Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Much Ado About Nothing

This is one of my favorite plays.  Probably the very first version I saw was the Branagh film -- and that set the bar fairly high. (My one complaint at the time was that they overdid the joy scenes with cliché, and that Branagh gave himself the cooler of the two - splashing in a fountain while Thompson merely swings on a swing.  The fountain-splashing is inherently cooler because you can splash around in a fountain with total abandon... a swing is far more limited in its motion, essentially restricted to a single arc.)

So tonight I saw the Whedon version.  This was also really good; I walked away with my spirits lifted and my heart filled with joy.  Here's a slightly abridged version of what I told the sponsor:

It was really beautiful and very funny; I loved it.   
It is up there with the Branagh version, and may even be a little bit better in some ways; I think the limited palette of a black-and-white film heightens the overall sense of warmth. The soundtrack was excellent too.  
The Claudio/Hero subplot is always a tough sell for modern audiences, because Claudio (like Othello) is so quick to believe the worst of his beloved, and Claudio's repentance doesn't entirely seem to justify his reward at the end.  So it really depends on the actors to make it as convincing as possible.  Much must be done with body language, tone of voice, facial expressions....  If I were to suggest any changes for the way this is handled (not that anyone's planning to do that), it would be to have Claudio show more outward signs of his devastation as if his repentance and regret made him physically ill; it might even work for him to collapse at the feet of his "new" bride before he learns who she is.   
The idea that Beatrice and Benedick had a previous sexual encounter is an interesting one, and it sort of works between them in some ways (although to my mind it does not really explain the dynamic between the characters).  But it strikes a jarring note once everyone (including Beatrice) starts focusing on Hero's purity.    
I found myself wondering why the characters drank so much, and ultimately figured that it was to give the impression of upper-class folk staying at someone's vacation home for a long weekend or something.  
I smiled broadly throughout the film, and laughed out loud often.  I grew misty-eyed at certain points. Some great actors there, with really good comic timing and very expressive faces.  Beatrice, Hero and the priest were especially engaging. Nathan Fillion clearly was having a blast as Dogberry.  
All in all, I highly recommend it.  It's accessible, warm and funny. 

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Stream of Consciousness

  • recently got to handle my first snake (caught by my brother; apparently it lives in the stone wall by their house).  It was surprisingly soft and velvety to the touch.  My nieces are cool with snakes.  Which is pretty cool.
  • bought a small canister of asafetida, based on my recollection that Madhur Jaffrey characterized this spice as "indispensable" to Indian cuisine.  The sealed plastic container, from inside a plastic bag, has left a lingering stench in my backpack six days later.  I'm nervous about opening the container now.
  • was thinking to go rollerblading today, and then head to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.  And a yoga class.  Instead, I've spent hours researching my proposed topic for a chapter in an upcoming book... and certain other papers that I'm thinking to present and/or publish.  I'm on the rooftop deck though, enjoying bright cloudy skies.  So maybe this is a good day to work out in the gym. 
  • just accepted an estimate for one home improvement project.  Two more in the works - need to figure out soon if I'll go forward.  Fingers crossed.
  • oh, and the paper proposal that was just accepted for Mythcon?
    Title: "First Contact: Man in the Landscape of Tormance and Perelandra."
    Abstract: Lewis wrote that "The real father of my planet books is David Lindsay’s Voyage to Arcturus, which you also will revel in if you don’t know it." This paper will compare Maskull's introduction to Tormance and Joiwind with Ransom's introduction to Perelandra and the Lady, with an eye to understanding Lewis' authorial choices in depicting his own alien and exotic flora, fauna, and landscape.  
  • highlights of some presentations I enjoyed at Kalamazoo:
  • DIY astrolabe session - learned out to figure out the time of sunrise and sunset with a few pieces of paper
  • Anderson & Rateliff talking about women in JRRT's professional life... with Flieger & Chance not only in attendance, but actually cheering from the audience at times.  Pretty darn cool.  
  • math prof argued that invisibility cannot happen without rendering the invisible person [in this case, a hobbit] blind, whether the light goes through the hobbit or around the hobbit.
  • on a Game of Thrones panel, when responding to a question about differences between fans of the TV show (or a film) and the book, one panelist mentioned stained glass windows (they were for those who couldn't read the bible for themselves)
  • GoT fan community tends to defend GRRM as a "lone genius" whose vision is supreme and unquestionable; they tend to defend complaints about Westeros as sexist/misogynist, racist, and violent by claiming that this accurately reflects "medieval times" - but without any understanding of the actual historical period (their source appears to be GRRM himself)
  • a plenary speaker showed us some of the ways stuff spread in what I'll call the Greater Mediterranean region.  Included: a really cool map showing the spread of the Black Death, and a map showing that traders crossed the Sahara not like modern day long-distance truckers, but in a series of short, overlapping circuits.  
  • a talk on the Smithfield decretals featured a picture of the Hellmouth!  The point of this talk was that it was pretty weird for a legal treatise to include a running series of diagrams in the margins about the encounter between the "three living" and the "three dead" (but the expanded moment of encounter is perhaps intended to encourage reflection on morality and salvation, perhaps appropriate for the law) 
  • another speaker on the same panel (re text and image) mentioned that putting words into a rising and falling scroll was intended to reflect the inflections of actual speech.  Also, she was talking about a particular medieval document made by or for a leader of a convent, which showed (a) OT men in a circle around JC, who is speaking to them in direct lines, with no response from the men; and (b) NT women in a circle around JC, who is still speaking to them in direct lines, but the women each respond in a curved arc of dialogue; the words of one woman end in JC's chalice.

That's all for now.  Gotta get to the library for a few things I can't access online!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

1776: A Look at Our Founding Mothers

In honor of Mother's Day, my mom went off gallivanting somewhere, leaving yours truly at loose ends.  So I decided to focus on educational pursuits, particularly an edifying historical re-enactment of a critical period in our nation's history.

Yes, this was the musical 1776.  I'd never seen it before - very fun!
NY - Miss Lewis Morris (fore)
SC - Miss Edward Rutledge (aft)
PA - Miss Benjamin Franklin
(A Machievellian figure, but she gets the job done)

Seriousness of purpose, even during the do-si-do 
New York abstains.  Courteously.
Determined delegates

Mr. John Adams prepares for take-off?

A bucolic scene

Happy Mother's Day, with mango lassis!!

Thursday, May 09, 2013


The Waking of AngantyrA Poetic Drama (text by Deborah C. Rogers)
Performed w/ the assistance of the WMU Theater Dept

Fountains in twilight

Close-up on the tulip

Goslings! Large, gangly, adolescent goslings!

Red-winged blackbird

Your friendly neighborhood airport

Sunday, May 05, 2013

The Palisades

I've heard that the Palisades were a great place to hike, but never made it out there until today.  
Sal graciously drove down and picked up a few of us city folk for the adventure.

Cool rock formations

A solitary pillar
Goose, nesting right on the trail

Ahoy there!

The Cliffs of Insanity?

Shadows on the Hudson

View upstream

It was really a perfect afternoon.  Good weather, good company, good hiking.  

* * *

In the evening, I watched an episode of BtVS and saw this t-shirt:

Does our fearless leader have a secret sideline business???