starlady: ((say it isn't so))
An Iliad. Dir. Lisa Peterson.

I went to see this show at Berkeley Rep on Tuesday night - I splurged on season tickets this summer when I was feeling rich, but I totally forgot to go see Chinglish. D'oh.

Overall, I liked the play, and I especially liked the authorial decisions to have the play mostly be retold in modern language, and that it was a one-man show with the Poet himself as the one man (though, how else could it have been done?). The Poet stumbles in compelled to tell his story, though as he admits, "Every time I tell this story, I hope it's for the last time." It's never for the last time, and I liked that this production had clearly been updated to take the ongoing wars around the world since it was written (on the brink of the Iraq war) into account, though of course one deplores the necessity. It's not hard to make the Iliad speak to our time, and I liked that it did. I also liked that they used the Fagles translation as their base, since the Fagles translation is my favorite.

That said, why no one in the production could be bothered to ask anyone how to actually pronounce Greek - not even Homeric Greek, but classical or even modern Greek - was really annoying to me. Granted I"m over-educated, but to hear the Poet mispronounce the fourth word of the entire poem, and keep mispronouncing words and names, really grated. The other thing is that, powerful as this show was, I don't know how much that was new it really added to the Iliad, y'know? Though, I'm not sure that's the standard by which I ought to judge this play. It certainly does bring the Iliad to new audiences, and it does make the Iliad into an anti-war story, which, as I've said before, I'm not convinced that the actual Iliad actually is. (I'm happy to go on about why, if anyone wants; just ask.) And that's probably the Iliad we need right now, inasmuch as we ever need the Iliad. Maybe one day it really will be told for the last time; but not yet.
starlady: One World, One Dream: Beijing 2008 (more in the breach)
This post is dedicated to [ profile] olewyvern, classicist and friend extraordinaire, who was on the trip to Greece with me in 2006. Happy Birthday!

Via [personal profile] oyceter, a post evaluating the concept of an indigenous Olympics. Unsurprising evaluation is unsurprising, though I do think that the Vancouver Olympics have inaugurated a new level of indigenous participation, and hope that future Games will build on this beginning.

The following is a collation of the photos, journal entry, and notes taken from our licensed tour guide's talk by me at ancient Olympia on 15 January 2005, salted with a few links and later comments. Short version: Ancient Olympia was one of my favorite sites in all of Greece, one of the places at which I felt closest to the past in the present. It's also, not coincidentally, one of the best preserved. And the ancient Olympics were fascinating.

But if, my heart, you wish to sing of contests, look no further for any star warmer than the sun, shining by day through the lonely sky, and let us not proclaim any contest greater than Olympia. )
starlady: Abraham Lincoln, vampire hunter (alternate history)
So yesterday I went up to New York City to hang out with [personal profile] naraht, who is as awesome in person as online. I daresay we had a grand time--nothing fancy, just wandering around to bookstores and libraries and coffee shops and cafe-type places and talking about history (Ph.D.s) and writing and fandom and DW and slash and academia and music, especially music. (Air pollution! Boarding schools and home schooling! Various travel guides past and present, including Baedeker's!)

We started out at Pret A Manger, which has been one of my favorite sandwich places for ten years now, ever since I first discovered them in London. Luckily they jumped across the pond to New York, since I still haven't been back to London other than to change planes in Heathrow and Gatwick since. (Side note: Book-Off is moving to 45th between 5th & 6th! Yes--bigger, better! No--the perfect Book-Off/Kinokuniya synchrony will be disturbed! Again.)

We then headed across the street to the central branch of the New York Public Library, which is situated in Bryant Park, and which is as grand inside as it looks on the outside. At this point I should digress slightly and mention that Diane Duane's The Book of Night with Moon has had a huge influence on the way I experience Manhattan--every single time I go through Grand Central I look up at the ceiling and think of Rhiow doing the same thing and thinking it was a pity that the humans had covered over the constellations, and am devoutly grateful that we (the humans, that is) saw the error of that decision. And every time I walk past the central branch of the New York Public Library I look at the lions to either side of the entrance and think of Urruah telling Arhu that one is the past and the other is the present and that the invisible lion, the future, prowls between them. Needless to say, the NYPL is pretty cool, and unlike other central libraries I can think of (cough! the Library of Congress! cough!) it is still a functioning library; the reading room has free wireless internet and computers at which you can use the internet, as well as reference books. The interior is very much that Gilded Age grand wood carving tradition that we just don't do anymore. So [personal profile] naraht and I strolled through the Henry Hudson: Mapping New York exhibition, pointing out our hometowns on maps of the Eastern Seaboard and considering Manhattan's vanished past, and then headed into the "Candide at 250" exhibition, which actually used the term "fan fiction" to describe all the unauthorized sequels and alternate versions of Voltaire's novel, which amused us greatly, though the exhibition insisted multiple times that "changing the contents of the work inevitably changed the work". That is a feature, not a bug, NYPL!

After that we headed downtown and hung out at Joe the art of coffee, which is one of the best coffee shops of my acquaintance before strolling down to McNally Jackson, which has to be one of the best indie general-interest bookstores I've been to in a while. Rough Guide then led us to Hampton Chutney Co. down the block, which was amazingly delicious; I will dream of that cardamom coffee until I can have it again, I know. And since the staff accidentally made the wrong entree, they were nice enough to give us the mistake for free! And, OMG, the chutney itself (to say nothing of the food) was amazing (I had pumpkin. Yum).

Seriously, it was a great time, and after we said our farewells I kept thinking of things I wanted to proselytize at [personal profile] naraht about. (Joanna Newsom! The Decemberists! The Philadelphia Orchestra!) Next year in Britain?

Also, on the way home (since we'd been going on about Greece, briefly) I had a random thought about ancient tragedy in cross-cultural comparison. I said when I saw Mibu-kyogen in April 2008 that I found a lot of parallels between ancient tragedy/satyr plays::nou/kyogen, and I stand by that, and I was thinking about the masks again on the way home. This isn't something I'd want to push too far, but I can never forget that the English word "idiot" comes from the Greek ὀ ἰδίος, "individual." Both ancient Greece and ancient Japan were cultures in which the individual did not make sense outside of the group (this has crucial effects in tragedy actually; I'm thinking of Oedipus, but there are many other examples). And I wonder whether the masks facilitated the identification of the audience with the actor because of their lack of differentiation? Hmm… (Also I think my accentuation is wrong above.)
starlady: One World, One Dream: Beijing 2008 (more in the breach)
Electra is not-so-secretly obsessed with the Olympics. Fair warning.

Citius, altius, fortius )
starlady: Raven on a MacBook (Default)
Doing my part for nine nines of nine.

1. The oracle is old, but that is not what about her that astonishes you.

2. You may think of the rumor that she once forsook her power for love; after that, they say, youth was stripped from her--but was it a punishment from her god, or a reward?

3. Though she eats the leaves of the laurel, and afterward you may too (the thrill of taboo stronger than the taste of spice), this is not the source of her gift.

4. Her priests are a cage--but do they protect her from the world, you wonder, or the world from her?

5. Though you may envy her knowledge, she is jealous of your ignorance.

6. She is a sibyl, not a Cassandra, though she often wishes otherwise.

7. The secret of seven is that there is none, save belief.

8. Cowherds and queens are the same in her sight, for she sees the End: ask her your question.

9. Now the rest is up to you.
starlady: (a sad tale's best)
All right, first of all, I'd just like to take 30 seconds to point out that all the indignation of the past forty-eight hours over Blago's sole power to appoint President-elect Obama's replacement in the Senate has been brought to you by...the Progressive movement. That's right, folks, until those wonderful teetotallers showed up advocating prohibition, silver, and popular election for Senators, governers appointed whoever the hell they wanted to the Senate, and the Senate sat them, unless it didn't, and those Senators stayed in office in perpetuity. So when people whine about Caroline Kennedy as a potential Hillary replacement, or call the governor of Delaware appointing a longtime Biden aide to, essentially, a caretaker two-year term so that Beau Biden can run for the Democratic nomination "tacky," I find all the hand-wringing and pontification to be irritatingly ignorant of history. The new New York senator will face two elections in the next four years, in particular, and Delaware and Illinois' replacements will also be up for election in 2010. So these people will be forced to prove their mettle in short order, and they will take their appointments knowing that. This is why the Founders distrusted the Mobility.

In other news, I finished Tom LaMarre's Uncovering Heian Japan this morning. I'm not sure if this is the book Frenchy described as "difficult," I found it wonderfully complex and well-considered, but not difficult to understand. In fact, LaMarre does an excellent job of making the Heian order seem comprehensible--whereas the attitude of people like Ivan Morris, for one, is way more "yes, those silly Heian aristos, all they did was lay around and write poetry and talk about mappo." Which we already know is partly crap. At any rate, LaMarre returns poetry to its central place in the Heian world, and does an excellent job explicating how that world worked (through poetry). Now I want to track down a copy of his book about Japanese cinema. And I will be first to pre-order his new book on anime from the U of M Press.

Spike and I took the train to Philly to see "Let The Right One In"--the other vampire movie--this afternoon. It's been a while since I've seen a foreign film (unless you count Japanese movies), and midway through I caught myself thinking, "Ah, yes, charmingly like anime in its refusal to explain almost everything!" In brief, the story follows bullied Oskar and mysterious Eli, both apparently 12 years old, in the suburbs of Stockholm in the 1980s. It snows a lot in Sweden, which seems fitting for the story, and the laconic deliberation with which it unfolds. It was particularly interesting to see vampirism displaced onto the female half of the couple, and to see her caught at such an impossible age as 12, with all the implications of that number for various harsh realities. The movie skated perilously close to camp at times (in showing the experience of one vampire victim in particular), but all in all it was quite excellent. I would venture to say, though, that it comes no closer to explicating the vampire's undying appeal than "Twilight," or any other incarnation of the mythos. Another movie mini-trope of 2008: half-melted faces of hospital patients (if "The Dark Knight" had stuck closer to canon, they'd both be because of acid, too); for my money the patient in here looked more horrific (though not more shocking).

The more things change in Greece, it seems, the more they stay the same. Four years ago when I was in that benighted country along with [ profile] olewyvern  and several others, the students were rioting against the government's attempts to make a Greek diploma worth more than the paper it was printed on by tightening up the university standards and curriculum. Now anarchists, students, workers and everyone are rioting because they can't get a job and their education is useless. I wish I could say my emotions were more enlightened than "A plague on both your houses!" But Greece remains one of the countries that I dislike based on personal experience, and I just can't quite muster the enthusiasm to wish them well. I do wonder, though, if this year's Olaf interim will go through.

I also read an excellent short story by Garth Nix in B&N tonight, "Old Friends." Designer coffee as libations for summoning! Tree people! Genius!


starlady: Raven on a MacBook (Default)

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