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Film review: Danton outgrosses Robespierre

Preface: As I've said, oldie writing will be dusted off and plunked blogside (at least at first; new stuff should gradually overtake i...

Sunday, July 28, 2013

So, is Shakespeare an anti-semite or what?

This essay was sparked by a Friday letter to National Post by a theatre professor, uttering the oddest assertion--that Shakespeare bestows no mercy upon Shylock in Merchant of Venice. But also Margaret Atwood's supremely hesitant fudging on the subject in her Payback lectures. And a book-reviewer in the Globe and Mail a few years back who called Shakespeare an "extreme anti-semite" if memory serves--this despite the fact that it was in the Globe and Mail back in the 80s that I read my first thoroughly-reasoned defense of the Merchant of Venice as being not anti-semitic. But really, who does research before filibustering nowadays?
    So, was Shakespeare anti-semitic? And is Merchant of Venice Exhibit A of the evidence?
    You would think that after 400+ years all this would be a settled question. Nope. You'd be surprised how little has actually been settled regarding any aspect of the Bard, despite ample time for scholarly tie-downs. A joke I overheard in academe nicely summarizes the situation: "All Shakespeare plays are now problem-plays."
    Perhaps the joke is a puzzler to anyone with the usual smattering of high-school Shakespeare. What the joke riffs upon is the professorial invention and maintenance of a group of Shakespeare plays that don't seem to follow the dramatic rules--Measure for Measure, Hamlet, Troilus and Cressida and a few others--but whose strange qualities are perhaps more in the eye of the beholder than within the plays themselves. The professors themselves argue about which plays to categorize as problematic, and a few rebels in the prof-gang even denounce the problem-designation as fuzzy, useless and overdue for a trashing
    So. Let's grab Merchant of Venice with our heavy-duty tongs and have some fun with racism versus anti-racism, possibly the most idiotic dialectic on the planet...

(another mere starter; stay tuned)

Saturday, July 20, 2013

What can't be found on the internet

As a fossil old enough to remember flip-flip-flipping through a card-index to do research, let me gladly confess to immense gratitude for the quantum leap in ease-of-hunting and plethora-of-results delivered by the digital revolution and the internet.
    When in 1993 I wrote an undergrad paper on Firesign Theatre, the transition from old-school to cybertech was just beginning and I was actually able to do both, finding (via the subject-files of the card-index) that the University of Alberta's Rutherford Library had, yes, a copy of their Big Book of Plays, and (via a scholarly CD--an intermediate method which I suspect is equally extinct now) the news that a single serious article existed on them. In a theatre journal not carried by the U of A Library system. Damn.
    Now I punch in "Firesign Theatre" to the Google search-engine and presto: "About 1,530,000 results" starting with the usual Wikipedia entry (requiring the usual additional citations), then the group's own website, extending down to the usual fan-emissions and passing mentions.
   And now today (actually July 21, as Google Blogger only lists start-date) we get the current uproar over Rolling Stone magazine's latest cover (close up of Boston-bomber Tsarnaev's face) has me thinking "great opportunity for a spot of satire.. But first the search of the topic. WHOA!!--as of Aug. 2, 82,800,000 results!! Apres Google le deluge!
   Where to start? With the caterwauling of my fellow basement-cranks? Or the measured chin-stroking of legitimate journalists? Well, how about a Canadian compromise?...
    Mallick is something of a controversy herself (yet she garners fewer than 250,000 Google hits, and only 1,294 Twitter followers--as of Aug 2 again--versus the 3,000 to 8,000 of most media personages, and let's not even mention my pitiful 342). Yes, Mallick is somewhat... surreal:
    And leftie, if that matters to you. A person could spend half a lifetime researching Mallick online if the urge struck. Alas, she wearies me quickly. I'm more interested in why Huffington Post is so blandly boring, clogging my inbox with tripe about Frankie Valli on Elvis, retiring abroad, "25 Most Ripped Men over 50" and "Aging Too Fast." Are you asleep yet? But such flummery sells to my boomer-demographic, I guess.
    Or I drift to tangential Mallick items, e.g. an online journalism busybody that sort of defends her, saying, "Mallick seems to be consistent"--at what is unspecified, although ideology seems the most likely candidate. The site's platitude-monger also yawps about "balance" in the classic style of low-end journalism critics, i.e. not specifying between what and what. Really, balance is one of the most dubious journalism virtues, usually just a screen for a writer's bias. Maybe it's just a mental illness of mine (check the Manual) but I prefer the bias of any journalist to be open and ripsnorting.

*in progress, I hope...*

Dave Edmunds, "It Aint Easy"

Monday, July 15, 2013

You can start anywhere

Popping awake between 4 and 5 a.m. usually before the alarm, is the normal start to my day. This morning there is extra impetus--it's been raining, so I have to check the rain-barrels to make sure they aren't overflowing. Luck is with me, they are barely half-full. But as I grab a few bucketfuls to water the raspberry bushes, a passer-by in the grey pre-dawn startles me with her yelling.
    She is clearly irate at someone and hurling abuse at them, but scouting her from a safe distance (and, I'm hoping, the camouflage of trees and bushes) I see she is alone and has no cell phone to her ear. It's all in her imagination, it seems, barring the unlikelihood of a Bluetooth.
    "Fuck you, niggah!" she rants, first walking one way, then turning back, and turning again. Now I'm also hoping she isn't a hooker and planted by my house, as sometimes happens. But after a few seconds she slowly saunters away, quieter now but still muttering a bit. I pour a few more bucketfuls and head inside.
   In my office, the insane mess, primarily heaps of newspapers. I grab a page from atop a pile, idly curious as to why I kept it...

... the taxi awaits, and so does the rest of this...

And now a few few days later, another quick dip into a news heap. The "Arts and Life" section of the Edmonton Journal, June 20, 2011. Big headline on top: "MuchMusic Video Awards/ Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber rule the night." Ho hum (or is that just the creaky, jaded geezer talking?)



Oh, and here is another old paper, the National Post, March 27, 2010. Big picture of Bieber on p. 1, with headline: PARSING THE CHARMS OF CANADA'S JUSTIN BIEBER.


Next they will be swaying to his sentence structure. Cheek-by-jowl with this story is a column by Conrad Black on the pedophile scandal in the Catholic Church. Probably not news (then or now) but Black defends the church, and employs his usual grand style of discourse, sonorously intoning such weighty words as "apostacize and "belligerency"--neither accepted by my auto-correct for some reason.

Then to the bottom of the front-page, where sits a curious feature on a gentleman suffering from schizophrenia who ends up presiding over a mental hospital. Hm! Maybe the most significant piece of information in the article is that schizophrenia is still something of a mystery ailment, although I'm noting that his paranoid fears about "Chinese agent" nurses sort of match H. L. Mencken's fears that the doctor who treated him for his debilitating stroke in 1948 was actually Joseph Stalin.

Enough to make you wonder about how the brain operates, and exactly how one wonders about the wondering.