Pop culture has given us another object lesson this year in the form of an astronomical success and an anticlimactic flop. I’m talking about Susan Boyle’s runaway success with the release of her first album, I Dreamed a Dream and the lavish holiday musical dud Nine.
Nine had all the trimmings of a Las Vegas Christmas extravaganza with all the rhinestone studded bells and whistles. Whatever else can be said about this film, it wasn’t lacking in talent. Daniel Day-Lewis, Penélope Cruz, Judy Dench, Kate Hudson, Sophia Loren. These movie legends proved that quality doesn’t come with quantity or even proximity. Push a bunch of stars on stage in expensive costumes, and you have, well, a bunch of stars on stage in expensive costumes. You can’t take a fashion show and expect a story to evolve to fill in the space between the acts. The weak story collapses before your very eyes under the boas, sequins and tiaras.
Just to be clear, the movie does have a plot. The film stalks a famous director as he works on his next lavish undertaking. The world idolizes him. His talent, reputation and mystic make him the ultimate sexual conquest for the film’s many leading ladies, his suffering marriage notwithstanding. A restless celebrity, a deteriorating marriage and a profusion of alluring women set against the romantic Italian coast. His professional career and his personal life slide in and out of each other as he tries to find himself, whatever that means. I think you get the picture.
“Flashy” doesn’t necessarily translate “bad.” But, you take a story pinned together with strings of mesmerizing choreography and sex, you’ve still only got a more grown up version of Fantasia meets Entertainment Tonight. Where’s the beef?
After two delayed flights, two cancelled flights and one exciting, serendipitous night in Paris, I am now happily back at home in Maryland. The trip started uneventfully in the wee hours of Saturday morning. I boarded an airport shuttle at 5:15 in the morning in St. Andrews for a sleepy ride into Edinburgh. I got comfortable, because, for some strange reason, I’d decided to stay up late enjoying those last few hours with friends before saying goodbye for Christmas. After all, I’d have the whole transatlantic flight to catch up on lost shuteye. Yeah Right.
My traveling buddy Amanda and I made it onto our flight in Edinburgh, with only one minor hitch, a hitch that ended up making a world of a different 48 hours later. Amanda had some trouble getting her boarding pass to print. Another boarding pass was printed for her by one of the receptionists. We didn’t know it then, but the receptionist had made an error on the boarding pass that would mean another line to stand in and eventually our return to the United States by Sunday evening not Christmas Eve.
As soon as with touched down in Paris, Amanda and I took off running through the airport to catch our next (cancelled) flight. Somehow the cancellation took everyone by surprise, including the airport staff. When I finally reached the top of the first queue, I got up to the desk and handed the receptionist my boarding pass. She informed me that this plane had already left. If it had left, I would have been on it. No, sadly this plane was not going anywhere. Thus began a long day of standing in one line and then another. Some seven hours later Amanda and I were still standing in the airport.
Greetings All! I hope you’re doing well. I’m doing well here in St. Andrews. Things are pretty quiet here at the end of Reading Week, but I’ve been keeping busy with some good books, some stimulating (and humiliating) games of chess and the best fish and chips in the UK. Today I finally visited Anstruther, which is an absolutely lovely fishing village about a half hour (ἡμιώριον, Greek has its own word for half hour, fyi) bus ride from St. Andrews. Anstruther is legendary for its fish and chips, which, having personally tested, I can faithfully say, are magnificent. I ordered the traditional haddock, which was caught in local waters, fried to a golden brown and served on a bed of locally-grown and freshly fried chips.
On the bus ride back, I concocted a list of 5 ways to know you’re in St. Andrews. This list will inaugurate what, I hope, will be the beginning of a series of Top 5s. I’ve got some good things coming down the pipe so stay tuned. Here goes:
Top 5 Ways to Know You’re in St. Andrews.
5. Meeting friends and/or professors in Tesco. Tesco is the local grocery store, so in a town this size, it becomes pretty central. Everybody’s got to eat, so sooner or later you will run into them in Testco. (True story, I first felt like I belonged in St. Andrews when I recognized someone grocery shopping.)
4. Charity shopping. In St. Andrews, the charity shops are better than retail, hands down. Not only are the prices better but the quality is too, assuming a moderate level of serendipity. And, if at first you find nothing, just keep popping in, eventually you will hit pay dirt.
3. Academic Gowns. On Sundays, the bright red academic gowns dotting the streets are a dead giveaway.
2. Chariots of Fire. Only in St. Andrews can you go for run or a leisurely walk along West Sands, the famous chariots of fire beach. (I think my friends in Philly understand the feeling; it’s what you feel running up the Art Museum steps singing the Rocky theme song).
1. Golf. Of course, no list of Top 5s of St. Andrews would be complete without golf, that Royal and Ancient game (which you can play at old course of the same name).
So there you have it.
Here at St. Andrews we have arrived at Reading Week (ironically named since most students don’t do any reading at all, but you didn’t hear that from me). But it’s not much of a secret. Classes are canceled during Reading Week to give the students a chance to read and catch up on their work (or even get ahead, what a concept?!), but many students travel and go to wonderful, exotic places or head back home for a nice reprieve.
I’m staying in St. Andrews, but before you call me boring, I do have a plan (or at least so far I’ve been planning one day in advance. I’ll take it as a plan). I’m going to visit local places. Today I visited Dundee, which is the closest big city to St. Andrews. I decided I’d mosey on over, ramble down the streets, take in the sights, and stop by the library to pick up some divinity books. I got three out of four. I look a scenic bus ride through the countryside to Dundee, got off in down-town Dundee and decided to find the library (eventually). I didn’t really know where I was going, but somehow I found the University of Dundee campus and from there getting to the library was easy. Once I got to the library, I realized that there was one little think I’d forgotten to check: University of Dundee doesn’t have a Religion Department. I realized this when I was found the two shelves devoted to divinity squeezed in between philosophy and the sciences. Oh well, that just meant it was time for a bit of shopping.
Dundee has some really good shopping, if you’re ever in the area. Besides all the big name brands, there are also some good charity shops, where you can find some great treasures if you have a spot of luck.
Tomorrow I’m heading over to Anstruther to sample some of their world-famous fish and chips! I hear it’s really beautiful, so if the weather is nice hopefully I’ll have some pictures to post as well.
Since I have time this week, I’ll also hopefully be getting to do some extra reading that I wouldn’t normally have time to do. I’d really like to read through Isaiah and let the images and theology sink in. So there it is, I’ve said it on the internet, I guess that means I better stick with it!