Thursday, August 29, 2013

Epic Rap Battles of History

Been watching Epic Rap Battles lately. Deep historical cuts. Here are my three favorites, to give a taste:

Gandhi v. Martin Luther King Jr.

Cleopatra v. Marilyn Monroe

Rasputin v. Stalin

There's a new season coming up, and I think these would be good ideas:

  • Helen Keller v. Helen of Troy
  • Franklin Delano Roosevelt v. Theodore Roosevelt
  • Confucius v. Lao Tzu
  • Marie Curie v. Rachel Carson
  • Harvey Milk v. Alan Turing
  • Queen Elizabeth I v. Queen Elizabeth II
  • Pocahontas v. Sacajawea
  • Michelangelo v. Leonardo da Vinci
Feel free to suggest any of these on YouTube.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013


Earlier this year I read Wedekind's 'Spring Awakening', and during the past couple days two by Strindberg: 'A Dance of Death' and 'A Dream Play'. I've also read my Shaw (Major Barbara, Pygmalion, and St. Joan), my Chekhov (Uncle Vanya and The Cherry Orchard), my Wilder (Our Town), my Pirandello (Six Characters in Search of an Author), my Wilde (The Importance of Being Earnest) and of course my Ibsen (Hedda Gabbler and A Doll's House). Thus, the turn of, and first part of the century.

Moving on, in the 1940s, I've read Brecht (Galileo), Anouilh (Antigone, and later Beckett) and Sartre (The Flies, No Exit, Dirty Hands, The Respectable Prostitute). I suppose that decade also includes Williams (The Glass Menagerie and A Streetcar Named Desire) and O'Neill's Long Day's Journey into Night. Miller (The Crucible, and later Death of a Salesman) just squeaks in.

Conclusion: I am not fond of plays from the turn of the century to the mid-century. I like about four or five of those listed, tops.

Works subsequently published to those listed I have read eight: Beckett's 'Waiting for Godot', Hanberry's 'A Raisin in the Sun', Fo's 'Accidental Death of an Anarchist', Lawrence and Lee's 'Inherit the Wind', Bolt's 'A Man for All Seasons', Wagner's 'The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe', Soyinka's 'Death and the King's Horseman' and Stoppard's 'Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead'. I like two, maybe three of those.

But perhaps earlier?

Goethe's 'Faust'? No. The works of the foremost of the Spanish Golden Age, Lope de Vega? No. Japanese No Dramas? No.

I do like Moliere's 'The Misanthrope' and Racine's 'Phedre'.

And then you have Shakespeare. Romeo and Juliet, Julius Caesar, Hamlet, Coriolanus, King Lear, Macbeth, Othello, Measure for Measure, Much Ado About Nothing, A Midsummer Night's Dream, As You Like It, The Tempest, Richard II, Henry IV, Henry V. A few of those, less than half.

The play variously translated as something to do with Shakuntala, by Kalidasa, written in India in the 5th century - that's pretty good, if I remember correctly.

Skipping the Romans, whom I've not read, I end at the Greeks.

Aeschylus: Prometheus Bound: Not really Aeschylus, not really one I like. The Oresteia is okay, though.
Euripides: Medea and Hippolytus, no. The Bacchae, yes.
Sophocles: The Theban Plays, Philoctetes, yes. Ajax, no.

Aristophanes: The Frogs, The Birds, no. Lysistrata, The Clouds, yes.

All in all it would seem from such a list that I'm not fond of theater. But this is not the case. For I enjoy watching plays immensely. I have seen countless productions, at one point I took in about ten a year. I love watching plays. Oddly, though, most of the plays I've read, mostly for school, did little for me. Perhaps I know not how to read them properly, and need to see them to appreciate them. I'm pretty sure I'm not alone in this. I recall debates about Shakespeare 'on stage' vs 'on page'. I'm curious, though, in an idle way, as to why some people prefer one to the other, or if it is certain works broadly appeal that way.

Even as I was typing this I looked and saw I was committed to seeing two plays in the near future. And I just saw one earlier this week.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Deep Archives: 'Musings'

The following was written around the start of high school. I recall the first section, in particular, as one I was proud of. I'm not sure how old it is, actually, but I think the best estimate would be from 2000. In tone, I was perhaps going for Twain's ironic, critical self-deprecation. Pretty ambitious for thirteen or fourteen. I recall these scenes so vividly, though, that the hideous run-ons and adolescent judgments don't dissuade me from posting. It was a rare synchronous heart-beat when my life seemed to match the optimistic visions of the City on the verge of a millenniumIt was a glorious, reflective, open-horizons, nostalgic time in my life. 

Pretty ambitious for thirteen or fourteen.

I was sitting, mild mannerly, on the red velvet chaise in the all but empty fourth floor of the San Francisco Opera House, with my pen in one hand and the section of the paper which contained the comics in the other. I say ‘all but abandoned’, for as I sat intermediately placing the butt-end of the pen in my mouth and holding it, with no real fear of its falling, like a cigarette smoker, two women came out of the office outside of which I was waiting, and the taller, pretty brunette addressed me.

“The bard at work, eh?”

I had never before seen this woman, and was concerned as to why she had addressed me as a bard. She explained, at no prompting from my part, except, perhaps, that of the concernedly puzzled look on my face, that she had seen me sitting on a chaise in an all but abandoned opera house, pen in one hand and paper in the other, and that she assumed I was writing poetry in such a romantic situation. I replied that I was, indeed as she had then asked, waiting for somebody inside. She and her companion then took the elevator down, talking about me as they entered it.

Well. A few moments. I started to wander about on the abandoned floor and snooped around the abandoned bar finding an abandoned bottle of wine, champagne, or some other spirit. Why it had been abandoned in the stripped bar with a light casting a dilapidated shadow upon it, never mind its being uncovered, was quite beyond me. I looked at the golden label, or more specifically the black writing upon it, and found no clue as to what the bottle might contain. I was tempted to make a lift, but thought better of it, and sat back on the chaise for a moment, only to stand up again and start clicking my pen while pacing.

The particular clicking was such so that, in reverberation of the hallways, it sounded to those still within the office as if there was a rogue tap dancer in the halls. This likeness was do to the fact that I had the effect in mind whilst clicking, and therefore sought to emulate the sound as nearly and rhythmically as I could.

*           *           *

I am supposing that if I were to have seen the needle, my reaction would have been far more violent than it was. On the sixth floor of the Kaiser building in San Francisco, on Divisadero and Geary, I was being ‘injected’, (though I prefer the term ‘shot’), by a small Asian nurse, whose name, though the second time I had seen her that week, I had not yet caught. The shots were Hepatitis B booster and Meningitis. The previous Tuesday it had been a PPD (the bubble in the arm) and a Tetanus booster. My left arm was in severe pain those days.

I have always hated needles. They make me bleed. I do not take aspirin, so this bleeding’s cause is yet unknown. I believe that it is do to my lack of vein-space. I do believe that my veins are at all times practically full to the hilt, and that the excess fluids pumped into me create a little overflow at the source.  Like dunking a glob of vanilla ice cream deeper into one’s root beer with a spoon or straw, and inevitably seeing the now lighter colored soda run down the glasses’ edge. I figure that if I had had more injuries in my yet so young a life that maybe I would not have such a copious volume of blood still about me, but these thoughts are morbid, and best not considered for too long of a period, especially when one is in a room unoccupied but for oneself and the needles.

*           *           *

I enjoy going to restaurants alone. I was dining at Louis’, a San Francisco institution, in the second to last booth round the back, looking at the fog and ocean. There had been someone drowned, the busboy at the next table was reporting to the customers that it had been on purpose, and the authorities were present down near the ruins of the Sutro Baths. And so I observed them scurry below as I sipped my drink with a spoon.
The rest of the nearby area was closed for renovation until that August. The Cliff House, the restaurant which I had intended to patronize, was also closed during this renovation. So I had settled for Louis’. After all, I had come out all this way, and was pleased with my service, chili cup, and patty melt, so all was not lost.

*           *           *

The worst thing about the San Francisco Symphony is that the windows have large concrete half-pillars blocking the view every seven feet or so. Since these same windows were the feature that made the Symphony’s architecture appealing, for God knows the rest of it wasn’t, I found this a shame. And even though I had passed through the lobby and tiers of the building innumerous times I had not previously found so glaring a fault in its windows.

I do suppose that I am becoming more observant with age.

The only flaw that the symphony had before the windows were noticed was the staircase. That staircase had scared the hell out of me, even when I was little. A good thing I suppose, considering the literal translation of the phrase. Another wonderful side effect of the aging process aforementioned is that one’s perception of height becomes more acute. Whenever I walked these halls I stayed in the middle, an equidistant gap formed on either side from the stair case and the windows.

*           *           *

My mother’s dog’s name had been ‘Gorda’ at the ASPCA. This term meant ‘fat bitch’ in Spanish and was an unsuitable name for the middle-aged, round, mild-mannered mutt. So the name was changed to something better, yet close enough to be identifiable by the dog, to the previous. The name ‘Gerta’ was decided upon. It reminded my mother of the name ‘Greta’, a name which did not fit this dog at all. I was, at first overjoyed at the name choice. It allowed me in public to address the dog as though her name was ‘Goethe’, which sounded more dignified to me, and was an apparently undetectable difference to the dog from the made up nonsense of ‘Gerta’. However when my mother once accompanied me on one of the walks of her dog I accidentally said ‘Goethe’ instead of ‘Gerta’. My mother corrected me by saying that the dog’s name was ‘Gerta’, not ‘Goethe’, and my months of subversive name calling came to an end then and there.

*           *           *

I resolved on public transportation that I should not learn to drive. I did not have any desire to drive and while riding the bus I made yet a further discovery that led me to believe that to stop taking the buses would be a bad idea. There were a surprisingly great number of pretty women on the buses whom I had never noticed previously, but whose presence over the past few days I was becoming more attuned to.

The current fashions of the day accentuated girls’ hips, butt, thighs, and breasts. In this glorious age of acne cleansers girls whose faces may once in yesteryear have been scorned were now smooth and, there is no other word, silken. I refer to those faces of white girls, for I took little to no interest in the faces and bodies of other raced girls, unless given reason to do so. I will admit, though, I had a fondness for the look common to girls from India, and the like places.

But, my eyes upturned from my H.G. Wells and glued to a curvaceous pair of Levis,  I realized that such a departure from the world of public transportation was also more then the loss of pleasant viewing. I would be at higher risk of danger to myself and others. The cost would be far greater, the environmental damage greater than that of the city’s electrical buses, and I learning to drive would be unnecessary. They argued that it was more convenient. Not so: the buses in San Francisco ran everywhere. They cited far fetched emergencies and worst case scenarios. I cited the existence of ambulances. So the arguing continued, I clearly victorious, but the opponent too damned stubborn to admit their fault, likely stung by the fact that they, as automobile owners, had succumb to all of the terrible vices I named associated with such devices. I am, in fact, sure that this is the case. For with each refutement I gave, the greater grew their anger towards my public transportation position. I did not, of course, speak of the greatest value of all.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Why I Write

"I see that it is invariably where I lacked a political purpose that I wrote lifeless books and was betrayed into purple passages, sentences without meaning, decorative adjectives and humbug generally."

George Orwell, "Why I Write"

Dear neglected blog,

The reason I write is usually boredom. It is seldom to elucidate, rarer still to motivate. Many of my posts are curiosities only - an interesting tidbit on World Heritage Sites or the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame or Nobel Prize winners. Partially this is my fascination with lists, but partially it is because I blog when I've nothing to do. When there are no books to read (or more honestly I am avoiding reading a book because my humor dictates whether I devour or shun a work at a specific time) no television shows to watch, no friends to drive home from karaoke, that is when I write.

Things have been busy recently. That History of the Novel class I thought I was teaching needed a lot of prep, then was cancelled, then I was told I'm teaching AP Euro, which now needs a lot of prepping. I had an annual get-together to attend in upstate New York. I discovered one of my pupil's father worked for Lehman Brothers. Lehman Brothers! That's a month of reeducation right there.

Suffice to say what with all that stuff, combined with getting a new apartment and on and on, I've not been bored enough to write.

But the fact I write mostly due to boredom is slightly troubling. I find my best, and favorite, work is that which, like Orwell's quote, is political. I told myself years ago I would enter politics. Now I am seriously considering it.

I could put off seriously considering it for a long time. During my twenties I was going to teach. Teaching is a noble, and respected field. It's a good background from which to get elected. Also helps that I'm pretty good at it. Politics is my passion, though, and what I always knew I'd do eventually. The question was what do you do to start. You can't just go in and run for office, you need to learn things and build up a base, etc.

And the reality is that if I want that base, and that experience, I need to start transitioning now. I'm 27. If I want to run for office in my thirties, to build up to a national career in my forties, the time is ticking. 2014 will be another election year. The initial steps will have to be taken shortly. 

So there may be a shift, then, in why I write. These days I write because I'm bored. In the future I may write when there's information concerning America you need to know.