Tuesday, January 30, 2007

More ancient beer! And other stuff . . .

The problem with HBO's Rome, for me, is that it almost ruins Cicero for me. Don't get me wrong--David Bamber is a wonderful actor. However, his Mr. Collins made such a great impression upon me that whenever I see him as Cicero, I think of Mr. Collins in Pride & Prejudice. This is wrong--and, frankly, a bit horrific.

But he has done some wonderful work as Cicero also, to the point that he's made quite an impression on me as Cicero also. So whenever I think about Cicero, I think about David Bamber as Cicero. Then I think about Mr. Collins. It hurts. Poor Cicero!

Anyway, the Classics-L list provided some great links today. There's a nice article on ancient beer and the history of beer. I still think wine is better, but I'd be interested in trying this ancient brew.

There's also a nice link on stolen gladiator reliefs being found. It has a great picture too!

Monday, January 29, 2007

HBO's Rome S2 Ep 3

This episodes blew me away. And, as usual, SPOILERS.

In an attempt, perhaps, to make up for the excessive female nudity last season, though, it has now switched to excessive male nudity. However, it wasn't all without purpose. I think it did a particularly good job of illustrating the social role of sex and rape and the dynamics male/male relationships.

I'm not even sure where to begin with the spoilers, though!

We'll start with Pullo and Vorenus. Vorenus continues to be a major ass. He and Pullo argue because Vorenus makes an asshole decision about one of his men having raped the nephew of another man. Vorenus' decision is going to lead to gang war, and Pullo is actually trying to prevent the chaos. Vorenus' man is hurt, and Vorenus decides to establish his power by having the other man raped. In a later argument, Pullo reminds Vorenus he's his friend and that, among other things, he took care of Evander. Vorenus asks him about this, and Pullo realizes he slipped up and has to confess that he knew about Niobe and killed Evander. Vorenus accuses Pullo of having slept with Niobe, and they fight. In the end, they break a wall and fall into the other room. Eirene helps Pullo up, and they walk off. Vorenus is left on the floor sobbing.

Meanwhile, Antony is trying to get the province of Gaul when his term is up as consul, claiming, of course, that he likes the weather there better. He brings in Cicero to propose it to the senate. Cicero, however, knows this routine all too well. He claims the senate will think Antony plans to set himself up like Caesar, and Antony says he's only left with one choice. Cicero says that it always comes to this. Antony agrees, since he won't take bribery--and then asks to be sure. Cicero says no, of course. Antony dances around the threat, and Cicero finally says he won't capitulate unless the threat is actually made. Antony gives one of his usual detailed threats, and Cicero looks properly threatened. And at some point in all this, we see Antony pissing in a plant pot right next to Cicero with the later looking on in horror. A remarkable scene, to be sure.

Agrippa has also come to town bearing news about Octavian for Octavia and Atia. Agrippa first sees Octavia playing the lyre and looks smitten. Octavia (who has a new friend Jocasta) wishes he would write more often, and Atia denies having a son in front of Octavia and Agrippa. She also sends a message to Antony that Agrippa is in town. Antony, when he returns, says he already knew about it and doesn't care. In front of Antony, however, she is clearly worried about her son and makes Antony swear he won't hurt him.

And during all this, Servilia is not sitting on her ass doing nothing, of course. She has plans to poison Atia. She's hired a boy (the same one who's taking it from other men, I believe) to infiltrate Atia's house and have her poisoned. He comes to Servilia's house wanting more money, which he gets. Then he demands that if Servilia wants Atia dead, she will kiss him. Surprisingly, she submits (I was really expecting her to trick him and slap him or something, but I guess she's that desperate). He also tells her that it's taking so long because Octavia dines with her mother every day. It would be easier if she wanted Octavia dead too, but Servilia (possibly because she does have some feeling for Octavia?) won't have it.

We also see, at some point, a brief scene of Vorenus' children and Niobe's sister cooped up. Niobe's sister manages an escape but is scared off before she can help the children out.

Meanwhile, back in the senate, Antony comes in and Cicero, apparently, has decided he's ill. Another senator reads something Cicero has written--basically calling out all of Antony's faults in a brilliant and shocking manner and, finally, calling him a woman. Antony attacks and kills the other senator (the one who's reading, of course). Cicero, meanwhile, is running away to Brutus et al.

Three months later, Pullo returns with Eirene to Rome because the gods told him to seek out Vorenus. He finds the place a wreck and Vorenus' gang in need of people to help them fight off the other gang (they've been at war since the guy got raped by Vorenus' men). Vorenus, he discovers, has left the city with Antony. He's about to give up and go back when Niobe's sister finds him and tells him that the children are alive.

Brutus, whom we'd seen earlier drunk, boasting about killing Caesar, and about to get into an argument with the Bithynians they're trying to recruit (the Bithynian king, by the way, wants to see a Roman woman fucked by a baboon--don't ask), is now baptizing himself--ok, not really, but it sure as hell looked and sounded like a baptizing, with the exception of a prayer to Janus. He wants to be reborn and, presumably, wash away the guilt of killing Caesar.

We then see that Octavia has finally gone off to dinner with her friend Jocasta, and Atia is finally eating alone. The boy Servilia hired has been flirting and pretending to be in love with the kitchen girl, so he has plenty of reason to be in the kitchen (where we saw him earlier). So he slips the poison in, and the last thing we see is the girl carrying the poisoned stew to Atia.

I hope I didn't miss anything important. It is a bit out of order, but the last scene is correct. Wonderful episode, and I can't wait until next week!

Friday, January 26, 2007

Links galore!

I've been meaning to post a few things, and now that it's Friday finally, I figure I should post them!

Firstly, the Cambridge Greek Play this year is Medea. Obviously, I think this is one of the most exciting things ever.

Secondly, I finally got a listen of Loreena McKennitt's new CD, An Ancient Muse, and I think it is absolutely gorgeous. Not that any of you read this for music recs, but if you feel like listening to the music recs of a Classics grad student, there you go.

Lastly, I realized the other day (you may notice in the comments of the previous Rome post) that there is new actor information for HBO's Rome on IMDB. It is potentially spoiler-ish, so I won't say anything in particular here and shall leave it up to your discretion.

Monday, January 22, 2007

HBO's Rome S2 Ep 2

SPOILERS, as usual.

Another riveting episode of Rome! But since I have other things to do, I shall keep this entry in note form.

Also, I'm not entirely sure about this radical change Vorenus has gone through. Yes, he got screwed over after he tried his best to be extremely pius, but the change seems a bit extreme. I don't know. Maybe it works, but it's shocking anyway.

-Vorenus has been sitting around in mourning and not taking care of himself. He tells Pullo: "I have caused the death of my wife; I have caused the death of my children; I have caused the death of Caesar."
-Atia's jealous of Cleopatra
-Antony stalling on getting Octavian's money to him
-Cleo concerned about her son being accepted in Rome; Antony calls her a whore
-Erastes Fulmen's death has consequences--violence on Aventine. This has consequences for the businessmen, and Antony is asked to do something about it. He says, "Money, money, money! I'm surrounded by money grubbers!"
-Pullo brings Antony to help Vorenus; Antony asks Vorenus why he hasn't "opened [his] stomach"; Antony says he's Vorenus' master and blames him for the "war" on the Aventine; Antony offers "redemption"
-Servilia attends Atia's party; Atia offers friendship and forgiveness (haha) that Servilia says she can't honourable refuse (but looks quite displeased)
-Octavian noticed Atia's man outside and suspects his mother is plotting the murder of Servilia; he confronts her and says it'd "throw the Republic into choas"; Atia replies "I don't care"; Octavian goes to tell Antony, and Atia calls it off
-Cleo arrives with her son (4 yrs old); noticeable rivalry btwn her and Atia
-Timon's brother arrives
-Cleo leaves, and Atia whispers something in her hear about being a trollop
-turns out Timon's brother left Jerusalem because he'd been speaking out too loudly against the Romans; Timon warns him to keep it down
-Vorenus, under Antony's orders, calls together the collegiate captains, claiming the place of Erastes Fulmen; Antony will pay them off to stop the excessive violence and act in Antony's defence if need be; he says anyone who will not do business with him is his enemy; some of them start to draw their swords, but one reminds them they're meeting with Concordia; Vorenus picks up the statue of Concordia and smashes it, claiming "I am a son of Hades; I fuck Concord in her arse." The captains fall in line.
-Octavian asks about the money again and says he has a lawyer to help expedite the red tape; Antony gets angry and says he won't get the money then storms off; Atia tells Octavian to apologize, because Antony is the only protection they have
-Octavian decides to enter public life and announces that he will honour Caesar's request to give the plebs money; sells off his property to do so; Atia and Antony find out when the announcement is made publicly and are angry; he explains to them that if Antony goes on board, his name can provide protection when Antony steps down as consul
-Antony and Octavian get in to a huge tussle; Atia's clearly angry at Octavian but pulls Antony off of him; Octavia comes in at the end and yells at Antony for beating up on Octavian
-Servilia and Cicero thrilled about the quarrel between Antony and Octavian until Servilia asks for the senate to send for Brutus. Cicero says not yet.
-Octavian leaving to stay with Agrippa.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

What would you do if asked to let in a Trojan Horse?

Well, see what these people did!

It's an hilarious video. Do watch.

Something else I've been meaning to post about is the computer game Age of Mythology. I received this for Christmas and only had time to open it to run through the tutorial, but I noticed the little people in it answer you in Greek sometimes (just to indicate that they're following your commands). I was rather impressed with that, though I suspect the game doesn't really have any educational value. It looks like a fun game though.

(PC) (Mac)

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

What have the Romans done for us?

A couple links from the Classics-L list today. Firstly, a lovely article by Mary Beard from the Guardian, Tacitus was no elitist. The comments are interesting too--though it turns into a grammar quibble at one point. As I recall, there have been actual studies showing that Latin helps on the SAT and other standardized tests more than any other language, though--not that other languages aren't helpful.

And on MSNBC, there's No Place Like Rome, discussing the Aeneid and HBO's Rome (spoiler free, except for one quotation that really won't ruin anything for you). It's interesting, but I find this part offensive:

"As you read about their tear-stained confrontation, it's hard not to smile—this might be the first modern love story. Dido gets mad because Aeneas has commitment issues. Aeneas, with one foot out the door, sounds like the original heel. Love? Marriage? No way. Look, babe, I've got an empire to found."

First modern love story? That summary alone sounds brain-suckingly familiar. Why do people always ignore the Greeks? Did they suddenly just go *poof* and not exist?*

This was pretty funny too: "If you were to watch the series and read the Aeneid at the same time, you'd get whiplash going back and forth between ever-cynical "Rome" and the Aeneid's unironic endorsement of duty, honor, country."

I know there are people who would argue with that last bit.

*Not that I think the Greeks were the first either, but for a culture people are supposedly familiar with, they certainly do get shafted a lot.

Monday, January 15, 2007

HBO's Rome S2 Ep 1

SPOILERS as usual.

But before I get to that, a fun link on terrible student excuses.

A tip to those who wish to take over 20 credits with overlapping classes--clear things with your professor before signing up, and make sure you actually do all the work. Otherwise, you're the reason the rest of us have to fight with our schools to be allowed to do this! Yes, I had to sign a waiver saying that if I failed any of my classes, it would be my own fault. I thought that was already a given.

On to Rome! I can agree to some extent with this reviewer on the look of Rome (not enough colour), but I'm not convinced the episode was that poorly done. There are actually good scenes with the common people--a couple mob shots at the funeral (thankfully not unending, though) and actual discussion of the funeral itself amongst the common people at the end. If they weren't portrayed as a loud mob before that, it was so Antony could point out that the streets were silent and without boisterous cheering for a tyrant's death.

I'm also loving the continuing Atia and Servilia rivalry and Calpurnia finally getting to confront Servilia.

Some choice quotations:

Octavian convincing his mother to stay in Rome with him to get Caesar's will ratified: "If the will stands, and it might, you are mother to the richest man in Rome. If it the will is broken, Servilia has that honour."

Antony is clearly peeved, and Octavian is really coming in to his own.

Antony trying to convince the senators to go along with Octavian's plan, thus explains Caesar's status: "It will be as if he was struck by lightening."

Antony explaining what he'll do if they agree: "I will retire quietly to the provinces, where I will plow my fields and fuck my slaves--just like old Cincinnatus."

Brutus on not killing Antony after he's just stepped out to let them talk: "He is a guest in my house." Servilia: "He is not in the house; he's on the street."

Also wonderfully done was the continued juxtaposition of the funerals of Niobe and Caesar. But I must say, I prefered the funerals done in BBC's Ancient Rome.

Eirene also agrees to marry Pullo. Vorenus curses his children but then spends the rest of the episode regretting it. Pullo helps him when he discovers Erastes Fulmen took them. They clean the place out, killing his men before Vorenus confronts Erastes. Erastes says he took them as payment (raped, murdered, and thrown into the river), so Vorenus chops his head off and walks away with it.

Most of the important points can be found in the earlier linked review, though. I do really love how they show and talk out with witty lines the political situation. It is a lot of talk though, and I can see how that could be disappointing to some. But it'a balanced by lots of bloodshed and Antony sex--as per usual.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

NASA and Rome

Borrowing a bit from RogueClassicism today on NASA names. As usual, the names are chock full o' Classical content. A curious point, though, that they should think NASA HQ was full of Stargate SG-1 fans because of the suggested "Artemis." Firstly, even if I could remember a Goa'uld named Artemis (which I can't, but then I haven't really seen the later seasons), I don't think my first thought would be SG-1. I also recently watched the Superman movie and didn't think about that either. I think in this case it's just a case of liking the ol' gods. If you wanted an SG-1 or Superman tribute, I'm sure there would be far more obvious names!

In other news, a spoiler alerted review of HBO's Rome season 2. Doesn't seem very favourable, but methinks I'd have to see it for myself anyway. Plus I'm not sure some of the complaints would bother me as much as it did this author anyway.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Various and Shiny

In the midst of my packing and jetlag and whatnot, I forgot that the news about Ithaca was being announced this week--and with success. There should be an update on the official site, but that doesn't seem to be working for me at the moment. There's a nice post on Rogueclassicism though.

Also, tonight there is a BBC2 reading of I, Claudius with Sir Derek Jacobi playing right at this very moment! I'm going to have to catch it on rerun because I forgot about that until my friend reminded me just now too. Jetlag's a bitch. And I don't usually get jetlag!

Lastly, I just discovered an older post on HBO's Rome board on an unofficial translation into Latin in the works. Sounds like fun!

One of the things they had briefly contemplated with BBC's Ancient Rome (not to be confused with HBO's Rome) was doing it in Latin, but that'd turn people off in a heartbeat. I wonder if they would've considered subtitles in Latin instead.

Speaking of BBC--does anyone know if they're picking up season 2 of HBO's Rome and when that's airing?

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

I don't make this stuff up!

Well, I'll be back over the pond again soon. But I thought I'd share a little amusement with you, dear readers.

I was doing a perfectly innocent search on Medea (in fact, that was my only key word) at my undergrad university's library page when I came across a book titled Dark Angels: Lesbian Vampire Stories (it has since been republished as listed below in the Amazon link). This was quite shocking to me, as I could see no connection. It might have made more sense had I been doing a Sappho search at the time, but Medea? Well, it turns out one of the stories was titled "Medea," because one of the characters was named after her. I only got to read through the introduction to the collection (which was not without its research, to be fair, but it's clearly not scholarship either) and the story titled "Medea." It's not exactly riveting writing--the characters actually stop to talk about and push their neo-pagan mother goddess agenda at one point--but it may be worth picking up at your local (or university?!) library if only for the sheer oddness of it.

If you do pick it up, though, be warned that it is a book about lesbian vampires and not, shall we say, a collection of scary stories you'd read to your children or anything. There is definitely no pretence of subtlety.

In other joyful news, I'm sure many of you are aware that HBO's Rome starts again with S2 this Sunday the 14th of January. Right now, they appear to be rerunning S1 episodes. Personally, I'm quite excited!

Friday, January 05, 2007

In the Beginning

Well, since I couldn't be at the APA meeting (and to think I'm missing exciting papers on Sappho and Plato and "queer icons" and the Classical Tradition and even Alexander Hamilton and HBO's Rome!), I finally made it up to the Sackler Gallery in D.C. to see In the Beginning: Bibles Before the Year 1000. It's only open through the 7th, but if you're in the D.C. area, I do advise you get yourself over there to see it (if you haven't already)! I'd plan at least three hours, though, at the museum just to get through the line and through the exhibit. It's quite a large exhibit. There are various different examples of biblical fragments, including some nice dual language Bibles. The blurbs are also pretty good for telling you what you're looking at and giving a bit of context.

The main problems with the exhibit were lighting (understandable, though) and placement within the cases (the placement within the room is done well, though, especially considering the number of people in at a time). I've noticed a lot of displays in England tend to have the ancient fragments/books parallel to the glass and close enough that you can get a good look, even with smaller writing (often achieved by a slanted display, rather than a normal box). This exhibit sticks to boxed cases, with the books/fragments at an angle, so there was quite a distance between you and the text. With my bad eyesight, I found it difficult (or impossible) to read the texts with smaller writing.

Picky detail, to be sure. It's definitely an exhibit well worth the trip, and there's plenty you can see and read even with bad eyesight. Certainly, the exhibit surpassed my expectations!

Monday, January 01, 2007

Happy New Year!

Apologies for the extended absence, but things were busier than anticipated over here. A lot to catch up on, and a lot of work to be done!

But I did get a chance to go up to the National Gallery of Art to see such fun things as a costume design for the opera Sapho (I think it was the Massenet, but don't quote me on that) and Cactus Man. Personally, I think Cactus Man should get his own comic.

Anyway, to bring in the new year, I give you (from Classics-L) an article on the reported properties of wine in ancient Greece. Something to think about with the festivities (well, assuming anyone's continuing them!).