Protesting, Shunga, Queer Experiments, and in between.

Here’s what I’ve been up to:
I spent most of last couple weeks working on my paper, but I managed to do plenty of interesting social activities around it.

  • About a week and a half ago, the University of London (of which Birkbeck is a college) student-run Union had a protest (yes, another protest!) against the University of London Administration. (Always the students vs. “The Administration”)!  The protest was organized by student leaders of the union, and they had made tons of signs for participants.  Naturally, I took part.  We were protesting the UoL’s decision to get rid of the democratic student union, instead cutting funding and turning the power over to full time administrators who are not students.  Students would lose a lot of say in how it’s run, and many clubs (probably ones like the super fun Harry Potter club) would be cut.  There were a group of musicians who obviously had experience from marching band.  The music was really good and kept the energy going. Well done!  We stood in front of the union for a while, then marched to Senate House- where the UoL admin is housed. It was gated off because the police had been alerted of the protest and wanted to take precautionary measures to protect the staff.  Also, there were about 10 police-persons accompanying the protest, although they were sorely uninvited.  By the end of the protest, there were about 30, and the students were quite upset about it.  My friend Maria, also from the States, was there with me, and she told me a story of celebration at University of Maryland where the police approached pre-emptively- before the crowd of students did anything dangerous, illegal, or in protest- on horses with gas masks and started charging at the students.  It eventually turned very violent, as usual (go America :/), with the police pepper spraying and beating up completely innocent students.  Comparatively, we felt we had nothing to complain about with these police.  They were fairly hands off, only handling students when they trespassed into Senate House (but was it really trespassing?  We’re students of UoL; we should be allowed on the property) to put them back outside the gate.  No one was arrested on site.  The ULU (UoL Union) President was arrested the following day, but released without charge later that day, after students protested outside the Police Station.  Let’s hope he’s home free.  All in all an exciting event.  I hope it made a positive impact!  ULU wants to plan another, much bigger, protest.  I’m all in.
  • I live literally a few blocks away from The British Museum- a free museum that has been free since its inception!  They have a bunch of free half hour tours everyday.  I went to one on Ancient Rome and found it helped me go through the Ancient Rome exhibit in a logical and interesting way, as the tour guide pointed out things I may not have connected together myself.  Eventually I’d like to go on all the tours.  About a week ago, I went to one of the special (not free) exhibitions on the Japanese erotic art of Shunga.  It was really cool.  There were prints from the late 1600s through the mid 1900s.  Most of the sex portrayed was heterosexual, but there was some group sex- a man with many women, usually- and apparently there was a variety of Shunga focused on male-male sex, usually between an older Kabuki actor and a younger man/boy in an intern-like role.  However, one of my favorites was the image of two women with a make-shift strap on.  It’s unclear whether this was meant to depict a lesbian relationship or a man’s fantasy (like much of “lesbian” porn today).  Beside this print was a collection of dildo-type things from the 1700s- mostly made from metal, ebony, and wood.  One section of the exhibit was on parodies- of medical manuals, etiquette manuals, religious paintings.  They were quite funny.  What I liked most was that sex was portrayed positively in all of the prints.  It was shown to be something natural and enjoyable for all parties; sexual desire was not something to be ashamed of for men or women.
  • Last Saturday, I had a wonderful dinner home-made by Suri 🙂 Then went out to a huge psychiatric-themed club, The Piccadilly Institute, for my friend Maria’s birthday.  We booked a table in the 90s-themed room.  It was awesome!  Great nostalgic 90s tunes all nights with the music videos accompanying them on a big screen by the colorful, lit-up dance floor.  Here are a couple bits of the design I caught on my phone-camera:
Casette tapes! They lined the wall of our booth.

Casette tapes! They lined the wall of our booth.

Bodies on the ceiling

Bodies on the ceiling

These were in the case of one of the bars...

These were in the case of one of the bars…

Madonna on the wall

Madonna on the wall

  • Last Sunday I met up with a new friend at the pub The Earl of Essex. Amazing pub!  It reminded me of Roasthouse Pub in Frederick.  They both have boards up listing a variety of about 20 craft beers on draft, that change all the time!  You can see the listing I enjoyed on visit here. The best.  My friend and I got half pints so we could try lots of things.
  • Tuesday I did an interesting thing… I went into a medical center where they do clinical trials for drugs for the flu, cold, and a few other viruses.  It’s called FluCamp.  I got my blood taken so they can see if I’ve already been exposed to the viruses they’re testing.  If I have, my body won’t do them any good in trials.  If I haven’t, they may invite me to a clinical trial during which I’d be quarantined for 10-17 days.  I signed up because it sounded like easy money and I could get insight into how clinical trials are run.  I got paid to get my blood taken, and would be compensated pretty decently for my time in any trial.  I’m not sure it’s something I want to go through with, but I wanted to test it out.
  • Thursday Suri and I went to a cool cabaret show called Queer Experiments at Hackney Attic.  There was a gender-playful ballet dancer, an awkward lesbian comedian, a gross but captivating short film about buttholes, and (my favorite) a person who performed interesting, dark monologues about, and as, different complex characters.  And the DJ was a fun entertainer, as well!  Des O’Connor (no, not *the* Des O’Connor), a singing ukelele player with a backgroundin the Burlesque industry, entertained us with risque and upbeat songs between acts.  Here is my favorite, which has been stuck in my head since I heard it, and I hope it gets stuck in yours, too:

    That’s about it for now.  Off to grab Indian food with a friend!

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