Riba Rambles:
Musings of a Mental Magpie

About the author: Elisabeth in early 2007, photo by Todd Belf
Elisabeth "Lis" Riba is an infovore with an MLS. This is her place to share whatever's on her mind, on topics both personal and political. [more]
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Saturday, March 26, 2005
Fight fiercely, Hahvahd!
Posted by Lis Riba at 11:20 AM

As I'm catching up on the last several days newsblogs (mostly filled with more ugliness regarding the Terri Schiavo case), I just encountered this exchange Ampersand found, which made my morning:

I’m a bit late with this one, but if Maureen Connolly of the Coalition for Anti-Sexist Harvard is reading this, I just want you to know that you’re my hero. If you’ve got to appear on a hopelessly biased fake-news show like Hannity & Colmes, then I admire someone who is willing to be obnoxious to Sean.

From “Hannity & Colmes,” March 2 2005, about the Larry Summers bru-hah-hah.

SEAN HANNITY: Is it sexism or a point of valid debate? Joining us now, Harvard students on both sides of the issue, Josh Mendelsohn from the group Students for Larry and Maureen Connolly for the Coalition for an Anti- Sexist Harvard.

Maureen, are there differences between men and women? Do you see differences in men and women? Not just physical, their other differences?

MAUREEN CONNOLLY, COALITION FOR ANTI-SEXIST HARVARD: Differences between men and women? Of course, I see differences. Do you see differences between men and women?

HANNITY: What are some of the differences?

CONNOLLY: Oh, Sean, I think you can answer that question for yourself. You don’t need me to explain that to you.

HANNITY: You know, this is how it works here, Maureen. I ask the questions. You answer them. What are some of the differences you see between men and women?

CONNOLLY: Well, for example, I have long hair. You have short hair. That type of thing, don’t you think?

HANNITY: That’s not exactly the type of difference I was talking about. For example…

CONNOLLY: What differences are you talking about?

HANNITY: … do you think, and this is just an intellectual exercise, do you think women by nature are more nurturing to children than men are or is that a stereotype?

CONNOLLY: Oh, see, there’s your first mistake. The nature-nurture debate is far outdated, Sean. You’re making a big mistake. And that type of…


HANNITY: Do you think that or not? I’m asking a question, and is it yes or no? It’s a simple question.

CONNOLLY: That absolutism is entirely outdated. So why don’t you check up on your psychology and maybe we can go back and talk about the nuances of that debate?

<applauds> Brava, Maureen! You go girl!

Friday, March 25, 2005
Drive-In Theaters
Posted by Lis Riba at 5:00 PM

The season is nearly upon us.

I was recently enlightening some coworkers who were unaware any still existed in the area, and thought some of you might be interested as well:

They show double-features, admission about $20 per car. First film is generally kids-friendly, and many people leave during the intermission before second film. Audio is through the car stereo (or portable radios, if you want to sit outside) Unlike regular movie theaters, they have no restrictions on bringing your own food, if you want something healthier (or cheaper) than popcorn or the rest of the snackbar menu.

As I recall, they usually tend to announce the forthcoming week's schedule on the website by about Wednesdays... And they do actually get first-run films. [So, if you're actually interested in both halves of a double feature, it's a pretty good deal for couples compared to traditional theaters.]

Oh yeah, I suppose I should note that they do sometimes sell out. So if it's a popular movie and a weekend, you may want to get there early...

So far, I've only been to Mendon, since it's closest to where I live, although Milford isn't that much farther away. Drive-Ins.com offers several ways to conduct geographic searches for drive-ins in your area (make sure to specify you're looking for open ones!).

It's a lot of fun; I recommend going.


Friday morning funnies
Posted by Lis Riba at 7:55 AM

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and Suburban Guerrilla is definitely a blogger worthy of praise:


From a poster over at DU:
  1. The Wall Street Journal is read by the people who run the country.
  2. The Washington Post is read by people who think they run the country.
  3. The New York Times is read by people who think they should run the country and who are very good at crossword puzzles.
  4. USA Today is read by people who think they ought to run the country but don't really understand The New York Times. They do, however, like their statistics shown in pie charts.
  5. The Los Angeles Times is read by people who wouldn't mind running the country -- if they could find the time -- and if they didn't have to leave Southern California to do it.
  6. The Boston Globe is read by people whose parents used to run the country and did a far superior job of it, thank you very much.
  7. The New York Daily News is read by people who aren't too sure who's running the country and don't really care as long as they can get a seat on the train.
  8. The New York Post is read by people who don't care who's running the country as long as they do something really scandalous, preferably while intoxicated.
  9. The Miami Herald is read by people who are running another country but need the baseball scores.
  10. The San Francisco Chronicle is read by people who aren't sure there is a country ... or that anyone is running it; but if so, they oppose all that they stand for. There are occasional exceptions if the leaders are handicapped minority feminist atheist dwarfs who also happen to be illegal aliens from any other country or galaxy provided, of course, that they are not Republicans.
  11. The National Enquirer is read by people trapped in line at the grocery store.
  12. None of these are read by the guy who is running the country into the ground.

BTW, I do mean what I say about praising Suburban Guerrilla. She's usually the first blog I read in the mornings, and when I only have time to read one blog, that's the one I pick. Her Koufax award was well-deserved, and if you aren't reading her, you should be.

Thursday, March 24, 2005
Undercover octopus
Posted by Lis Riba at 11:39 PM

Just stumbled across this and it's just too weird not to share.

Scientists have discovered bipedal octopi -- under certain circumstances, they walk on two legs while trying to camouflage themselves as drifting algae.

This U.C. Berkeley press release includes several Quicktime videos and is just bizarre looking! You really have to see it. [Warning: the first time I tried to load this page, it froze under Opera! Dunno why, but you may wish to take precautions before opening it. And if you don't want to take the risk with that page, you can find many more accounts on Google News.]

More worrisome, as Ian pointed out, moving in this manner leaves them six arms free for tool use, should they be so inclined.

Pleasant dreams!

Megillah Gorilla
Posted by Lis Riba at 11:20 PM

Two thoughts occurred to me during tonight's Purim services.

• First of all, don't you think the whole story of Esther would make a great Elizabethan revenge play? I was thinking particularly of Marlowe's style of sensationalism. I mean, Haman would just be perfect for Ned Alleyn (famous for playing Tamburlaine and Barabas). Great over-the-top villain the whole audience will love to hate, until he gets his comeuppance at the end. It's got few female roles (Vashti, Esther, a few others), well within the capabilities of the boy apprentices. And it ends in bloody righteous massacre, too. Honestly, I don't think the plot as written would require much in the way of changes or additions to suit the tastes of the period.
Unfortunately, I don't have the writing talent to compose such a blank verse masterpiece, nor are there modern audiences clamoring for it. Still, I wonder if anybody in period did attempt the story.

• Later in the evening, over dinner, I started thinking "Be merry, it's Adar... BlackAdar!" Starring Rowan Atkinson as Haman, Hugh Laurie as King Ahasuerus, and I'm not sure whether Baldrick would play Esther or Mordechai. Scarily enough, I think it could work either way...

Somewhat less entertaining, the synagogue had two different pamphlets of the Book of Esther for people to read along with the folks on the bimah. One of them was incredibly bowdlerized. It looked like the Hebrew (Aramaic?) was intact, but in the English, they eliminated the trumped-up rape charge (7:8) and cut most of Chapter 9 (it didn't number lines in the English, but it looked like they only included 1-4 and maybe from 19 on, skipping the entire slaughter). Big pictures on those pages to hide the disparity in lengths between the Hebrew and English. Interestingly enough, I checked the copyright: that particular translation was published in 1947...

Anyway, it's late and I'm tired. I'm heading off to bed. You guys see any fun Purim shpiels or have any other amusing anecdotes to share.

PS: This morning, I started another long post about the political fallout from Terri Schiavo, but I'm too tired to finish writing it tonight. Hopefully it won't seem too dated when I get it posted.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005
Blogging: the Addiction
Posted by Lis Riba at 8:50 PM

I noticed something peculiar about Ezra Klein's morning post. See if you spot it:

With a final and moving back down for break on my plate, I've got a pretty busy day ahead of me. So the inimitable Shakespeare's Sister will be helping out today and I'll be popping in and out as time allows.

Update: Argh. Set my alarm for 6:30 so I could study more, and must have turned it off when it beeped. Now it's 8:30 and my final's in 30 minutes. I'm a tad screwed.

If you're not sure what to look for, scroll down to ihateemo's comment, which said it before I could.

While I understand the temptation, I don't think I've ever written any posts quite like that... yet. [If you want to know how the exam turned out, Ezra posted a followup later.]

On the other hand, I totally identify with the last panel of today's Dork Tower. And once again I'm tromping on elements in my half-written essay on reviewing: the battle between living for the moment and composing for posterity...

Ignorance isn't bliss
Posted by Lis Riba at 8:15 PM

On Monday, the Brookings Institution held a panel discussion on New Media. Warning: the panel composition skewed hard to the right. Daniel Drezner was one of several who liveblogged the event. I share all this with you as a preface to one line that just shocked me:

11:18 AM: [Andrew] Sullivan thinks there should be no schools for journalists, and that the "interns of the future" are those who are writing blogs in college.

I've checked the transcript, and here's the full passage I think he's referring to:

I mean, committing journalism is one of the easiest things in the world. The great myth, that you need to be trained to be a journalist, is a myth. You pick up a phone and do a story, go on the Internet and research something and write it up entertainingly and well, you're a journalist. There's no elite of journalists. And there should be no schools for journalism. People should learn it.

Now, certainly, modern mainstream media suffers from problems largely brought on by the profit-motive, bias, and laziness. I mean, get a load of this shocker Suburban Guerrilla passed along from Slacktivist:

The paper I work for today is running a Q&A from the Associated Press about "the facts" of the Terry Schiavo case. One of the questions asks if Schiavo is in a persistent vegetative state. The Q&A does not provide an answer -- it provides instead two, mutually exclusive answers: Some doctors say she is, but her parents' doctors say she isn't. That's not a Q&A, that's a Q&Q. "Who are we to say?" is not an answer.

But let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater!

As I've started writing theater reviews and thinking about how to go about it (another incomplete post I'm working on), I started thinking that drama critics have been doing this for centuries. Why should I have to reinvent the wheel, when I can look back and see how my predecessors solved some of these problems?

So in contrast to Andrew Sullivan's blogger-triumphalism, I'm actually looking for journalism texts on reviewing to get some ideas for ways I can do it better. I don't expect to slavishly follow every rule, but informing myself on what's gone before seems a more intelligent route than muddling along trying to go it alone.

The obligatory Schiavo post
Posted by Lis Riba at 7:45 PM

Jack Balkin makes an excellent point in relation to the whole Terri Schiavo mess:

Finally, the Congressional Republicans' moves also suggest that if Roe v. Wade were overturned, the matter would not be left to the states, as so many pro-life politicians have advocated in the past, but would quickly become a fight over federal legislation outlawing abortion nationwide.

I wrote that on Monday, but never had the chance to post it. Since then, I've come across a few further posts worthy of linking:

At this moment, I don't have a living will, but like most Americans troubled by this case, I'm sure I'll be making one in the very near future. In the meantime, I'll just close by saying that fifteen years after my death, I sure as hell hope my husband is dating once again and finds somebody else.

I am... woman!?
Posted by Lis Riba at 7:22 PM

Just for the heck of it, I submitted my Measure for Measure review to the Gender Genie to see how it perceived my writing.

I tried it twice: both as a blog entry and as simple nonfiction. In both cases, the Gender Genie was certain the author must be male male.

Blog Entry:
Female Score: 1156
Male Score: 2238
Female Score: 704
Male Score: 1158

I guess, on the Internet, nobody has to know you're a woman...

Tuesday, March 22, 2005
Normal? What do you know about normal?
Posted by Lis Riba at 7:15 AM

Which Incredibles Character Are You?

brought to you by Quizilla

As Keith R.A. DeCandido (where I found this quiz) wrote about his results: "I can live with that....."

Posted by Lis Riba at 7:05 AM

I've been waiting for this...

Last November word reached us that The Muppet Show was coming to DVD in complete season sets. It was at a New York Henson event that Craig Shemin first publicly mentioned that Disney was working on season by season box sets of The Muppet Show.

Ian and I bought the Columbia House Muppet Show video tapes. While it was nice to have the episodes, (a) they only released about 10-15 tapes (of 3 shows apiece) out of five seasons, (b) episodes were thematic, not in order, (c) they didn't preserve the original tiered opening credits of first season episodes -- they tacked on opening credits from later seasons. In short, good, but not good enough.

More information from Muppet Central (via khaosworks)

Big Kermit-the-Frog wave-y Yaaaaaay!

Monday, March 21, 2005
Rambles Reviews: Measure for Measure
Posted by Lis Riba at 11:35 PM
"You've heard of Theatre in the Round? You're looking at the man who invented Theatre in the Square!"
 -- Max Bialystock, The Producers
"O, sir, you are deceived."
Allyn Burrows as Duke Vincentio and John Kuntz as Lucio
Allyn Burrows as Duke Vincentio and John Kuntz as Lucio

That was my thought as I walked into the Jorge Hernandez Cultural Center and saw how the room was laid out. Although the hall has a built-in stage, that had been converted to additional rows of seats. Instead, a raised platform in the center of the room became the focal point of the action, prompting my comment above.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Measure for Measure is the second production in the Actors' Shakespeare Project's inaugural season.

Measure for Measure takes place in the freewheeling city of Venice, a den of fairly-typical iniquity until Antonio, a strict moralizer, takes charge and begins a crackdown on vice. But when he is tempted by the same sins he's condemned in others, can he find true humility or just hypocrisy?

Sex and power games: common subjects as served up by Shakespeare. What a delicious menu.

As in their Richard III, the ASP makes full use of the space available. General seating takes the form of small candlelit tables suitable for two to four people. To further establish the seedy atmosphere that starts the play, bawds and other lowlife characters mingle among the audience, flashing their bling and offering their assistance to make the evening more enjoyable.

Since I praised the scantily-clad men who opened Dido, I must also note the action here opens by offering an eyeful of female flesh. :) This may not be suitable for preteens or prudes.

But everyone else should have a wonderful time. The story is a dark comedy with some disquieting scenes. [I find myself almost relieved Julius Caesar (their upcoming third play) doesn't have any seduction scenes.]

Ken Cheeseman as Angelo and Paula Langton as Isabella
Ken Cheeseman as Angelo and Paula Langton as Isabella

Sets were minimal, but they made full use of the available space. Characters entered through the audience, delivered soliloquys from the staircase... At least twice, action took place on two levels, with some characters on the balcony interacting with others on the main stage.

Given how widespread the action was, I have to praise the lighting designers. With the help of some kind of water mist system (rather than smoke-machines), they transformed the room from a smoky nightclub to a foggy night. Also, the golden lighting during one of the staircase soliloquys was gorgeous!

All the actors gave strong performances; I feel bad singling out any one that it might seem a slight to the others. Paula Langton did a superb job as Isabella. This role was so completely different from the comic murderer she played in Richard III, I didn't even recognize her until I checked her credits in the program. John Kuntz is also growing on me, going the opposite direction from the scarily sociopathic Richard to comic relief roles of Lucio and Froth. And Ken Cheeseman played Antonio so tightly wound that his hand twitched almost subconsciously.

But, really, everyone was good. And the cast follows the Shakespearean practice of doubling roles, so keep a sharp eye. Just when you get comfortable with someone playing it straight-laced, he may surprise you with a brief turn as an utter wretch. They're really a great ensemble.

My truest test of Shakespeare is how they handle the wordplay. Four-hundred years of language shift can be an obstacle to understanding. But my concern goes beyond whether the actors (and direction) can make the story clear and comprehensible. I want to see them deliver the jokes!

It's not an easy task: sometimes it seems like every other word was some form of sexual slang, often using definitions dropped from modern English. This is one of the reasons that Shakespeare is so much better seen (or heard) than read -- even when footnotes try to explain the joke, they don't hold a candle to a good performance.

But the ASP did manage to get laughs, eking out at least one double-entendre that even my (library's) Arden Shakespeare didn't recognize.

After the intermission (between Acts III and IV of the text), I noticed a few weaknesses: The music seemed overly intrusive over one of the monologs. And I heard a couple flubbed lines here and there. But these were minor matters, and didn't dim my enjoyment.

There's more I'd like to say about their interpretations, but I don't want to spoil the story for any readers unfamiliar with the play. Suffice it to say (for those who have seen the production), I like the growing note of ambiguity they added to the second half. I suspect some of those characters and actions were purely white-hat in Shakespeare's day, but times have changed and I appreciated ASP's handling of those aspects.

Measure for Measure is playing now through April 10 at the Jorge Hernandez Cultural Center in the South End. Parking looks difficult, given the neighborhood, but it's convenient to several MBTA lines. They provide directions (driving and T) on their website.

PS: I've added a few more announcements for upcoming productions to Bard in Boston. If you're in New England and interested in Shakespeare, you should be reading it!



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