That's not really a word, but it's how I'm feeling. Cairo is overwhelming.

Being here is like every video you've ever seen on a spy show, but raised to the power of ten. All the individual sights are what you've seen on TV, women in headscarves, bright lights, people along the Nile, crazy streets. But of course, it's so different being here, people are always, always, always, ALWAYS hustling you. They will get you any service you like, they assure you, for only a nominal fee. My first foray out, I only got caught by one, and there went ten Egyptian pounds right there. Good news, that's about two dollars. Bad news, I am at the end of my trip and very broke, and couldn't really spare it at all. Sigh. So it goes. I should be happy I avoided it all but once. (I'm not kidding or exaggerating here. Every single minute, someone is demanding something of you. It is NUTS.)

I shouldn't be stressed here, but I am. The engagement ring helps (I am coming up with all these elaborate lies about Imaginary Fiance Will. Backstory, relationship history, personality, career plans, wedding date... I'm such a bad liar; I get paranoid really really quickly and start coming up with all these contingencies) but I get so flustered ignoring people on the street all the time. I know, I know, I'm from Berkeley, that's fairly ridiculous. But still, I don't know, I feel like I'm being so rude, when in actual fact it is self defense and being broke.

Anyway. Tomorrow I promise to calm down and see the pyramids. Meanwhile, news from Athens. I can't get this computer to recognize my flash drive, so no pictures for a couple of days. (Once I get home, I'll just post pictures all the time, from the whole trip, just for the hell of it.)

But! In Athens. The Temple of the Olympian Zeus, which is sort of like the Circus Maximus in Rome, in that the site is huge, so you realize the building must have been incredibly impressive. But there's so little left of it (in the case of the Circus, there's essentially a track; Zeus does better with 15 pillars standing; which sounds impressive until you realize that that's basically one corner of the structure) that it's hard to really appreciate. The Acropolis was more impressive -- there are actually several temples there, including the one with the Caryatids (which I just spelled wrong). But I found out! That's supposedly on the site where Athena and Poseidon had their contest, right, for who gets the city, and Poseidon made a spring well up from the rock and everyone was all impressed, except he's the god of the OCEAN, so when they tasted it it was all salty and gross, and then they weren't impressed anymore, and then Athena planted an olive tree, because she ROCKS, and the Greeks figured out that they could smoosh the olives and make olive oil, and sell it to the rest of Europe for really expensive prices, and then Athena got the city because her gift was more useful and that's why it's Athens and not Poseidons, although ironically, it occurs to me now, they probably had to cure the olives in Poseidon's salt water, so the gifts were actually sort of equally useful, and the city should really be called Atheidons.

Yes, of course I was like that for the whole tour, explaining things and pissing people off. Duh. I haven't changed at all. Plus, it's Athens!

Oh, and it just gets better. I mentioned yesterday the old Dionysian theater (ROCK ROCK ROCK ROCK) and ALSO I saw the Ancient Marketplace, meaning I walked on the same dirt as SOCRATES. I KNOW. IT WAS SO COOL!

Yes, all those caps were necessary. Sigh. No one understands me.

And, we went to this hill, right near the Acropolis, where supposedly Ares was put on trial for sleeping with/raping Poseidon's daughter. I don't know why all the gods were so big on pissing off Poseidon; it seems like such a stupid idea. Although possibly he couldn't ever really take it out on them because Ares would have kicked his ass, and Athena has Zeus sort of perpetually backing her up, so he had to just sort of fume, and so then when Odysseus pissed him off, he really went nuts because Athena was only supporting him sort of off and on, and so Zeus didn't really get involved...

Yeah, I'm taking my weird notions off to sleep now, because I have the same feeling that I get when I say something and everyone looks at me funny and blinks.


And You Shall Know Us By Our Digital Cameras

You know what there should be? There should be Euro Backpacker Barbie.

Seriously, I have it all thought out. Euro Backpacker Barbie has shoulder length, dirty, shaggy hair. It's layered and full of split ends. Actually, an old Barbie head that a four year old has practiced hairdressing on would be perfect. She wears a tank top and highwaters, and hinking boots, and has REALLY obvious tan lines behind her straps and watch and such. She has a backpack longer than her torso and thicker than her waist, with a teeny tiny ineffective padlock on the zipper, full of dirty laundry. She has a huge purse over one shoulder, full of cigarette cartons from different countries*, a lighter, a very tattered novel, an iPod, a digital camera, a bandana to tie over her hair when it gets too greasy, sunscreen, postcards, a book of Sudoku, an empty water bottle, and approximately eighty million Metro stubs from various cities. Her sunglasses are on her head. Around her waist is a money belt, with her passport, the key to the padlock, twelve euros, and her credit card.

Euro Backpacker Ken looks just the same, except he's in baggy cargo shorts a wifebeater, and doesn't have the purse. For five dollars you can get the expander pack, making her "Long Term Euro Backpacker Barbie"; expander pack includes extra duffel bag on wheels full of dirty laundry, a visa, and a bag of cosmetics, each from a different city (you know, toothpaste from Italy, lipstick from Germany, hairbrush from Denmark, etc.); a bikini, a winter coat, and a copy of The Rough Guide to Europe.

(The alternate title for this post was "How I Know I've Been Out Here Too Long.")

Yeah, yeah, Athens: I saw lots of cool things in Athens today, and did lots of squealing. You will hear about it tomorrow, when I can upload my pictures, because right now I am sleepy, and can no longer squeal as these things deserve. (Teaser: I was in the Dionysian Theater! Where the first showing ever of Antigone was performed! SQUEE! Okay, that's all I have the energy for right now.)

*No, Mom, I have not started smoking; please don't worry.


Quick Hit: Athens Photos

The universe continues to conspire, but here are some pics I took a couple days ago. Sigh. I really hope Cairo will be more exciting.

There's for the sightseeing, and as a cutesy addendum, here is the sparrow who was my lunch partner:

I thought she was kind of adorable.


Random Stuff

I've been sick, and then it was the weekend and really crowded, and now it's raining. The universe really doesn't want me to see much of Athens, I guess.

That's okay. Yesterday I walked down to the flea market at the foot of the Acropolis and browsed around it. They have ancient philosophers bookmarks! I considered pretending I was Socrates and going up to people all, "What IS virtue?" but if you make eye contact with Greek men they think you want to sleep with them, so I didn't. If you want a souvenir from Athens, though, now's the time to comment.

Today I'll probably hit the Archaeology Museum; I was planning on the beach, but it is too wet.

In other news, I have a couple of news sites on my Google reader (speaking of, not to pimp the site that gives me email, and my blog, and everything, but seriously, my Google account is the best thing that ever happened to me online, right up there with discovering TWoP. I cannot say enough good things) and this caught my eye. After a lot of thinking, I'm not going to comment on it, just link to it and sigh.

For fun -- the guy who originally wrote Brunching Shuttlecocks (that site is over now, but it was awesome while it lasted) made up this quiz so you can see if you all know me at all (yes, that's the only reason he did it. Okay, kidding. I filled in the answers I thought were true, now you get to see if you guess right.)

Take my quiz!


Spanakopita. Yeah, I don't know.

I am all safe in Athens, but have come down with a yucky cold. As such, I don't feel like doing anything interesting, and have nothing interesting to say. Instead of interesting things, I am sleeping, walking down the street to get spanakopita, and going back to sleep. Don't you wish you were me?


Byyyyyyy the Adriatic Waters...

The runner up title for this entry was a mixture of Homer and Shakespeare. Yes, there absolutely is such a thing as being too educated.

So here is my splendiforous Venice picture (one of several):

Venice is lovely. It's really a walking sort of city -- canals are by no means as prevalent as I used to think when I was little. And since all the bridges have stairs (unlike, incidentally the bridges in Amsterdam, which are more or less level), so there really is no way to get around all of Venice except by walking. I mean, or boat, but that's expensive. You can't bike, and there are no cars or buses, except one central bus station on the edge of downtown. My campsite was also lovely, as I think I've already mentioned. Italy is fun.

Now, though, I'm on my way (actually already in the waters of) Greece. So far it looks like California except in island form, but possibly it will be more exciting once I actually land. The boat is very, very relaxing, although I got very little sleep, having booked deck passage without a sleeping bag (dumb dumb dumb). Anyway. Guys on the boat keep hitting on me, like all the time. I'm not saying so to brag; they're mostly far too old for me; I'm just kind of mystified. My hair is all salty-stiff and awful and I'm wearing the pants that make my butt look big. Maybe it's the cute Parisian shoes, I don't know. One of the devoted swains is the Captain of the ship, who saw me struggling with my luggage yesterday and has since been very attentive. He took me to the bridge, and the forecastle, and all kinds of places I wasn't supposed to go, which was awesome and nifty. Then he got fresh with me, and I deployed Imaginary Boyfriend Will to keep him in line. (Imaginary Boyfriend Will is tremendously helpful in these respects... He is going to propose sometime while I'm in Greece -- definitely before I get to Egypt. Ella gave me an old ring she had that is apparently worthless but looks quite a lot like an engagement ring, if you don't look at it too closely. Hey, Imaginary Boyfriend Will can afford to be cheap; we're going to break it off once I get back to the States.)

Anyway. It's a good thing the voyage is so relaxing (my main activity is sitting in a deck chair in shorts and sunglasses, reading Middlemarch) because I am wicked stressed from trying to get in touch with Dallas Theater Center. I finally reached them the other day, and arranged for an interview, but I've since had to cancel, because the phone cards advertised on the ship have completely failed to be actually available. I'm supposed to call them at midnight tonight -- after docking -- which is great except that it depends on my ability to 1) stay awake and alert that long; I only got four hours of sleep last night, and 2) find myself an international calling card in Patras once we dock. I am praying that Patras will be like every single other city I've been to, namely with plenty of tourism and therefore international phone cards, but there isn't any way to be sure. I should just be thankful that they want to talk to me, but instead I'm chewing off my own cheekbone, because I know I look like a flake. Oh well. I can't imagine my other job prospect (for the summer) is any too pleased either, since she wants to meet me before she hires me and I'm on the other side of the globe.

Bitch moan, bitch moan. I've wanted to go to Greece since I was about eight years old, and spent many years of my life since then daydreaming about it. More than half my life I've wanted to get out here, I get here, and I'm biting my nails about job prospects for the coming year. Sometimes being a grown-up is not nearly as fun as it's made out to be.


The Vacation Part of the Vacation

Whee! Venice!

So, I left Dublin at six this morning. (And by the way? I am so OVER Ryanair. You read it here first, Ryanair sucks. My flight cost one euro penny, but each kilogram over the first fifteen in my carry-on baggage was eight euros. Since I have one carry on bag that is fifteen kilograms and another that is twenty, I had to pay them like a hundred and fifty to even get on the plane. I hate Ryanair. Also I am annoyed because the twenty kilo bag is mostly dirty laundry and winter jackets. Serves me right for using the "cheap" airline.)

But, nevertheless, I got on the plane in Dublin at six and got off the plane in Venice at ten. This is like getting on a plane in Vancouver and getting off in L.A. Suddenly I only need one layer out of my four. Getting to my campsite was a headache, involving a lot of walking and almost pulling out my shoulder blade, but now I am here, they upgraded me to a semi-private trailer (I only have to share with one other person, who doesn't seem to have got here yet) and there is a swimming pool. So I am ignoring the city of Venice for the afternoon and going to take a nap in the sun. Shut up, I had to get up at three to catch my flight.

Anyway. Tomorrow I will write all about Venice and post pictures if I can, but now I need to go finish my mystery novel.

Addendum, later in the evening: God, I completely forgot how relaxing Italy is. I feel so very much better than I did. I love Italy.



That is pretty, pretty, pretty Killarney, where I am right now. Sadly I forgot my camera on the bike ride I took today around Muckross Lake -- I did about twenty kilometers, ten of them on an empty stomach. Yeah, that was pretty stupid. But I saw lakes and waterfalls and forests. Ireland is the best place I ever heard of for playing "Maybe it's the road to."

Since I have now figured out how to upload pictures, here is one from Berlin:

That's a pretty good view of the Jewish Holocaust Memorial, downtown near the Brandenburg Gate. The tour revealed a certain amount of -- well, I don't think trivia is exactly the right word, but it's what I mean. Other options considered for the memorial were a huge vat of blood, a huge oven, and the little pieces of the Brandenburg Gate, which would be blown up with dynamite for the purpose. I'm pretty glad they went with this one... each slab is the same width and depth, but different heights, generally getting taller towards the middle. When you're in the middle, it's pretty nervewracking. People are wandering around it constantly; whether you want to be alone or with other people, you sort of can't. Some people, of course, kind of miss the point and climb all over it, giggling and talking about stupid shit. There are actually police officers who hang around so that people respect it and don't get too rowdy. Which is really, really disturbing when you think about it. But by far the most interesting piece of information is that the stones are coated with a substance that makes spray paint not stick, so that the memorial can't be graffiti'd. The company that makes the product is the same one that produced the Zyklon B gas that Hitler used in the gas chambers in Auschwitz and other camps. When this came to light, the company publicly announced it, apologized, and provided the coating for the memorial free of charge. There was still a huge controversy... this is one of the reasons I love Berlin.

Anyway. I'll post more pictures when I get a chance.


Reading Habits

So, my reading habits have basically done a 180 when compared with what they were before college. I've sort of flip flopped in a number of ways, like my policy about finishing books (I used to think it didn't count unless I had, and if I didn't finish a book the first time I would need to restart it as often as necessary until I had. Now I realize I don't have that kind of time, especially if the book is stupid. This is why I ditched Maia when I left Ella's place a few days ago... I had planned to finish it and then leave it on a train for some unsuspecting Puritan to find and get the vapors from, but I checked with Ella -- "Does it get any better?" "No." "Does it get any less misogynist?" "No." "Sex scenes get any less distasteful?" "No." "Is there any reason to read the last 400 pages?" "Not a one." -- and decided that my time is better spent reading other things. Admittedly this switch came less from college and more from last summer, when I read -- and finished, because I had nothing else to read -- a book so vile that I have the urge to deface it with graffiti every time I see it in a bookstore. You know, open it up, surreptitiously write "This book sucks. The author is an idiot. Read it at your own peril." and only a fear of being caught and having to buy the book stops me), and my policy of fiction versus nonfiction. Only my policy of rereading has remained more or less the same.

Right, believe it or not, all that was actually a sidebar. What I noticed today was a sort of ... odd turn my reading has taken. It's been building up for awhile that I'm simply enjoying nonfiction more than fiction recently -- the stuff that was amusingly labeled "faction" in the bookstore I was in today -- and although it disturbs me a little that I seem to be drawn to the really popular bestseller type nonfiction (except biographies; I generally hate biographies) it doesn't disturb me nearly so much as the trend the subject matter is taking. Basically, I think I'm reading books that give me context and justification for my education.

The two non-fiction books I've bought most recently and have been reading most commonly are Civilization: A New History of the Western World, by Roger Osborne, and A Short History of Nearly Everything, by Bill Bryson. Both of them are that sort of popular, fairly easily readable type of nonfiction -- Osborne's book is just what it says, a history of culture and cultural influences from Ancient Greece up till now, and Bill Bryson's is a sort of history/summary of scientific discoveries in all kinds of areas and anecdotes about the people who made them. But they're both essentially summaries, justifications, and contexts for all the shit I just spent four years studying. The first being a justification of seminar, obviously, and the second, most of my lab and math curriculum. Also, the book I spent something like three hours devouring in a Killarney bookstore this afternoon is called Misogyny and is billed as a short history of humanity's oldest prejudice, again covering ancient Greek and Judaic texts up through twentieth century history. A couple things, in the Greek section at least, were a little overblown, a couple things from the philosophers in all the sections were kind of generalized, but in general it was really good and had me kind of writhing on the floor and almost crying in places. But it, too, highlights something I've been trying to come to terms with, namely being a woman and having the educational background that I have.

(Okay, I'm also reading more recent histories -- my own copy of Shirer's Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, and in bookstores, Gaddes's The Cold War. But I'm spending much, much more time on the others.)

Is this normal? I find it kind of disturbing on two sort of contradictory levels. For one, I'm sort of annoyed that I need the context; I thought that's what college was supposed to have given me. And after having spent four years on this stuff, sometimes almost killing my mental health over it, why do I almost immediately go back to the pop-cult version of it, less than I year after I graduate? Can't I find a new interest, or at least some sort of more advanced version of this interest? Do I have the academic's version of Stockholm Syndrome?

Are other graduates doing this? Can anyone give me a good reason for it? I really want it to be okay, because I'm really enjoying the books and I feel like I'm learning stuff, but looking at it empirically it just looks really odd. Or maybe I'm just feeling very self-doubting after that history of misogyny book.


Sad News

My iPod is dead. Its clickwheel no longer clicks. Technically, I suppose, I could still listen to it, if I wanted to listen to exactly the songs it wants to play for me at exactly the volume it wants to play them, but I think it's time to just give it up. I am jaded by the Apple corporation -- at the end of the day, my iPod didn't work very well, and it certainly didn't last very long -- but not so jaded that I don't want a new one. It is very annoying that it died in the middle of rural Ireland; I was sort of counting on it to make me go hiking.

On the plus side, rural Ireland is really, really, really pretty, and I can deal with it much better on twelve hours of sleep than I could on five.


Dublin Pubs

Well, how the hell else am I supposed to write about Dublin?

I was only in Dublin for one day -- okay, I arrived mid-afternoon, but I arrived on five hours of sleep and after plenty of time spent on trains and in planes and on the bus, etc., etc., etc., so my evening was something along the lines of buy sandwich, eat sandwich, sleep.

But then I arose, like the rosy fingered dawn somewhere else in the world; in Dublin the dawn was gray and cloudy and ucky. Seriously, Ireland is cold, y'all. Also expensive. Also completely dead on Sunday. If you are ever going just for one day, make it a Friday. Nothing happens on Sunday, and nothing opens until 2pm.

I left my hostel at around ten thirty, and it took me like two hours of wandering around in the cold damp to figure that out. But then, oh, but then. Then I found a pub. I love pubs in Dublin. Tea was two euros, which seemed horribly expensive until the guy brought it out and it was a whole potful. And I just got to sit, and drink it slowly, and read my Bill Bryson book (yeah, I broke down and bought it while I was in Durham). And then I finished my tea and the barkeep came to get my empty dishes and asked if I wanted more. "Um," I said. "Of course you do," he answered, "sit tight and I'll bring it out for you." And he did. And I sat in the pub for like three hours, all comfy and drinking my cups of tea. And he only charged me for the first pot.

"Thank you," I said. "Not to worry," he answered, "it's an Irish tradition to sit around in pubs drinking tea. You can stay as long as you like."

And that totally made me love Ireland. If AuntE had come to some of the pubs out here she would have liked the British Isles much better.

Then I went to the Irish National Museum and learned about the Irish wars of independence. And don't get me wrong, the English were bastards and evil and I'm down with that, but I do think it was moderately scummy of the Irish to wait until World War I had started and then buy a bunch of guns from the Germans and attack the English on the other side. Don't worry, I'm not making that opinion public; I like Ireland and don't want to get lynched.

Then I did the Literary Pub Crawl. Not sure if it's quite worth 10-12 euros, I'd put it at about 8-10, but it was good. The actors were excellent and professional, and the atmosphere was much more relaxed and friendlier than the atmosphere at the Berlin Pub Crawl I did a few weeks ago. At that one everyone was trying to get drunk and hook up, and I just got awkward, but at this one we learned lots of literary trivia and I made friends with a nice Canadian couple about my age. We compared travels, it was fun.

And now I am in Killarney, after a six hour bus ride. Ireland really is as green as you've always heard, I was not disappointed, but I did fall asleep for about half of it. Shut up, learning about Irish authors is taxing. If you're drinking Guinness at the same time it is. I'm totally right.


I've Kind of Forgotten What Day of the Week It Is

I only left Ella and Char's this morning, and within one hour of leaving to travel alone I've forgotten all the normal stuff like what day of the week it is and which exact days I'm traveling and the conversion rate between the pound and the euro as applied to living in the UK and its environs. Sorry, Ireland. What I mean by that is that you can get a sandwich and a soda from a deli for a little under five pounds or a little over five euros. But you're spending less in Euros anyway. This would probably make plenty of sense to me if I had been sober and gone to bed early last night. Sigh.

On the plus side, I made it safe here, I had a fantastic, awesome time with them, and I scored a bus ticket to Killarney for about half what the internet said it would cost to take the train. All this pleases me.

I know it's boring to read about my various money thoughts and sleepy travel stories. I'll be doing better tomorrow after I've gotten some sleep and seen some of Dublin.


Dancing & Debating

I am having so much fun in Durham this week. It is exactly the right amount of layaround, late-sleeping, making a mess all over Ella & Char's living room, plus cultural treats, and the best part, the fun-ness of Johnny talk. (We are dredging up so many old stories. Char was a senior when I was a freshman, so we've got literally like seven or eight years of scandals to talk over and laugh about. I once read a quote that said great minds discuss ideas, mediocre minds discuss events and shallow minds discuss people. I've never believed it, because I never met anyone who didn't enjoy discussing every single one of those things, usually in quick succession.)

Anyway, last night Ella took me to her lindy class, which I sucked at after spending three or four years trying to figure out Johnny swing, which is significantly easier than the normal kind. But it was full of really friendly people and good times, and it ended at the pub, which is never bad.

Ella and Char are also being converted to Wonderfalls, which makes me feel rather better about how much time I spend watching the show. This makes me happy. They also agree with my consensus -- not the best thing on TV by a long shot, but clever, and oh-so-cathartic.

Tomorrow I shall decamp for parts west, namely Dublin and Killarney. Yum, Ireland. And by that yum, I was referring to Guinness.


Hurray for Hollywood

Wow, is Spider-Man 3 the most manipulative movie ever or what? Okay, I actually have reason to believe that 300 is more manipulative still, but Spider-Man 3 is the most manipulative movie I've seen in recent memory. (Now, Sam, was the American flag thing really necessary? Look into your soul and get back to me on that one, huh? Because I think you could have gotten along just fine without it.) Everything you've read in the reviews is true; there is too much going on but it is nevertheless a satisfying wrapup. And some of the manipulation works really well -- SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT okay, I was totally cheering when Spider-Man and the New Goblin teamed up; that was fucking awesome and totally unexpected END SPOILER ALERT END SPOILER ALERT -- and it's not like the other Spider-Man movies aren't also totally manipulative. And yet ... I came out not sure what to think about it, ironically because the movie was so clear about what I ought to be thinking.

Other than that, I'm having a lovely time in Durham, staying with Ella and her husband, spending most of my time sleeping, watching TV, drinking tea and going to the bookstore. I think I'm going to break down and buy Bill Bryson's new book, which is on sale all over Europe, because the first hundred pages or so were wicked good. Yes, I know I have neither very much money nor very much suitcase room. I have the self-discipline of a six year old.


The Globe is my Tiffany's

Except I never eat breakfast there, because the shows are all in the afternoon and evening.

I was only in London for one night, but of course I have obligations for my one evening. I got very lucky, too -- totally sold out, and a long line for returns, but I scored my standing ticket at the very last minute, and that made it even better.

The play was Othello, not my favorite for a variety of reasons, and sadly this performance didn't really change my mind. I always get the feeling that in order to write Othello, Shakespeare took the two main character traits of Aaron, from Titus, and split them into two characters and wrote a play about those two. Othello got the dark skin and the resentment implied therein, and Iago got the evil and cunning and whatnot. And you know, there's nothing wrong with that, work with what you know and all, but the way the show ended up, it's really intensely difficult to do.

Because, right, Othello has to do this complete 180 degree turnaround, and the catch is he really doesn't get very much time to do it in, and he doesn't get very much provocation. So you need to foreshadow fairly, because otherwise it's racist (the idea that a black guy can just change from good to evil at the drop of a hat), not to mention the audience is just lost, but if you foreshadow too much, it's still racist (even the black guys that act the best are really only wearing a thin covering of 'civilization' and they can throw it off at any time). Now you could argue that this just makes it a racist play, and in certain ways that's true -- it doesn't have Merchant of Venice's saving grace of the whole if-you-prick-us speech. But I've been thinking about that, and I don't think you HAVE to play it racist -- as long as you give Othello subtle but concrete emotions behind his actions.

Because the story makes perfect sense if Othello IS very civilized (I hate that word but can't think of a better one in this context) but people have been being racist against him all his life, literally everyone EXCEPT Desdemona. And so he's come to expect it, and he's very on guard against it, and he's very paranoid about it, and all that is feeding him all the time. And then, really, all he would NEED to do is hear something about how Desdemona doesn't really love him or is just like everyone else, and his world really WOULD collapse, and it would lead to him questioning himself, even possibly without realizing it. Does that make sense? As in, he's so used to hearing that he's a barbarian, and he spends his whole life trying to be as much like the people around him as he possibly can, to draw attention away from it, and naturally he's intensely sensitive on this point but of course he can't possibly SHOW that, because then people would flip out more. And he finally meets someone who loves him for himself (that's the whole point, isn't it, she loves him for the stories that he tells her about his life) and he feels like he can relax and let his guard down in front of her, and she really cares about him, and finally he seems to have won something and fit in, etc. And then he lets his guard down enough to trust her, but SINCE he's still really sensitve about the whole thing, it WOULDN'T take much for Iago to play on that sensitivity in the form of jealousy. And Iago would have to play it like jealousy, because Othello is so used to comments about his race -- he withstands them just fine from Desdemona's father at the very start of the play -- but the jealousy would tie in nicely with the fears he already has. And from there, it's not really a very far leap for Othello to be like, you know what, fuck you ALL, and quit acting the 'civilized' person for their benefit, and be so angry and hurt, and in back of all that really questioning his own self worth -- CAN anyone love me, AM I not a good person, IS it because of something I can't change -- and let all that swing him too far the other direction, right into wife-murder-in-her-bed territory.

And I really don't think that's racist, in fact, I think it's kind of anti-racist, showing the ways that racism can drive the most normal people into hideous things -- because racism helps drive Iago, as well.

Right, so the performance. I had the same problem with this show that I had with Titus last fall -- namely, they didn't get my interpretation across. Heh. Okay, I'm sort of kidding. What I mean is that in both cases, I felt like the play lacked subtlety. I thought the acting was good, I thought the energy was on target, the cast worked well together, etc., etc., but in both cases everything else was so very good that it threw into sharp relief for me the lack of subtlety when it came to why these people were doing the crazy things they were doing. I thought the 'clicker' scene in Titus -- the turning point scene, I mean, the one where he laughs -- was glossed over and we as the audience didn't get to see why he was laughing, that the elements didn't build, that the play stayed on one level instead of building and crescendoing like a piece of music. Okay, what I know about music fills maybe a teaspoon, but that's the analogy that makes sense to me. And that should come from the characters as written; you're telling a story about people, and it gets so much more powerful when you see exactly why everyone's doing everything, because then you get all creeped out about your own personality, which in my view is kind of the goal of good theater, especially good tragic theater. Which maybe tells you something about me.

And it's hard for me to critique that stuff, because both after Titus and after Othello, my own interpretation became really clear to me, so I think in both cases it's entirely possible that they're doing it on purpose, so that people's ideas about the play become clear to them. Mine only became clear after a lot of thought, but I was influenced enough by the play to take that thought, so maybe this is the best kind of theater there is, much as I might prefer the kind that presents such a clear interpretation and such clear motivations that you feel part of the story, and you question your character afterwards and all that. (And I know that kind of theater is possible, it's just insanely-beyond-all-reason difficult. But that was Romeo and Juliet a few years ago, and Richard II the year before that; I don't know who that guy is but I kind of want to kiss his feet and then stalk him.)

And this is why philosophy majors should not be interested in doing practical theater. Right here, case in point.

All that aside, I still felt this production was too choppy, something about it hadn't quite gelled yet, but it is only the third performance, so possibly that's coming. Iago was excellent; so were Roderigo and Desdemona. Wasn't a fan of the guy playing Othello, but that was entirely because of what I was talking about before. There were some very nice touches, like having him dress in Shakespearean attire until the day he's going to kill Desdemona, and then dressing him in Arabian robes. (See, you see what I mean? And I didn't even think about that until just now, practically, yet it obviously and clearly influenced my own interpretation of the play, and now I'm like, oh, so that's why they did that.)

Also, I made it up to Durham, I'm staying with my university friends, and am having a very good time seeing the sights and talking Johnny.


Out Out And Away

Made it safe to Brighton yesterday evening. I spent the day on various trains -- Normandie to Paris, Paris to London, London to Brighton -- hauling my luggage around, sweating, and reading Hammett's The Thin Man.

My theory of travel remains as firm as ever, and in fact is getting more detailed. You'll remember of course that 80% of people, me included, are just trying to get to their destination in as hassle-free a manner as they can, 12% become total assholes and 8% hit a kind of travel nirvana and ascend to the ranks of angels. I'm very firmly in the 80%; when I am in train stations I just want to find my train, with as few interruptions as possible; I therefore hate all other people in the station, including but not limited to people who are walking slower than I, people who are walking faster than I, people who are standing still, people who have more baggage than I, people who have less baggage than I, and people who are breathing. I'm very impressed with people who DON'T get like that when they travel; there seems to be a loose correlation between not being a stoic bitch and not having four large bags that you are responsible for all alone; this may deserve further research. On the plus side, guys in England can be just as sweet as guys in France when it comes to helping the pack rat carry her suitcase up the steps in the train station, which is nice.

I spent most of my time on the train reading The Thin Man, which I really liked. I especially loved Nora. Nick was pretty cool, kind of a cross between an older Gregory Peck and a younger Humphrey Bogart (and there ain't nothing wrong witht that) but I admired Nora more for being smart and not a pansy and able to put up with Nick being so hard-boiled all the time. I wish she had been the one to solve the mystery, but you can't have everything.