Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Technology: good or evil?

I feel a little dense for only just now discovering this, but there's a wonderful website for The Women's Classical Caucus. Free membership for students for the first year too!

On a completely different note (or maybe not?), I've been seeing a lot of things lately here and there about instructors and their beef against technology. On the one hand, I agree when they argue they shouldn't be forced to change styles of teaching that have worked for hundreds of years without technology just so students can be more entertained in the classroom and instructors can seem more hip. It's ridiculous, often, the things we expect instructors to do that have absolutely nothing to do with their subject material. On the other hand, I'm growing tired of this perception of technology as an inherent evil. iPods and facebook do not MAKE students unresponsive and inattentive and lazy. Kids aren't encouraged in the right ways both at home and in schools (and it doesn't help when admin continually forces instructors to cater to whiny, bratty students and parents who think their children are the next Messiah), so they don't bother to do schoolwork. That's the problem, not technology.

Actually, I was reading a very interesting book today, by Marianne McDonald, Ancient Sun, Modern Light: Greek Drama on the Modern Stage. I only just started it, but so far, I think this is a wonderful book, and I'm very excited by her ideas and her style (and I think everyone should read it).

However, this paragraph in the preface did make me balk:

"Theater is one of the last repositories of thought. Television with its sitcoms, soaps and video games is one of the more insidious drugs infiltrating the world. We see also that even war can be represented as an elaborate video game; we concentrate on the 'hits' rather than losses or human deaths. We are losing the ability to think and reason, enslaved instead by the image that demands no response on our part besides the simple act of perception. We should restore danger to television and encourage the performance of plays that demand a response on our part. We must also encourage the performance of plays in theaters and make them more financially accessible to all people. Local productions should be a part of every grade school, high school, or university. The heritage of classics should not be given only to the elite, but allowed to enter the dialect of a wide public that represents the diversity of our country." (p. 12)

I agree with a large part of this, except that I again don't think that television is an "insidious drug." Frankly, I know plenty of people go and see plays with as much (lack of) care as they watch television--only it costs them more and takes more effort, so they dress up and consider it a night out. A lot of people aren't actually engaged enough to walk away and provide an ounce of analytical thought about what they've just paid money to see, any more than they can tell you about a television show. Just because their hands are engaged in clapping and they're forced to remain silent during the show (and honestly, the set-up is not so different from a classroom in many ways, except that the dark theatre can only encourage sleeping!), it doesn't mean their minds are engaged in thinking. On the flip side, television, while more convenient to lazy people, can be just as stimulating as a play. I know plenty of people who can analyze a television show or movie just as well as we expect people to analyze books in school. And maybe it's my own sci-fi bias, but I know a lot of sci-fi shows that encourage intelligent discussion and mental interaction (witness many scientists who claim inspiration from Star Trek). And how many people are discussing Rome and its historical accuracies and interpretations?? Hell, I've even seen a book of essays on Firefly (not to mention the numerous books on the philosophy of certain television shows--everything from Buffy the Vampire Slayer to The Simpsons. And while there is a lot of truly bad fanfiction out there, there is also a lot of truly inspired fanfiction too. At its worse, yes, television can rot brains, but at its best, it can be a great source of intellectual and creative stimulation.

The same thing could be said of live theatre and even of books. I think the important thing is that we are taught how to think for ourselves by others who do so. This knowledge can be spread through any medium.

And a minor quibble, but I'm also not entirely sure that our over-exposure of violence in modern culture is necessarily worse than the ancient Greeks hiding violence on stage. Is that any less truthful?

And my apologies to Marianne McDonald for making her a scapegoat for my television rant. It's obviously a very popular belief, and it really only struck out at me today because of other recent complaints and the fact that I actually agree with most of the rest of what she says.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Links, various and sundry.

I feel guilty that my posts have mostly been on HBO's Rome lately. But to be honest, I've been too busy to keep up with the online Classics world. It's a little calmer now (certainly helps not to be ill!), and there is no episode of Rome this week. Thus, we shall move on to bigger and better things! Mostly, I found a few cool links from skimming all the mail I didn't read this past couple weeks on the Classics-L list.

Firstly, King Tut photos from the original find are finally on display (click the link for details).

Also, there's apparently a program now for helping to learn declensions, called DECLINATIO. There's a demo version, but you apparently have to buy the full program.

And, according to a survey, Ancient Greek is said to boost modern minds. It's not the most scientific way of finding out, but it's a nice thought, I suppose.

The best for last, Oedipus (with vegetables):

Oh, and one thing that I don't understand is how a tomato and broccoli can mate and make a potato . . .

Although, since B and P are labials, you take the B from the broccoi for the first letter and make it a P, shift the initial T from "tomato" to where the M is, remove the M--then you have "potato."

Monday, February 19, 2007

HBO's Rome S2 Ep 6

So I spoke too soon last time and relapsed shortly after. I think I'm alive again. ::knocks on wood::

It's sort of silly for me to do an actual summary, seeing as they have detailed summaries on the official site (and as I have work to do!). But a few quick thoughts.

SPOILERS, as usual.

-Antony's beard weirds me out. But Antony and Atia do look good together coming out of the tent in their furs and whatnot. Still, I prefer clean-shaven Antony.
-Is there no end to the people Atia will murder to "protect" her daughter? Still, very amusingly done, though I'm sure Octavia would once again think otherwise.
-Oh how far Timon has come! From Atia's horseman to trying to save his people from handing themselves over to the Romans. I do like that they're pursuing this thread though (in the wider political sense, not the Timon has come so far sense).
-Octavia and Agrippa really do make an adorable couple. And it's really about time Octavia had something decent happen to her.
-The old Vorenus seems to be returning to some degree. But I don't really like where his character has been. They're doing a good job of not ignoring that he's gone to the "Dark Side" while reforming him, but I don't think I'll personally ever be able to come to terms with what they did to him before. So anything they do to him now will probably just seem odd to me.
-Cicero's death made me sad. A good portion of that was because we come to terms with the fact that our beloved Pullo really is a killer but somehow manages to be so in an "awww, cute!" manner. That's just wrong--and disconcerting. But I like how Cicero had come to terms with his death, as he had come to terms with his position in his earlier conversation with Antony (before fleeing).
-Once again with Vorenus & Pullo influencing major events by minor happenstance. I like how the children turned Cicero's letter into a hat. :-P
-Poor Cassius and his lack of birthday cake. It occurs to me I haven't the foggiest idea if Romans had birthday cakes.
-Brutus' death was SO brilliantly done. And it mirrored Caesar's oh so well. And where is that little ring off to now? I like how they ride right past his body when saying it has not yet been found. "People appreciate the little touches" (in reference to their heads being packed in salt to ship back to Rome) was an endlessly amusing line.
-Lastly, I don't much like Octavian anymore. He was much more adorable as a boy. This is not Simon Woods' fault. I mean, the poor boy had to grow up and murder people, y'know. Fact of life and such. I am, however, waiting for him to smack Antony (who really needs to just shave).

Oh, from last episode, has anyone figured out the hand signal Vorena is making at the end? That is, has anyone seen anything from a legitimate source on whether such hand signals were used? It doesn't seem like Rome to pull these things out of nowhere, but I hadn't seen such things before. The official site says her hands are shaped as horns, and it's a curse.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

I'm (sort of) back.

Many many thanks to those of you who wished me well and such. I'm now well enough to see people again, which is nice. However, I have things to do and papers to write, so I'm going to forego the Rome review tonight.

I am, however, going to make two quick responses to recent google searches that have landed people on this blog.

To the person who searched for "kalevala fanfic": I love you. Please e-mail me! I want Kalevala fanfic too! Well, good Kalevala fanfic, but I should hope anyone who took the time to write such fanfic would have enough care with it so that it wouldn't be horrible, at least.

To the person who searched for "jason from medea misses the aristotelian mean": Jason misses the entire BOAT. In fact, he misses the entire boat so much that a plank falls on him and kills him. I wish I could say things like this in essays, but that's why I have a blog.

Lastly, I have a brand new favourite piece of art: The "gorgon" head at Bath. It is, of course, not a gorgon head, because it's not a woman. But it's an excitingly odd mix of a gorgon and the Celtic influences and reminds me a lot of the "Green Man."

Ok, so it's not quite the Pan & Goat statue, but still--I love it. So there.

And you may attribute the oddness of this post to residual delirium from my illness.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Sorry, folks!

I appear to have come down with something. So there won't be a Rome review today. Perhaps tomorrow! Apologies!

Monday, February 05, 2007

HBO's Rome S2 Ep 4 (and some cast notes before that)

So the popular google search of the night seems to be regarding the cast change for Octavian. I'm not sure why this seems to be such a surprise to people, as Max Pirkis, wonderful actor though he is, has been too young for quite some time now. It would have been quite absurd to see him winning over Antony in battle!

Anyway, for those who didn't already read the comments, the cast for each episode can be found in IMDB.com. Some of these are obviously going to be spoilerish. But the last time I checked, I found out all sorts of interesting things about the actors!

Lindsey Duncan played another one of my favourite people--Katherine in Under the Tuscan Sun. She was also an android voice in Star Wars: Episode 1 - The Phantom Menace. And, like our beloved Cicero, she had a Jane Austen role--Mrs. Price/Lady Bertram in Mansfield Park (1999).

Polly Walker also had an Austen role. You'll never guess--Jane Fairfax in the Gwyneth Paltrow Emma. I think my jaw fell off when I read that. Pictures here.

And our newest cast member, Simon Woods, was in the new Pride & Prejudice as Mr. Bingley. That sort of makes me laugh.

Actually, Ciaran Hinds was Mr. Rochester in Jane Eyre, but that's Bronte, not Austen. It was also a strange version of the book (but then, most of the Jane Eyre movie adaptations are strange).

Edited to add: And my friend tells me he was also Captain Wentworth in the 1995 Persuation. So, Rome and Jane Austen--whodda thunk? He's also in the bad 2000 Jason & the Argonauts for that matter.

Anyway, on to the episode! SPOILERS as usual!

Picking up from where we left off last week, we see the kitchen girl dip her fingers in the stew and try some. She then brings the stew to Atia, and Atia requests that she sing "Crown of Sappho." Because I'm just that good (hahahaha), I recognized it immediately as Sappho 1. I'm really not "that good." It's the most commonly used Sappho, and Aphrodite's name is pretty easy to catch. That and I'm technically working with that poem at the moment (though my energies have been directed much more towards Sappho 31--and if anyone wants the text and can't find it online, I'll type it up). She gets through maybe two lines before we see blood coming out of her mouth. She tries to sing a little more, to her credit, but they soon realize she's been poisoned. Servilia's boy peeks in and tries to run off when he sees his failure.

Octavia and her new friend then come home to see Atia and Timon torturing the boy. Atia says Servilia is responsible and has said so, so Octavia asks why she's still torturing the boy. Atia says it's because the evidence won't be permissable in court unless the slave's been tortured (yay research team). Atia then tells the boy she'll spare his life if he says who sent him. He tells her Servilia, and then Atia tells Timon to kill him and dispose of the body.

Castor, who apparently hired the boy into Atia's house, comes begging forgiveness and offers his life. Atia suggests castration but then says eunuchs are unfashionable and sends him off warning him to buy boys from the market rather than picking them up from the street.

Timon kills the boy but looks obviously distressed about it. He goes home with blood still on him and argues with his brother about being a Roman and being a Jew. The argument escalates until he has his knife at his brother's throat. Then his boy sees him.

Then we're at Mutina, where Pullo seeks Vorenus. Instead, he runs into Octavian all growed up! Octavian offers to help search among the dead and then marks his seal for Pullo so that he can get through to Antony's army without problems.

Octavian goes to give his victory speech and tell his army they're going back to Rome for their money. I might also note that Simon Woods really looks like he's been studying Max Pirkis' Octavian. He's kept some of the same mannerisms, and I'm pretty happy with his continuation of the role. Agrippa is getting sent home to give news to his family and the senate. Agrippa looks very happy to be seeing Octavia again.

Pullo goes after Antony's army and finds Vorenus and tells him the children are a live. Antony gets an update about the dead while getting stitched up and decides to set up base camp in the mountains. Posca objects, but is ignored as always.

Vorenus comes up and asks permission to leave. Antony: "Now that is a real soldier for you--most men just slip away in the night, but this one--he asks permission before he deserts me. Well, what is it?" Vorenus tells him his children are alive but in slavery and that he must find them. Antony, surprisingly, lets him go. Then he tells them to tell everyone he'll get revenge--and first on Octavian.

Brutus, meanwhile, is getting ready with an army.

Servilia goes to pray to Isis (I thought it was this statue from the Capitoline museum, but it's not quite the same, oh well), and she is abducted. Next, we see her Atia's torture chamber, where Atia reminds her that Servilia promised her a slow and painful death. So Atia won't kill Servilia until she begs her to end her suffering. Servilia "stands up" to her (verbally). And so the torture begins. Atia asks, "have you had enough?" but Servilia only spits. Atia tells Timon to continue, and Timon finally loses it. Atia tells him to cut off her face, but he lets Servilia go instead and grabs Atia by the neck, screaming, "I am not an animal!"

Vorenus and Pullo are heading to the slave camp, and Pullo decides he better clear things up and assure Vorenus that he never slept with Niobe. He then makes Vorenus feel better by telling him that Evander "screamed like a stuffed pig." Vorenus replies, "Good."

Pullo warns Vorenus that the slave camps aren't pretty and asks if Vorenus will kill the boy. Vorenus says that honour demands it.

Servilia is home being attended by her slavewoman and seeming very understandably disturbed.

Agrippa arrives in Rome, and Octavia is shocked that Octavian won. Agrippa accidentally blurts out his feelings for Octavia (so cute!), who suddenly changes the topic to her brother's eating. Agrippa apologises and Octavia says she's sure they'll be good friends once they get to know each other.

Atia comes in and is told the news. She looks horrified before she's reassured that Octavian is fine and won. Hard to tell what she's thinking about Antony, though . . .

Agrippa goes to Cicero with the news, and Cicero looks very concerned about the new Caesar and his army coming to Rome. "Gods I'm so tired of young men and their ambitions." Agrippa says that Octavian only has the interests of the Republic at heart, and Cicero warns, "I felt the same when I was a young man, but it is all vanity, you know--vanity."

Pullo and Vorenus arrive at the slave camp, pretending their bounty hunters. Pullo says they're looking for runaways who belonged to Caesar and presents Octavian's seal. They aren't believed, but Pullo uses his intimidating glare. They find the younger daughter and the boy (whom Vorenus accepts and hugs), at which point the slavers realize they're not bounty hunters. The eldest daughter isn't with them, though, and they find her with other women of her age being used as you'd expect. Vorenus, again, goes mad and kills the slaver before they walk off with the children.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Because Classics is related to everything, and everything is related to Classics

Admittedly, this is a huge stretch for a Classics link, but I'm the one who deems what is and is not a Classics link on this blog! So, without further ado, I give you a delightfully amusing comic, Cheshire Crossing, which features Alice Liddell (of Alice in Wonderland fame, but also the daughter of Henry Liddell, of Liddell & Scott Greek-English Lexicon fame, hence the Classical relatedness! baha!), Wendy Darling, and Dorothy Gale. Enjoy!

In more related news, another article on Romans in China, specifically possible descendants.

Lastly, an article on nudity in ancient Greece.

Fun stuff!