Monday, April 17, 2006

The Persians

I saw The Persians last night at the Shakespeare Theatre, and I just loved it. I really had low expectations - a heavy night of Persians lamenting at the loss of their armies at the hands of a smaller force - eeesh. But, really. It was really, really good. I thought the set was imaginative, the costumes (as usual) beautiful, and the actors well cast. It could have been so boring, a bunch of men standing around talking about whatever did happen to all those men we sent to make war on Athens, and disputing whether or not they were both justified and right to go to war against a smaller inferior nation. But it really wasn't. I found it so compelling, as they went back and forth and finally settled on the answer that made them feel best. And when they finally find out the result of the battle, and find that their magnificent army has been destroyed, and their best men are currently floating dead in the mediterranean ocean, they are overwhelmed with grief and mourn that their mighty empire has been brought low.

I think it's hard to connect emotionally with very old plays. They're from such a different time, and they had different purposes. There is a debate about The Persians, and whether Aeschylus' purpose was to celebrate Athens' great victory and imagine the lamentations in Persia when the defeat was discovered or whether it's meant as a mediation on the futility of war and the mortality of even the greatest empires. I think it could certainly be interpreted either way (the first one seems sort of mean spirited, but the Persians didn't really have a defensible cause to attack Athens). The production left that open to the audience's interpretation. Certainly, it was difficult to imagine any current politician wailing at his failure and weeping for the future of the country he's failed. Not that that was going to change a thing, of course.

I think the one thing I took away from this is that humans never change. A leader depends so much on his counselors, but when it goes poorly, everyone will be looking for the culprit and the blame starts flying. I would say that that is something that never changes. It seems to be hardwired into our psyches. Despite our cultural biases and how we view the world, it seems that that never changes. Everyone is trying to find the best position, the right place to be, hoping that when things go bad, they land on the right side of the fence and are pointing squarely at the designated fall guy.

Wow, I just realized what a cynical view of politics and humanity I have.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Medieval Obsession

Not a lot to see here, I'm afraid. I'm a bit fed up with current political discourse at the moment (generals saying Rumsfield sucks, various pols being prosecuted for various crimes), and I sort of ran out of "Shut up" for the administration. I just can't stay outraged for that long.

But I can get passionately partisan about battles long since fought, settled and made obsolete. Outrage over King John's (and Edward III's) obession with bringing Wales under English rule? Check. Sudden Yorkist partisanship for Edward IV and Richard III, inspiring me to label myself as a Ricardian? Check. (Though it's sort of sad that I am using my reserve "Shut up's" for Margaret d'Anjou, because she's been dead almost a thousand years.)

Okay, I'll admit that it's all contained between 1150 and 1500 and in the British Isles, but at least I'm not going to get in a huge fight that really matters about the relative merits of Henry of Lancaster versus Edward York's claims to the English throne. Especially since they're both descended from Edward III, and had maybe not equal claims, but were at least equally royal. And I don't think someone's going to pick a fight with me about King John's desire for an island empire, happily giving up Anjou and Avegnin to the French. Because...does anyone have the energy to really argue about things that happened almost nine hundred years ago? So I can get privately outraged about it, but it's sort of impotent.*

What else is going on right now? The weather is getting good. I sat outside and read for a while tonight. Made the Max Cat unhappy, since, even though she doesn't want me to actually touch her, she wants to be in the same room as me, and when I'm on the patio, she's can see me, but is not sitting in the same room as me. So she gets frustrated and starts pawing the door and whining in a really irritating manner. Thus making me take pity on her and coming inside. Of course, now she's being all cute and is sleeping on the footstool next to me.

Hmm. The Sopranos is very good. And, drawing on the above mentioned medieval obsession, has anyone else noticed how the mafia resembles feudal relationships? There's Tony, sitting at the top, commanding the loyalty of his men, but retains the position on their sufferance. Sort of like a medieval king, who retained his crown because his dukes agreed that he should have it. No standing army, all his soldiers came to him through his dukes, who were responsible for raising men. He has men that he knows are loyal, but he also has his enemies. If enough enemies get together and have enough strength, they can mount an opposition to his leadership (presumably they think they've got a viable replacement). Either the leader has enough men loyal to him, and is lucky enough in his fights, that he retains supremacy, or, if enough men desert him, he loses his leadership postion (and possibly his head). If he loses, men who were loyal to him have two choices: maintain their loyalty and maybe die, or be pragmatic and accept the new leadership for the sake of their families. Is it possible that the Mafia is the last functional feudal organization?

So I'll leave you with thought for the nonce. Discuss.

*If you're interested in historical fiction, and this period, I recommend Sharon Kay Penman, who is the author I've been devouring of late. I highly recommend her Welsh trilogy (Here Be Dragons, Falls the Shadow, and The Reckoning) and the aforementioned War of the Roses novel, Sunne in Splendor. She's given herself over to writing mysteries lately, which are good, but don't have the same weight or interest to me.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006


Okay, I got called out, so to speak, by Mickey, on my last post, which was about Jonathan Antin, and I thought I should address it here, so it doesn't become a deal or anything. (Wow, that's a lot of commas.)

I said that I was surprised that Jonathan Antin had a kid, because I totally thought he was gay, and Mickey reminded me that yes, gay people have kids as well. What I failed to mention was the presence of the mother in Antin's life. It would appear that he has the whole kit and caboodle: the girlfriend/wife (not sure which, he didn't mention getting married at any point), the kid, and his deeply closeted self.

I just wanted to air that out, and thanks for keeping me honest. I fully support the rights of everybody who wants them to have kids and families, no matter what their sexual orientation, support gay marriage and all that good stuff.

But Jonathan Antin is still a big crybaby. Never have I seen one person cry so many times on one one-hour show.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Jonathan Antin is a Giant Crybaby

I swear, that guy cries at the drop of a hat whenever he talks about how he's achieving all his dreams and how he built up from nothing and he's worked so hard and sob, sob, sob. Dude, man up!

Also? I was shocked to hear that he had a kid, because I totally thought he was gay. Deeply closeted, but gay nonetheless.