Having gone to a very interesting seminar this afternoon, given by Stephen Knight, about Myrddin/Merlin – which I will blog about maybe tomorrow, when I feel more human – I have renewed my determination to read more academic books. I was good at this for a few years out of uni, but I have got slack recently – unsurprisingly – and while my brain hasn’t quite turned to moosh (I hope), it’s getting a bit sluggish. So I aiming to read, realistically, maybe 10 academic books a year. Some of those will be popular-ish histories, because I do so love them; some will be more academic, I hope – I plan to re-read many of my uni course readers, at least the history ones that are relevant to school and the English ones that I am interested in; I also made good inroads on this resolution by beginning Greenblatt’s Shakespearean Negotiations, this evening: it’s been on my shelf for a few years now, and I have never got past the intro. It has the best opening line ever – way better than Pride and Prejudice: “I began with the desire to speak with the dead.” And some of my 10 will also, I have vowed, include education books. Just recently I have realised that I don’t put quite the effort and love into my vocation as perhaps I ought. I am undertaking some steps throughs school to improve that, but realise that I need to spend some external time on it too, sad as that might be.
Anyway. Expect, at random intervals, posts about these academic texts. And feel free to ignore them at will.
I don’t think I’ve said that enough recently.
I love Led Zeppelin.
I am doing some prep (yes, for the second last day of school… sad, eh?), so I’ve put my DVD of “Unledded” on – Robert Plant and Jimmy Page doing a concert about ten years ago for MTV. Page is so, so incredible – I love the triple-handled guitar, it’s so unnecessary! – and Plant is a glorious front man. He has a voice I just love listening to – in his newer incarnation, too, with the Strange Sensations. And their songs! – so listenable. Unlike, for example, early Beatles, which is just crap; and modern pop, or even rock, which so often sounds just the same, one song after the other. Kashmir is on a completely different planet, for example, from Rain Song.
Who, me? Biased? Pft.
I share a staffroom with about 20 people. Basically, a cube farm, but with less room than the average battery hen. I have a desk, on which I can just fit both my elbows (when I move everything off said desk), and a four-drawer filing cabinet. When I first looked at that filing cabinet, I thought: “ha! how can they think I will ever fill that up? I’m not going to be here that long!” to which I now say: “ha! young and naive me!”
But that’s not the story.
I am in a lane/corridor/section of eight – four to one side, four to the other, backing on to each other. Back your chair out too fast and you’re likely to collide with someone. In our corridor there are five English teachers, three history teachers, one geographer, one psych teacher, one science teacher, and one art teacher.* Someone at some stage called us the Corridor of Champions, and it stuck (with blu tack and a lot of hard work from us). We decided that, since reports are over and the end (of the semester) is nigh, we should have lunch together. So we did. Got a couple of little tables, turned the chairs around, massively over-catered… it was so much fun! And people were so jealous, which was at least part of the point, of course. We even had silly hats. It will now be a termly thing, we think.
It made today – a five-out-of-six-lesson-on day, with additional yard duty to make sure kids don’t get run over – bearable.
*Doesn’t add up to eight, does it? I’m both English and history, so figure it out from there….
You know how some people can listen to their recorded voice, and they have no problem with it?
Well, that’s not me.
Nonetheless, I bring you My First Podcast. The first part is Cassiphone interviewing Marianne, which is interesting; the second part is Cassiphone and I having a yarn about Troy, which I have previously raved about here. I have listened to, oh, about 10 seconds of it. I am sniffling a lot – had a nasty cold – and I think I sound dreadful. If you think I sound like I do in real life, don’t bother telling me! Because I don’t want to know that. Still, it is very exciting to have this podcast up – a first for ASif!, and quite possibly going to become a semi-regular feature. And if GJ gets Skype too, the world had better start trembling!
Not the movie, not a person, but a collection of short stories by Simon Brown. Despite the fact that I had been warned to the contrary, I rather did expect that all of the stories would be genuinely and obviously connected to the Greek myths. This was not the case. All of the stories were quite good, but I admit that the stories that were very definitely set in the Trojan context were my favourite. I won’t go into it in too much detail now, because there’s another project coming up that I will reveal more about soon… but I have to share my joy over one story.
“The Masque of Agamemnon” had me crowing with joy from the first paragraph to the last sentence. It is just so clever, so beautiful, so enjoyable… I can’t really explain it. I tried to explain it to J, but since he doesn’t know the stories very well it didn’t make all that much sense to him. But just the title – so clever! (Although damned by Schliemann.) And the ending – brilliant! And the merging of scifi with the stories – ! My incoherence shows, I hope, my inchoate appreciation rather than a Sunday night brain.
It also reminded me that I have Dan Simmons’ Olympos stil looking at me accusingly, unread… but I haven’t read Ilium in ages, and I have to before I read this one, and it is still loaned out to someone.
The cover of Troy is lovely too.
This was one very, very good purchase from NatCon. And it’s one of the copies with signatures from Simon Brown, Sean Williams (co-wrote “Masque”), and (!) Garth Nix, who wrote the Introduction (on which I have mixed feelings, but I think I like it).
We went to see Bell Shakespeare do it last night. I’ve been looking forward to seeing it for months, so I was glad that it was good. And I had worded J up beforehand, so that he at least knew the story line. Speaking of whom, at half time he said: “I don’t see why it’s called Othello; it’s all about Iago.” Which was a good call, I thought – Wayne Blair was good, as the Moor, but Marcus Graham absolutely kicked ass as Iago. He was so… evil. And manipulative. And just plain brilliant.
Couple of things I noted:
1. I have studied this play maybe three times, in different subjects, but I’m not sure I’ve ever seen it performed. Iago is so sexual! Half his big speeches seem to have to do with sex. Which is not a bad thing, but I had never realised it before, so it goes to prove that seeing a performance is infinitely better than simply reading words on a page (well, duh). And no, I don’t think it was just the twist Graham gave the words… although his body language certainly reinforced it!
2. It’s really quite racist. Well, duh, say all the historians – but you know, you’d think that if Shakespeare was putting a black man as nominally the lead it would be a bit sympathetic to him, but… not really. Othello isn’t rational – he “loves not wisely, but too well” – while many of the white (male) characters are; he is made to say some bad things about his own colour, and most of the other speakers get in a comment about his colour too. It made me think – and I’m not sure I ever considered this before, which is to my shame – whether a black man would actually have played Othello in Elizabethan times. I bet that if one did, you wouldn’t have been able to hear the words of the play, for all the excitement it would cause in the audience. Or maybe I’m overestimating the ability of an Elizabethan crowd to be impressed by anything.
3. The female characters are dreadful. Desdemona is weak (although there was one point in this version where it did look like she and Cassio were getting… close…); Emilia is devious, and would be a slut if given the opportunity; Bianca is a whore. Delightful!
4. The Cassio last night was disappointing. He’s meant to be this great lady killer, and Tom Wren just isn’t… pretty enough. He was a bit weak, I thought.
And of course it made me think of Wise Children, since Othello is one of the plays whose plot the family follows in some respects. If you like Shakespearean drama at all and haven’t read it, you really really have to. I would go so far as to say that it was the best book my Arts degree introduced me to.
And then, after, we had a lovely walk to the tram, looking at all the buildings in the mist. Our city is best by night.
Started off away from the con – had ‘coffee’ with the lovely Alison and Kate. We were meant to go to Brunetti’s in the city, but they were closed. So we wandered to Burke St, and sat in a cafe for 15 min or so having ordered coffee and not getting any love; then we left and went to Laurent (I want to go there a lot), and I had a delicious chocolate and almond croissant. And a hot chocolate.
Then, back to the con.
And then to lunch. Took the gang (it really felt a bit like a gang by that time) to Deli France, and it finally proved that Melbourne really is the Food Capital.
Then back to the con. And sitting in the lobby, to be in a convenient place to see people signing out of the hotel. Rachel was good and went to the closing ceremony, but I never did hear if it was worthwhile.
Lots of sitting, lots of talking… me gaining review copies of stuff to read, particularly for LastShortStory.
I left at about 4pm, because J was going to be home at about 4.30 or so and he was a bit sick. It was hard to leave. Good friends in three days? Crazy, but true.
Thus endeth my first convention.
I skipped on the earliest panel, feeling a bit guilty because surely that’s what the con is meant to be about? – but then I spent time with Alisa and Tansy et al, and it was ok. (At least, I think that’s what I did… maybe that was the morning I read? I dunno; I forget.) I did go to the panel “Science fiction and Fantasy in the School Curriculum” – which was sort of interesting, except that the main person on the panel was a bit of a twit. I got quite annoyed by him. Particularly when he was saying things like: “All due respect to my fellow educators…[insert insulting comment here].” Very annoying. Oh, and then there were the “only geeks who get beaten up at lunch read scifi/fantasy at school” comments.
Anyway, after listening to how people use/have used the genres in curriculum – and a few kids whinge about how creative writing never gets taught (a. some would say it can’t be taught; b. yes many of us don’t know how to teach it because it’s not a prereq to become an English teacher and that is not a bad thing about us; and c. … whatever) – I decided to have my say. I asked, basically, why we should include it. I understand the desire to get kids to enjoy your likes – heck, that’s why I teach history – but why were they getting so het up about it? Cath Ortlieb gave me a good answer… Ian got all huffy under the collar. Which was pretty funny. And then, because it was that time and because I had made my point, I left with Rachel to go to Cassiphone’s book launch. I won a book! And, in fact, I won Splashdance Silver, which I already own but got signed, so that’s very “ooooh.” Oh, and chocolate. Lovely. Lost Shimmaron looks like it will be a very entertaining series; I liked the mermaids in Seacastle.
Back to the con… and to an hour of movie trailers! Much fun! It’s great watching trailers with like-minded people. Yay Transformers.
For the rest of the afternoon, I stooged around. Went to a little bit of a “Create your own Space Opera” panel hosted by Paul Kidd (two space squid make a double decapod…). Missed the apocalypse panel. Went to dinner at a very dodgy cafe with Alisa, Ben and Rachel… and then went to the Orb #7 launch and the preliminary screening of The Liminal. A very funny (sometimes deliberate, sometimes not) film made on a shoe string. Most of the cast was there, which was nice. And then there was Renaldo, First Sheep in Space. Which was quite funny, although I imagine funnier if you know the fans involved. I particularly liked him starring in Violence of the Lambs, and Baa Wars.
The good vs evil panel was good (see how I’m picking up almost from where I left off?), and Tansy provided a good moderator – and even got a few words in edgewise, despite efforts to the contrary.
I stayed in the room afterwards, and listened to Gill Pollack talk about food and how it is important in world-building, and give some interestin foody anecdotes. She also threw chocolate at/to the crowd, but since I had already received a few of her choc beetles I declined. I did try the grains of paradise, which are/were supposed to be an aphrodisiac… no dice.
I was then thinking of staying on for a talk on new stuff in alternative history, but given who the speaker was I left. Rather quickly. Enough said about that… I then hung out with all my new-found pals, went and had dinner at a Japanese restaurant in China Town (go figure), and made it back for the free booze and nibbles at the launch of Dark Space (which I’m looking forward to; I think I managed to get named second reviewer for ASif!) and The Darkness Within (eh; not so much). And then – the Ditmars! which apparently recognise “excellence in science fiction, fantasy and horror by Australians” in the previous calendar year. GirlieJones won herself three!! Including Best New Talent! Ah, vote rigging, so much fun… but seriously, it was great; the look on her face was priceless (each time!), and they were of course well deserved.
Finally, it was off to my very first Room Party, hosted by Cat Sparks and Rob Hood, to launch Daikaju #2 – very exciting. As were the drinks: champagne with blue curacao and a lolly dinosaur. Excellent!
And then home, and to bed.