Summer VIII's

Today was Summer Eights, the biggest rowing race after Oxford v. Cambridge. It's a bump race which means it's not about coming in first place but bumping the boat in front of you - yes literally bumping them. Basically the banks of the Isis are full of people and all of the boat houses are selling hamburgers and Pimms, which by the way is amazing. Pictures are below.

Regents Women's Rowing

The boathouses

Regents Men's Rowing

The Regents Blade

Regents women heading down the Isis to start their race

Regents men coming in to dock

Ashley (my tutorial mate from Yale) and I - she rows for Lincoln College

Five Down Three To Go

So I just finished and submitted my fifth essay (which, if you're interested can be found on my MobileMe public page - directions can be found in a blog post or two back entitled "Essays"). This time I had to write about how the Stuart court masque (a type of theatrical performance more or less) used visual arts, poetry and music to depict the political aspirations of the dynasty. I ended up writing about three specific masques. I also discussed Ben Jonson and Inigo Jones, two very important masque authors. Yet before I could do that I had to define the political aspirations of the Stuart court (I focused on Charles I) and define a masque. I only used one image this week, a van Dyck portrait I saw when I went to Tate Britain. Unfortunately the only image of it online is rather crappy, the painting itself is great, the image below does not do it justice. Next week I'll be studying "collecting at the global court."

The Blog

So as you may have noticed, the look of my blog has changed yet again. I think I'm finally content with this one. Although the actual layout of my posts is weird and it won't let me change it. Oh well....this was my five minute break from essay writing. Back to writing about Stuart England I go.

The 5th Week Blues

So my time in Oxford is more than half over - it's 5th week, only this week plus three more to go. It's gone by quite fast. Fifth week always brings along fifth week blues, at least so I'm told. Right around this time everyone starts to get tired of working and not too much is going on as people are sitting for collections (which in the US would mean taking tests - but they only take a couple very important tests). However, in Trinity Term the Wed-Sat of fifth week is very, very important - it's when the Summer Eights occur! Summer Eights is the biggest rowing race, well after the Oxford/Cambridge race, and the banks of the Isis are packed on the last day of racing (Sat). I will be going to the races as much as I can but if nothing else I'll surely be there on Saturday.

In other news, Dr. Juilee Decker (my art history prof at Gtown) will be in Oxford starting this Saturday. She will be here for about a week as she is the McCandless lecturer this year (each year Regents and Gtown switch lecturers). It will be nice to see a familiar face, especially the one that played the biggest role in preparing me for my time at Oxford.

The tutorial is going rather well although this week is a bit challenging. After my tutorial last week, Yu Ping and I talked about my progress thus far and about how I can improve what I've been working on, etc etc (it was more or less the 'progress report' for the term). As a result I'm working quite hard to take all of her advice into consideration and produce the best work I can - we'll see what happens.

The rest of this term should go by extremely fast. This weekend is Summer Eights. Dr. Decker will be here for 6th week, the Regents play is also during 6th week. The Saturday of 7th week is Final Fling (the end of year ball more or less, the ticket wasn't cheap -about $80- but it includes dinner, drinks, breakfast and it's basically the big event of the year). Then it will be 8th week, my last week here which ends with the Valediction ceremony. Then it will be time to travel Europe for a bit then head back across the pond and start the internship search and study for the GRE.

The Essays

So I've decided to go ahead and put my essays online. You can read/skim them if you'd like. Just click here to go to my MobileMe account. Once you click you'll need to type in "public" for the username and "rothko" for the password. To download/view any file you'll need to click the arrow on the far right of each file name. Just a heads up, essay 3 isn't the best thing in the world.

The Rainbow

So while leaving Regents the other day Ashley (the Yale student that's also in my tutorial) and I saw a rainbow. It was quite neat as it was very pronounced - plus it's an English rainbow which automatically makes it at least ten times cooler than any American rainbow.

The 'tute' thus far

So my tutorial (tute) has gone pretty well so far. My first essay was decent (although I don't really know how decent as Yu Ping didn't know she was supposed to give us a grade on it - typically the tutor only grades you once, at the end for your final grade) as it didn't have anything too terrible marked on it. My second wasn't so great but was far from terrible. Last weeks was pretty darn good (a 62 - an A/B in Gtown) and I hope that I can break into the 65+ range this week. The topic this week is finally something different than the previous three - which have all dealt with the artist/patron or artist/court relationship. We can pick between two topics, I'm choosing "How was portraiture used to legitamize Queen Elizabeth I's rule as a female monarch?" It should be interesting as I've never studied anything about Queen Elizabeth. I'm off to read quite a bit, more to come later.


While I put some pictures on my blog it takes forever to upload them. I also have some pictures on Picasa. To see them just click here.

Christ Church Meadow and The River Isis

Today was rather rainy but then it was quite sunny in between the rain. I decided to go for a walk around Oxford and ended up walking in Christ Church meadow. There's basically one path that takes you through the meadow then down along the Isis River. The Isis is where all of the college's row and practice rowing - at the end of the path is where all of their boathouses are. All in all it was a great walk with good weather. I also got to see all three major Oxford pastime in one trip - rowing, punting and cricket.



More punting

Christ Church Meadow w/ Christ Church College in the background

The path

Bridge between the walking path and the college boathouses

Rowing on the Isis

The college boathouses


So on Friday I went to London for my tutorial. I got up quite early and walked to the bus station in the rain. About 90 minutes or so late we arrived in London, where it was partly sunny and not raining at all. First we headed to the Tate to see the van Dyck exhibition - it was great. Ashely (the Yale student in my tutorial) and I walked around with Yu Ping and had an amazing tutorial. It was great to see the pieces first hand. You get a true feeling for their size and you realize things you just can't realize from an image. After this we headed to the cafe at the Tate and had our actual tutorial. Next Ashley and I headed to Whitehall (Yu Ping had a meeting back in Oxford) where we saw the ceiling Rubens painted. After that we saw the London Eye, Big Ben, the House of Parliament, Trafalgar Square and Buckingham Palace. It was pretty great in all honesty to just walk around London and see all of the sites - which are all rather close to one another. After that we got some lunch and headed back to the bus station. When I got back to Oxford it was still raining. I went home and changed clothes for formal. Formal hall was good, with rather amazing food, then in the JCR we had champagne and chocolates night. After that I went out to a pub and then home. Today (Saturday) I went to the fete (like a small carnival) at Regents where they had face painting, a three legged race, etc etc. It was rather enjoyable. Next we headed to lunch at Noodle Nation (as close as I'll get to Yang Kee Noodle while here, although YKN is better) and went to see Angels and Demons at the theatre. All in all that's about it over the past few days. It's been quite fun.

Big Ben

Protest across from Parliament

House of Parliament

the London Eye and the Thames River

The Burghers of Calais (a sculpture by Rodin)

Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace...again

Trafalgar Square

Guard outside of some cavalry museum (I don't remember the exact name); I was impressed the the horses remained to still when tons of people were around them taking pictures and such

Whitehall Banqueting House Ceiling - by Rubens

The Oxford Union

So tonight I pretty much had the best night I've had while in Oxford - I went to the Oxford Union. The Oxford Union is basically the debate club, however, it's huge. Each week they host a formal debate in which famous speakers are invited to argue the proposition and the opposition. Before each debate there are drinks in the quad and after there are President's Drinks. This week's topic was 'This House should legalise assisted suicide.' We, as in an audience of about two hundred, heard arguments from UN doctors, national Parliamentary figures, and family members associated with assisted suicide cases. As each presents their argument many students stand up and challenge the facts and points made. Basically it's what Americans think of when they think of Oxford - students coming up with eloquent, well-defended arguments on the spot about pertinent issues while surrounded by very well-known people/scholars. The whole thing is very much so like The House of Commons (which you can catch on late night C-SPAN) - people shouting and such; even the layout of the room is the same. Typically you have to be a member to come to these events (Oxford students are eligible but must pay quite a bit), however, one of my college moms is an officer for the Union and she was able to get me a guest pass - to both the debate and President's Drinks (which few people get invited to this open bar event). It was a great night, even though I got soaked while heading back home in a, recently dry-cleaned, suit. Just a bit more about the Union, they also host numerous famous speakers - Martin Sheen was just here about a week and a half ago.

There's a video about the Oxford Union here. The main debating chamber is where I was but it gives you an idea about the Union as a whole. Although I have to argue about their claim to having the cheapest bar in Oxford - I've been there, Regent's bar is cheaper.

My position on the topic (since I've been asked) -
Based on the debate alone I'm in full support of assisted suicide. The opposition did not clearly present their facts, only one member managed to successfully do this. They also used Oregon as an example yet cited much incorrect information. Somehow Texas and the death penalty got thrown in there as well. Furthermore, one member said that assisted suicide was like divorce and abortion - it's controversial at first, then it gets legalized and everyone is ok with it (meaning at some point we'll just kill people for the hell of it). The proposition had both and emotional and factual argument (and didn't cite incorrect facts from the US).
Personally I believe that it's an autonomous right. If you want to kill yourself you have the right to do so as a member of a Western, democratic government. When you are unable to do so because you are incapacitated then it is your right to seek assistance to carry out your wishes. In denying your right to assisted suicide you're more or less saying that some one doesn't deserve their rights or that they are somehow "less-deserving" than a healthy person. However, strict rules and safeguards must be in place.

Essay 3 (aka the downside of a non-lending library)

So I'm pretty much finished with my third essay. It's about 2,800 words (800 over my "limit") but that's not really an issue. I ended up discussing the status of the artist at court using Anthony van Dyck and Gianlorenzo Bernini as examples. I'm actually quite proud of the essay - it's extremely art historical in its style and everything. However, I ended up taking portions of my essay in a different (hopefully better) direction than I had anticipated. So I remember reading portions of my assigned readings and such that defend my argument perfectly but I didn't write them down. This means I will have to get up at 8am so I can be at the Sackler Library by 9am. As there are very few copies of the book I need in the Oxford System (there are 3) and someone, well my tutor, has already requested it, I'll have to beg the librarians at the front desk to let me use the reserved book - which they are supposed to do but some librarians are nicer about it than others. Then I'll add the few bits to my essay and send it off in the morning. Unfortunately tomorrow is also the day that Spencer House (where I live) is having a group professional picture. So I'll have to run back home, shower and dress up for that. Long story short, I'm not a huge fan of non-lending libraries at the moment....although I am, unlike last week, proud of my essay this week.

Technology and Rain

So in sitting at a few different libraries by now I've noticed something quite different from Georgetown - about 8 out of every 10 students you see has a Mac. Oxford is dominated by Macs and ITS has no problems with them at all - at Georgetown you're lucky to get limited support for a Mac. Speaking of ITS they are much more helpful in Oxford and the internet isn't the least bit slow.

On a different subject the forecast for the next 7 days is rain - fun.


So this week in my tutorial I'm writing about Anthony van Dyck - basically a pretty important guy in English painting, well painting in general really. Since there's an exhibition all about him at Tate Britain we're going to London for tutorial this Friday. We're leaving Oxford at 8am (this will officially be the earliest I've been up in Oxford) and heading to London. We're going to the Tate and to the Banqueting House of Whitehall. There we'll see the ceiling of the banquet hall painted by Rubens - another very important artist. The Palace of Whitehall was where all of the English monarchs lived for quite a while until most of it burned down, the Banquet House is the only part still around. In other words I'm going to London for class and it's pretty flippin' awesome. It will be nice to have class where things happened and in front of actual paintings rather than just looking at images. Plus it's always fun to go to a museum with someone who know's a lot about what's in it - perhaps like my tutor, Yu Ping. It should be a good day with lots of pictures. Although it's supposed to rain, hopefully it won't. I've also found a tour for Stonehenge, I'll be headed there on June 6th.

"The Oxford Way"

So in a sense I just wrote my first "Oxford style" essay. Oxford students, while they read and study a ton, don't seem to write their actual essays until the last minute. You might assume they start a day or two in advance and go through multiple drafts, but no. Most, yes I mean that literally, start the night before if not the day of. Now yes, they have certainly done their reading and such but that only accounts for so much of any essay. I just wrote my essay for this week in about 3 hours - that was the actual writing part only. Nevertheless, I'm starting to understand the lifestyle of an Oxford student. A week seems like a lot of time to write one paper but it's really not. You have to find your books for your readings, read those and take notes, tackle the essay topic, do research for your essay, find those resources, read them, outline an essay (or at least a thought process), write the essay then prepare to discuss/defend your ideas - long story short, it's not as easy as it may seem. So yes, while everyone stateside constantly reminds you to never wait until the last minute to start writing, that is indeed "the Oxford way." Oh, I've also learned that 2,000 words isn't all that much.

A Cocktail Party and a Chinese Buffet

So tonight Spencer House hosted a cocktail party for the hierarchy of Regents so that they could see the house and such. Basically there was wine (which we had a "family" dinner and wine tasting for on Sunday to pick the wines out) and appetizers and such. I was able to meet some of the "higher-ups" of the college, all of whom were quite great. Afterwards we all pitched in to clean up then Jack and Hazel (they are both retired Americans that take care of Spencer House, which Columbia State University owns) took us all out for Chinese food. The Chinese place ended up being a buffet, which is a bit different here. For one, the food was actually decent and fresh. Second, they at least attempt to cut back on food waste (there were signs that said intentional, excessive waste of food will be charged £5 extra per person). Buffets are rather rare here so it was interesting to see. All in all it was quite a good night.

Now I sit here posting this while I should be writing my essay (it's nearly midnight now) as it's due in exactly 14 hours - I probably won't sleep much, if at all, tonight. The prompt is the following: Discuss the formation of the Spanish royal painting collection in relation to Philip IV's demands as a patron. So first off I'm very happy that this week deals with Spanish art. Second, I'm finding it hard to narrow down the topic. Thus far I think I'm going to first talk about the overall artist/patron relationship of this time frame. Then I'll define Philip IV as a patron. Next I'll discuss Rubens and Velázquez along with some of their works made for Philip IV's court. Lastly I'll talk about how their paintings were commissioned and used to decorate both the Buen Retiro and the Alcazar. I still don't have images so you'll just have to imagine some for now.

Other upcoming plans include going to the Globe Theatre to see a play as a rather large group and a family dinner with all of the new students for this term and their college parents.

An Update for Update's Sake

So apparently when you start a blog and update daily (sometimes a few times a day) people start to expect regular updates - as I've been a bit busy over the past few days I haven't really thought much about blogging and some people aren't too happy about that. Thus, I thought it might be a good idea to go ahead and post something.

This week has been full of work for the most part. My tutorial this week deals with the courts as patrons of the arts. My essay will be on the patronage of King Philip IV of Spain - finally some Spanish art! (now if it were only modern and political I'd be set!). I'm still working on my readings and research so I don't quite have images to share.

Other than that I've yet to do much around Oxford. School work tends to dominate your life in one way or another here. If I'm not busy with my own tutorial then everyone else is working on there's. The American students here surely work quite hard, but the Brits seem to study 24/7 and read much more than us - perhaps it's b/c they only take one test at the end of their 3 years that determines everything for them, that's right, just one test, that's it. Nevertheless, there's parties and such with the Regents students on the weekends but during the week I'm either working (which involves searching for books, library hopping -in the states we have bar hops but never library hops - here a library hop is common for most essays- reading, note taking, outlining, drafting and, finally, writing....but then I have to make sure I can discuss all of that for my actual tutorial). So yes, Oxford is a lot of work but at the same time I rather enjoy it. It's nice to study one thing, one subject and devote all of your time to it. It's also quite nice to find my inner academic and to have resources I've never had before. And at times the dinner conversations about philosophy, religion, politics, etc are fun too (although there's also a fair share between the Americans and the Brits about Beyonce, Rhianna/Chris Brown, "the college cup" (red Solo cups) and anything else related to American pop culture).

I'm determined to see the sights around Oxford before I leave. Other Georgetowners have told me that this can be hard to do during the term but I'm determined to work it in my time here. I figure I should at least see the other colleges, especially since I can and it's free while I have my Oxford student ID (many colleges aren't open to visitors, and if they are visitors usually have to pay). I figure I should also see the museums and such Oxford has to offer. I also plan on making it to London at least once, preferably twice (with a trip to the theatre at lease once), and to Stonehenge. That, along with my tutorial and college activities, should keep me plenty busy. Ideally I'd also visit Cambridge (all the Regents students see no real reason for this unless it's to make fun of that "lesser" instituion there) and Bath but I'm not so sure there's time for all of that.

So that's about it at the moment. I'll do my best to get back to regular blog posting, although it's semi-based on me doing different things so I probably won't post again until I actually do something interesting. Oh and just so you know, England is expensive...