Shakespeare for the modern Englishman

The Skinhead’s Hamlet

Ah Internet, is there nothing you can’t destroy? An excerpt from the modern Hamlet:

ACT III SCENE II

Gertrude’s Bedchamber.
Enter HAMLET, to GERTRUDE.
HAMLET: Oi! Slag!
GERTRUDE: Watch your fucking mouth, kid!
POLONIUS: (From behind the curtain) Too right.
HAMLET: Who the fuck was that?
(He stabs POLONIUS through the arras.)
POLONIUS: Fuck!
HAMLET: Fuck! I thought it was that other wanker.
(Exeunt.)

 

Free at last

Gawyn. You died just like you lived. Stupidly.

I have finally finished the last book in The Wheel of Time series. The series was bloated and Jabba-like in its wordiness; I curse myself for getting stuck in its sunken cost fallacy. The last book was actually somewhat satisfying. However, for as long as I live I will never read the series again.

Really, Dresden?

Maybe this was a male-female translation problem. I read an article once that said that when women have a conversation, they’re communicating on five levels. They follow the conversation that they’re actually having, the conversation that is specifically being avoided, the tone being applied to the overt conversation, the buried conversation that is being covered only in subtext, and finally the other person’s body language.

That is, on many levels, astounding to me. I mean, that’s like having a freaking superpower. When I, and most other people with a Y chromosome, have a conversation, we’re having a conversation. Singular. We’re paying attention to what is being said, considering that, and replying to it. All these other conversations that have apparently been going on for the last several thousand years? I didn’t even know that they existed until I read that stupid article, and I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one.

I felt somewhat skeptical about the article’s grounding. There were probably a lot of women who didn’t communicate on multiple wavelengths at once. There were probably men who could handle that many just fine. I just wasn’t one of them.

So, ladies, if you ever have some conversation with your boyfriend or husband or brother or male friend, and you are telling him something perfectly obvious, and he comes away from it utterly clueless? I know it’s tempting to think to yourself, “The man can’t possibly be that stupid!”

But yes. Yes, he can.

Our innate strengths just aren’t the same. We are the mighty hunters, who are good at focusing on one thing at a time. For crying out loud, we have to turn down the radio in the car if we suspect we’re lost and need to figure out how to get where we’re going. That’s how impaired we are. I’m telling you, we have only the one conversation. Maybe some kind of relationship veteran like Michael Carpenter can do two, but that’s pushing the envelope. Five simultaneous conversations? Five?

Shah. That just isn’t going to happen. At least, not for me.

– From Cold Days by Jim Butcher

If you’ve ever wondered what it sounds like when someone’s talking out of their ass, well, here you go. There’s the vague appeal to an unspecified scholarly source (“this one article my cousin’s roommate read”), the Just So story grounded in the “Men are from Mars and Women are Screeching Harpies” school of pop evolutionary psychology, and the whole mealy-mouthed “I’m not a sexist but scientifically speaking women are fuckpuppets for men” defensive tone that permeates the entire passage. It’s been so long since the last Dresden Files book that I’d forgotten how tiresome the sexism could get.

The Sign

[T]o Squirrel Girl, greatest superhero ever. And, yes, she did defeat Thanos single-handedly. It’s in continuity. Deal with it.

— A. Lee Martinez, in the dedication to the novel Divine Misfortune

Squirrel Girl, vanquisher of the real Thanos and not a robot, clone, or simulacrum (as confirmed by Uatu the Watcher)

The answer is blowing in the wind

On The Onion AV Club there is a discussion about the first film that participants have seen. I couldn’t contribute anything in my case because I honestly have no idea what my first movie is. I have seen hundreds upon hundreds of movies in my life and would be hard-pressed to tell you which specific movie was my first ever. I’m not even sure if it’s something I saw on video or at the movie theatre.

However, this realization also brought to light the fact that I have no idea how much media I consume beyond the vague estimate of “hundreds” in the case of movies. Therefore, I have a new project for myself: between now and the end of August of next year, I will count what and how many novels, movies, tv shows, and comic books I consume. I’ll even list what I’ve consumed in a given month.

Luckily August has only started so I still remember what I’ve consumed so far. Anyway, this project should be very instructive.

Books: Started reading Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson

Comic Books: Gokuko no Brynhildr #21, Sket Dance #204, Otogi no Machi no Rena #49, The World God Only Knows #197

Get your war on

Thanks to The Onion AV Club I’m currently reading Emperor Mollusk versus the Sinister Brain. From the cover art and the fact that the book is reviewed in actual paper newspapers one might think that it’s a semi-autobiographical story about growing up as a Jewish science fiction fan in 1960’s New York. The title, however, is gloriously literal: it’s a story about a conflict between an actual world-conquering mollusk and a disembodied brain. It’s not a metaphor, it’s not an allegory, it is in fact exactly what it says on the tin.

It’s really quite fun.

Isn’t it good?

After all this time I’ve finally seen the film adaptation of Norwegian Wood. I’m really not sure what to think.

As it is, I’m not sure how to evaluate Norwegian Wood as a movie. Having read and liked the book, I already knew what was supposed to be happening. I don’t know how someone approaching the movie as a movie would evaluate it.

However, I am not that hypothetical person. I did read the book and then I did see the movie. I can only react from my own experiences and not from someone else’s. So how does the movie stack up against the book?

First, it’s definitely not a poor translation of a book to film. It successfully captured the quiet mood of the book but at the same time it’s also its own thing. Props for that.

Still, it should be no surprise that I still prefer the novel. That’s almost always the go-to answer when evaluating book-to-film adaptations, with a few notable exceptions. Yes, Midori is peculiarly forward in the film, but it’s a pity there wasn’t enough time to show the variety of her strange flirtations with Watanabe.

Additionally, I’m not sure how well the movie conveyed the strangeness of the book. Haruki Murakami’s stuff is always suffused with an air of quiet strangeness (technically I believe it would be termed magical realism but somehow labelling it makes it seem more dry and boring). The film got the quiet part right but the strangeness didn’t come across as well.

Also, this is probably the only Haruki Murakami novel that will ever be turned into a movie. It’s probably the most conventional one in terms of plot and yet the movie adaptation by necessity still turned out a bit peculiar in conveying its narrative. Good luck filming something like The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle.

Anyway, I don’t regret watching this movie. It’s not a bad way to spend a hot Sunday afternoon.

On joining the Snooty Book Readers Club

I’m not sure of the number of books I read in a year, but it’s definitely in the dozens and perhaps in the neighbourhood of fifty or more. Don’t be impressed, though, since the majority of those books had a picture of either a dragon or a spaceship on the cover (sadly, I don’t think any had both). However, I’ve pretty much read all of the books in my house right now and am reduced to the last book I own that I still haven’t finished reading – The Tempest, by none other than William Shakespeare.

Theoretically, I’ve been reading that book for over a year now. I originally bought it, used, because I needed something to read at the laundromat for the days when I was just too lazy to go to the library beforehand. However, that plan pretty much fell apart not too long after I put it into effect, which meant that as far as I was concerned, Prospero remained eternally stuck in the prologue of the play describing how he ended up stuck on the same island as the cast of Lost.

However, riding the subway regularly has reminded me forcefully of how much I hate riding the subway, so I’m forced to find ways to pretend that I’m not on the subway, and some days Metro is just too insipid for me to stomach. I was surprised by several things. First, I was surprised by how easy it was for me to follow the story despite the Elizabethan poetic dialogue. It shouldn’t have been as much of a surprise as all that, since technically Shakespearean language counts as Early Modern English, but I was able to make sense of the dialogue without even having to look up too many definitions (the edition I have has notes and explanations on the facing page). I remember having more trouble with Shakespeare in high school, but then again, that was before I got used to reading dense theoretical works regularly, so all that time spent deciphering Judith Butler’s gibberish was actually good for something.

The second surprise was that the funny scenes were actually funny to me. Not uproariously funny, but certainly good for a chuckle. Humour is something that can be iffy in a cross-cultural context, and the past definitely counts as a different culture – heck, it’s already a foreign country. But the tale of the drunken douchebags travelling around and snarking at things with their pet cave troll could make a pretty decent road trip movie today. Heck, you could insert some of their shenanigans into The Hangover without much rejiggering.

Also, I finally get why this play is so beloved in postcolonial studies. That was pretty much the reason why I got a copy from the used bookstore, after all.

Anyway, I can now rest easy in finally getting my high brow credentials. Expect me to write exclusively about Glenlivet and cork taint from now on.

Ghosts of the past

I write like
Rudyard Kipling

I Write Like by Mémoires, journal software. Analyze your writing!

I ran some of my writing through an online analyzer and it gave me this result. I guess Kipling isn’t so bad, but I haven’t read him in years and I was never super into him, so he probably didn’t influence me that way. Then I ran another sample through the analyzer and got this:

I write like
H. P. Lovecraft

I Write Like by Mémoires, journal software. Analyze your writing!

Oh come on, I’ve never even read Lovecraft! Be more consistent, literature robot! I was actually afraid I wrote like Isaac Asimov, I read most of Foundation when I was 10 and I think I absorbed Asimov’s sparing descriptions. Strangely enough, the Lovecraft sample was from a non-fiction essay. I guess Lovecraft’s writing sounds like dry academic text.

Nick Carraway, Action Hero

The Great Gatsby - Press Start

Ever wonder what The Great Gatsby would have been like as a mid-80s Japanese video game? Yeah, neither have I. But a couple of enterprising chaps have answered the question that was burning in no one’s mind. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. The fake manual and fictional provenance propels it further into the heights of absurdity, but the cut scene where Gatsby teleports while gazing at the green light from Daisy’s house is already sublime in its awful glory.

You’ve got to love the fact that you have to fight Meyer Wolfsheim’s Jewish gangsters along with hobos, flappers, and the Black Sox. But where is the ghost of the Dutchman from? I don’t remember that from the book, but admittedly I haven’t read it in a long while.

Video game trivia: the titular character of The Legend of Zelda video game series was named after Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald, wife of dear old Francis Scott.

EDIT:

Holy crap, some company made Gatsby into an adventure game. It’s not a parody like the game above, it’s an actual thing that’s supposed to make money and everything. It looks like one of those classic inventory games where you click on everything trying to find the object you need to solve the puzzle you’re stuck on. Pretty pictures and you even have a GOSSIP action, but I wonder if the game makers kept Tom’s fascination with racist literature?

A girl in a white dress named Jordan is having a meal on a veranda awash in sunlight. She smiles at the camera as she holds a glass of red wine. In the background the veranda is held up by classical Greek columns covered in ivy, while in the distance is a garden path leading past Greco-Roman statuary and ending in a gazebo. On the top of the picture is a text box where Jordan remarks, "Don't talk . . . I want to hear what happens."
The pic is from the adventure game, not the fake 80s parody from above