Tag: Memories

I’m About to Say the Sooth!

“The oracle says Spain over Germany.  Discuss.”
“I’m sorry but I have to say German over Spain.  Spaniards eat a lot of octopus…the animal is afraid of saying they will lose, as it might end up on a barbecue.”
“True.  I had not sufficiently taken into account culinary pressures.”
– C. and Francois, Facebook conversation

The Romans used to slash creatures open and observe their livers and kidneys to tell the future.  By comparison, Paul the Oracle Octopus is less gruesome.  I’m sort of hoping Spain trounces Germany just so his status as a prophetic cephalopod is confirmed.

Unfortunately for the tentacled sucker in question, I have an everlasting hatred of the name Paul.  On a train ride from Holyhead, Wales to London, AbFab, Elizabeth, Kiri, Marie and I were seated with an odd couple.  They smoked like chimneys, drank like fish, and swore like sailors.  They both had saggy skin covered in tattoos while she had mad, frizzled hair and he was horrifically bald.  Apparently she was married to another person but the man with her, named Paul, was her lover.  There’s no accounting some people’s taste.

When we changed trains at Crewe the girls and I were happily esconced in our new car when Paul passed us coming down the corridor.  Suddenly something landed in my lap.  I looked down and saw a twisted up piece of paper and thought he’d dropped it, but he moved on before I could hand it back.  Unfortunately when I unfurled it, it was his name and number.

Commenced five women gagging enthusiastically and shuddering all the way to London.  They teased me to no end.

Paul the octopus looks cuddly by comparison.

For My Future Spawn: Shakespeare

“The play’s the thing…”
– William Shakespeare,
Hamlet

There are countless versions, interpretations, and the occasional horrifying slaughter of Shakespeare so the choices are vast, but I was raised from a young age with the Bard.  And so will my children be.  Thus I bring you, C.’s Definitive Guide to Obligatory Shakespeare Adaptations:

The Taming of the Shrew

The best version of this is The Taming of the Shrew, Franco Zefferelli’s 1967 version staring Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor.  Why?  Because however you choose to read the original play (pro wife-beating, proto-feminism, lighthearted, or sinister), Zefferelli’s adaptation turns the tale into a marriage of equals perfectly suited to one another.  Taylor’s Katherine is the less-loved daughter of a man who dotes on her sister (Bianca, a spoiled and manipulative wench).  She’s second best and spends most of her day hearing about it, and can only throw tantrums to get attention or satisfiy a sense of injustice.  Burton’s Petruchio is a loudmouth bore who’s never learned to behave himself and, in trying to turn Kate into a lady, becomes a gentleman.  Fantastic.

My mother watched this movie with me for the first time when I was fairly young and I loved it.  It was my introduction to Shakespeare, and I’ve never looked back.  Years later, when I found it one day on DVD in a bookshop, I snatched it up and mailed it home ten minutes later.  Of course, I also bought one for myself.  “Fear boys with bugs!”

Henry V

Yeah, yeah, Lawrence Olivier, blah blah blah.  Best version in my opinion goes to Kenneth Branagh’s Henry V from 1989.  Did I mention Paul Scofield, Dame Judi Dench, and Emma Thompson are included (along with a not-yet-legal Christian Bale)?  This adaptation is sweeping, epic, gritty,  poetic, occasionally funny, powerful, and gripping.  Again, Mum got me hooked young.  As I recall, I hid my eyes during the gory battle scenes or she fast forwarded through them (remember VHS, darlings?).  I had memorized the St. Crispin Day Speech before I was 10 and in high school, my friend Moll and I had to make a movie for French class, so we acted out the scene where Alice teaches Princess Katherine English.  Honestly, probably one of the best Shakespearean films of all time.  “God for Harry, England, and St. George!”

Julius Caesar

Venice is probably the authority on this play, she teaches it each year and by the end, any Bard holdouts are converted.  She always has the best stories about the day the kids act it out (with stabbing, naturally) and we always go into raptures about the 1953 version of  Julius Caesar directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz.  Not that it’s referred to as Makiewicz’s movie, it’s invariably called “The one with Marlon Brando.”  And with good reason.  One of the best scenes of the film is Marc Antony [Brando] orating to the people in Rome’s forum and slowly, subtly rousing the mob to rebellion.  The moment when he turns away from the screaming riot and walks into the senate chamber smirking darkly still makes me feel chills.

Brutus is conflicted, Cassius is sly and evil, the actual assassination is a little off as Caesar just seems to take knife after knife without too much complaint, but still: best version.  Honor, loyalty, friend, patriotism, betrayal and the conflicting tug of each is brilliantly laid out.  “Et tu, Brute?  Then fall Caesar.”

Other Adaptations

So, we’ve covered one of my favorite comedies, histories, and tragedies, but wait, kids, there’s more!

Much Ado About Nothing – Branagh again, this time as the irrepressible Benedict and Emma Thompson as the fiery and fiercely loyal Beatrice.  A classic tale about the vicissitudes of love, the interference of friends (and enemies),  and kicking up a great row about nothing much at all.  Sparkling.  “The world must be peopled!”

William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice – a tale of justice, honesty, and deceit, this film is utterly stolen by Al Pacino as Shylock.  Now, Scarface has never been one of my favorite actors, but the levels of emotion he poured into one of the most villainous (or victimized) Shakespearean characters is incredible.  The whole thing is nice and morally ambiguous.  “The villainy you teach me, I will execute, and it shall go hard but I will better the instruction.”

Twelfth Night – I first saw this version in the 8th grade, under the tutelage of my teacher The Friar, with whom I keep in contact to this day.  It’s never too soon to expose children to gender-bending, right?  “Most wondrous.”

Other Other Adaptations

And because the most odious thing in literature or culture is people who can’t take a joke, I have to recommend Shakespeare Retold, done by the BBC and first introduced to me my Angel two weeks ago.  Shakespeare brought into the modern day and frighteningly funny.  Hero doesn’t marry Claudio (and good on her, because he was an unbelievable ass and I could never believe she forgave him!) and Katherine, a vicious and snarling MP is tamed by Petruchio, a lonely aristocratic exhibitionist who really just wants someone to think the world of him.  “And all we do is set around in front of the telly all day eating chocolates.  I know I do, when I’m not running the country.”

For My Future Spawn: History

“History: gossip well-told.”
– Elbert Hubbard

Hands down my favorite family holiday was trekking along this thing. Glean from this confession what you will.

In case you forgot, I love history.  I find it fascinating.  I joyfully memorized dates in school and wrote fantastic papers.  Not that I had a hope or prayer of doing otherwise – my family’s library is a massive thing divided into Theology, my father’s collection of Modern Library first editions, classics, children/young adult literature, and history with an emphasis in the development of Western Culture.  Our family vacations are not to theme parks as much as hiking Hadrian’s Wall, Normandy, Colonial Williamsburg, museums, castles, palaces, and ruins (true story about how all four kids, aged 20, 14, 12, and 10 climbed all over a Roman fort that was partially submerged in a stream looking for the carved symbols hidden at the base meant to protect it – which may or may not have been relief carvings of genitalia – because it was something we had never seen before in our many adventures in various Roman piles of rocks) .  We are DORKS.

And everyone knows the best way to grow a dork is to start young!  Ergo I bring you, Horrible Histories: a humorous, outrageous, and engrossing (emphasis on the “gross”) medium for bringing history to the masses.  “It’s history, with all the horrible bits left in.”  Timelines, explanations, and facts interspersed with tidbits of the unusual, gory, or just plain bizarre.  And Britishly funny!

Titles such as The Savage Stone Age (Horrible Histories), Villainous Victorians (Horrible Histories), and The Vicious Vikings and the Measly Middle Ages (Horrible Histories) virtually speak for themselves.  Illustrated by the delightful Martin Brown and others, there are puns, jokes, incredible stories, side-splitting captions, and all manner of fun.  I’d recommend them to anyone who wants to stuff their kids’ heads with something without the child catching on to the parent’s nefarious scheme to make them enjoy getting smarter.  You can buy them on the cheap, often starting as low as $.01 on Amazon, I already own a sizable (and growing) collection that still makes me laugh.

It’s history, almost as if told by Monty Python.  Oh, I own that too.
Terry Jones’ Medieval Lives

Liberal. Education

“A child educated only at school is an uneducated child.”
– George Santayana

We here at Small Dog Syndrome got some fun  emails from a previous post (the post about things one’s kids ought to know.  Not the post about beating one’s kids.  Very different).  And so, because it’s summer and I need something to do on my lunch breaks and weekends, I think I’ll start up a bit of a series on the subject (again, about what’s one’s children out to be exposed to, not domestic violence.  Just so we’re clear).  Nothing formal, and certainly not organized; that’s just not the way we do things around here.  Let’s think of it as an ongoing project that will intermittently interject into our regularly scheduled reading.

Do you have something to share with the class?

I’m opening this up for discussion as well, be free with your comments, accolades, scathing rebukes towards my taste, etc.  And by all means, add your own suggestions!  I’m looking for books, movies, TV shows, vacation spots, and the like, all I ask is that you keep it culturally-minded.  Meaning while Spongebob Squarepants may have been your favorite drivel growing up, I’m looking for the quality things that you’d truly want your future spawn to know of.  More importantly, why.

You Ought to Know, Kiddies

“A painting.  Moving.  Spiritually enriching.  Sublime.  ‘High’ art!  The comic strip.  Vapid.  Juvenile.  Commercial hack work.  ‘Low’ art.  A painting of a comic strip panel.  Sophisticated irony.  Philosophically challenging.  ‘High’ art.”
“Suppose I draw a cartoon of a painting of a comic strip?”
“Sophomoric, intellectually sterile.  ‘Low’ art.”
– Bill Watterson,
Calvin and Hobbes

While my opinion of having children in the near future is well known, J. and I do like to theorize on it.  And occasionally I do something that I find completely baffling: I nest.

Not in the physical sense, in the intellectual.  See, I have it in my head that there are certain things I was exposed to growing up (mostly books and movies) that I found absolutely necessary to my happiness and that influenced me profoundly.  And therefore they will naturally be necessary to my children as well.  No discussion permitted.

And so, every once and a while, when no one is looking, when I run across one of these Necessary Items For My Future Spawn on sale, I snatch it up.

Luckily J. understands because one of the things that I think is absolutely necessary is quality cartoons.  None of your Spongebob Squarepants inanities and annoying Scrappy Doos, if you please.   Which is why he’s slowly building my collection of classic Bugs Bunny cartoons!  Behold one of my birthday presents! Looney Tunes – Golden Collection, Volume Three

Future spawn be darned, I watch these during Saturday morning chores!

See? Is this not required viewing? "Kill the wabbit!"

The Fighting Quail

“Remember, kids, the Quail Call is not a toy!”
– Quailman (Doug)

Once upon a time, Margot began working in the university library in the Children/Young Adult  Literature section.  I take some credit for helping her get this job as one of the questions they asked her was, “What books are you currently reading?”  She responded with a book I’d lent her, entitled “I, Lucifer” (click for Amazon link).  Which, as you may have guessed, is not a children’s book, but absolutely fantastic.  But apparently she was the only person who didn’t say something like, “The Berenstain Bears,” “The Magic Schoolbus,” or “The Three Little Kittens,” and she got the job because of individuality (not to mention brilliance.  She’s annoying like that).

And I’m so glad she did because that meant she could share this gem (which pops up on library computers when an error occurs) with us!

See? Doesn't this make you happy?

I personally think we should set this up on all campus servers (particularly the parking system and its annoying offspring computer problems).  Wouldn’t seeing this make your technical issue so much less aggravating?  I think all universities should offer some sort of equivalent, though some mascots should not be used (such, as Pinto pointed out, a duck).

Also, the Fail Quail unintentionally reminds me of my youth:

Quail Man

The Merry Month of May (or, Geeks Unite!)

“Any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still know where his towel is, is clearly a man to be reckoned with.”
– Douglas Adams,
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

This is clearly the month for geeks, nerds, Avatards, etc.  Earlier in the month we were able to enjoy Star Wars Day, otherwise known as “May the Fourth, be with you.”  Now personally I’m a fan of the first three episodes (by which I mean IV-VI) and not so much the second trilogy (by which I mean I-III).

And this mind-warping chronology brings me nicely to today, which is Towel Day, in honor of Douglas Adams’ trilogy-in-five-volumes – The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

This is a fan-holiday I can get behind, owning, as I do, the entire “trilogy” as well as (my preferred) Dirk Gently books, and The Salmon of Doubt, a collection of Adams’ speeches, essays, quips, and short stories.  Apart from a wonderful absurdist, he was a fantastically intelligent and clever man who despite his love for technology, was not limited to science fiction.  My personal favorite is the story of Genghis Khan who storms into Europe “so fast he almost forgot to burn down Asia before he left.”  Oh!  And God’s final message to his creation: “We apologize for the inconvenience.”

My parents are also fans.  They own the original radio series on cassette tape (which I may or may not have purloined when I went to university – sorry Mum and Dad!) which I listened to from a young age.  I’ve got them on MP3 now and they still make me laugh.

So yes, I know where my towel is.  Which reminds me.  J. and I need to do laundry rather badly.  So long and thanks for all the fish!