27 September 2008

In which Helen writes her last post in America (cross those fingers)

Abby just came over. Gave me an ipod as a going-away gift. Yay! No more portable cd player.

So, I'm going to London tomorrow.

Spent the whole day packing. A much more laborious task than I thought it would be.

So here's what I really want to do when I get to London. Of course I have to drop off my shit at the apartment first. Technically I should rush to the humanities building to enrol for my classes -- and rest assured I will -- but first, since I'm sure I'm going to be very hungary -- I'm going to rush to a pub and get a pint of beer (I can already taste it) and get some fish and chips. And then I'll go to the humanities building. I'll be stuck there for a while I'm sure and then I have to open up a bank account to deposit my loan money into, which should not be very much fun at all, but I will, by the end of the day, go to Regent's Park, where I last lived. And hopefully snap some photos for this blog.

Don't know how long it'll take me to hook up to the Internet but will post as soon as I can.

26 September 2008

In which Helen feels like the happiest idiot alive

Abby just called me. Apparently the thing inside my passport is my VISA.


So I'm going to London on Sunday.

Uh, wait a second

Okay, actually, Helen may just be a collosal idiot (see, I don't even know how to spell collosal). I just found this stamped thing in my passport that may actually be my VISA but I don't know because I don't know what a VISA looks like.

So I'm going to try to figure that out.

Be Back.


Um, I might not be going to London for college.

Still no VISA.

School wants me there by this Monday.

I'm at my wits end and am now going to crawl away under my avalanche of blankets.

25 September 2008

bring on the free tickets!

'Mr Burnham said: “A young person attending the theatre can find it an exhilarating experience, and be inspired to explore new horizons. But sometimes people miss out on it because they fear it’s ‘not for them’. It’s time to change this perception."'

From The Times

September 24, 2008

Ticket giveaway to inspire passion for theatre in the young

Dalya Alberge, Arts Correspondent

Tens of thousands of theatre tickets will be given away to young people next year as part of a government campaign to foster a lifelong love of drama.

The plan to offer free seats to people aged between 18 and 26 - funded with £2.5 million of taxpayers’ money - was announced yesterday by Andy Burnham, the Culture Secretary. It received a cautious welcome from some in the arts world, who expressed concern that the tickets may not reach the most underprivileged.

Louise de Winter, the director of the National Campaign for the Arts, the industry’s lobby group, said that there would be no benefit to the arts if the money were used to give regular theatregoers a freebie. She added: “The Department for Culture, Media and Sport and Arts Council England, who are administering the fund, must make sure that the money actually does find its way to new audiences.”

A spokesman for Mr Burnham acknowledged that anyone in the age bracket would be entitled to the tickets, saying: “It could be toffs or the children of dustmen.”

The scheme comes as West End theatres are enjoying record audiences, thanks largely to musicals teaming up with television talent shows. Attendances reached 13.6 million in 2007, up 10 per cent on 2006, itself a record year. Gross sales were up 18 per cent on 2006 to almost £470 million.

One theatre source criticised the Government’s priorities in funding free theatre tickets when pensioners were struggling to buy food and fuel, saying: “I don’t know why the Government’s frittering money on this. The Young Vic, as The Times reported today, offers excellent performances at cheap prices.”

The Young Vic, which sells tickets for £10 to those under 26, is one of several theatres that offer discounts or giveaway tickets. More than 10,000 young people received free tickets to Much Ado About Nothing at the Globe this year. David Lan, the artistic director of the Young Vic, told The Times: “What we want to encourage is lifelong habits. We’re saying, ‘Just come and do it. If you get bored, you can leave’. But we’ve got to make the work really good as well.”

There was praise for the Government’s scheme from Dominic Cooke, the artistic director of the Royal Court Theatre, who said: “I support any initiative to get young people into theatre, and especially one that aims to do it all over England, not just in London.”

The Royal Court offers heavily discounted tickets that have contributed to a rise of more than 300 per cent in the number of young people attending its productions.

Ninety-five publicly funded theatres could apply for funding under the two-year scheme. In return, they will offer free tickets on at least one day each week to 18 to 26-year-olds, first-come, first-served. It is likely to be on Mondays, traditionally a quiet night for the theatre.

The Government envisages that a million free tickets will have been offered between February 2009 and March 2011. Commercial theatres could also apply for the subsidy.

Mr Burnham said: “A young person attending the theatre can find it an exhilarating experience, and be inspired to explore new horizons. But sometimes people miss out on it because they fear it’s ‘not for them’. It’s time to change this perception.”

Jeremy Hunt, the Shadow Culture Secretary, said: “The real issue is not getting enthusiastic children into the theatre, but improving arts education so that more young people want to go in the first place. For too many children theatres are a no-go area.”

22 September 2008

while I wait

Bought two books today at Barnes and Nobles. Something I rarely do anymore -- buy books. Working in a library expunged that from me. But I was intrigued by these two books and thought I should at least have something to read until I get out of dodge.

Amazon.com Review
Elizabeth Wurtzel, an ex-rock critic for The New Yorker, won controversial fame with her bestselling 1994 memoir Prozac Nation: Young and Depressed in America, which described how Prozac saved the precocious Harvard grad from suicide. Her second book, Bitch is a celebration of the defiant, rock & roll spirit of self-destructive women through the ages: Delilah, Amy Fisher, Princess Di, and hundreds more (including the awesomely reckless Wurtzel). There is no comprehensible central line of argument, perhaps because the author did her exhaustive research and writing on a speedy Kerouacesque drug binge that, by her own admission, sent her to rehab upon the book's conclusion. But Wurtzel has the remains of a fine mind: her insights are often sharp, sometimes bitchy, and always shameless as she zooms in a very few pages from The Oresteia to O.J. to her first crush on a fictional character (Heathcliff) to Jim Thompson's The Killer Inside Me, Richard Pryor, Chrissie Hynde, Leaving Las Vegas, Gone with the Wind, Sylvia Plath's "Daddy," Schindler's List, Oliver!, Carousel, and Andrea Dworkin. Most pop culture pundits incline to grandiose blather, but Wurtzel is punchy, and her quotes are more often apt than pretentious. Bitch is like a Mr. Toad's Wild Ride in a library, with frequent rampages through the film and music archives. Like rock music, Wurtzel's prose style lives for the moment. She glories in breaking rules to bits, is never giddier than when she's saying something shocking, and apparently has no moral code except self-expression--with the attitude volume knob cranked up to 11. --Tim Appelo

Passionate Minds is a series of explorations of the biographies and literary achievements of twelve modern women writers. It tells the stories of women who ‘rewrote’ the world that they inherited, shaping beliefs about vital issues ranging from religion and sex to race and politics.

The book is organised into three sections. The first deals with issues of sexual freedom, in essays on Olive Schreiner, Gertrude Stein, Anais Nin, and Mae West. The second section, which examines Margaret Mitchell, Zora Neale Hurston, and Eudora Welty, deals with issues of race and the American South. The third focuses on politics, with essays on the Russian poet Marina Tsvetaeva, Ayn Rand, Doris Lessing and, in a dual essay, Hannah Arendt and Mary McCarthy.

Originally published in The New Yorker, these essays — brought together in revised and expanded form — reveal unsuspected parallels, contrasts, and influences among the twelve women discussed, illuminating each of them in new and startling ways.Passionate Minds is a series of explorations of the biographies and literary achievements of twelve modern women writers. It tells the stories of women who ‘rewrote’ the world that they inherited, shaping beliefs about vital issues ranging from religion and sex to race and politics.

20 September 2008

quantum of solace

Something else to look forward to. James Bond premiere in London.

Helen, however, will believe it when she sees it

E-mail I received this morning:

Your visa has been issued.
Delivery times:
USA: Overnight
Bermuda, Bahamas, Central/South America and Caribbean:
- 2 days if you prepaid for Express service

-2-5 days for mail returned to the British Embassy/High Commission

Looks like I should receive my VISA for my flight next Sunday.

17 September 2008

In which Helen writes a blog while on the phone with British Airways

Yes, I am writing this post while at the same time talking to a representative -- at 1:00 am -- at British Airways about changing my flight for next Sunday, the 28th. I'm praying that I get my VISA by then. I am feeling better about this. I shall get to London, eventually, and have fun while there goddamit!

So here is a picture of the current state of my bed:

Helen cannot even think of a title for this post

Had rescheduled my flight for this Friday.

This is the e-mail that I received this morning. I bolded the good part.

Dear Applicant

Your application has arrived safely at the New York office and is currently being processed. The estimated processing time for your application is 10 working days plus mail time, however no guarantee is given. Sometimes it is necessary to make additional enquiries on an application which will extend the processing time.

You will receive another e-mail advising you of the outcome of your application in due course.

Please note that we are unable to answer status enquiries unless we have exceeded the estimated processing time.


New York Visa Team.

Right. That's possibly two more weeks before I receive my VISA. My classes start this Monday. I have to reschedule my flight -- for when I don't know -- and am not even certain if I can take two weeks (at least one week, it seems) of leave from my classes, nor do I want to. It's going to be hard enough, but then not going to classes...

I really don't know what to do.

15 September 2008

In which Helen waits

I'm having a really difficult time dealing with this VISA problem. I can't do anything. All I can do is wait for my VISA to come. It is really killing me. I should be doing orientation this week; I should be finalizing my paperwork for enrollment. I just received an e-mail saying that the first instalment of my federal loans are ready to pick up at the credit control office. It is my job to pick up the check and pay my fees. I don't think anything is due until next month, but still it is there, and I can't pick it up yet.

I hate this waiting. This mindless waiting. I'm trying to stay level headed. I'm trying to not descend into the overly dramatic. I'm trying to suppress the need to rant and throw things against the wall. But I have nothing to do with myself but worry about my VISA not coming in for my Friday flight. I don't think it will. I'm suppose to receive an e-mail when they open up my VISA and then when they send it out. Haven't, of course, received either.

I'm sleeping -- a lot. Trying to get each day done with as fast as I can.

The only good thing about this delay is that it makes me want to get out of here even more.

["The Letter" by Jack Vettriano]

12 September 2008

An addendum to my addendum

"Founders keepers, losers weepers."

It gets me off that people are buying tickets for Hamlet that are over a thousand dollars. Isn't it great that a stage production that is four hundred years old should create such a commotion? This is something, I know, that would not happen in America. The stage is a dying art form in America. I know, I work for many theatre's, and all it is anymore is older people who buy tickets, people who grew up in a day when going to the theatre was a usual event, and actors and the shows they performed were appreciated.

I love the theatre because it brings people together. For a few hours people enjoy the same performance. They come together to discuss it; they remember it years later.

In Britain this form of social interaction is so much more vibrant. It is a part of the English character. Even people who don't care to go to the theatre cannot deny it as a part of their blood. It is impossible to walk in London without going past a theatre, or seeing a poster for a show, or reading an interview about a show in the local papers. What is most interesting about the English theatre, which may show why it is so much more prosperous than American theatre, is that the actors who do stage performances are generally not just theatre actors. They are, like David Tennant who is performing Hamlet, actors that are also known for doing BBC or ITV mini-series of classical works (like Jane Eyre -- Toby Stephens who played Rochester in the 2006 mini-series is a regular RSC player); they do television series' (David Tennant as Doctor Who; Richard Armitage, who started at the RSC, is a regular in "Robin Hood" and "Spooks"). Some even do movies. This coming spring's production of Hamlet is headlined by Jude Law. It is a common thing for most of these actors when they are not doing mini-series or television productions to be on the stage in the West End, or Stratford, or Bath.

The point is that whereas in America one is either a theatre actor, or works on television, or does movies, in England it is much more interwoven. In fact, it is very difficult to become a television lead or do mini-series productions without having had an extensive theatre background. These actors start with the theatre and when they move on to do other things it is often their theatre background that determines their level of salability.

It is this structure within the English arts that allows the stage form of theatre to be so much more appreciated in their society than in American culture. There may be many other things besides that contribute to their success. Theatre, for one instance, has always been more successful as an art form in Britain than in America and many more plays have been written for the English stage than for the American stage. But theatre as a principal art form in England creates the makeup for the actors' oeuvre, which in turn makes the English theatre world prosper.

People will pay thousands of dollars to see a show because they have seen these actors on their screens, have in many cases followed these actors since they first started their careers. They are more willing to see a four hundred year old play performed, a play that they may not otherwise care to see or study, because these well-loved and talented actors, just by their presence in the stage work, justify its worth.

For a time in which ipods, computers, television, youtube, downloads are an easy and relatively cheap way to entertain ourselves, it is almost amazing that anyone would care to spend over a thousand dollars on one ticket to leave the comfort of their home to see a stage performance of a play.

an addendum to last post

David Tennant as Hamlet: The production enjoyed a sell-out run in Stratford-upon-Avon Photo: AP

David Tennant a sell-out in West End Hamlet

By Anita Singh, Showbusiness Editor
Last Updated: 2:57PM BST 12 Sep 2008
The Telegraph

Demand was so high that the official website crashed and tickets were soon exchanging hands on unofficial sites for more than £1,100 a pair.

Booking opened Friday for the Royal Shakespeare Company production, which comes to London's Novello Theatre in December after a sell-out run in Stratford-upon-Avon.

The site crashed within minutes while fans jammed the telephone hotline, snapping up all 6,000 tickets by the end of the day. Hundreds of people queued outside the Novello in the hope of getting tickets, with some camping out in the street overnight.
Sellers are now charging exorbitant sums on the internet. At getmein.com, a "fan to fan marketplace" site owned by Ticketmaster, a pair of seats for the opening night on December 3 was priced at £1,164, including a £174 "processing fee".
The cheapest price quoted for any date during the run was £302.50 for a single ticket.

The prices drew an angry response from the RSC, which warned that tickets bought from unauthorised sources may not be valid.

A spokeswoman said: "The RSC absolutely does not support tickets being sold at inflated prices at any internet auction site or marketplace. The re-selling of tickets for profit or commercial gain violates the terms and conditions associated with the purchase of RSC tickets. We strongly advise that patrons do not purchase tickets in this way but check with the Novello box office for returns or day seats. People who do purcase tickets in this way run the risk of being refused admission." A small allocation of tickets for theatregoers aged 16-25 will be made available each day.
Ticketmaster declined to comment.
The clamour for tickets is due in no small part to Tennant's television role as Doctor Who, which has made him one of Britain's most popular actors.

In Stratford-upon Avon, the stage door was besieged each night by fans of the BBC show, prompting the RSC to send out an edict banning them from bringing Doctor Who memorabilia to the performance.

The director, Gregory Doran, said: "Fans turn up with bags of Doctor Who merchandise for him to sign. It's fantastic that there's so much excitement about this production, but he needs protecting from that level of intrusion." He added: "Outside, there's this constant sense of having to deal with David's celebrity. Once the door closes, the play's the thing."

The Stratford run draws to a close on November 15 and transfers to the Novello for 32 performances. The play co-stars Patrick Stewart as Claudius and Mariah Gale as Ophelia.

Tennant has drawn generally good reviews. The Telegraph critic Charles Spencer wrote that the actor "isn't in the pantheon of the great Hamlets yet" but added: "This is a gripping Hamlet that could become great if Tennant finds the courage to raise the dramatic stakes still further".

The Scottish actor began his career with the RSC before finding fame as the Timelord.

He said before starting rehearsals: "Hamlet is often regarded as the acme of acting to test yourself against, which isn't a particularly helpful thought, to be honest. Of course it is very flattering to be asked to do that role because of everything that is attached to it. But once you get into rehearsal you have to relinquish thoughts like that and just try and tell the story."

In which Helen wonders if she should be or not be upset that she can't get tickets for Hamlet

Here's something else to add to my list of disappointments. This is turning out to be a cheery blog.

I cannot for the life of me get a ticket to see Hamlet, starring David Tennant and Patrick Stewart, in London, in December. Tickets went on sale this morning, 5:00 AM my time, 10:00 AM British. It is the most popular show in Britain now. It sold out for its three and half month run in Stratford before it even began. It's only in London for a month. 

Well, to be short, it is impossible to get a ticket. They're already "almost sold out" according to the Web site. The portion of the Web site to buy tickets is down and the box office not picking up. The only site that I could get on, and an actual legitimate Web site that sells tickets for the theatre, is selling two tickets at a time for $1,200!

Perhaps not all is lost, though. Apparently they hold 25 tickets for each performance for those between 16 - 25 for 5 pounds which you have a chance of getting every performance day. Of course I'll be stuck in the really shitty seats where everyone on stage will look like peanuts -- which doesn't do well for my elitist tastes -- but I suppose I'll have to lower my standards for once. 

[David Tennant in Hamlet]

11 September 2008

In which Helen becomes rather despondent

This is mostly for Abby who has informed me that she is spending all day at the library checking my blog to know what is going on. :) But I'm sure my other friends are wondering what's up too -- you guys have been very awesome during this time. 

Everything's pretty jumbled. I called the Welfare department at my school that deals with VISA questions but they are not taking calls because they are not in the office due to orientation week. The recording told me to e-mail them (but somehow they can receive e-mails?) so I did and was told that they do not know how long the VISA will take and that I have to get in touch with the Consulate. I had told them in the e-mail that I couldn't get in touch with them, by e-mail or phone, but there it is, that is my only option now. There is an emergency line for British Citizens only where you leave a message about your problem and they supposedly call you back, but even if I leave a message, I doubt they'll call me back, given that I'm a mere American that is apparently not worth their time. 

Also called Housing, the only ones I didn't have problems with. They will keep my room. 

Now I have the huge problem of figuring out -- by 6:00 tonight -- what date to change my flight to. Since I don't know how long the VISA is going to be, it is difficult to make an informed decision. I want to make it for next Friday, but fear I won't have the VISA by then, but don't want to make it later because my classes start the following Tuesday and if I have the VISA by then, it will be such a bother to miss my classes. But each time I change my ticket costs me at least 200.00 dollars for doing so, plus any difference between the original cost of the ticket to the new one. 

The thing that really scares me is that I had sent my VISA information two weeks ago and they had only just sent it (overnight!) two days ago to inform me that I had missing information. If it took them that long to open the thing, how long will it take for them to get it all together?

Okay, so I just found an e-mail address (google search: British Consulate e-mail). They have two. Sent an urgent e-mail to both. Received an "unable to be delivered" message from one of the e-mail addresses, and then my yahoo went down. Can't get on it, can't read my messages -- apparently, the good people at yahoo are aware of this and trying to get the system back up and running.

Like, really, am I on Ashton Kutcher's "Punk'd"? 

You guys would tell me, right?

[pic: Billie Piper]

10 September 2008

In which Helen breaks down

Things have gone from bad to worse. Received a UPS package this morning with BRITISH CONSULATE printed on the front. Yes, my VISA! Right? No. They returned all of my papers I sent them for my VISA with a paper on the front saying that because I didn't include a 12.00 dollar fee for processing they couldn't do my VISA! No where did I read that there needed to be a 12.00 fee. On the paper that listed the things they needed me to include, it was no where!!! I swear. Fucking bastards. So now I have to send back the information with the fee, which means also that I will not be going to London this Friday. I have no idea how long it will take them to make up my VISA either; trying to find an approx. time so I can reschedule my plane tickets. Also need to get ahold of my department to ask if I can start my classes later. 

Am very pissed off.

09 September 2008

in which Helen tells the British Consulate to have "special relations" with themselves

I'm not happy tonight. I have not yet received my VISA which I need to show the immigration officer when I arrive in London because I will be studying in the country for a year. Now granted everything that I have needed to do for London has happened last minute. Everything until now has pulled through. But this is not looking so good. I HAVE to have my VISA. They will throw me out of the country if I do not have it. I shouldn't even bother flying to London on Friday if I don't have it by then. Apparently, I am suppose to get an e-mail when my VISA is completed; this is before they even send me the thing. I have not yet received this e-mail. I did not think it would take this long for them to get it together. I cannot get in touch with the British Consulate in New York where I sent the application. Their phone number only takes me to a list of recordings about how to apply for a VISA and their only customer service number has not been working. It say's that it will direct me to someone to only a second later say, "Sorry, no calls can be taken at this time. Please call back later." Apparently no calls can be taken ever, since I've been calling all day and receiving the same message. I got in touch with someone that is somehow related to the Consulate but is not at the Consulate and probably not even in the States it seems from their mexican accent. Yeah, mexican. Wait, I better change paragraphs here for those who find it difficult to read anything that is more than five sentences long.

Okay. New paragraph. Everyone ready? Okay so this person essentially told me that -- no, I can't get in the country without a VISA, no I cannot tell you the status of your application, and the only thing you can do is wait for it to come in regardless of the fact that you have a flight on Friday. I don't know what to do. I'm pissed off, I know that much. I feel a bit defeated. I've spent so much money for this already, and done so much shit for it, and now this. I suppose I could defer my flight until next week (another 200.00 dollars down the crapper), hope that the VISA comes in by then, and hope also that my residence won't mind me showing up a week late. Plan of action is to call King's College tomorrow, ask them if they know what I should do -- though they probably can't do anything -- and try to get through to the blow-heads at the British Consulate to find out the status of my app. 

Am not very optimistic at this point. Just pretty confused and pissy. 

(picture: Rosamund Pike in Pride and Prejudice 2005)

07 September 2008

in which Helen explains her intentions

Okay, so this is not me -- in this picture. I certainly wish it was. I'm sure my blog readers wish that it was. However, it is the British pop star turned actress Billie Piper. What does she have to do with Helen's adventures in London? Not much. But Helen hasn't arrived in London yet and is desperate to upload a picture on her new blog and decided on Billie Piper looking oh-so-hot as Rose Tyler in DOCTOR WHO with the hope that others reading her blog will think so too and feel the overwhelming need to watch the show. 

Any who, I suppose I should explain why I am creating a new blog when I have had one at Myspace for two years. It is because I like to switch it up every now and again. I don't like staying in one place for too long. I get bored rather easily. And I like new things. New shiny things that look pretty. So here it is. A new blog. A new blog about me. A new blog and me and my adventures in London. A new blog about me and my adventures in London which may or may not include wild nights in pubs whereby Helen seduces unsuspecting, gorgeous British men with her cute American accent.

Here are my intentions, here is the 411:

I am going to London again after spending three and half months there two years ago. I am attending graduate school at King's College, University of London, where I will read a lot of literature, some of which I will probably not like, but which I will however have to write 4,000 word papers about. I will spend a lot of time at the British Library, eating muffins, drinking tea, with a pen stuck in my matted hair, while I sit hunched over a a multitude of books. After classes I will rush to the many free art museums around London, including my favourite The National Portrait Gallery in Tralfagar Square. I will have fish and chips for lunch; take walks in the parks at 6:00 am; go to the theatre in the evening; travel around England on the weekends. For a whole year I will not work for money. The government will not allow me: what a bummer. So I will live -- joie de vivre -- and think, and love, and make the most of this last year of my youth before I begin my career as a teacher. 

I will make the most of it.

And I will write about it. 

Sometimes my posts will be serious.

Sometimes they will be funny.

Sometimes they won't even make sense -- these will probably be the ones written at 12:00 am after getting home from the pub. 

I can't wait. 

So come along. Read my blogs dear Helen stalkers. Comment once, twice, three times, hell even four. 

And after you do that, go watch DOCTOR WHO!