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The Terror (Arthur Machen, 2017/#31): Much like The Great God Pan, I found it ridiculous in form, content, politics, and spirit, and yet somehow not unenjoyable. Censorship plays a large role in this novel, but not as something to be feared — the whole text lies upon a bedrock of trust in the Government — and the explanation of the explanation, so to speak, echoes the least agreeable sides of Chesterton (now that I think about it, there's more than one Chestertonian element in the novel, not all of them unsatisfactory ones).

Harvesting the Biosphere (Vaclav Smil, 2017/#32): Mostly a bunch of numbers interleaved with why most of those numbers are unavoidably imprecise estimations, with some drily snarky asides as to how other numbers are avoidably imprecise estimations, but as those numbers are probably our current best guesses as to how much biomass the Earth creates every year and how much we take off it (for varying definitions of both, historically and in the past) it's a pretty fascinating book. You could make a good case for having a year-long high school course based on his books; they can be usefully understood without a lot of background, and they provide the same sort of framework that, e.g., general historical surveys do, but for aspects of the world that are seldom covered.

Pax Romana (Adrian Goldsworthy, 2017/#33): Something of a complement to The Limits of Empire, with more of an emphasis on the way the Empire worked, rather than on the ways it didn't. It's not sparing on the brutal and self-serving nature of Rome, but puts it in the context of a world where that was pretty much the norm, and notes that local polities, at least at the beginning of Roman influence, saw them more than anything as a tool in their own internal conflicts. A good book.

Popes, Cardinals, and War (D. S. Chambers, 2017/#34): As described by its subtitle: The Military Church in Renaissance and Early Modern Europe. Interesting, although heavier on events than causal forces (and the epilogue is a bit uncomfortable; you'll know what I mean if you read it). Read just after Pax Romana, at some level it feels like a farce — can't anybody *keep* a conquest any more, dammit? — but the comparison isn't fair. The Romans first expanded in that same geographical environment, which was also a patchwork of near-peer polities, but everything from economics to the military was different (in large part due to the Romans' own developments) and they never had to deal with the temptation of inviting the French, the Spanish, etc (given how often *they* were called into a zone in the same way, you could read this book as karmic comeuppance for the previous one, if you were so inclined).

Understanding Latin Literature (Susanna Morton Braund, 2017/#35): A very good introductory text, specially for a relative newcomer like me.

Hamlet (William Shakespeare, 2017/#36): A frequent reread. This time around, I noticed that you could stage a version of the play where almost everybody is, as Tumblr says, "sassy af" (with Hamlet on his own category of "savage af") without changing a single word, just adding ironical expressions and eye-rolling at key places, which I'm not convinced isn't how Shakespeare directed it. Heck, even the melancholy Dane spends almost as much time cracking jokes as deploring the world, some of them quite bawdy. The audience might have cried or booed at Ophelia's death (and, I'm sure, cheered during the duel), but they also laughed a lot. By the same token, Polonius can be played as much less of a fool than he's usually portrayed as; he doesn't necessarily lack self-awareness or insight (although he's handicapped by lacking Hamlet's supernaturally sourced information), and if nothing else, he knows his job. He's overly verbose, yes, and slow to get to the point, but (a) part of it is just CYA I can relate to, (b) I shouldn't cast that particular stone, and (c) Hamlet of all people shouldn't cast that particular stone. Hamlet's relationship with Yorick gets a lot of analytical millage, but I think the young prince got part of his love of and skill in verbal jousting from Polonius, whether he knows and accepts it or not. He certainly didn't get it from his father! This directing choice, I think, wouldn't be Shakespeare's, with the foolish counselor being such an obvious character, but I can see their interactions framed by Polonius' perpetual expression of long-suffering patience as the Prince keeps throwing barbs he knows very well Polonius won't reply to in public. Frankly, I think insofar as Hamlet gives a rat's ass about anything in Denmark, he cares about his mother; the only times he really gets into the spirit of things while not being cajoled by the ghost (bad pun not intended) is when he's berating her, when he thinks the King is *in her room* (in contrast with every other time he has been near the King, here he didn't had to talk himself into or out of doing anything, he just went from zero to *swordstab* in half a second) and after the King has accidentally killed her. Even after he foils the King's first death trap for him he's just "meh, I'll get him in a bit."
I was finishing Act IV when the idea hit me. So I put down the tablet, wrote it, gave it a quick once-over, and here it is. Be kind, I pray, and suit your expectation of the dish to the haste with which an unprepared cook was compelled to make it.

Title: On the papers found in Hamlet's rooms in Elsinore
Fandom: The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark
Rating: PG13

It is said that of all the tasks loyal Horace performed after the death of Hamlet and so many others, it was both the bitterest and the sweetest to collect and order the papers the Prince had last written.Collapse )
Here's Stewart doing Macbeth's "Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow" soliloquy, and here's McKellen. I'm sure directors, by definition, had much to do with the different approaches, but look at Stewart's utter despair, and compare it with McKellen's utter *disdain*.

In a better world, we would've had an Star Trek:TNG movie where the Federation finds a wormhole to another galaxy and learns that most civilizations in the universe are cybernetic and either Data- or Borg-like. Then it goes from first contact plot to spy thriller, as reluctant Ambassador Picard and internment camp candidate Data must prevent a Pearl Harbor first strike with a horrifying self-replicating smart antimatter bomb from Section 31, headed by the imperious and brilliant (McKellen character's name).

You know, X-Men with the Federation as mutants.
Macduff: O Banquo, Banquo, // Our royal master's murder'd!

Lady Macbeth: Woe, alas! // What, in our house?

I realize there's quite a bit of anachronistic displacement involved (as usual) but picturing Lady Macbeth's expression as she says What, in our house? always cracks me up. It's also a chilling if very small piece of play-within-the-play (aka, lying) — she's pretending to be incongruently fatuous, so she won't be suspected of being callously ambitious. It's a fine bit of misdirection, and one I fall for, as well; I find it funny at first for exactly the same reasons that her audience is expected to find it inappropriate.

As if men, to borrow a line, had a monopoly on murder.
Rereading Hamlet, as usual. Noticing (again) how well secondary characters and plots are developed even in a quintaessentially/archetypally protagonist-driven play as Hamlet: The way Ophelia ribs her brother, the King's guilt even before the play-within-a-play, Norway's outmanouvering (I think) of the Danes... There's a lot going on in Denmark!

Of things and Kings

I have to give Elementary once again props for rather good technical realism, this time with respect to Anonymous Everyone. Also, my god, the ending. My god.

In other news, I'm rereading Richard III, and I swear King Richard just asked a random page if he knew a guy that'd be willing to murder someone for money. I just. I don't know.

I mean, this is Richard, someone who so far has pretty much kicked ass at procuring (and discarding) human resources as needed, and now the King to boot, suddenly behaving as a 40 years old trying to score weed for the first time. I don't know if it's symbolic or just expedient plot-wise, but it's kind of funny, sad, and raw at the same time, almost like one of the good gore-less bits of a Tarantino movie.

Rereading Hamlet

Cut for rambling observations.Collapse )

Anyway, I'm just jotting down random observations here as I read along (I'm not the first person to do it, and I'm quite certain I won't be the last *g*).

An ass of a man, but a badass of a soldier

Keep up your bright swords, for the dew will rust them. — Othello.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how you stop a brawl with a single sentence.

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