Exactly 1 year ago today, I left on an airplane with the rest of my drama class on a 15 day trip to Poland. We saw the country, and we saw the theatre.
I took photos and wrote notes the entire time.
Over the course of the year, I’ve sporadically been putting those notes and photos online. I find it appropriate, if not entirely coincidental, that my last entry should be published exactly one year from the day of our departure.
You’ll notice in my entries that I switch sporadically between past-tense and present-tense. This is because half of the time, I’m quoting directly from my journal, and the other half, I’m quoting from memory. I know that’s a writing faux pas, but I’m not planning on fixing it. Sorry.
So, without further ado, here is the index to My Poland Journal:
It’s been about 5 – 6 months since my last Poland entry. There are a myriad of excuses for this: tough school year, busy Xmas holiday, relentless work load…
But I have to say I’ve kind of been avoiding writing this one on purpose. Why?
Well, for starters, I don’t have any photos. Long story short, before we got off the bus at Auschwitz, we were told there was no photography, so I left my camera on the bus. Then it turned out that there was no photography in the buildings, so I missed out on getting some snaps outside.
I’ve been able to get my hands on some photos. A big thanks to Alex Rubin and Anj Mulligan for letting me use theirs. I’m not entirely sure how using someone else’s photos will affect my narrative, but we’ll see.
The other reason I’ve been avoiding this one is because I wrote so damn much about it. 39 pages from my journal were devoted to this day.
Why so much? Well, to be honest, it was a pretty emotionally charged day. A lot of people were crying during the tour. My reaction was just to write down everything I could see and hear, as fast as I could. I hope I got everything right. Please correct me if I’ve gotten something wrong.
Anyhow, enough stalling. Here we go.
June 24, 7:45AM
It was an early morning. I showered, shaved, sent some email, and then hung out in the kitchen/common area with Yev, eating some cocoa-puffs while she boiled water for tea.
The breakfast lady was in a foul mood that morning. She stormed in to the kitchen and started rearranging things with a violent efficiency, clicking her heels. Yev and I were silent. Finally, I said “Dzien dobry” (good morning) to break the tension.
Wow. That was the last straw, I guess. The breakfast lady flew into a huge Polish rant as she stormed around us. We couldn’t understand a word, but she was clearly upset.
Yev said she reminded her of one of her Soviet schoolmasters.
I didn’t wait to see how the fury played out. I got out of there. Yev stayed behind.
Yev later told me that, after making a sandwich (which the breakfast lady saw her do), she made a super-quick pit-stop at the washroom, only to come back and find that her sandwich had been thrown in the garbage. Presumably by the breakfast lady.
We boarded the bus and were en route.
It was a tense morning. Tamara told us that the Auschwitz trip was optional, and so a few of us had stayed back. The bus ride was unusually quiet.
I think everybody was preparing themselves.
I wasn’t allowed to bring my camera (or so I thought), so I left it on the bus.
After getting off the bus, we read a multi-lingual sign that set the behavioural tone for the rest of the tour:
Througout the world, Auschwitz has become a symbol of terror, genocide, and the Holocaust. The German forces occupying Poland during the Second World War established a concentration camp, on the outskirts of the town of Oswiecim. In 1940, the Germans called the town Auschwitz and that is the name by which the camp was known. Over the next years it was expanded into three main camps: Auschwitz I, Auschwitz II-Birkenau, and Auschwitz III-Monowitz and more than forty subcamps.
The first people to be brought to Auschwitz as prisoners and murdered here were Poles. They were followed by Soviet prisoners of war, Gypsies and deporters of many other nationalities. Beginning in 1942, however, Auschwitz became the settling for the most massive murder campaign in history, when the Nazis put into operation their plan to destroy the entire Jewish population of Europe. The great majority of Jews who were deported to Auschwitz – men, women, and children – were sent immediately upon arrival to death in the gas chambers of Birkenau.
When the SS realised that the end of war was near, they attempted to remove the evidence of the atrocities committed here. They dismantled the gas chambers, crematoria, and other buildings, burned documents, and evacuated all those prisoners who could walk to the interior of Germany. Those who were not evacuated were liberated by the Red Army on January 27, 1945.
On July 2, 1947, the Polish Parliament established the State Museum of Oswiecim – Brzezinka on the sites of the former camps at Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II-Birkenau. In 1979, these camps were formally recognized by UNESCO by their inclusion on its World Heritage List.
PLEASE BEHAVE APPROPRIATELY RESPECTING THE MEMORY OF THOSE WHO SUFFERED AND DIED HERE.
Next to this was a map of the compound. Again, no photos, so something like this will have to do.
Looking at the map, my eyes were drawn to the familiar word “Canada”. It turns out that, when new arrivals came to the camps, their belongings were stripped from them and sent to a special area of the camp called Canada for sorting and searching. It was called Canada, because at the time, Canada was considered the land of plenty. Here’s Wikipedia’s take on it.
Near the signs were, of all things, gift and souvenir shops, called the “informatory”. Postcards, books, videos, photos… seemed a bit in bad taste. After seeing the gift shops, I noticed all of the smiling tourists around me, and I found that quite macabre.
It was particularly disturbing because of how quiet it was. There were also “keep silence” signs all over the place. So yeah, it was quiet. Really quiet.
As we approached the entrance, we heard birds chirping. It was overcast – the grass was still wet from the morning dew.
As we were reading the signs, Tamara had gone off to get the tour guide. On her way back, her face was covered in tears. She’d visited Auschwitz for a tour several times before, and firmly stated to us that she couldn’t bring herself to do it again. So she went off to go wait in the bus. It was an ominous moment.
All of the tour guides were dressed in black. Ours was no exception. After a brief, quiet hello, she gave us each a set of earphones and receiver. This is how she would communicate with us during the tour. This way, she wouldn’t have to yell for us all to hear her. Instead, the tour became very personal, and she was able to speak softly to each of us individually. I wrote in my journal that her voice was incredibly soft, caring, and soothing – and that she reminded me more of a nurse than a tour guide. I really think part of her job was to soothe, as well as to educate.
The buildings of Auschwitz I were military barracks, originally constructed by and for the Polish army. In the late 1930′s, Poland had been invaded, split up, and annexed to the Nazis and the Soviets. So technically, Poland ceased to exist. The Nazis saw the barracks in their new territory as “very convenient” for housing the growing number of Polish prisoners, especially considering the railroad junctions that led to it. The Nazis set up shop, and the land and buildings became Auschwitz I.
The camp orchestra, composed entirely of prisoners, would play lively German marches as the prisoners were led into the camp. It was humiliating and dehumanizing. This also made it easier for the guards to count and keep the prisoners in step.
The men and women were then separated, and sent to different barracks. There would be 800-1000 prisoners assigned per barrack, which only had 2 stories. The prisoners in Auschwitz I were cramped to the extreme.
The one who does not remember history is bound to live through it again.
Auschwitz was almost in the center of occupied Europe. With the already-established railroad system, the Nazis were able to send over 1,000,000 prisoners to Auschwitz. The majority of those prisoners were Jewish.
It didn’t start out that way, but at some point during 1942-1943, Auschwitz became an extermination camp.
A sign on the wall broke down the prisoners as follows:
1,300,000 sent to Auschwitz
140,000 – 150,000 Poles
23,000 – Roma / Gipsy’s
15,000 – Soviet Prisoners
25,000 – Other
A large, glass, transparent urn in the barracks held human ashes in rememberence.
During the original invasion of Poland, the Nazis focused on capturing/executing as many Polish monks, priests, lawyers, leaders, and educated people as possible. This was their method of “destroying” Poland’s culture and identity. After an uprising in Warsaw, 13,000 Poles were sent to Auschwitz I as punishment.
Many photos were taken at Auschwitz by the SS for their own use. Those black and white photos lined the walls of the museum. We weren’t allowed to take photographs, so I can’t show them to you, but I can describe some of them. Imagine black and white, blurry photos of extremely thin, extremely gaunt, bald people, wearing prisoner garb. Imagine seeing photos of them digging graves for themselves, or jumping to a particular height for a guard’s amusement, or running at top speed in a big circle “just because”, so the guards could watch.
SS “doctors” were always present at prisoner arrival to “conduct selections” on who could work and who could be executed immediately. There were photos on the wall of women, children, and old people, being sent to their death. They look calm, because they didn’t know.
The Jews who weren’t executed immediately were put to work. Some were sent to Auschwitz III, which was a work and manufacturing camp. Prisoners were forced to make things there for the Nazis.
Other prisoners became Sonderkommandos, which means they assisted in the execution of other prisoners. Sonderkommandos would work in the crematoriums and gas chambers, and were forced to witness and commit various horrible atrocities against other prisoners.
Gassing of prisoners took place underground. A single gas chamber would have 2000 prisoners crammed inside of it at one time. Prisoners who entered the gas chambers were told that they were taking showers. Fake faucets in the ceilings and walls helped sell the illusion.
After the doors were shut, crystals of Cyclone B were dropped in through openings in the ceiling. After 20 minutes, all were dead. Sonderkommandos would then go in and carry the bodies to the crematorium.
Before the bodies were cremated, Sonderkommandos had to cut off the hair from the women. The hair was packed into bags, and sent elsewhere to be turned into hair-cloth and other textiles. The ashes of the prisoners were used as fertilizer. Everything was reused.
At one point, we entered a room in the museum, where behind a large pane of glass, we saw mounds of human hair that had been found at the camp. Massive quantities of dead prisoners hair.
This was the point in the tour that most people started to lose it. Lots of tears. Lots of crying. I kept scribbling.
Any belongings or valuables brought by the prisoners into the camp were sent to the camps called Canada I and Canada II for processing. The plunder ended up being part of the evidence that was used to prove the atrocities that had happened at the camp. Like the piles of hair, we saw piles of glasses, piles of shoes, piles of Jewish prayer shawls, combs, brushes, suitcases, clothing, prosthetics, crutches, pottery, bowls, cutlery… everything was sorted. The quantity was simply horrifying.
In my journal, I noted that the lighting in the barracks was quite muted, but that the exhibits (the hair, combs, etc) were under bright flourescents. It was really macabre – like seeing a body at a morgue.
The next part of the exhibit was even more horrifying. It turns out that 20% of the victims of the camp had been children (90% Jewish). There was a room, absolutely packed to the brim, with children’s shoes. So many shoes.
And that’s the thing – I noted this in my journal: it’s not just the atrocity itself, but the sheer size of the atrocity that is so horrifying. The piles of shoes and the hair really gave us a sense of that size.
Of the prisoners that weren’t immediately executed, 50% were Jewish. Many were Polish. All were treated like property.
There were some prisoners who were given some of the responsibilities of the guards – for example, being in charge of work units. These prisoners were always German criminals.
The prisoners were deprived of all of their human characteristics. No names. Just numbers. Photos were originally used for identification, but this was eventually changed to tattoos because a prisoner’s appearence would change too much.
The Nazis were meticulous record-keepers. Prisoner IDs were linked to prisoner files that held details such as education, age, and history.
Hunger was rampant among the prisoners. There wasn’t nearly enough food for all of them.
One sign we saw gave us a breakdown of the daily life of a prisoner. I couldn’t get it all down, but the pattern was obvious: prisoners were slowly killed with work. They were punished and beaten. Most lasted less than a year.
All non-Jewish children became prisoners. These children were also often subject to horrific “scientific” experiments by Dr. Josef Mengele.
Among other things, Mengele apparently wanted to find ways of creating twins and triplets, so that German “Aryans” could reproduce quickly.
Other atrocities were performed by Dr. Carl Clauberg who tortured Jewish women, in an attempt at finding ways of sterilizing them.
Prisoners, often naked, were shot in the back of their heads. It is estimated that 10,000 prisoners were shot at this wall. There were also posts were prisoners could have their arms strung up behind them for hours, as torture, and as punishment.
There were also starvation cells. In one of those cells, Saint Maximilian Kolbe was starved to death with 9 other men.
Eventually, we entered a building where the first experimental mass killings took place. There were suffocation cells. There were cells where prisoners were forced to stand all night. Pretty horrific.
The “camp hospital” existed for propaganda, to keep the purpose of the extermination camp a secret. The hospital was really the “crematorium waiting room”, since selections would often happen there.
Roll call was also used as prisoner punishment. If a prisoner escaped, or it was suspected that a prisoner had escaped, the remaining prisoners would be punished. They’d be lined up and counted outside of their barracks, again and again. Sometimes they’d be out there for 20 hours straight.
Only 144 prisoners successfully escaped Auschwitz. Captured escapees were tortured for information on their escape, and then executed.
Crematorium I was originally an ammo bunker. The crematorium was dark…stone…dusty…gritty. It was all so much monstrous efficiency.
The first part of the tour was over. We handed back our headsets and took a 10 minute break.
I wrote that the sun was warm, and that some of us were hungry.
We just got a small snack. We’re all sitting outside. Everybody is quiet. Some of us are eating. Some of us are drinking coffee. Some of us are smoking. Some of us are crying. It’s pretty rough. It’s hard to be an optimist here – hard to feel good, anyhow. Just…devestated.
We’re late. Our 10 minute break went on too long, and we’re late getting back on the bus. We’re heading to the next camp.
The bus really has never been so quiet. But what do we say to one another? This is no place for joking around…no place for making quips. What’s the first thing you say?
There are storm clouds in the distance.
It’s a 3km drive to the next camp. Tamara says that there are no exhibits…just the barracks and other buildings, the railroad tracks, and the gas chambers.
We’re here. I recognize where I am – I think I had seen it in Schindler’s List.
The barracks reminded me of stables for horses. Wooden bunks, and a single stone oven for heating. At least 400 people per barrack. No toilets inside. No washrooms. Just buckets and ditches in the ground, and barrels of water outside.
There were “toilets” outside, which were really just holes in the ground with wood frames built over them.
Members of the prison resistance would meet by the ditches/toilets, since the guards would never go near them (due to the smell, and disease).
In November, 1944, Heinrich Himmler ordered the crematoria destroyed before the Red Army could reach the camp. Nazi soldiers began destroying the evidence of what had happened at the camp, starting with the gas chambers.
In January, 1945, with the Red Army getting closer, SS command ordered that all prisoners at Auschwitz be executed. This order was never carried out. Instead, the camp was evacuated, and the prisoners were sent on death marches to another camp in Wodzisław Śląski. Prisoners who were too sick or weak to march were left behind. Those 7,500 prisoners were still there when the Red Army came to liberate them.
According to Wikipedia:
Approximately 20,000 Auschwitz prisoners made it to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany, where they were liberated by the British in April 1945.
Some of the buildings and ruins in Auschwitz II are sinking, and the museum is working hard to restore them.
Just past the last gas chamber is a large stone monument. Large, Easter Island-like heads and monoliths.
At the base of the monument are numerous plaques, all in different languages. Here’s the English one:
Just got off the phone with Em. Told her all about Auschwitz. Missing her a lot. I decided to try to make myself feel better by getting some lemon sorbet. It’s a pretty good deal at 4z. I found Alexi and Yev drinking coffee in the square, and joined them while I finished my cone.
I think Yev borrowed my camera and took these photos:
And I think I hear a dulcimer being played somewhere.
The street I strolled down is called Florianska. At some earlier point, I had gotten the urge to check out some of the local music scene, and the girl at the hostel told me to walk down this street. She said there was an indie rock bar around here called The Lizard, but I haven’t found it yet. And I’m slowly approaching the end of the street.
The square seems pretty busy for a Wednesday night. I imagine the place gets absolutely packed on weekends.
It’s a whole spectrum of age groups out this evening. I’m also hearing a variety of languages. Polish, English, and German for starters. Italian too. Mostly white people. One or two exceptions. Some rollerbladers.
An ambulance raced by, driving through the crowded square. As it passed, I heard a trumpet playing a tune from the top of the cathedral, and then abruptly stop.
The three men playing on the accordions are still there, and now that crowd is starting to move. I guess the cathedral was acting like some big meeting point for a tour group. The accordion players are doing the William Tell Overture again – they seem to have a repetoire of about 5 songs.
My notes for the day end there, but I imagine I eventually headed back to the hostel and went to sleep.
My research proposal is going through ethics review, in order to make sure that I’m not going to blow things up (or hurt anybody if I do)
While my paperwork is reviewed, I’m refining my procedure and apparatus. Better and better.
I’ve been accepted into Google Summer of Code this year – I’ll be working on Review Board. Details about my project will be the subject of an upcoming post, which I will toss up shortly.
I may or may not be co-directing a radio play. I’ll let you know.
The MarkUs team is about to release version 0.7, and a fresh batch of Summer students will soon be here at UofT to work on it!
I have not forgotten about the UCDPtrip to Poland. I still have to tell you what we saw and did at Auschwitz. Cripes – it’s almost a year since I returned, and I’m only half-way through the whole story. And there’s a ton more to tell. Coming soon.
The easy one is presentation/communication skills. A CS student might be brilliant, but that doesn’t mean they can present or communicate. And if an idea can’t be communicated, it’s worthless.
But what else? Any ideas? I’m going to think about this for a bit, and I’ll see if I can come up with any more.
I posted the question on Twitter, and on my Facebook. I was quite surprised by the amount of feedback I got back – apparently, quite a few people are interested in this topic.
Thanks for everybody who posted, or who came up to talk to me about this! Let me summarize what I heard back:
Without a doubt, work in Drama hones movement/body senses. It also trains us to use and take care of our body, and voice, like a musician would take care of a musical instrument. Spending too much time hunkered over a keyboard can have detrimental effects on the body over time – I can personally admit to having absolutely awful shoulder tension, no doubt to my constant typing. I only became aware of this tension, and how to deal with it, thanks to my work in Drama. The dichotomy between body and mind is, in my humble opinion, a Western myth, and when you stop separating them, and get them to work together, amazing things can happen. Just ask any contact improviser.
Drama is also emotional work. No, this doesn’t mean we sit in a big circle and cry, and get credit for it. Emotions are something that we study – how to mimic them, how to summon them out of ourselves, how to describe them, and abstractly represent them. This is where Psychology, Drama, and Human-Computer Interaction might have some overlap. In particular, it must be remembered that theatre is a communications medium between the actor(s) on stage, and the audience. A webpage is also a communications medium. Perhaps the theatre can teach a website a thing or two about communication. I wonder what Marshall McLuhan would have to say on all of this…
In Drama, if the project is no fun, the end result suffers. I’m pretty sure the same goes for software. Drama students have a way of finding the “game”, the “jeu”, and the “play” (that’s why it’s called a “play”, people!) in what they’re doing. The best actors are the ones who are clearly having a great time on stage, and are sharing this with the audience. I believe this is applicable to software development…
If you want to think about complex systems, think about the stage. At any given moment, n actors are on stage, interacting with various bits of set or props, interacting with each other – and each has their own motivation and personal story. It can’t be a coincidence that the I* modeling language orients itself around terms like “actors” and “goals”. It also can’t be a coincidence that many adventure game engines refer to in-game sprites as actors…
But now I want to hit the big one. There is one thing that I really think Drama can bring to Computer Science. Drama students are very good at it. From what I can tell, Computer Science students rarely get exposed to it.
That thing is collaboration skills.
I already know that a few of my fellow Drama students will laugh at that – and say, “there are plenty of people in this department without collaboration skills”. Yes, this is true. But they tend not to do very well, or produce anything too interesting.
For me, the best, most exciting stuff comes when I’m with a group, and we’re not sure where we’re going with a project, but we just try things. We all throw a bunch of ideas in the middle, and try to put them on their feet. The most unexpected things can happen.
Two years ago, I took a course in Experimental Theatre. We were broken down into groups of 3 or 4 right at the beginning of the term, and given this challenge – show us what you like to see in theatre. Show us what you think good theatre looks like.
That was it. A blank canvas. No script. No “spec”. Just each other. It felt hopeless at first – we’d improv things, trying to get a feel for what our group wanted to do. Nothing would happen, it’d fall flat. We were lost.
But slowly, something started to piece itself together. We found some material that we wanted to play with (The Wizard of Oz), and a subject that we liked – “home”. What it means to be home, why people leave their homes, why we miss home, why we can’t stand home, what if we can’t get home, etc. We divided the work up into 4 sections – 1 for each of us: Dorothy, Cowardly Lion, Scarecrow, Tin Man.
It’s really hard to describe what we did. The characters and structure from The Wizard of Oz was just a playground for a huge meditation on what “home” meant to different people.
When we finally presented it, some people were incredulous, others nauseous, others outraged. Some were crying. We had a huge class debate on whether or not it was appropriate to include the film clip of the Taser Incident in our piece.
But a lot of people really got something out of it. And I believe a bunch of people from that class went to a protest rally about the incident that took place only a few days later. I heard a lot of really positive things. We were so excited by it that we almost took it to the Toronto Fringe Festival.
In my opinion, that was one of the most interesting, educational, horrifying, and rewarding art pieces I’d ever been involved in. And it all started from nothing.
When are Computer Science students grouped up, and told to make whatever they want? When are they given total freedom to just go crazy, and come up with something beautiful? Something unique? When are they given the frightening prospect of a blank canvas? Maybe I’m being naive – but where are the collaborative creativity assignments in computer science education?
Now, I can imagine someone shouting – “but what about those group assignments! What about CSC318, or CSC301? Those were collaborative!”.
My friend, thanks for trying, but there’s a distinct difference between group problem solving, and collaborative creation. In my mind, for collaborative creation at its best, the ensemble starts with nothing and must create something from it. It’s the difference between having a script to toy with, and not having a script at all.
And don’t just tell me that an independent study fits the bill. The word “independent” sabotages the whole idea – the key word is collaborate.
Note: As I’m writing this, I’m sitting in a hostel in Warsaw. It’s 5AM, and the cable to connect my camera to a computer is buried at the bottom of my backpack. So, while there are photos to go along with this story, they’re going to have to be added later.
June 15 – 2:45PM EST
I’ve been to Pearson Airport in Toronto a few times before, but only ever to pick up some passenger after they’ve come back from a trip.
I’ve never been one of those “departure” people.
Well, today was my day. And man, it was confusing.
It started off smoothly enough. My Dad, girlfriend Emily, and her sister Cassie, had brought me to Pearson to see me off. I was able to get my boarding pass from a machine (which was nice and easy), after finding fellow passengers Reid, Anj, and Olya. What a relief to see those three, because I honestly had no idea where I was in the airport, and had no idea what was going on. Pearson is huge, and I was only in Terminal 1.
After our goodbyes, I stood in a line to get my carry-on bags scanned.
That was my first mistake. Wasted 20 minutes getting to the front of that line, only to find out that I had to go to another line somewhere else in the airport to check my stowed luggage. So there was some momentary panic while I raced around the airport, trying to find the right place.
So, lesson one: it’s always OK to ask when you’re way out of your element, and it usually makes things go faster. I knew this already, but this was a clear-cut example.
After some more running around, and a trip along a few moving sidewalks, I made it to our departure gate, where Olya, Reid, and Anj were already waiting.
Eventually, the rest of our comrads showed up. And now, for your edification, here’s a list of the UCDP people who were flying with me that day:
After a lot of sitting around and waiting, we board our flight. After even more waiting, the plane begins to move.
Take-off: 6:00PM EST
Our plane took off at exactly 6PM EST. We were half an hour behind schedule. Already, my companions were taking bets on whether or not we’d miss our connecting flight from Frankfurt (not Brussels, sorry!) to Warsaw. We only had 50 minutes once we had landed in Frankfurt, so it was going to be tight.
Anyhow, we’re in the air. And I’m excited, of course. I haven’t been in a plane since a flight to Toronto from Miami in 2004, and I sure as hell haven’t flown outside North America. This was going to be a new experience for me.
My inflight entertainment console15-Jun-2009 18:35, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.8, 5.8mm, 0.385 sec, ISO 100
It didn’t take long for three minor disasters to happen:
I had packed a bag of mixed nuts/cashews in my carry-on. To my dismay, when I opened my backpack, I found that the bag had exploded and that my carry-on was filled with loose nuts. A bunch spilled on the floor, and immediately I began worrying about other passengers who might have nut allergies…all it takes is a whiff, and bam – out like a light.
Anyhow, Ryan Cooley helped me clean/conceal the mess as much as possible, and I did my best to clean up the mess inside my bag. Reminded me a bit of this story I had written earlier in the year…
The pen I’ve been keeping my notes with started leaking. Ink all over my hand, and some on my shirt. Yech. Luckily, I brought spares…
The instructional safety video, which was supposed to be broadcast to the screens in front of each of us, did not work in my row. It looked like scrambled cable. Had to crane my neck to see it on someone else’s screen. Not too bad, but it’s a bit discouraging when the mandatory safety video doesn’t work.
The flight was mostly eventless. Besides some minor turbulence (which freaked out one of our more sensitive flyers), there wasn’t much to do. My Dad had let me borrow his noise-cancelling headphones, which were awesome. I listened to classical music on XM radio while I wrote my notes.
Food started making its way down the aisles, and it smelled pretty good…
But then we hit a patch of turbulence. One of my companions is really not into flying, and so we consoled them while the plane shook around us. The calming thing was that the flight attendants looked calm as ever, and kept handing out food.
I hear a few of my comrads are already taking advantage of the free beer/wine/spirits on board. Hilarity ensues.
Great meal. Pasta in tomato sauce, a bun, some veggies in dressing, and chocolate mousse for dessert! Felt very pampered and content. Was reminded again of this Louis CK video.
And it’s even better knowing I haven’t paid a cent for it! Free always tastes better…
Around this time, I figured out that the in-flight mapping system wasn’t working, and I had no idea where we were.
I trusted our pilot knew where he was going.
Also around this time, Yev started saying that the shadows were getting longer…the sun was going down…the shortest night of my life was coming.
I’m reminded of a scene from 2001: A Space Odyssey – the scene near the beginning (after the ape fights), where a character is flying to a space station. Our flight feels futuristic. Maybe it’s the lighting. Maybe it’s all of the video screens winking at me. Maybe I’m just over dramatizing it.
Night-time on the plane15-Jun-2009 21:38, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.8, 5.8mm, 0.5 sec, ISO 250
Or maybe it was that Phillip Glass music I was listening to…
At this point, I’ve decided that I’m bored, and that I’m going to watch an in-flight movie. After some deliberation, I choose The Watchmen, which I had already seen, but didn’t mind watching again.
It was pretty dark outside our windows at this point. Yev seemed to think that we were over Greenland, but how she could tell that through all the cloud cover, I have no idea.
I kept watching the movie.
At this point, I decided to get up and walk around a bit. I stretched. Our trip to Frankfurt is about half over. So is The Watchmen, for that matter, but I decided to try to sleep instead of finishing it.
I had no luck sleeping at all, despite amazing noise-cancelling headphone technology. I rolled about. I chatted with my travel mates. I listened to music.
It was starting to get light out outside. The sun was coming up.
I don’t think anyone slept that much during the flight. I saw a few people dosing, but that was it.
I had no idea what time it was. My body felt very confused and disoriented. I felt like I’d been up all night, and I guess I had been…all 3 hours of it.
June 16 – 12:25AM EST
We began our descent around here. Phase 1 of our journey was about to end.
Why do all pilots sound the same? Always with that croaky voice… or maybe it’s the microphones that they use.
Lots of turbulence going down, but it was a smooth landing.
June 16 – 3:15AM EST, 9:15AM Local
I still hadn’t adjusted my watch yet, and that was starting to freak me out.
So, the main event was that we missed our connecting flight from Frankfurt to Warsaw. We were about 20 minutes too late. 50 minutes is not even close to enough time to get processed at the Frankfurt airport.
Yev is so meta16-Jun-2009 03:02, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.8, 5.8mm, 0.094 sec, ISO 100
So Frankfurt airport was my first taste of Europe. My impressions? Honestly? Not that different. I didn’t feel like I was in a foreign place, really – except I couldn’t read any of the advertisements. Everything else had English attached, so that was nice.
After some chit-chatting with Air Canada, we were booked on a later flight. There was a lot of running around, lots of in-between-destinations stress, and we almost missed that flight too. But we made it.
Getting our new flight16-Jun-2009 03:34, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.8, 5.8mm, 0.11 sec, ISO 100
A couple of casualties though:
Ryan Cooley left his windbreaker on the plane that brought us from Toronto
Reid Linforth lost his watch during the security check in Frankfurt. That really sucked for him.
At this point, I could really feel how tired I am. My body was buzzing. I had been awake since 9:30AM EST, and it was 3:22AM EST at that point.
The plane we took from Frankfurt was much, much smaller than the one from Toronto. It was only going to be flying for an hour, and it looked like a lot of the passengers took this trip every day. I tried to nap on the plane, but no luck.
4:08AM EST, 10:08AM Local
We were on route to Warsaw.
We were served some kind of cheese sandwich for our in-flight meal, which was good. Really wasn’t sure what was in it, and sure didn’t take a picture. Why? I was starving. Scarfed the thing right down. Hadn’t slept, hungry, grumpy.
There was lots of turbulence in the smaller airplane. Pretty shaky. Kinda scary.
I wiped my face with a lemon scented wet-nap to wake myself up, and had a cup of tea.
Eventually, I got into a conversation with the lady sitting next to me about theatre. She was a Bulgarian business-woman going to some sort of seminar. We talked about Poland, sight-seeing, and Bulgarian theatre.
On June 15th, at approximately 5:30PM EST, I will be hurling through the skies at absolutely tremendous speeds with a collection of fellow University College Drama Program folk. We will be traveling to Poland, where we will meet other UCDP folk who are already there. We will be there for 15 days, doing tours of Warsaw, Krakow, Wroclaw, and Poznan, and seeing plenty of theatre – including shows that are part of the Malta Festival.
Oh, and did I mention that the UCDP is footing the bill? That includes flights, train trips, lodging (European hostels, here I come!), and food! Wow! Thanks UCDP, thanks UofT. Thanks. What a way to cap an undergraduate career.
Oh yeah, by the by, I got word back from UofT – I’m good to graduate. I’m scheduled to convocate on the 16th of June…unfortunately, I will be in Europe. Single tear.
So that’s that. I’m pretty much all packed. I’ve got reading material, notebooks, my camera, and an exciting itinerary. No laptop. No cell phone. I will be mostly out of touch.
But who knows – if I do happen to stumble across an internet café while I’m out there, I might write up a blog post recounting some adventures, and upload some photos.
Either way, it’ll be business as usual when I come back on the 30th.
Do zobaczenia wkrótce! (Thanks, Google Translate!)
Once, somewhere, someone said “live life one day at a time”.
That’s basically how I’m approaching my school life, seeing as how an onslaught of due dates and final presentations is rapidly approaching.
So, in stark contrast to my proposal to “live life one day at a time”, I’m now going to list what’s going on and coming up. You may have seen this list before, but there are updates now.
Due tomorrow is my Movement class final project – a site-specific self-scripted work. I’m working with two excellent partners (both are phenomenal dancers, contact improv’ers, and collaborators). What we’ve come up with is a physical retelling of the Orpheus “descent into the underworld” myth, staged in a cramped, dusty old stairwell in the Playhouse. Hugely physical, and lots of fun/tricky movement stuff on stairs.
Tonight, I have to memorize half of a monologue, based on a letter from a Mir astronaut to his son back home
Friday is the start of the UCDP Theatre Festival. The Theatre Festival is essentially a showcase of final projects, works in process, etc. I’m in a few of these, and I’m certainly involved in the set up of the events as well. Here are the Facebook events:
Doubling in Computer Science and Drama is no picnic. Both departments demand a lot from me, and I’ve had to get used to quickly shifting mind-sets from one to the other. There have been days where I would get up, run to the Playhouse, go to a Nia warm-up class, take a shower, then run to the Bahan Centre to take an algorithms class, then run back to the Playhouse for a Yoga workshop in Movement class, and then run back to the Bahan Centre to take my Java class.
This might sound overwhelming, but I discovered something very interesting: these two opposites seem to fuel one another.
That Nia class in the morning would get oxygen flowing through my body, and would really wake me up. On the days I had Nia and went to Algorithms, my mind was noticeably sharper, and I was in a better mood.
It’s funny how a better mood can help propel you through work. It’s a bit like warming a knife before it goes through frozen butter.
Anyhow, the reason I’m writing this, is because someone asked me if it’s a good idea to take DRM100/DRM200/DRM201 while also trying to take Calculus and Bio, and a bunch of other courses.
Really, it’s a judgment call. It’s not going to be a cakewalk by any means, but if you’re willing to put in the hours, it’ll pay off. You’ll walk out of a school year and go, “Did I really just do all of that?! Awesome!”.
But for a more practical standpoint, here’s how I look at it:
A full course load is 5 courses per semester. 6 courses per semester is called “overloading”, and while it’s possible (I’ve done it), I don’t really recommend it. The only reason I did it was because I felt I needed to play catch-up, since first year ended up being mostly an exercise in futility.
So, DRM100, DRM200, and DRM201 are all full year courses. And DRM201 has the added feature of secretly being 2 courses, even though it looks like 1. So, with 3 slots taken up per semester, that leaves room for 2 more full year courses, or 4 half courses, or 1 full year and 2 half courses. You get it.
So that’s one way of looking at it – can you make it all add up to 5 credits?
Another note – while it’s certainly possible to drop courses if you’re overwhelmed, I do not recommend dropping any of your drama performance classes unless you’re really in trouble. In the performance classes, you’re almost always working in a group, and pulling out without warning can really damage a group. So don’t.
I’ve been doing sound work in theatres since high school, and I’ve run into some pretty interesting software over the years. I’ve used audio editing tools like Sound Forge, Audacity, Audition, SoundBooth, etc. I’ve composed music in Cubase, Sony ACID Pro, FruityLoops, Apple Logic Express. The list goes on.
But once the music is composed, and the sounds are all edited, how do you play them back during a performance?
The old way was to play them through a CD player; you’d burn all your sounds and music to disc, and then track through. God help you if you had to do a cross-fade on an actor cue though, because that would mean having two CD players, cuing them up simultaneously, and doing a manual cross-fade on the mixer.
There are better ways to do this.
In fact (and my boss, UCDP Tech Director Peter Freund would agree with me on this), there seems to be a trend nowadays to put more emphasis in programming and preparation, and to make playback mostly automated. It’s true for lights (lighting boards are pre-programmed with cues, and then the lighting operator just hits the ‘GO’ button to go through each transition), and it’s now true for sound.
But there’s a small problem: it’s only for Macs. Which blows.
Actually, it really blows. As a modern web-developer, I take cross-platform applications for granted. Sure, IE may quirk out, but we can usually work around that (thanks jQuery! Prototype!). QLab, however, is Mac software, and that’s all she wrote. It’s really kind of heartbreaking.
If I had the time, and if someone would pay me, I’d look into writing an open-source cross-platform QLab clone. In Java, maybe. There’s probably a ton of issues doing cross-platform sound work, but Audacity did it – why can’t I?
Just a thought.
Oh, and yes, there is a free piece of playback software for Windows called Multiplay that’s alright, but I find QLab a bit more flexible.
So, if you didn’t already know, I worked on a show here at the UCDP called Attempts on Her Life, by Martin Crimp, directed by Dr. Michelle Newman. I was the sound designer for the show, and I had the opportunity to write some original music that the actors had to sing along with.
I’ve finally started recording and mixing the songs.
There are two of them, and I’ve got the first mix finished. I’m not sure if I’ll ever finish recording the second one (scheduling is a nightmare…busy busy busy), but I thought I’d post what I had.