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I See Elsie

The Ithaca College London Centre

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Posted by Claire Mokrauer-Madden at 8:41AM   |  Add a comment


For the Fall 2010 students it is the final countdown of weeks left in London.  You are counting down your weekend trips, the tourist sites you STILL haven't been to and let's not forget the number of plays/sporting fixture/gigs still remaining to be seen.  For the Spring 2011 students it is the final countdown of days left in Ithaca before your semester in London, of days left on the 28 day holding period (if you are applying for a visa), of figuring out exactly how many credits you need to take here in London and which classes you will be taking (actually, I bet you all have a pretty good handle on that one already).

For Bill, Sarah, Heather and me we have a lot going on during this season, too.  This is the high season for competitions.  Bill has just named the winner of the dinner quiz (the one where you win a homemade dinner at his house!  I was one of the lucky winners of this one in the Fall of 2002.  That's probably why Bill knew that I would be good hiring quality in 2009).  Coming up is the Travel Writing competition, for which the prize is £50.  There is the Photography Competition, voted on by the students.  And of course the new term-long Scavenger Hunt.  The prizes for these competitions will be given out at the End of Term Event.  Fall '10 students, find info about these competitions on the board in the front entry.  But the competitions don't end there for us.  The Spring '11 students are getting weekly emails from Bill with quizzes to win a bit of cash upon arrival in January. 

Here are some reminders of the glory that comes with winning:

Dena was the first to ask a man in a kilt to dance with her at the ceilidh! That was worth £5. I don't think he wanted the dance to end.


Carrie was a bit of a quiz master in Stratford and Oxford.


Heather taking £5 off of Bill.


Back in August Theresa collects her summer winnings for answering one of the quizzes in the pre-arrival emails.  I bet £10 made her jet lag a little less bitter.


 -Claire (no help from Elsie)


Posted by Claire Mokrauer-Madden at 9:07AM   |  Add a comment

You're abroad and to stay in contact with your friends and family at home, of course you use a computer!  Also, exams are on the horizon, which means essays for many classes.  You and your computer are finding yourselves inseparable.  So consider the unthinkable happening.  It's not pretty, but in accordance with the laws of thermodynamics, entropy is a fact of the world.  Nothing lasts forever.  Computers stop working, need fixing, take on minds of their own.  There is never a good time for it to happen, but we all know that it is an inevitability.

Often the phrase 'cut the cord' has to do with people perceived as being overly attached to one another.  And it's a similar principle, though referring to a different type of cord, when it comes to people and their computers.  They are such helpful things that it's hard to remember the days when we wrote letters- not emails, looked up businesses in the phone book- not on Google, saw our friends- not stalked them on Facebook.  My job might be a whole different position if I were not in such frequent contact with the United States.  So when we find our selves in situations of forced cord cutting, i.e. when your computer dies, it's a rough adjustment.  How did work happen before everyone had their own desk top and laptop computers?  Realistically, it's been a long time since the concept of a programmable device created by humans to simplify work first crept into society.  According to the Oxford English Dictionary the first recorded use of the word 'computer' was in 1646. 

This week's installment of the scavenger hunt involves finding pre-computer age objects.  I would like you to find some pre-Norman remains.  They arrived in Britain in 1066, and supplanted the Anglo-Saxons, who, themselves, probably supplanted some Celtic peoples.  But have a look around London and you will find their traces.  Church foundations, place names,.... they are actually all around us.  Queen Elizabeth I, the last Tudor monarch and the last British monarch not to rule Scotland, died in 1603.  As I have decided that the computer age began with the first recorded use of the word in 1646, I would also like you to find something that is either Tudor or Elizabethan.  None of those 20th century buildings that have been made up to look like something out of the 16th century either.  Elsie expects the real deal.

Staple Inn is a rebuilt copy of what it looked like in the 16th century


Posted by Claire Mokrauer-Madden at 11:12AM   |  Add a comment


As I sat in Purity Ice Cream last Sunday, myself and 3 friends came up with a motto that I think we should all start living our lives by.  Be Awesome, Be Funny, Get Bunk Beds.


Be Awesome:

A friend of mine recently applied for a graduate program that she was really excited about, but she had this fear that kept tapping her on the shoulder as she wrote her personal statement saying, 'This isn't your background.  Can you actually get into this program?'  Sometimes we are our own worst enemies, but having a will of iron, she muscled through her statement.  What was her trick?  She wrote the words, 'Be Awesome' at the top of the page she was typing.  In those moments of doubt she referred to the top of the page and kept going.


Be Funny:

Another friend of mine is an actor in New York.  He has a great sense of comic timing.  He said that he often thought of Michael Richards talking about his time on Seinfeld, and the fact that he wrote himself a message above the doorway that he used to make his entrances on the show.  He had written, 'Be Funny' over the door frame, off stage.  It was a simple message, but we commented that this carried the same obvious strength of the 'Be Awesome' message.


Get Bunk Beds:

This weekend, my reasons for being in Ithaca were two-fold.  I was there to help out at orientation for the Spring '11 ICLC students and to attend the Ithaca College All Theatre Reunion, as I am an alum of that program.  Having graduated in 2004, I have been out of college for less than 10 years.  Though I'm not always in amazing touch with my friends from college, most of us have a pretty good sense of where we have all gone with our lives and catching up with one another wasn't that difficult.  It made us feel nice and young.  On the other hand, we were staying in a house that is rented by current theatre undergraduates, and has been the venue for many opening night parties.  Being in that atmosphere, I felt nice and old.  We discussed this fact over our ice cream and kept referring to the film Big, not sure if we fell into the young or old category.  Because we ourselves had somewhat curious and rotating sleeping arrangements in the house over the weekend, someone was reminded of the bunk beds that Tom Hanks had in the movie, and how he invited a woman to stay over and then called the top bunk.  The four of us eating ice cream decided that to really complete our weekend, would should all get bunk beds (ultimately we didn't).


Anyway, we stuck these statements together and came up with an entire motto to live our lives by.  I think this sums up my return to Ithaca this past week, though.  It was awesome, and I laughed a lot, and even though there weren't bunk beds, maturity sunk to a new low when one of my friends was tricked into eating a dog biscuit.  And if this motto fails, there is always old faithful, 'It it's not Scottish, it's crap'.  I would like to thank Mike Myers, Patrick Stewart and the writers working on SNL in 1994 for that one.


Many people have asked Bill and me how our trip to Ithaca was.  For my part, it was great.  I hope everyone else had a good time over Fall Break, too.  To tie this to the scavenger hunt, your challenge now is to find either bunk beds or an oversize piano like the one in Big that Tom Hanks played on in FAO Schwartz (or something like that).


Posted by Claire Mokrauer-Madden at 11:12AM   |  Add a comment


As you well know, each semester we choose a Book of the Term.  This term the book is Mortal Causes by Ian Rankin.  It is set is Edinburgh in the early 1990’s and deals with violence and the IRA, as the books we choose are meant to introduce the students to different aspects of British culture.  Now we are thinking of the book of the next term, and Sarah and I are leaning toward Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere.   Whereas we live in London Above, much of this book is set in London Below.  What is London Below, you ask?  I’m about halfway through the book and I don’t really know myself.


Speaking of the things that happen below London, the London Underground is one of the oldest continuously running subway systems in the world.  It has a fascinating history from acting as a shelter for Londoners during the Blitz to surprising pedestrians as they pass by disused stations on the street that have been closed for decades.  Because they are often not lit up at all, they can be easy to miss.  Who has seen Aldwych Station on the Strand right in the middle of London?  It’s staring you in the face just after you pass Somerset House.  Keep an eye out for this one.  Your first mission this week is to find a disused Tube Station, but not Aldwych, since I have just pointed that one out.  Here is a link to a great website that has images of out of date Tube maps to help you along with this one:  Don’t be deceived by stations that are still there but have changed names.  Have a look at the outside of Gloucester Road Tube station the next time you pass by and notice that the top of the building says that the Metropolitan and District Railways go to this station.  A lot has changed since this station appeared on one of the earliest Tube maps (1889) as Brompton Gloucester Road Station.  Also, excitingly, there were plans on the 1949 version of the map to extend the Bakerloo line down as far as Camberwell!  Alas, this would only have added to the paradise that Camberwell is!

Also, if you go to the northbound Piccadilly line platform, you can see the tiled sign on the wall saying that these trains go to Finsbury Park, as that is where the Piccadilly line once terminated

You may have also gathered by now, if you have been checking out the TfL website to plan your journeys or to figure out alternative routes during the Tube strike, that as well as the Tube there are also buses, trams, boats and bicycles on offer as public transportation options.  During the last Tube strike there were photos in the paper of the queues of people lined up to take the boats across the Thames.  So, speaking of photos and boats, your second mission is to capture the underside of a bridge.  Obviously you don’t need to be on a boat to see underneath a bridge, but taking a boat across London offers a new perspective to modern eyes and a view of London from what has traditionally been one of its busiest thoroughfares.


Good luck!


-Elsie (who loves Camberwell!)


Posted by Claire Mokrauer-Madden at 11:13AM   |  Add a comment


In my research of what a blog is, the trend seems to be for anecdotal stories about the events of the day or the week or the month.  Here is what happens around the ICLC:

Sarah: makes a cup of tea, fixes the internet, makes more tea

Claire: makes a cup of tea, kicks the photocopier, makes more tea

Bill: makes a cup of tea, plays some cricket, teaches some classes, makes more tea

Chris: drops off the post, makes a cup of tea, fixes the building, makes more tea

Claire's teacup

Perhaps Bill doesn't play cricket everyday, but otherwise this is pretty accurate.  Obviously we do other things, too, and Elsie would like you to guess what those things are.  The first installment of scavenged items for you to find this week is going to require a lot of stretching of your abstract creativity muscles.  If you were living a day in the life of Bill, what would your ideal supper be?  Remember that Bill is a sports fanatical, World War II and east London loving Egyptologist.  Please compose a photograph showing this meal.

Sarah's tea and strainer

Also, tea is very important to our lives everyday.  It is a reason for breaks in the day, it is a required drink at breakfast and it is part of a posh afternoon involving sandwiches and cakes.  Thing 2: Please find the most interesting tea paraphernalia that you can, whether it's a teapot, tea strainer, tea flavour or anything else related to tea.

Bill's teacup




Posted by Claire Mokrauer-Madden at 10:33AM   |  Add a comment


Many ICLC students celebrate their 21 birthdays during their semester in London.  While it's a momentous occasion in the States to go into a bar and buy your first legal drink, you may have noticed that there is much less fuss about 21 year olds buying a drink here in the UK.  In many ways drinking culture is a horse of a different color.  The legal age is lower in the UK and pubs close much earlier than Americans are used to.  You can go to a pub for a classic Sunday roast or for a pub quiz to find out how good your knowledge of trivia really is.  There are also similarities, though.  They are major social meeting points and binge drinking is problematic in both countries.  But one thing that definitely separates British and American drinking establishments is what they are called.  Often sites have had pubs on them for hundreds of year and have names that don't necessarily make sense to a modern audience.  There are more pubs than it's worth counting called the Queen's Head, the King's Head and the King's Arms.  There's a chain called the Slug and Lettuce.  There's a pub in Notting Hill called The Windsor Castle.  My local when I was a student was called The Elusive Camel.  What do these names mean?  For some the answers can probably be found on Wikipedia (a reputable source), but other meanings may be completely lost or even made up, not ever really having had any particular meaning.  Pub names can also be influential.  The areas of Swiss Cottage and Elephant and Castle are named after local pubs (actually I think there is some debate about where the name Elephant and Castle comes from, but it sounds like the name of a pub.  The area's more official name is Newington, not to be confused with Stoke Newington which is not nearby).


Your two missions this week, should you choose to accept, are to find the most interesting pub name that you can and, in honor of my old local, to find a camel.  Dromedaries need not apply.  Only Bactrian camels.  Elsie will be counting the humps.  I have high hopes that both of these will prove difficult and time consuming, but lead to admirable creativity.  As a Londoner herself, Elsie probably feels that she has seen it all.  Show her how wrong she can be!




Posted by Claire Mokrauer-Madden at 10:32AM   |  Add a comment


Part of the appeal of studying abroad is the possibility of immersing yourself in another culture and meeting new people from around the world.  However, it can be all too easy to find yourself immersed in an American bubble once you get to London, living and studying with your fellow students from Ithaca.  In an effort to try and pop this bubble and open up more opportunities for immersion, Elsie is creating a scavenger hunt spanning the Fall 2010 semester.  When the final judging is done it will be based on the sense of immersion that the entries show (Elsie won't mind you playing to her vanity, either), so be creative.  Everything is open to interpretation.


The creation of this hunt is the product of evaluations from past students who said that they wished they had been more immersed in London life.  While here you will have opportunities to join clubs with students from British universities, and we hope that you take advantage of this chance.  Many of the classes running this term involve getting out in London for walks and tours.  This is a great way to see London, and can be used as a great spring board for immersion, but the leg-work is up to you.  Housing yourselves was one of your first initial experiences in getting to grips with life in London.  You met landlords, saw what people's homes in London look like and possibly even met your new neighbors. This scavenger hunt will be easy in comparision.


We are working with a loose interpretation of the word 'immersion'.  We can't force you to walk up to a stranger, introduce yourself and share the stories of your lives with each other each weekend at a different pub in a different area of London.  In envisioning this scavenger hunt with an eye towards immersion, the onus of getting out, seeing new things, meeting new people and experiencing how life is lived in another country is on you.  So when you are sent out to scavenge it is in the hope that you will treat this as a suggestion for an opportunity to immerse yourself.  The things themselves that you are being asked to find are more likely to be on the periphery of immersion.  We want you to go to concerts, festivals, sporting events, exhibitions and plays, we want you to meet new people and we want you to explore beyond the traditional American hangouts.


Throughout the term Elsie will post things for you to find.  As the deadline for entries will not be until the end of the semester, take your time and keep your eyes peeled.  In no particular order, here are some guidelines for the hunt:

  • All entries must be submitted in photo form.
  • The back of the photo must have the location it was taken and the entrant's ID# (don't put your name on them).
  • All entries from an entrant must be submitted at the same time.
  • All entries are subjective and will be judged by Elsie on the degree of immersion that they represent.
  • Unless stated otherwise, all entries must be photographed within the UK.
  • Please make sure you have permission to photograph your entries.
  • You don't necessarily need to submit entries for every object in the hunt.  It's quality that's important.
  • Teaming up with a partner (no more than 2 working together) is allowed, or you can go it alone.
  • The entrant must appear in at least 5 photos, showing them interacting with the objects that they have found.

Good Luck!

-The Three Dogs (none of whom are pink)

*    *    *

London, originally created as a Roman outpost, is a reflection of nearly two millenia of inhabitants.  It has been a magnet for migrants for much of its existence, from the Romans to the Saxons to the French Huguenots to the Ithaca College London Centre staff.  In turn, these migrants become locals and make London their own.  Steeped in history, so many Londoners have left their mark somewhere (lucky for Bill, he can't be identified as having graffitied Stamford Bridge).  The plaque marking Christopher Wren's burial place in St. Paul's Cathedral says, "Reader, if you are looking for his monument, look around you".  So, we would like you to find the most interesting burial marker or memorial, whether it be a headstone, a monument or anything else that serves as a reminder of a person (but don't bring a photo of Christopher Wren's, that's just unoriginal).  Many of you may be new to London, so this may seem like being thrown into the deep end, but that is what immersion is about.  Dive in! (Actually, if it's diving you are doing, don't necessarily try it in the Thames.  It's cold and has a strong current.  The Thames Barrier is a pretty cool landmark to see, but rather than traveling as a human boat my recommendation would be to take a train to get there.  That also saves you needing a change of clothes, so that's one less thing to carry with you.  I'm not speaking as the voice of experience or anything, but just taking a really educated guess.)  To pay tribute to migrant populations we would also like you to find some Danish cuisine.



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