Friday, March 30, 2007

HBO's Rome S2 Ep 10

Firstly, though, DRAKOS has a few words about Classics-related video games.

As for Rome, I am once again stunned by their brilliance. And I can say that I am truly satisfied with the series ending here. There is more they could do, but a lot of it would be rehashing old themes, and I don't think they could possibly end this so well at any other event.

Now on to the SPOILERS.

-I was particularly impressed by Antony's death and how pained he looked when he was told that Cleopatra had killed herself. He had his moments with Atia, but it's clear he never loved her so well as he loved Cleopatra. And well, love for Vorenus too. ;-)
-I was a bit suspicious that we weren't shown Cleo's death, but they still made her reappearance something of a double-take moment for me anyway. Vorenus looked suitably pissed. Her real death scene was quite beautifully done.
-Octavian really sucks at pretending to be "all charm" and niceness. I like that he was there when Cleo died so she could tell him about his soul.
-I'm GLAD for another good moment between Vorenus and Pullo (well, several of them!). Reuniting with their children was done really well also. In particular, I liked the last scene with Pullo and Caesarion. And I love that it did come back to Vorenus & Pullo, even though this was the big Antony/Cleopatra death scene and Octavian's triumph.
-And I need to make this quick, so my last comment is about Atia. I've been on Team Servilia the entire way (even wore my Team Servilia shirt yesterday), but I'm proud of Atia. She told Livia, "I know who you are. I can see. You're swearing now someday you'll destroy me. Remember, far better women than you have sworn to do the same. Go look at them now." Personally, I take this as tribute to Servilia, but maybe that's my bias! And I suppose if they continued the series, they could have Atia vs Livia, but 1) Atia's supposed to be dead a long time coming now, and 2) it just wouldn't be as good as Atia vs Servilia, and it would rehash too much of the same stuff.

Possible further thoughts later, but I'm off to NYC for research (of a sort) tomorrow!

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Life of an Alumna

So, dear readers, I am still working on acquiring the season finale of Rome. Probably tomorrow, and you may even get a double feature with 300 as well. We shall see.

In the meantime, I'd like to discuss Alumni Associations. I haven't even been out (of undergrad) for a full year. They call and ask me to update my info. Do I have a job? No, I'm a grad student. Ten minutes later in the conversation, she drops the bomb--well, how would you like to help out our university by a small donation of just, well, only, the small, tiny amount of . . . $300.

If I could have glared over the phone, I would have. Instead, I said very politely, "Well, as I just pointed out, I'm a grad student and have no job." "Well, if you can't afford that, perhaps a smaller donation of only just . . . $100." "Again, grad student, deep in debt." I had to tell her about my expensive grad school fees before I could beg out of the conversation.

There was also the amusing part where she was telling me about how the university would like their ranking to be higher on the academic level, like their athletic rankings are. I'm afraid I couldn't hold back a biting comment about the way they shuffled out students when it came to game days on campus. I can't tell you how many Greek classes were interrupted or cut short for parking issues on game days. My wrath is deep and bitter and pure. I am, dear readers, wonderly wroth.

But she was a poor, naive freshman who didn't yet know the evil ways of the university. And at the very least, I did get to educate one more person about what a "Classics major" means. Any conversation where that lesson is learned is a good one.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Samos Kouros cast

I saw this on the Samos Kouros cast on rogueclassicism the other day. Firstly, the picture does not do the cast justice. The thing is huge. A person standing directly in front of it and looking straight at it might encounter its fist. I can't get the video to play on my computer, but I hope it's the one they showed at the lecture. That was fun and gives a better idea of how huge this thing is.

Also, it's actually been on display in the museum for about a month before the lecture. I would have gone to watch them bring it in, but--as I recall--I was busy with a paper.

And if you're in the area but haven't been to the cast gallery in the Classics Faculty at Cambridge, it's definitely worth visiting. You don't usually get to see all these statues together in one place.

Anyway, my Rome review will probably be a bit later than it usually is, as I shall be on a plane homeward most of Monday. And lest you, dear readers, think I shall have gobs of free time, my vacation will be short and work-filled, alas.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

NYT TimesSelect

If you're affiliated with a University (and have a University e-mail), you can get NYT's TimesSelect for free here.

I wish I'd known about that earlier!

Anyway, I thought it would be useful to some of you. I was told .edu addresses, but my worked just fine too. I don't know about any other countries.

Monday, March 19, 2007

HBO's Rome S2 Ep 9 (and a link to Prof. Socrates)

Before we get to Rome, you should all read this on Prof. Socrates. It's hilarious.

I must say, this was one AMAZING penultimate episode. SPOILERS as usual.

I think this episode was very much about coming full circle, reunions and alliance shifting. A few years have apparently passed, and Antony is living it up with Cleopatra. They are keeping the grain shipments from Rome. Antony seems to be high, um, all the time. He's also gone Egyptian. I think I'm going to have to talk about this by character, rather than by events (a chronological summary is available on the offical site anyway).

Octavian is an amazingly asshole-ish and cunning character. His speech when he out-maneuvers Antony was very well done. While I can't like him as a person, Simon Woods does an amazing job with him. And Livia? I really didn't want to watch them have sex, because she looks 12. I really hope she's older than she looks.

Atia being sent to Egypt and then turned away by Antony! Poor girl, she really does love Antony. But the best part is that we're back to Servilia & Caesar when Atia tells her beloved son to get Antony. I think I almost fell out of my chair when I saw that. Brilliantly done.

Atia and Octavia had a bit of a cute role-reversal too, what with Octavia becoming bitter and Atia acting all girlish on her way to see Antony. Octavia also has a daughter, Antonia, with golden curls who looks more like Agrippa than Antony . . .

Vorenus!! This episode redeemed him in my eyes. Being away from his troubles in Rome, he seems to have found some semblance of honour again. When keeping Atia away, you could tell he felt for her and thought Antony had done wrong. He also told Antonty (at Antony's bidding) exactly what he thought of him--that Antony has a disease in his soul, and that he recognized the symptoms as his own. When he had the chance to go home, you could tell he couldn't both because he couldn't break his pledge to Antony and, I think, because he knew his presence would hurt his children.

Pullo is also now with Gaia, and while I'm unsatisfied with Gaia pretty much getting away with it, she did partially redeem herself. She saved Pullo's life from Memmio (who was locked up in a cage and half-starved, but he escaped), but she in turn was stabbed. On what looked to be her deathbed, she confessed to Pullo that she had killed Eirene out of love for him. Pullo, in his usual fashion, strangles her. While I really can't stand Gaia, this was probably the *only* way they could have made her seem just a little less vile. But it also keeps us from getting a fully satisfactory murder-by-Pullo. I mean, she's already dying anyway. But he does dump her in the water, rather than giving her a proper burial. And, to be fair, she does recognize that Eirene was the good woman, and she tells Pullo that when he tries to tell her (before she confesses) that she's a good woman. Also, I really hate to say this, but Pullo did kill Eirene's first love, so it was appropriately cold justice, even if I don't think he deserved it.

Also, when Pullo hears about Caesarion, you can tell he's thinking of him as his own son. Vorenus, in a nice turn of events, is actually the one who seems to look after Caesarion--playing ball with him and telling him (by C's demand) about "his father." You can tell from what he says that Vorenus has interpreted "his father" as being Pullo, not Caesar, which was a *really* cute touch. And, of course, meanwhile, Pullo is back in Rome taking care of Vorenus' children.

Posca and Jocasta are also in Egypt, and when they realize there's a ship heading back to Rome (when Antony sends Atia and Octavia away), they immediately scurry to pack their things and leave. Vorenus catches them but lets them go. Posca tells him he should leave to Rome also, but Vorenus is unable to break his vow to Antony. He looks very tortured. Posca, upon his arrival in Rome, seems also to have brought the last will and testament of Antony and Cleopatra with him, in which they declare themselves gods and give Rome to Caesarion--basically, exactly what Octavian needs to declare war on Antony.

In short, I find this episode amazingly brilliant, filled with delicious role-reversals and such. I'm eagerly anticipating the last episode, but I'm so sad it's all about to end! In all fairness, though, I do think this will make a brilliant ending. I'm not sure if they could accomplish another season so brilliantly. Although, knowing these writers, I'm sure they'd find a way.

Thursday, March 15, 2007


Unfortunately, I must admit that I woke up today and thought to myself, "Hmmm, Ides of March. I must wear an appropriate shirt." Not that I have a truly appropriate shirt, but I figured something with Latin would do. Thus, I am wearing my Latin Day 2004 t-shirt. Later, I discussed this with my friend (who deemed me a dork, or somesuch), and we agreed that IF ONLY my Team Servilia shirt (oh, by the way, I did win a Team Servilia shirt from Atia vs. Servilia) were here and not, say, back in the U.S., that would have been THE perfect shirt for today.

That aside, even that subjunctive choice was beat by far by a "kai su, teknon" (imagine that in Greek letters) shirt worn by someone who shall remain nameless unless he feels like naming himself (talk about being mentioned in blogs!).

Moving on to a few days ago when I told my friend, "This is ridiculous, but I just had a thought--Athenaze the Musical." Well, I got home tonight, and another friend mentioned ECCE! THE MUSICAL!.

I suddenly feel less ridiculous both for that thought and for my Ecce Romani fanfiction (which, as I've mentioned before, will never see the light of day). And see? Now all of those people who find my blog by googling "ecce romani fanfiction" will actually have a link to something!

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Marie Christine

As some of you know, theatre has long been a passion of mine. However, since I've started to work on the 1999 Broadway musical, Marie Christine by Michael John LaChiusa and directed by Graciela Daniele (it's an adaptation of Medea), I'm starting to realize why I chose the plays of dead people rather than the modern musical (which is a particular favourite of mine) to study as my life-long academic interest.

You see, when I study the plays of dead people, although parts of their manuscripts may be missing or corrupt, I know for a fact that everyone else has the same amount of information on the text as I do. Thus, I can interpret within reason, and Euripides is not going to do an interview later that tells me how Wrong Wrong Wrong I am. Now, perhaps, we may dig up something else later, but nobody can expect me to know that.

When I work on modern musicals by living composers, I know that although only the CD and music book have officially been released, millions of people have seen this show when it was running. I also know that LaChiusa or other production people or cast members can tell me that I'm Wrong Wrong Wrong if I make an assumption about text or visual aspects I don't have. I also know that there's a nice little video in a super secret room in New York that can contradict anything I might guess about those bits I do not have!

So naturally, I requested permission from the proper theatre company for a copy of the script (and naturally, that company is in the U.S. and wanted a check for $16--did I think to bring my American checkbook here? No. Of course not.) and am now begging for permission to get to see that super secret little video in New York (if I can schedule it in time!). That seems so innocently simple, but I cannot even begin to explain the circles I've been running trying to get the proper information and contacts. Because, you know, the one thing the libraries here don't have is access to super secret information about American musicals. I know, I know--what was I thinking writing about an American musical when I'm in England? I don't know. But I do know this is one of the most brilliant modern adaptations of Medea. There are so many delicious nods to the Greek mythology--it is not just a story about a mother killing her children because their father is a bastard. There are so many other parallels! This work is rich with Medea, and it has not been written about enough.

Anyway, yes, copyright--that is why studying dead people is so much easier. When we don't know something an educated guess/interpretation is sufficient. Nobody can expect any more from you! And these dead people don't have copyright!

Also, I can't recommend this musical enough. LaChiusa gets compared to Sondheim often and accused of "having no melody"--but it's just because his melodies are more complex than the average Andrew Lloyd Webber show, for instance. I have been listening to this CD every single day for two weeks, and I still find new and wonderful things in it (not all of which are useful to my paper, but that is ok). There is also quibbling about whether this is a "musical" or an "operetta," but let's be honest--can anyone actually define the difference? And since La Boheme was on Broadway, I think people are starting to realize the difference between the musical and the opera is fairly superficial. This is a great piece of theatre, and I only wish it could have stayed on Broadway longer.

Monday, March 12, 2007

HBO's Rome S2 Ep 8

I forgot to mention last week that I finally saw Pan's Labyrinth, and while there is no good reason why it should be called such (the original title makes a little more sense, in my opinion), it is quite a good--if extremely dark--movie.

This week, I saw the new Bond movie, Casino Royale, and I only mention it because Tobias Menzies (Brutus in HBO's Rome) is in it.

I am rather tired tonight, so methinks I'll make this review short. It will also be from the POV of a "fangirl" rather than a "Classicist"--but let's be honest, my reviews have been leaning that way anyway. SPOILERS, as usual.

-Antony and Atia--their love is twue--or is it? But, to be honest, it was a very "cool" way of getting Antony off to Egypt.
-Agrippa was quite adorable in this episode! So honorable and torn!
-Speaking of which, it was a nice touch to see Atia so concerned about her daughter in a non-destructive way. I really think that was the first time I've seen the woman act for something that wasn't all about her. But after what we've seen of her earlier this season, I think she really needed this.
-Gaia seriously needs to die. I can't remember the last time I hated a character so much.
-Octavian/Livia--WOW, those two are going to make a scary and disturbing couple. How far Octavian has come since his Max Pirkis days. And much as I hate Octavian-the-character for it, I think this episode was a good (and Rome-appropriate) way of demonstrating Octavian's marriage "reforms."
-Pullo, I really did not need to see you ripping people's tongues out with your teeth. Ew.
-This is dumb, but I really hope they resolve the feud between Vorenus and his daughter.

And this is really random, but I want to see a proper married couple on this show, because I want to hear them yelling "coniunx!" at each other. It sounds like such an angry word, y'know, one that you'd yell.

Anyway, I'm very much looking forward to seeing how they deal with Atia/Antony/Cleopatra and Octavian/Livia in the last two episodes. Hopefully, it will be movie-worthy, because that's about how much air-time they have left this season, and the rest of the plot is just about right for a movie!

Friday, March 09, 2007

For an amusing time . . .

. . . put Boris Johnson and "Professor Mary" together in a room, discussing Classics. I have little to add to "Professor Mary's" post, except to say that I'm sure her presence and thoughtful comments added to the general entertainment and enjoyability of the event as well. And, in case you're interested in Boris Johnson's book, The Dream of Rome (to which he referred and cited a few times last night!):

Anyway, I was reading this article on lice and human evolution, and I have to admit I laughed as I recalled the line from Rome about seeing "a Roman woman fucked by a baboon."

Also, for those interested in the new movie 300, here are Paul Cartledge's thoughts (article stolen shamelessly from rogueclassicism). The important distinction I want to make now about the movie is that it is under no illusion and has not tried to advertise that it is by any means a "true" story of the battle of Thermopylae. The adaptations that tick me off are the ones that claim they are the "true" or "historical" story of whatever and then are completely off to some ridiculous extent and, to boot, are also lacking in actual entertainment level (besides in their being absolutely ridiculous).

I may change my tune about this movie after I've seen it, though. I reserve that right if it's lacking in entertainment levels.

Lastly, Debra Hamel has made a hip new video about her book, Trying Neaira (and she posts a crisper, but not youtube, version here).

Monday, March 05, 2007

HBO's Rome S2 Ep 7 (and Showtime's The Tudors)

So I was asked to advertise the new Showtime show, The Tudors. They tell me they wanted me to advertise it because of my post on Alexander, but let's be honest--it seems to target the HBO's Rome audience (except for the part where it's about Henry VIII, not Romans). Thus, I'm pimping it before my weekly Rome review.

Anyway, The Tudors stars Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, who was apparently Cassander in Alexander (and just for some other weird facts, he's going to be Branwell Brontë in Brontë and was apparently Elvis in a 2005 TV movie--I don't pretend to understand).

Videos, images and such, can be found here.

And if you are so lucky as to be residing in the U.S. at the moment, you can catch a preview here with the password "Sneak Peak"--and after March 12, it will have the entire first episode.

Just so you ALL know, I have indeed sold out, because they're offering me a "prize pack" from Showtime, and I want to see what this "prize pack" is.

But also, I'm pretty curious about this show. It looks like it could be fun. They also certainly seem pretty keen on using sex to sell this one.

And now for Rome!!! What can I say?? This is possibly the most brilliant episode ALL SEASON, and it was DEFINITELY worth the wait!

SPOILERS, as uaual.

Where to even start? Well, we open with Servilia grieving and putting on the death mask of Brutus. I have to admit that as soon as I saw this, I said to myself, Servilia is going to off herself this episode. Keep reading to see if I was right!

We then see Posca marrying Jocasta!! I had read some spoilers a bit ago but had forgotten everything but the fact that Posca gets married. I think I laughed out loud when I saw this! Atia's arrangement, of course. Jocasta was miserable. I'd feel more sorry for the girl, but I never really liked her bad influence on Octavia anyway.

Antony and Atia have an adorable moment at the weddding (even though Antony is winking at other girls), where you can see that deep down the two do love each other in the best way possible for two such as themselves. We also, thankfully, finally have a shaved Antony. I guess the beard is only for when he's off fighting.

In the middle of the wedding we're interrupted by Servilia at the door kneeling with her slave pouring dust on her as she (Servilia) chants, "Atia of the Julii, I call for justice!" Atia decides to ignore her.

Memmio's man is seducing Vorena.

Lepidus tells Antony and Octavian of displeasure from high ranking senators. They decide to divide Rome up. Antony actually takes a sword to the map! (After Lepidus says, "one can't simply ch-chop it up like c-cabbage!"

Atia's still being driven crazy by Servilia.

Gaia (ok, lemme just rant now--I've always despised this character, and she only make my blood boil in this episode in ways that I can't even begin to describe) threatens Eireni. She goes to tell Pullo. Pullo needs to beat Gaia.

Gaia seduces Pullo, and they end up having sex instead. See why my blood's boiling???

Atia finally goes out to confront Servilia, who curses her. To seal this curse, she kills herself. So does her serving lady. Beautifully done, as all Servilia's curses are. Even better, though, it's successful.

Impressively, Atia looks actually like she's going to cry as Servilia curses her--like she actually believes. When Servilia kills herself, Atia, the poor woman, actually looks completely DISTRAUGHT that she loses her favourite foe! Antony, of course, says what we're all thinking: "Now that . . . is an exit."

Herod goes to bribe Antony, who decides not to tell the rest of the triumverate. Posca is given nothing of this bribe and runs off to tell Maecenas (for a reward, of course, and anonymity).

Timon and his bro are plotting to kill Herod.

Octavian confronts Antony about the bribe, and we discover that Antony can do math. Octavian: "I had hoped you might have learned some humility and discipline. I see now that you are still the same crude, arrogant lech that you always were." Antony: "That's right, just the same--AND STILL FUCKING YOUR MOTHER!"

Gaia is pretending to behave in front of Eireni--for some devious purpose, of course.

Vorena is sleeping with Memmio's man, when Memmio comes in. Memmio pretends to be horrified and then says he must tell Vorenus. Vorena begs him not to tell and says she'll do anything. He gets her to spy on her dad.

Atia suggests a marriage between their two houses (Antony and Octavian). Antony: "I don't care if all Italy burns, I'll not marry him." (Yes, Antony is so funny!) Octavian thinks this is a good idea, but he has a TWINKLE in his eye. If you know your history, you may know what this TWINKLE means. I started laughing, b/c I suspected the horrible trick he was about to play.

Octavian sends his mom away before discussing things with Antony. Atia looks very happy.

We also see Octavia and Agrippa are still together.

Vorena is snooping around Vorenus' papers. Vorenus comes in, and she lies and says her sister needs a new dress.

Octavian watches as Antony and Atia have a "moment" together (yes, you know what I mean). He walks away, and Antony says they need to talk. Atia says they should take a break from sex until their wedding night. Antony says they need to talk.

Next scene is a wedding. We see Atia. Then we see Octavia, and we see she is the one marrying Antony. I must say, this is the most brilliant way they could have gotten back on track with some of the history here. I died laughing. Then I felt horrible for . . . well, everyone involved. Atia and Agrippa looked so distraught! And poor Octavia looked like she was going to vomit!

Maecenas wouldn't leave Agrippa alone and kept talking to him about "poor Atia." hah!

Octavian explans to Atia that he needed the match to be a clear political statement, not one of lust. Haha, whatever. You had to see that coming after Antony rubbed it in to Octavian earlier about "fucking" his mother. Atia yells at Antony, who says he still loves her. She says he cares more about power than her. Antony still wants her. Atia response, "Oh I see, first you betray me--and now you propose to betray my daughter!" Love her.

At the marriage procession, we see fauns. Yes, fauns! Also, Timon and his bro are going to kill Herod, but Timon, after killing so many others, backs down. He and his bro fight, and Timon kills his bro instead. I miss when Timon was horseshit man, personally.

Awkward moment when Octavia and Antony are in bed. Octavia says "do as you like," and they consumate the marriage. I feel so horrified for Octavia! She sure gets thrown around there . . . (especially if we remember last season)

Servilia's voice is heard as Atia realizes that Servilia succeeded in cursing her by Octavian's decision to have Octavia marry Antony instead. Poor Atia! (Well, poor Servilia too. I'm actually a Servilia girl, myself, but this is the first time I've felt bad for Atia in ages).

Gaia goes to get herbs for an abortion. She's clearly planning on getting Eireni to miscarry. Shock! Horror! And the episode ends.

Overall?? I love how everything is connected in this show. I love how beautifully Servilia died (even if I saw it coming, but still beautifully done), true to her nature, and I love how this curse instigated the "correction" of the Octavia/Antony marriage. I've been wondering how/if they were going to do that for ages! I'm SO glad they did, because even though Antony/Atia is exciting to watch, it bugged me that Antony was supposed to marry Octavia. Of course, now it's just really gross to think about.

Granted, there is still a lot they leave out, but considering how complicated the relationships were in "real history," I'm not surprised they chose to simplify. I don't think an audience without much knowledge of the period could keep track of all the characters that would have to come in and out if they followed "straight" history anyway.

The biggest sore thumb, though, was the Antony/Atia relationship seeming to be in the way of the Antony/Octavia marriage, and that's been rectified, so I am once again happy.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

On Museums and Sith Lords . . . er, Ladies

So Friday, I went up to the Colchester Castle Museum with Mary Beard's class.

It's a lovely exhibit, filled with more "ancient stuff" than I feel like I see in a lot of D.C. exhibits and a whole lot of fun interactive high and low tech things. And while I did profess a preference for going to museums to see actual artefacts, rather than computer simulations, they did have a pretty neat virtual Colchester computer program that I wish they'd sell to visitors! (Because, frankly, I didn't want to waste time playing with that when there were so many ancient things to look at!)

In completely different news, one of my readers who happens to know me in real life has accused me of putting on a different "persona" here than I do in real life! When I asked her to clarify, she pointed out that I was actually crazier in "real life." Well, I really must explain myself! It is not that I wish to deceive you, dear readers, but I figure what with professionals occassionally stopping by and possible future employers or people involved with deciding acceptance/grants/whatever possibly stumbling on this blog, I probably shouldn't post about How Crazy I Actually Am.

Also, my parents sometimes read this. ::waves::

But, just to give you, dear readers, a taste of What I'm Actually Like, I shall tell you all a story from my undergraduate days. I'm sure anyone who knew me then who hasn't already figured out Who I Am will immediate know me for my true self!

One nice Halloween day, I decided to show my true colours. I dressed up all in black, complete with a black cloak and . . . no, I did not don a pointy hat! I grabbed my trusty bright red lightsaber (which I stole from Darth Vader). Thus, I headed off to class! No, seriously, I went through my classes like this, definitely more dressed up than anyone else on campus. This made for an especially dramatic entrance when I was running late to my English class.

Also, in my defense, everyone wanted to "touch" or "play with" my lightsaber anyway. ;-) I could tell the Incriminating Stories about that, but I don't think the World is ready to Know!

Addendum: To make this story somewhat Classics related, 1) I spent most of the day in the Classics department, and 2) I was going by "Darth Medea" if anyone asked.