakfast (that's Mag behind me). Down a path that is normally an actual path and doesn't involve trekking through snow.

I then went home and napped for an hour. As in I put my head on my shitty Walmart pillow and was out like a light until Mag texted me to go sledding. On the way to the bus stop we ran into Felipe (from Chile who also lives in Sherman) so he came along too. We caught the bus to her friends' apartment (some Singaporean students who live here) and they drove us to a snowy slope that is popular with kids. Having spent my childhood summers sandboarding down the dunes at Lancelin, I thought it would be a similar experience. It's not. It's much colder for one. Like, apart from the -25 degree day when I didn't think I was going to survive the walk from the bus stop to Sherman and the fevers during the beginning of my Flu of Death, that was the coldest I've been here.

Felipe, Me and Jess.

That's me, beating Jess, on the left.

Sian and Mag tandom sledding!

Felipe jump-sledding!

It's also a lot faster. And while snow hurts when it gets in your eyes and face (which it will) it's not as bad as getting sand in your eyes. Although snow down your pants is way more painful. Apart from being frostbite-cold, I'd say sledding is more fun than sandboarding. Based on my extremely limited experience anyway.

Me falling over while standing completely still.

Due to the frostbite-cold and Snow In Places We Didn't Want It Felipe, Jess and I left after an hour to go and defrost in our rooms. Kai, Jess, Mag and I went out for Chinese New Year dinner which was super delicious and well worth braving the cold walk down Green St and the long wait for out meals.

Sadly I don't have any photos of Champaign covered in snow as I was too busy concentrating on not coughing up my internal organs to be carrying my camera, so I stole one from facebook (courtesy of Liza. Thanks Hayzus!).

I realise now it's not that impressive. But it's like that all over town. And is actually awesome. So much fun trekking through the ankle to knee high snow.

This is the carpark outside my window. If you look closely you can see how deep the snow is around the cars. I watched the tractor dump all that snow on the right. It was pretty cool :)