All OK in the UK

More than ok, in fact: simply freaking awesome is more like it. This was my first trip to the UK, and as I told several people there, my impression is that the sun always shines and people know a helluva lot about Nietzsche. I’ll give an overview of my time there.

Last Wednesday I was supposed to fly to Chicago and then to London. But the plane in Chicago had some broken part it couldn’t do without, and there weren’t any replacement parts anywhere, so I was bumped to a flight Thursday evening. That gave me a day to trot around Chicago, where I found a great coffeeshop on Michigan Avenue, of all places:


The flight Thurs eve was uneventful, though I only slept for maybe 20 minutes. I arrived in London Friday morning, grabbed the bus to Oxford, and arrived in time to stow my bags, eat some bangers-and-mash at a pub, and attend the first conference paper, followed by tea, followed by papers in concurrent sessions, followed by tea, followed by another main paper, followed by dinner, followed by a recital of Nietzsche’s piano music, followed by a drink at the college bar. By the end, I had been going for about 30 hours, and I was beginning to hallucinate. The chapel in which the main papers were read started to transform, in my experience, into the lobby of a bank, with a revolving door, and there were images of little pickles chasing after a sandwich.

I’ll give a more scholarly account of the papers and conversations over the next few days. Generally, Saturday was chock-full of papers and teas, with a fancy dinner at the end, and more drinking in the bar. And Sunday was a shorter day, again with papers and teas. The conference ended at about 4, and I was unprepared for what happens in England on Sundays at 5pm: absolutely nothing. Everything closes. So I bought a ticket to see Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds. A masterpiece, with typically Tarantino grotesque hilarity and meaningless but fun blends of genres.

The next day, Monday, was mostly spent touring places (like Christ Church college and the Bodleian library), visiting as many pubs as possible, and walking along the Thames at dusk. Tuesday was a full travel day, and I made it home Tuesday evening at about 10, after only 20 or so hours of travel.

The numbers: 19 scholarly papers, 6 pubs, and maybe 5 new friends. I had an absolutely marvelous time, one I’ll remember the rest of my life, and my brain is jam packed with new ideas, insights, and knowledge. I’ll see what I can do to squander that capital over the next few months.

About Huenemann

Curious about the ways humans use their minds and hearts to distract themselves from the meaninglessness of life.
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7 Responses to All OK in the UK

  1. Mike says:

    Jealous. Hanging out in Oxford was such a positive shock to the life of the mind for me. And the beer… mmm… the beer.


  2. Nietzsche and beer. Ah…


  3. Rob says:

    The Tarantino film in the midst of heady Nietzschean affairs abroad recalls early October, 1992, when I was on foreign study in Vienna. The night before embarking on a trip to Sils Maria (via Zurich), I saw “Reservoir Dogs” at the Vienna Film Festival. Everyone in the packed-house audience was uproariously responsive to the film’s humor, it seemed, except for me, jarred by how the impressively realistic violence was permeated by such skillful levity. Of course, I raved to everyone about the film, it’s resourceful economy and quotability, and in all of my (many) subsequent viewings thrill to the humor like everyone else; but I wonder if my original, irrecoverable response isn’t the preferable one. I’m all for the painfully harrowing in cinema (e.g. Dumont, Haneke, Noe, and even von Trier’s “Antichrist”), when the discomfiture it generates is structured to make the viewer a more reflective consumer; but I’m wary of the kind of humor at work in that that protracted torture scene in “Dogs”. Maybe it’s just a moralistic streak in me… Haven’t seen “Basterd” yet, but nothing by Tarantino since “Reservoir Dogs” has seemed to be to come anywhere close its particular sort of under-nourishing excellence.


    • FWIW, I thought the first 20 minutes of Basterds was the best 20 minutes of cinema I’ve seen in some time. The film falls down a few times after that, but I thought as a whole it was brilliant, and even sensitive. (I don’t think anyone’s called it that.)

      I don’t know how the douchebag on evidence in interviews with Tarentino could make a movie like this. I almost didn’t see it because of Denby’s review in the New Yorker (in conjunction with the noted unevenness in Tarentino’s oeuvre, particularly the Grindhouse debacle).

      On the other hand, it is the kind of movie one could leave feeling the whole thing was just ridiculous. You’ve been warned.


  4. Rob says:

    Thanks, Michael. I gave up on Tarantino after the “Kill Bill” films, but I’ll probably try seeing “Basterds” on the qualified strength of your, Charlie’, and the New Yorker’s film blogger, who’s made some generous observations about it. Also, I was pleasantly shocked recently by Tarantino’s Charlie Rose interview into the reverse impression you have (and I’ve usually had): he was much more interesting than most of his films:


  5. Rob says:

    For instance, would you ever have guessed that one of Tarantino’s American heroes is — the abolitionist John Brown?


  6. Huenemann says:

    Here’s what I thought was brilliant about the movie. Imagine setting yourself this task: make a movie in which the audience will cheer on, with excessive glee, hundreds of people being mowed down with machine guns in a burning movie theater. Making good on that challenge is the whole story of the film.

    I think the same sort of task, by the way, was set for Waters’ Hairspray: make a film in which John Travolta and Christopher Walken sing and dance together in a whimsical expression of their wholesome love for one another. Just complete that task, and you’ve got a masterpiece.


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