Thursday, August 27, 2009
Take liberties, brilliantly ruin it with enthusiasm, take it out past curfew, do something. Is there no drunken piano in the house? Yes?
Take this guy - a little bit much caffeine, a little insane, but not one to be drowning himself with flowers in his hair, is he?
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
One of my friends said “no wonder you aren’t sleeping and are having such an awkward time socialising. Reading intense, depressing prose makes for great conversation, I bet.”
Actually it does, oddly enough, though a little one-sided at times. It also reminds me of a lot of dusty vocabulary I usually keep in a shed outside of Chesapeake City, Maryland, so as not to frighten people.
The word “diaphanous” came up, entirely validly, in conversation with the Spouse. He looked at me suspiciously.
“It means transparent, more or less”
“Why not just use transparent?”
Collocational differences? It’s a good term actually, collocational differences. It means “having different placement” but is usually used more broadly as “words which, while they may not be different in definition, differ in the possible combinations or placement.”
e.g. big = large; but “you are making a big mistake” not “you are making a large mistake”
similarly, “transparent accounting” not “diaphanous accounting”
Words are inexpensive to collect, and one doesn’t have to worry much about storage. Still, explosions are possible; one of my professors in college had worked on the Dutch version of the OED and had clearly suffered some damage.
My current, less lofty reading is a little less pleasurable than it might have been had it not been for Nabokov’s torture (as read by Jeremy Irons – such painful brilliance).
Ira is Latin for fury, and his last name I forget, but the last man to attempt to curb my occasionally baroque style ended up reminding me of a poet* I discovered about the same time –
“I remember the last
of the men I called sir, the last
time I feared poetry -
no hard shove out of Heaven
but a scrawl in green ink, Your analysis
is not brilliant, but will serve
if you avoid these leaps of imagination,
and I tripped away, a mark on my
head full of rhyme.”
I try, but am occasionally sorry to succeed.
*Tanis MacDonald, “To My Milton Professor”
Thursday, August 20, 2009
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Sunday, August 16, 2009
Marlon, I love you, and you look fabulous in that Roman mini-skirt, but I have got to be honest with you, that speech is a little more complex than you are making it. Mark Anthony is a strategist, and a clever one, albeit an emotional one too. He has a range. Not just anger. I know, Marlon, I am berating a dead actor for a role everyone thinks he performed admirably. But Marlon, look at Gielgud and Mason. I know, Gielgud is not as goodlooking, we know; and though Mason looks lovely in his army gear, he is no Marlon Brando. Yet Marlon, they do so much more acting. Alas. It seems that I am doomed to wonderful performances of Julius Caesar marred by two-dimensional Mark Anthonys.
Saturday, August 15, 2009
I just saw the tail end of the Marlon Brando/James Mason Julius Caesar. Thoughts -
1) I had forgotten that there really are a number of old movies that are riveting; I couldn't walk away, and my usual goldfish attention span found itself overridden by, of all things, Shakespeare.
2) James Mason, who otherwise mostly exists in the vague periphery of my film knowledge, makes an outstanding Brutus; Marlon Brandon on the other hand, in spite of being the poster boy, is somehow ill-suited to playing Marc Anthony. Brando is (well, was) many things but not Marc Anthony; no. And yes, I know this is a minority opinion.
3) Julius Caesar is really a wonderful play, and it is a kind of epiphany play for me. For a very long time I simply did not see the point of Shakespeare. Hard to understand, convoluted plots, non-funny jokes and really, really long plays. I spent a lot of time trying to understand why Hamlet is supposed to be the greatest play of all time and have come to the following conclusion: perhaps it is; but for the life of me I can't tell because all of the times I've seen it on stage (three times, I think) it has been outright painful (with the exeption of the sexton - you have got to love the gravedigger) and when I saw the Laurence Olivier movie it did nothing for me. I saw Ken Branagh's four hour Hamlet, all four bloody hours, and thought it a waste of some fantastic acting talents. No - as far as I'm concerned, the best Hamlet I have seen is called Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are dead. Anyway, tangent aside, so I kind of tried to understand Shakespeare and didn't. Only then I saw a performance of a pretty obscure play of his, Measure for Measure, at a beautiful old school, while the snow set it; and that changed everything. It was wonderful, funny, charming; I saw the light. Julius Caesar was another of those moments, because while it was not the first Shakespeare play I actually acted in, it was by far the best, and for all its failings, the performance gave the play all of the passion it deserved. Which brings me to
4) Watching Julius Caesar is like meeting an old, beloved friend. I don't always remember the details of our acquiantance, but I remember the spirit of it. I recognise the inner workings of it, I see what it is thinking; and what I thought I had forgotten turns out to still be there.
5) Of course the play should be called Brutus, even if Caesar's ghost hovers over the play. Brutus is a wonderful tragic hero, and while he is not as complex as Hamlet, he is also much easier to identify with. Not that I do, though I could; I identify with
6) Cassius. Cassius is so much more human than Brutus, so much more fallible; there is more pathos in his death on his birthday than in even Brutus's pleas for his friends to kill him. Cassius is passionate and ambitious, and lord, I forgot how incredibly gay this play is. To put it less facetiously, though there are women, all the meaningful relationships are between the men, and none is so openly emotional as that between Brutus and Cassius. And Gielgud as Cassius to Mason's Brutus...it's apt and beautiful.
Thank you, Turner Classic Movies, and thank you, late great Gielgud and Mason. In your honour I have, not one, but two youtube clips.
And as closing credits:
Postscript: Julius Caesar, Shakespeare aside, is another on my list of really fascinating historical characters; a consummate politician whose great virtue and flaw was that he could handle criticism and forgave his enemies, and had a sense of humour. Thank you six years of really boring Latin and really interesting history.
Thursday, August 13, 2009
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
The back flap is funny. Yet so is the front cover. Who says the cover doesn't matter? I would never have read this book if it weren't for the wonderful, lovely cover.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
It seems like as time passes I am more and more defined by the things I don’t do; for better or for worse. Times when I don’t take it out on other people, when I don’t burst into tears; when I resist the impulse to just say what I think. I don’t pursue some of the dreams. I don’t dare. Sometimes the space I live in seems so small; yet life is full of small victories; conflicts I step away from; unhealthy conversations I finally end; bad habits I no longer have. Confidence I no longer have.
Small comfort: Kona coffee (because all real luxury is small); new songs; a pair of earrings; a new book.
And difficulties require only that you live through them with your equilibrium intact (“balance is the biggest part of movement”, Paula Cunningham the dentist-poet says) and with your self-control at the ready.
(Cue Cake’s version of I Will Survive)
Less drama, not less purpose.
Thursday, August 06, 2009
I knew him, of course; as played by Richard E. Grant, who is such a wonderful, fun actor; and then as played by Anthony Edwards, who was a little less the fool and a little more the handsome hero. I knew the story, that lovely bit of anti-revolutionary propaganda which first interested me in Robespierre*. The book I picked up for a dollar at a St. Vincent de Paul thrift store somewhere on a whim, because I had too many serious things to read. Of course I should have know – Tolkien warns us that the path at our door may lead us anywhere, and so it is with books; you never know where they will take you. So I am reading The Scarlet Pimpernel, a foolish book, yet as usual giving me a little more than any movie or tv, and find myself unwittingly swept up in yet another frivolous-yet-riveting book. Seriously, my friends, there is a limit to the number of books I can read obsessively during every available minute, though I guess that given the Spouse’s travels and the temporary lull in professional insanity, I may be more available for such things than usual. Swashbuckling. That’s what this book is, and yet it is a little more sophisticated than I would have given it credit for. I am very fond of the triple-decker intrigue – not just the romantic hero posing as ze euld hag to the “Frenchies”, but posing as an indolent fool to the English. A tightly-wound (and don’t we all love a tightly-wound man**), brilliant man pretending to care for nothing but cards and fashion. Yes. On the other hand, the plot contains so much signposting it becomes painful.
Yet again, I find myself on the narrow ledge just above the Harlequin novels***, but I already like the Pimpernel better than the sparkly undead, and frankly it would be hard to beat Robespierre and the French Revolution for a nemesis.
*Robespierre is interesting; a powerful man with no attachment to power, a dictator but not a demagogue, a civil rights advocate turned tyrant on principle.
**See previous entries on such topics as Mr. Darcy, Snape, Mr. Rochester and yes, the blasted vampire
***Sometimes the snob in me gets upset about this. Then the smart, rationalising TDEC reminds her inner snob that stainglass windows are the church’s comic books and that Shakespeare wrote his plays for a picnicking, chatting audience, that clapping between movements in classical music used to be the norm and that the only difference between Jane Austen and that Harlequin romance is the fact that Austen is good. And has a sense of humour.
Sunday, August 02, 2009
I think I am supposed to think that the passion at the core of the story is inescapable, that it is inevitable. Yes, I just finished Hemingway’s bullfighting extravaganza, The Sun Also Rises. The good news is that it is better than I expected. The understatement works, to some extent; though it gets a bit much. That said, I can’t sympathise with the bullfight-enthused Jake. Perhaps Brett, the lady at the center of it all, is meant as helpless, a victim to her inability to find what she is looking for (an unharmed, fully manly Jake?) but I cannot fathom such selfishness; such painful promiscuity; and worst of all, the way she hangs on to Jake every way she though she knows it can’t do anything but harm. And of course Jake is an idiot for submitting to it; love makes fools of us all, I know, but surely at some point you get over it, her, yourself.
Back to Dostoyevsy, then. *sigh*
Yesterday was the Spouse’s birthday, which I mostly missed thanks to work. Brilliant.