2017-04-11

sovay: (Claude Rains)
Chag sameach! My mother came down with a hell-cold over the weekend, so we are postponing our seder until the last night of Pesach in order to give her health a chance to recover and everyone else a pass on picking up the hell-cold; instead she and I had shoyu ramen at Mr. Sushi in Arlington Center, which met many of the same prerequisites as chicken soup and did not require her to cook anything at all.

We had to wrestle with a glitch on Filmstruck more than I would have liked—it is a glorious service with an interface that could stand improvement—but [personal profile] rushthatspeaks and I watched Sherwood Hu and Dorje Tsering Chenaktsang's Prince of the Himalayas (2007), a Hamlet retelling set in seventh-century Tibet. It left both of us feeling that we wanted some critical analysis from someone familiar with the history and culture of the Tibetan Empire rather than just the Shakespearean side of things, but it was also beautifully shot, powerfully otherworldly in earth-anchored, windblown ways (there is Buddhism in this world, but there is more Bon), and ran several twists on the play I hadn't seen before. Luo Sang De Ji is now my favorite Fortinbras: as Ajisuji, the princess of the neighboring Subi, leading her troops across Jiabo's mountains in order to open up a trade route into Persia, she looks like a rich bird of prey in her silver-scaled, wing-shouldered armor with peacock feathers at her helm and throat, but her face is scarred and the sword she trades as a pledge of peace with Purba Rgyal's Lhamoklodan has seen plenty of wear. She will stand by the pyre at the end, holding something better than silence in her arms. This version almost doesn't need to be a tragedy, but Hamlet is still Hamlet and therefore even if we only finish ankle-deep in Danes, it's still blood enough to fulfill the prophecy of Dechendolma's Wolf-Woman, a shamanistic figure who has no Shakespearean equivalent (in this play, at least: her ambiguous oracle would have gone over fine in Macbeth. On the other hand, she yells at a ghost that really needed yelling at and does what she can for the future when the past can't get out of its own way. We were not entirely sure she expected Dobrgyal's Kulo-ngam to behave in some of the less far-sighted ways he did). I liked the score enough to wonder about the chances of an official soundtrack, with its mix of traditional instruments and contemporary themes. The costuming looked like nothing I had quite seen anywhere else, which seemed right. And I am glad I could stream this movie on Rush's computer (which has better sound than my own), but I am sorry I did not get the chance to see it in theaters, where I think it would have been spectacular; my favorite Hamlet may remain Innokenty Smoktunovsky, but in terms of the whole story Prince of the Himalayas is a surprisingly strong contender. At one point Lhamoklodan and Laertes-analogue Lessar get in a fistfight in a river. In the middle of an already awkward funeral. While a large number of courtiers have to look as though this is not weirder than that time their prince ran half-naked through the streets of the capital, randomly laughing at people. You just don't get that with Olivier.

I was just introduced to Sons of Maxwell's "United Breaks Guitars." I grew up on Tom Paxton's "Thank You, Republic Airlines." I know I should want a third example to make a genre, but I really don't think any more guitars need to die.

I need to sleep.
sovay: (Viktor & Mordecai)
I think it was at Lunacon this weekend that I was saying to [personal profile] spatch that people don't think about chemical weapons being used in World War II. They are so much a part of the Tarot of World War I, especially the Western Front—Trenches, Poppies, Shells, and Gas—that just because they were not widely employed in combat between 1939 and 1945, in the popular imagination they might as well not have been part of the war at all. Which is one of those weird gaps of definition, I remember saying, because the Nazis used fucktons of chemical warfare, it just wasn't directed against Western Allied troops. It was used chiefly on non-combatants. And being thus compartmentalized off the battlefield, when people around here say "chemical weapons," for many of them I suspect Zyklon B falls into a kind of memory hole. If you have any sense of the Holocaust, however, you think for a minute and the compartmentalization collapses; the memory hole closes. It's not rocket science.

Dammit, Sean Spicer.

(My mother, by contrast, looked at Spicer's remarks and did not think the issue was an unexamined separation of World War II and Holocaust: she thought it was an older problem of definitions. Of course Hitler didn't use chemical weapons on his own people. The Jews weren't his own people. That was kind of one of the key points of National Socialism. So nothing about Spicer's initial statement was wrong, if you take Hitler's word for it. You should just never take Hitler's word for anything. Especially not if you're speaking for the White House.)

So, yeah. I spent most of today away from the internet and then I find out that happened. It does not feel to me as deliberate or as boundary-testing as this administration's earlier omission of Jews from Holocaust Remembrance Day—I think it's more likely that Spicer, who has so far manifested the approximate historical understanding of a turnip, got flustered and tried to bluster his way out of the question and instead just blurted his foot even farther into his mouth—but he's still thrown another bone of garbage to the Holocaust deniers and done nothing to improve the ignorant racist image of the current administration, though truly at this point I believe they are more or less projecting what they intend to, they just don't want to have to get called on it. I'm just amazed that apparently they want to project an image of that level of flailing incompetence.

I'm probably slandering turnips. They're older than Linear B. They're not even unique to Europe. I'm not even going to touch "Holocaust centers." It wasn't like daycare, you know?
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