I am deliberately not reading the news, especially not about the Middle East.
Mark is at OLS
right now, which is in Ottawa. He tells me the weather there is like it was in New Orleans, all hot and humid, with thunderstorms in the middle of the day. It's really hot here in the Bay Area, too, although thankfully I work right next to the ocean, so it hardly ever gets too hot.
Oh, and I finally got Mark to see and like a Shakespeare movie. We can usually agree on a movie to see in the theater, but that's mostly because I'm willing to see every comic book movie, ever. When picking out rentals, he wants to pick out every Quentin Tarantino movie, or anything with gangsters, Nicholas Cage and other macho stuff. When I want to rent stuff, I want comedies and Hong Kong cinema. He's always objected to Shakespeare because he "can't understand the language".
We rented The Merchant of Venice
. Mark agreed to this only because my other pick was Bride and Prejudice (dude, Kumar and Said from Lost!), and Al Pacino plays Shylock, a Jewish moneylender. The Merchant of Venice is one of Shakespeare's most controversial plays, mostly for its anti-Semitism. It's a difficult play to stage, and an even harder film to shoot, because you have to cut down Shakespeare's five-act play to two hours, and make doubly sure that you don't allow the characters to become caricatures.
I really liked the movie. In Roger Ebert's review
, he notes that the genius of Shakespeare's writing is that despite the racism, "its venom is undercut by Shakespeare's inability to objectify any of his important characters. He always sees the man inside." Al Pacino is captivating in it, and does a lot with the monologues he's given - "Hath not a Jew eyes?"
At the end of it, Mark turned to me and said, "Wow, and you say *I* like to watch train wrecks. That was half an hour of people just being really cruel." He's right - all the so-called "good" characters - Portia, Bassanio, Lorenzo, all treat Shylock contemptuously, even as they plead with Shylock to "show mercy".
There was one Arab character in here who is not a terrorist, and doesn't die. It's the Prince of Morocco, played by David Harewood
- one of Portia's suitors. I guess that makes two.
I wish they had done more with the character of Jessica - Shylock's daughter - she elopes with Lorenzo, stealing her father's fortune and leaving him ruined, AND she converts to Christianity. She's only in the film for a few minutes, and she's shown as a flighty, shallow girl, until she starts feeling guilty towards the end, but she doesn't explain herself, nor are we shown anything of her motivations.
After watching this movie, he told me that a Klingon character in Star Trek liked to quote Shakespeare, and "If you prick us, do we not bleed?" was one of those lines.
In other news:Japan creates a digital odor recorder
: The new device, developed by scientists at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, analyzes smells through 15 sensors, records the odour's recipe in digital format and then reproduces the scent by mixing 96 chemicals and vapourizing the result.
This is so awesome.Reading Versus Watching: Wuxia
- This Wet Asphalt article explores why American publishers haven't really tried to translate Chinese wuxia novels - the most popular fantasy novels read all over Asia, especially those written by Jin Rong, the most widely-read twentieth century author alive today. The writer posits that issues of genre-classifying and unfamiliar non-Western styles are to blame, but also points out that Americans picked up on anime and manga fairly quickly and it's one of the largest money-makers for the book industry today.
I think the biggest hurdle, though, is just translating the novels. I've just about given up finding a Chinese novel translated in English that I can read and enjoy. The translations always come off to me as rather stilted, or too literal and I don't know if it's just me, but in the books I've read, I've always ended up hating the protagonist, for either being stupid or selfish. I know Jin Rong's books are not like that - and I know that only because I've watched many of the television serials his books are based on.
Some people have declared it Blog Against Racism Week
Movie superstar SAMUEL L JACKSON will voice God in a new audio version of the Bible.
I am SO getting this.