Monday, September 30, 18:03 CDT

...or was I miserable because I listened to pop music?

Yeah, I know - the As You Like It : High Fidelity thing doesn't hang together. The connection I was going to make, between why I dig romantic comedies and all those thousands of songs Cusack's character was talking about, well, it never really shows up. Not because it's a bad idea, but because it's a rant I needed to spend more than an hour banging out. Especially after I got sidetracked thinking about Shrew and 10 Things.

Somehow, I really don't feel like revisiting it. There are more important things to think about, to write about, to act upon. Whatever. So there it sits, an artefact fashioned of an hour's muddy thought and left half-formed to dry in the late September sun. You can already see the cracks forming. Ere long, it'll be no more than a pile of dust.

Mon Sep 30 10:58:27 CDT 2001

As You Like It

As You Like It is probably my favorite of the things we've read for class so far. Outside of Hamlet, I think it's my favorite of the Shakespeare I've read, period. And if I were hard pressed I might admit that's only because Hamlet's way more fun to sit around misquoting after too much beer.

AYLI doesn't remind me much of Taming of the Shrew, really, but it does remind me of Ten Things I Hate About You, which is my second-favorite High School Movie (the first being Ferris Bueller's Day Off), probably the best thing The Taming of the Shrew has ever inspired, and a great romantic comedy.

I'm a sucker for the romantic comedy. I make no apologies, and we'll just skip over the part where I make some desperate token attempt to defend my masculinity. It's standard boilerplate for statements like these and I'm sick of it and the whole fucked up set of gender identity issues it implies.

'course, it's still fair to ask *why* I like them, the good ones anyway, so much. They can hardly fail to remind me that my own life is practically monastic and seems likely to remain that way; which is not necessarily the kind of thing you want to be beat over the head with, is it?

What came first, the music or the misery? People worry about kids playing with guns, or watching violent videos, that some sort of culture of violence will take them over. Nobody worries about kids listening to thousands, literally thousands of songs about heartbreak, rejection, pain, misery and loss. Did I listen to pop music because I was miserable? Or was I miserable because I listened to pop music?

— Rob Gordon, High Fidelity

There's a thematic connection here, honest.

High Fidelity isn't just a great flick because it caters to my tastes in music ("I'm going to sell four copies of The Three EPs by the Beta Band."), or because it did huge things to shape them (see earlier parenthetical quotation), or because it's about obsessive, geeky individuals whose lives are composed of equal parts intense fascination and desperate longing. It's a great flick because it spends almost as much time messing with the conventions of romance and romantic comedy as it does making fun of record store geeks.

Actually, that's not quite right. It does all of these things, but there's a further and more important element. It does them with understanding. It knows that record store geeks and their obsessions are ridiculous, and so are human relationships, but it also knows the humanity of these people and the way (messed up or not) that they interact with one another. It's not vicious, it's just honest. It's like Galaxy Quest in this respect (just to confuse things further and bring in a third film): Yeah, people who obsess over ancient SF TV series with cheesy dialog, cheesy plots, and even cheesier special effects work are funny. Ridiculous, really. But they're still human and still worth understanding.

I'm not about to suggest that As You Like It is that entirely sympathetic to its characters, or that it's realistic in any sense, but the High Fidelity thing is definitely going on here. It spends most of its time messing with the conventions of romantic storytelling in one way or another. It could practically be the archetype for all modern romantic comedy, but it's not lazy about it.

Orlando runs around inscribing terrible, overwrought love poetry on trees. This has got to be the 16th century equivalent of making someone a mix tape full of sappy, obvious love songs. Rosalind spends most of the play in drag, deliberately messing with Orlando's mind. Maybe she's trying to find out if what he loves is her or the idea of being in love with her. Maybe she and Celia are a little closer than cousins and she's trying to figure out how to resolve that. Maybe she just likes being a man and playing with Orlando's head. I think she's probably trying to figure out how much she wants to grow up get married, which is something she can hardly avoid, and how to go about doing it on her own terms. Which she actually succeeds in doing.

Furthermore, and I think this is key, if you were going to cast Jack Black in AYLI, there'd be no other choice but Touchstone.

friday, september 27, 0:26 cdt

the tango should not be that hard.

well
maybe it should be
but five or six simple steps?

back
over
forward
at an angle
stop

something like that
it's not that complicated
although falling off your feet
does not help

still
while i cannot say 'i danced'
i tried

(yoda can bite me)

think i'll try again.

to treat of things musical

listening to this midi file
of the cranberries' "zombie"
reminds me what a good song it actually is

grant lee buffalo toured with the cranberries once,
i think

jubilee is a great album
or at the least a very good one
i ought to be careful throwing words like great
at everything i like

or should i?
what if life's just too short for moderate enthusiasms?

thursday, september 26

i just spent twenty minutes
tweaking my display script to insert line breaks
so i can write this way without typing <br />
every single line

actually, it was a lot more than twenty minutes
since i decided to go back and eliminate the need
for paragraph tags
while i was at it

September 25

Lord up above won't ya throw me down the keys...

You know what I'm listening to right now?

It *was* Jubilee, by Grant Lee Buffalo. I was going to write about that.

Right now, it's someone's three or four year old MIDI rendition of what used to be my Favorite Song in the Whole World. I refer, of course, to Everclear's "Santa Monica". And where did I find this litle 42 kilobyte gem? Why, on the same ancient zip disk which contained a pristine copy of the tricked out mIRC v5.41 I must have been running back in 1998.

What else is on here? There's a copy of the first Commander Keen shareware sitting here. Most of the BASIC code I ever wrote. An ASCII art FAQ. Chemistry homework. The horribly inneficient whiteboard script I spent hours building. The first Wing Commander, with a saved game that must have been about two-thirds of the way through to that final insanely difficult mission. The first illicit .mp3 I ever downloaded. A directory full of scanned pinup art. I had forgotten most of this had ever existed.

It might be the nearest thing that exists to a record of all my wasted teenhood.

Monday, September 23, 21:57 CDT

Have I mentioned the IRC server? From now on, if I'm online for long and not feeling asocial, I'll be idling there.

I'm not online much more than I have to be lately. Still, friends, family, old events crew, and anyone else who even vaguely feels like it, (with the single ironclad exception of warez-kiddie WSC alumni) you're more than welcome to stop by our humble some-time abode. Bring a friend or three. I got no expectations of vast community blossoming, but why not give it a shot? Just /notify Brennen.

And hey, you could always make Brent happy and give his MUD some actual playtesting like I keep promising to do.

Went to this lecture earlier tonight.

(Eric - sorry I couldn't talk. Seems late to call back now.)

Sunday, September 22, 20:06 CDT

Wil Wheaton listens to Ozma. Dude, I am forevermore sorry for any Wesley Crusher comments I might ever have made in some moment of Trek-oriented weakness. You rule.

I wish the damn phone would ring again.

more: taming

tuesday, september 17

i don't mind being cryptic
all that much
i mind being trivial

i think cryptic
is how a lot of people hide trivial
as much from themselves as everyone else

that's true,
but it's not the whole story
(nothing ever is)
cryptic works so well
because people bring their own meanings to things.

Tue Sep 17 16:27:14 EDT 2002

Some vim help, not too deep but still useful.

Vim is a text editor. I have mentioned it before. I like it a great deal, as software goes. I like PuTTY too, because it lets me sit here in this lab and pretend I can ignore Windows XP forever. Maybe I can.

NTK still fascinates. I still don't catch most of the references.

And that's all the trivial geekery you'll have from me today. If I'm a messianic figure, I have responsibilities to uphold. Cryptic utterances and intense personal leadership, doncha know.

Monday, September 16, 10:28 CDT

Another Shakespeare Journal

Interior of a large van; Jack, in passenger's seat, reading Titus Andronicus; Kenshi, driving; Flynn, leaning forward between passenger and drivers seats, listening to the radio.

Flynn: This is just bad doctrine.

Jack (still reading TA): Flynn, you're an atheist.

Flynn (ignoring him): "I never sinned", look, I don't care how catchy it is, it's just not right. The whole point is everybody sins. This is like some kind of goofy-ass works-righteousness meets influence peddling plan of salvation for morons.

Kenshi: Oh, come on. Must be millions of people whose basic concept of Christianity isn't any more complicated than that.

Flynn: Doesn't make 'em right. Name me one body of serious doctrine in a Christian church that argues people are even capable of avoiding sin.

Kenshi: I'm changing the station.

Jack (singing softly): Gonna set me up with the spirit in the sky...

Flynn (glaring at Jack): I can't believe you're still reading that.

Jack: I finished Atlas Shrugged, and we're five-hundred miles from the nearest bookstore. I already read the owner's manual. You got any better ideas?

Kenshi: 358.

Flynn and Jack (together): What?

Kenshi: It's more like 358 to the nearest bookstore.

The Proclaimers' "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)" is suddenly audible on the radio. All stare briefly at the tuner, and conversation resumes.

Flynn: Right. So stare at the road or something. I mean, it's got to be the worst play the man ever wrote. In fact, it might be the worst play I've ever read.

Kenshi: You weren't in highschool one-acts, were you?

Flynn: I didn't say it was the worst play I'd ever seen. It comes close, but that thing with everyone in OR scrubs and the weird crucifixion scene was worse. Barely.

Kenshi: There's a difference though. At least Titus is entertainingly bad. All those pretentious pseudo-arty one-acts were just boring. I mean, look at...

Flynn: At what? The rape scene? That's entertaining? That is some sick shit, is what that is.

Jack (staring out window): Technically, there isn't a rape scene. There're sort of pre-and-post-rape scenes.

Flynn: Awright, true. It's still some sick shit.

Kenshi: You have a point there. Something about that whole thing just felt totally... Off.

Flynn: What, something besides the only halfway innocent major character, who happens to be one of like two significant chicks in the whole thing, being gleefully gang-raped and brutally maimed for the sheer fun of it, then offed by her own nutjob of an uptight father to salve his wounded look-at-me-I'm-the-pride-of-fucking-Rome sense of honor?

Kenshi: Ok, yeah, that's bad enough. But that's not what I mean. That shit happens. You can write a play about it and say something honest, even if it is disturbing. Right?

Flynn: Maybe. Hell, I don't know. Yeah, I'll give ya it could be done.

Kenshi: So it's not that. It's how everyone else responds to it. That's what was off. It's like you've got this act of unspeakable brutality, and all anyone can do is make nice long speeches while Lavidia stands there bleeding.

Jack: Lavinia.

Kenshi: Right. Lavinia.

Flynn: And the bastards stand around talking about how it makes them feel. Oh, woe is me, my sorrows multiply greatly. I never really thought about it before, but now I'm even more convinced Titus sucks.

Kenshi: Yeah... If it wasn't for that, I'd think of it as Shakespeare's Plan 9 from Outer Space or something and just take it at face value. MST3K the hell out of it.

Flynn: Wasn't Plan 9 Ed Wood's masterpiece? If anything is Shakespeare's Plan 9 from Outer Space, it's Hamlet.

Kenshi: Ignoring the assertion that Hamlet's his best work, I'll buy that. But anyway. Titus. That's what's wrong with Titus. There are some things you can only respond to with...

Jack (still looking out window): Silence.

Several minutes pass. Oncoming headlights flash past, briefly illuminating the faces in the van. Jack has clearly given up on reading, although it's impossible to tell if this is due to the diminished light or a growing lack of interest in the much-abused paperback, which he now tosses onto the dash.

Jack (singing, badly, with accent): I would walk five hundred miles...

friday, september 13

thing is, i don't like titus andronicus.
it's a bad play.
it might be entertainingly bad
it might have some good moments
it might prefigure the bard's later genius
it's still a bad play.

i want to see lavinia reimagined
as an anime-chick heroine with bionic hands
and a creepy sounding electronic voicebox
to wreak bloodsoaked vengeance
on shakespeare's vicious anachronistic rome
the lot of them deserve it.

finished rexroth's an autobiographical novel
amazing book

wouldn't even guess how much is true
don't think i'd even want to know.
he drops names like nobody's business
but almost without exception,
they're names i've never heard anyway

and what the heck do i know
about revolution or bohemia or bolsheviks
trotsky, lenin, wobblies, jazz, or cubist poetry?
or WWII era pacifism?
(my grandparents worked in airplane factories
joined up but never quite made it over
or went to school and took abuse for being german)
not a thing, really
this is all completely outside the scope of my world 'til now

a lot of it's incidental anyway
i don't think i give a damn about cubist poetry
i am not a radical anything
and there is no revolution

but there's something going on here
(just because rexroth's twenty years dead, forgotten
and everything he believed is invisible
beneath the surface of american culture
i can't believe it's not still going on)
i'd do well to be awake to.

phish is playing shows again,
i'm seeing these guys next week
and i should go find out if i still have plans for tonight
:wq

tuesday, september 10, 16:45 cdt

my shakespeare teacher pointed out
that the elizabethan theatre could depict
all kinds of sexuality
and they were big fans of violent spectacle
(just read titus andronicus some time
or better, maybe watch it)

but what really struck me that day
was the thought that tragedy
contains the idea that he who falls
falls at his own hand

Tuesday, September 10, 16:35 CDT

Brent; I know you'll be reading this sooner or later, and I don't trust your e-mail. Check your journal script. It keeps spitting out Warning: Supplied argument is not a valid File-Handle resource errors.

And stop tempting me to write at length about Non-Player Characters. What do I know about Non-Player Characters?

I have a deep seated suspicion that I might be one, but that's another issue entirely.

Monday, September 9, 13:40 CDT

I was going to hammer on this for a while, but I think the energy will be better spent elsewhere... I'll put real time into the next one.

Shakespeare Journal, #2

Further, more coherent thoughts on The Tragedy of King Richard the Third:

Earlier, I asserted that Shakespeare was trying to make sense of historical events; Trying to put them in some kind of... Maybe moral order is what I'm grasping at.

Fair enough, but kind of obvious. Whether or not the idea of an objective history was even current in Elizabethan England, I can't imagine it cropping up much on the stage. If nothing else, it would have bored hell out of the audience. Besides, isn't drama supposed to put things in a moral order?

If I'm going to talk about the ways Shakespeare interpreted the moral order of history, I should look at something specific. How about power? Richard III has plenty to say about political power: How it's gained, how it's used or abused, and its ultimate consequences.

The universe Wm. Shakespeare believed in was a fundamentally pretty ordered one, or at least it was supposed to be. Not ordered in the sense a modern individual shaped by a century or two of scientific inquiry and technological advance might perceive, but still structured a certain way. In fact, probably a great deal more structured than most of us would accept. God was in charge, the rightful authority figures were there because He wanted them to be, things happened for a reason, and the broad structures of history were far, far more than random. Everything had consequence and ramification and import on a deeper level than its surface might suggest. Plenty of people still believe these things, or some of them, but not in the way that Shakespeare and his audience would have.

I'm not suggesting Shakespeare always wrote from this point of view, whatever you'd call it. I think his work probably questions a lot of it at different times, and explores all sorts of tensions in such a viewpoint. I do think it's an important backdrop for what Richard III has to say about the exercise of power.

Shakespeare doesn't believe that striving for power, holding it, or exercising it are inherently evil. (At least, he'd do well not to make such suggestions in public.) He might believe that doing any of these things purely for the power itself is wrong and leads inevitably to tragedy, but he doesn't have problems with the right people exercising God-given authority. Here, I think what determines the right people is as much a question of their motives and the way they gain authority as it is of hereditary rights and the legitimacy of claims. (Of course, the two sort of overlap rather conveniently...)

The truth is, I never see Richard's motives as entirely comprehensible. You could make the argument that he's seeking power for its own sake, and schemes to usurp the throne simply because it's the ultimate expression of power available in his world. I don't think it really holds water. I don't think power, in and of itself, is what he's after. I think Richard's a power-monger because it lets him be a more effective evil bastard.

If his prime motivation is a simple desire to wreak havoc on more or less everyone in his life, sheer bloody-minded determination to be an effective bad guy, then his actions make perfect sense. It's still not an especially understandable position, but it fits the facts pretty well. Maybe I'm missing the obvious point that his physical deformity and the uses others have put him to have done a lot to warp Richard's mind.

...

But I, that am not shaped for sportive tricks
Nor made to court an amorous looking glass,
I, that am rudely stamped, and want love's majesty
etc.

Looking at the other three (or is it four?) plays in this cycle would probably tell me quite a bit more about that. And probably I should remember that to some extent, Richard's playing the role of Nemesis here. Innocent people are getting hurt (the two princes, for example), but by and large, these characters can't have a clean conscience about the past couple of decades.

At any rate, my point was that Richard's motives make all the difference. His motives seem to be I am an evil bastard, if not quite in the literal sense. Nevermind. I'm going to go kill my wife or something. You could say he's purely self-serving, except I'm not sure how much of anything he does is even in his own long-term best interest. His eventual rival, Richmond, who doesn't even make much of an appearance when you think about it, has the country's best interests at heart, loves God, and acts in concert with others. A champion of democracy he ain't, but the contrast is obvious.

Sunday, September 8, 13:17 CDT

if i'm going to keep doing this
the whole web writing thing i mean
it's going to have to be something different

here, have something different
i'm really, really not proud of this
it's going here because i'm tired of being this lame
just because i can get away with it
and if people who respect my writing see it
i will be forced to change
or quit

Journal for a Shakespeare class, #1

What's Shakespeare trying to do here?

My first thought is that I really just don't know, but I don't think I can extend that for two pages...

Propaganda seems like far too simple an answer, but it's the first thing that comes to mind. It would be hard to argue that Richard III isn't propaganda in some sense of the word. Unless I'm off on my timeline, this is a play that was performed more or less directly under the nose of Queen Elizabeth - and more importantly, entirely under her good graces. For the Queen, the Wars of the Roses were more than just a dramatic piece of history. They were inextricably tied up with the entire basis of her power. And her family history, which all things considered I'm assuming was kind of a touchy subject.

So it'd be easy enough to say that the point of Shakespeare's Richard III was to please - or at least avoid angering - a powerful monarch and an assortment of those in power. It's probably true, but it's not the whole truth.

No art exists in a vacuum. Shakespeare's theatre was about as far from the isolated creation of a single mind as it's possible to get and still claim any one person as author. Richard III was never intended to be read; it was intended to be acted, in a public space, by a multitude of players, for audiences who probably included almost the entire social spectrum of the times. The politics and the religion of the day were inseperable and pervasive. The history, not surprisingly paid for by the winners, was bound to both. And in a less-than-literate age, if the content of books depended on the whims and needs of those in power, then a widely accessible and public form must have been incredibly constrained by the standards we're used to.

In the 21st c., at least in the West, we can read and write very nearly anything we please, but we still can't discuss sex openly or use key four letter words on TV. Granted that most of the explicitly content-based restrictions on our public art are eroding, I still imagine the situation was similar in 16th and 17th c. England, if considerably more extreme. Perhaps it was closer to the mid-1900's in the USA, when real political consequences for certain kinds of writing were obvious, but literature was still clearly freer (is that a word?) than television, radio, and film.

(And having said all that, now I'm wondering: What if there weren't a lot of ways the stage was less constricted than something intended as lasting literature? An observant company might know quite well who was in a given audience. Any play might be altered at a moment's notice - even mid-performance. Actors must have had some freedom in the interpretation of their roles and the nuances they gave to the language. The language itself was beyond clever, capable of carrying so many meanings that the whole damn thing should have just collapsed. It wasn't, so far as I understand, ever intended as a lasting record to be read... Maybe the theatre was feared and hated in certain corners for legitimate reasons, if controlling thought was their overriding concern...)

The theatre occupied a precarious position in the grand scheme of things, despite which it continued to make a profit - which was the point of having a theatre in the first place, unless I'm mistaken. You entertained people, you made some money. As side benefits you got to mess around on stage in costume and give eloquent speeches and make bad puns and play with the minds of an audience. Maybe have published one of the world's greatest bodies of writing as kind of a byproduct, a nice financially lucrative afterthought, of the whole process.

So I think... Well, I think Shakespeare was out to entertain people. It's easy enough to see that, watching Richard performed. Forget that, and you're missing the point of anything that real audiences willingly put themselves through. I also think he knew upon which side his proverbial bread was buttered. I don't think that's the whole story, though. I think he was - given the constraints of what he knew, what he probably believed about his country's history, and what it was politic to say about that history - trying to make sense of things. Trying to put them in some kind of... Maybe moral order is what I'm grasping at. Which is an assertion I haven't done anything to support or even lead up to, but I think it makes sense considering the nature of Shakespeare's theatre, which I did ramble about for a while.

Saturday, September 7, 15:33 CDT

A year ago, what was different?

Everything?

Well, not quite. Happy birthday again, CAEB.

Friday, September 6, 10:32 CDT

It's a good idea. So why haven't I read more than a quarter of any version of the Bible?

(Or much of anyone else's Word of God either.)