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, November 12, 2005
Curse you Blogger!
Posted by Lis Riba at 9:45 AM

For those coming upon this later, those last five entries written the previous night only published five minutes ago.

The previous post (War Poem) was particularly intended to be seen yesterday. Also, I do generally try to space out my entries, at least to a certain extent, so the sudden rush of subjects won't diminish attention to each individual post.

And I still see no acknowledgment of the problem on any of Blogger's normal locations for such announcements nor email responses to my own reports. How unprofessional.

[Sorry if my speech comes across as affected, I've been reading Elizabethans...]

Friday, November 11, 2005
War poem
Posted by Lis Riba at 7:59 PM

Among the exhibits in the British Library treasure room was the original manuscript for Wilfred Owen's "Anthem for Doomed Youth."

I hadn't heard of him before, but Wilfred Owen was one of the English "war poets" who served in and wrote about World War I. He died November 4th -- one week before the Armistice.

Considering the holiday's dual role as Remembrance Day in other nations and Veterans' Day here in America, I'm quoting a different poem of his, “Disabled”:

by Wilfred Owen, (1893-1918)

He sat in a wheeled chair, waiting for dark,
And shivered in his ghastly suit of grey,
Legless, sewn short at elbow. Through the park
Voices of boys rang saddening like a hymn,
Voices of play and pleasure after day,
Till gathering sleep had mothered them from him.

                       *            *            *

About this time Town used to swing so gay
When glow-lamps budded in the light blue trees,
And girls glanced lovelier as the air grew dim,-
In the old times, before he threw away his knees.
Now he will never feel again how slim
Girls' waists are, or how warm their subtle hands;
All of them touch him like some queer disease.

                       *            *            *

There was an artist silly for his face,
For it was younger than his youth, last year.
Now, he is old; his back will never brace;
He's lost his colour very far from here,
Poured it down shell-holes till the veins ran dry,
And half his lifetime lapsed in the hot race,
And leap of purple spurted from his thigh.

                       *            *            *

One time he liked a blood-smear down his leg,
After the matches, carried shoulder-high.
It was after football, when he'd drunk a peg,
He thought he'd better join.-He wonders why.
Someone had said he'd look a god in kilts,
That's why; and may be, too, to please his Meg;
Aye, that was it, to please the giddy jilts
He asked to join. He didn't have to beg;
Smiling they wrote his lie; aged nineteen years.
Germans he scarcely thought of; all their guilt,
And Austria's, did not move him. And no fears
Of Fear came yet. He thought of jewelled hilts
For daggers in plaid socks; of smart salutes;
And care of arms; and leave; and pay arrears;
Esprit de corps; and hints for young recruits.
And soon, he was drafted out with drums and cheers.

                       *            *            *

Some cheered him home, but not as crowds cheer Goal.
Only a solemn man who brought him fruits
Thanked him; and then inquired about his soul.

                       *            *            *

Now, he will spend a few sick years in Institutes,
And do what things the rules consider wise,
And take whatever pity they may dole.
To-night he noticed how the women's eyes
Passed from him to the strong men that were whole.
How cold and late it is! Why don't they come
And put him into bed? Why don't they come?

Incidentally, according to a 1997 article by Daniel F. Pigg, this was written around the time the word queer gained its connotations of homosexuality. [The OED's earliest written quote with this meaning dates back to 1922, so it's entirely probable that was in vernacular use when this poem was written in 1917.]

That's on top of the straightforward meaning (quoting Pigg) “where the injuries of the war have made the male body strange, unfamiliar, undesirable, and unknowable.

War is a terrible thing.
Sometimes it may be necessary, but we should never forget the price paid by the men and women on the front lines.
I just wish to express my gratitude to everyone who has served.

Much ado about nothing
Posted by Lis Riba at 6:35 PM

I stumbled upon a minor flap regarding Kevin Spacey and the Old Vic Theatre:

   Hollywood actor-turned-theatre director Kevin Spacey has installed an 'autograph' flap at London's Old Vic theatre, so he can safely meet and greet fans following performances there.
   Since becoming artistic director at the historic venue, Spacey's celebrity has drawn huge crowds to watch his plays. He is currently performing in Shakespeare's Richard II -- bringing even more theatre fans keen to catch him in action. Many of whom pack the stage door desperate for a glimpse of the star or his autograph.
   The scale of his support has grown so much he has now fitted a clever contraption that allows him to reach out to the crowd and grab programs and scraps of paper to sign without greeting fans in person.
   A source tells London newspaper the Evening Standard, "The flap was installed last week. Kevin loves it. He signs autographs between 10:30pm and 10:45pm. Not only does it make autograph-signing much less hassle but he also feels safer as he doesn't have to open the stage door."
   Last year Spacey was mugged for his mobile phone while walking his dog near the theatre in the early hours of the morning.

Some of the blog posts I've seen on the subject are really quite snooty on the subject, treating this as an example of mockable eccentricity or ego run amok.

Well, I was there -- at the Old Vic on Monday night. I saw the show, and I hung around the stage door afterwards (more because I didn't want the evening to end than from any desire for autographs). Until I encountered the snark on Shakespeare's Sister, I didn't think anything odd about the practice -- in fact, it struck me as eminently practical under the circumstances (and still does).

Looking further, other blogs commenting on the story seem to be taking a similar negative spin.

I think much of the nastiness seems derived from the article's tone, rather than the actual happening. Don't forget, this comes from the British press: during my stay I saw several news articles I wanted to repost on dot_cattiness. Furthermore, wire versions of the story (such as the Boston Globe's) omit mention of Spacey's mugging.

I'm trying to write up my experiences chronologically so I don't omit anything, so don't want to go into more detail on this right now.

For now, just trust me, I had no problems with his behavior and didn't feel at all distanced or notice anything strange about it. Didn't even know there was anything remarkable about it until this story cropped up.

Posted by Lis Riba at 6:30 PM

I'm really rather cross with Blogger at the moment.

Remember that Opera bug I discovered Wednesday morning and reported on yesterday?

According to the Opera forums it's been ongoing since last Friday or Saturday.

And they still haven't posted anything about it to Status.Blogger.Com nor their Known Issues page.

Why are they holding back? Data loss when saving posts from certain browsers. If that's not an issue worth informing the user base about, I'm not sure what is.

I'm really getting sick of their refusal to let users know when they're making changes and/or notify users when problems do occur.

Instead, they leave it up to each individual user to discover the problems on their own, forcing us to wonder whether it's just us or the site, making bug reports in ignorance of whether the issue is already known. [And don't get me started on the fact the only options to contact support are "Ask for help or instructions" and "Submit a feature request or suggestion."] People can be understanding that problems do occur, but the least they could do is be forthright and forthcoming about them...

Tonight, I've discovered that nothing will publish from Blogger. It's not losing my entries (thank Gd) but the Publish screen progress never gets past 0%, no matter how long I wait. The server shows the Blogger account has connected, but it doesn't create or modify any of the files it's supposed to be.

Meanwhile it's been a half hour since I made my first post this evening, and I have no idea when those or this will actually publish where you all can see them.

I've been a very understanding and tolerant user of Blogger for over three years now, but I'm feeling at the end of my tether and quite irate.

They've got to shape up their act. This is truly beyond the pale.

Posted by Lis Riba at 6:05 PM

How did I miss hearing about this?

The Virgin Queen
Airing Sundays, November 13 + 20, 2005 on PBS
(Check local listings; dates and times may vary)

The Virgin Queen explores the full sweep of Elizabeth's life and her tumultuous reign -- from her teen years imprisoned in the Tower of London, through her oscillating love affair with Robert Dudley, her refusal to submit to a political marriage, her glorious triumph over the Spanish Armada, her last, enigmatic relationship with her young protégé, the Earl of Essex and her death at the age of 70.

At least I haven't missed-it missed-it...

The show will consist of two two-hour episodes. Here in Boston, it's airing this Sunday and the next at 9pm, with screenings all day Monday (for schools to tape, I presume) and repeats on Thursday nights. [schedule]

When fandoms collide
Posted by Lis Riba at 6:00 PM

Angevin2, a doctoral student in Elizabethan drama, recently wrote:

random fannish pseudo-insight

...achieved while discussing the trendiness of Christopher Marlowe with commodorified:

Marlowe is the Sirius Black of Elizabethan drama.

Discuss. Or, you know, don't. ;)


Maybe this analogy only works if you're familiar with Harry Potter fandom, but it's so true...

I tend to describe Marlowe as the Elizabethan James Dean: lived fast, died young, and left a good looking corpus... And that that baby-faced portrait only adds to his appeal.

Excerpting something I wrote in early 2004, Christopher Marlowe's got an air of mystery and intrigue that's hard to resist:

He was a poor boy made good: poet, playwright, and spy. His enemies accused him of atheism, and he was also possibly homosexual or bisexual -- negative traits until the last half-century, which now give him an even more modern appeal.

Marlowe as a character gives writers access to a wide swath of Elizabethan settings and notables: the theaters, espionage, nobility (his patrons), the court (the previous two, plus his rumored association with Sir Walter Ralegh)... From the dregs of the sewers to the upper echelons, there are enough holes in his biography that you can read any of those into his circle.

For mystery writers, the uncertainties surrounding Marlowe's death (let's face it, the official story in the coroner's report does not add up) provide a marvelous unsolved crime. Fantasy writers seem to have noted that Doctor Faustus is fantasy fiction, and springboard from that. And for alternate history buffs, he certainly left behind a lot of unfulfilled potential.

That's my theory, at least.

What do you think?

Friday Penguin Blogging
Posted by Lis Riba at 8:30 AM

I may as well be upfront about it, since I keep discovering new and interesting penguin stories.

The latest comes from SF writer Michael A. Burstein, though he swears it's science fact. Quoting his post:

Science Notes: Robot Space Penguins

I'm surprised that I missed this article from New Scientist on 31 August 2005, but thanks to netmouse's post, I found it:

Robotic space penguin to hop across the Moon:

Engineers at US defence contractor Raytheon, in Massachusetts, have developed a robot, dubbed the Lunar Penguin, that could one day bounce across perilous craters and imposing mountains on the Moon's craggy surface using a set of compact rocket boosters.

All together now:

Penguins... In... Spaaaaace!

Thursday, November 10, 2005
The public face of Christopher Marlowe
Posted by Lis Riba at 11:20 PM

Hey, new Marlowe fiction!

An Eye of Death, a first novel by George Rees. Set in 1590s London with Thomas Dekker as protagonist.

While in London, I picked up a copy of History Play by Rodney Bolt. It's kind of an alternate history biography, using Marlovian authorship claims to point out how much mainstream biographers actually engage in fictionalizing and interpretation. It's officially listed as nonfiction, but I think it can more accurately be described as fiction written in a nonfiction style. [A similar exercise to epistolatory fiction or my own "Modern love"]

So, I've added them both to my Marlowe in Modern Fiction list, raising the total number of published works to 52. [And dropping the percent I've read back below 50%. There's just too much coming out to keep up, a fact that makes me both happy and sad.]

In other Marlowe news, a few weeks ago I posted some new revelations (Oct. 22) and raised some questions (Oct. 24) about whether the Corpus Christi portrait is of Christopher Marlowe, as is popularly believed.

Well, for those of you left hanging, here's the followup.

Peter Farey has provided some further information straight from Park Honan's book:

Park Honan has come up with more evidence supporting the Marlowe identification. The portrait was apparently found neither in the old or new Master's Lodge, nor in Marlowe's original room in the north-west corner of the Old Court. Where it turned up was in a room at the southern end of the east wing, the wing where the Parker scholars (as he was) were usually housed.

The wood had been used as a support for a gas-fire which was installed in an old fireplace, but nail holes in it suggested that even before that it had been used for some other unportrait-like use!

So that's the story. Charles Nicholl (The Reckoning) wrote the London Times review I quoted earlier. I'm astonished he wasn't more clear.

Christopher Marlowe: poet & spy is getting some really favorable reviews. Maybe I should have bought the book while in London, rather than waiting for the American release...

Speaking of portraits, the National Portrait Gallery is planning an exhibit next year where they plan to display as many putative portraits of Shakespeare they can get their hands on.

In preparation for this exhibit, they've just completed a restoration and technical analysis of the Grafton Portrait. Here's the press release with all the details. Ain't it purtier:

Grafton portrait, before and after
The Grafton portrait, before and after its recent restoration

In addition, the museum is now saying this is unlikely to be Shakespeare, because:

"We believe that Shakespeare left Stratford-upon-Avon following the birth of twins in 1585," [Curator Tarnya] Cooper said. "One possibility is that he joined a traveling theater troupe and it is very unlikely that in 1588, Shakespeare would have been able to afford a costume of this type."  [Boston Globe]

The primary reason this portrait has been identified with Shakespeare is an inscription which gives the year and age of the sitter. However, Marlowe was only two months older than Shakespeare. So that date and age make it equally plausible that this could be Marlowe we're looking at.

Furthermore, compare this outfit with what the 21-year-old Marlowe was wearing in the Corpus Christi portrait... and, for that matter, the physical features of the sitters:

The Corpus Christi portrait:
a 21-year-old in 1585
The Grafton portrait:
a 24-year-old in 1588
Corpus Christi and Grafton portraits; Click to enlarge
click for enlarged view

Slightly different artstyles, a little thinner, but look at the hairlines...

And here's somebody who's already proven he can afford the outfit, removing that argument against.

The one hangup with this is they describe the sitter of the Grafton portrait as having grey eyes, while the Corpus Christi has brown eyes. Then again, I've seen other criticisms of the restoration the Corpus Christi portrait, which was done in the 1950s, especially since there are no color photographs of the painting in its original state.

But I'll confess, the Grafton portrait is more-or-less how I've pictured Marlowe for quite a while. A little more gaunt and wary and worn than the bright-eyed fresh-faced college kid ready to take on the world.

I realize this identification depends primarily on its resemblance to the Corpus Christi, but I'm going to contact Dr. Cooper and ask whether they've looked into this possibility, now that they've rejected the Shakespeare ID. After all, worst thing that happens is I get no answer, and that leaves me in the same boat as I'm in now.

Finally, for those who are still in London (or the vicinity), Tamburlaine is now playing at the Barbican. Closer to home, yet further in the future, Sam Gold will be directing a production of Edward II at Julliard from February 18 to 23. Admission is free, but tickets will be required.

And for Boston area Shakespeare aficionados, don't forget to subscribe to Bard in Boston. This week will include performances of Merry Wives of Windsor and Midsummer Night's Dream.

Anyway, I've probably rambled enough on this for one evening. I still have to write up my own encounters with Marlowe during my trip to London, a more personal journey in contrast with these public events and news stories I'm sharing here.

In political news
Posted by Lis Riba at 7:45 AM

Starting to get back into the swing of things, though I've got so much backlog to write that I'm not reading much. [PS, if you've read or written anything that you'd like me to see, or you think I'd like to see, please send me links.]

At any rate, in this morning's perusal of my top 4 blogs ( Americablog, Atrios, Suburban Guerrilla and Think Progress) I see:

57% of Americans say Bush deliberately misled the nation into war, according to a new NBC News/WSJ poll.

And I distinctly remember reading about other recent polls which showed 50% of Americans support impeaching Bush if he lied to get is unto the war -- greater numbers than supported impeaching Clinton.

Susie Madrak found a Josh Marshall post quoting The Nelson Report making a pretty strong case on other grounds:

We checked with a highly informed/involved former State Department source. His comments: “...in 1988 when John Whitehead signed the Convention in New York, and then later, when we ratified it, we enacted domestic laws where necessary to make it ‘the law of the land.’ When we made our report, for example, as required by the Convention we had this to say to the UN, copy to the Senate:

‘Torture is prohibited by law throughout the United States. It is categorically denounced as a matter of policy and as a tool of state authority. Every act constituting torture under the Convention constitutes a criminal offense under the law of the United States. No official of the government, federal, state or local, civilian or military, is authorized to commit or to instruct anyone else to commit torture. Nor may any official condone or tolerate torture in any form. No exceptional circumstances may be invoked as a justification of torture. US law contains no provision permitting otherwise prohibited acts of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment to be employed on grounds of exigent circumstances (for example, during a ‘state of public emergency’) or on orders from a superior officer or public authority, and the protective mechanisms of an independent judiciary are not subject to suspension.’ (Report of the United States to the UN Committee against Torture, October 15, 1999, UN Doc. CAT/C/28/Add.5, February 9, 2000, para. 6.)

Note the language—as is in the Convention’s title—about other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment. It’s not merely torture….” (End of comments by our source.)

Hummm….sounds like a pretty solid case for an impeachment proceeding, were there anything resembling either a sense or shame, or national ethics, in the Leadership of the House of Representatives and Senate. Something to be argued out in the 2006 Congressional campaigns?

Remember, as far as the rest of the world is concerned, this was all being done in our names and with our consent.

Idle thought
Posted by Lis Riba at 7:21 AM

Is Sudoku this decade's Rubik's cube?

Every bookstore, toystore, and magazine rack I passed was selling some form of sudoku product...

Whoops, looks like I'm not the first to have that thought. From the Wikipedia entry:

Within the context of puzzle history, parallels are often cited to Rubik's Cube, another logic puzzle popular in the 1980s. Sudoku has been called the "Rubik's cube of the 21st century".

Hey cool!
Posted by Lis Riba at 7:10 AM

According to SiteMeter, sometime when I was in London, I broke 100,000 page views since I first added the traffic counter in April 2004.

Secondly, I found confirmation of the Opera-Blogger problem I discovered yesterday. Blogger's latest upgrade included some JavaScript that in Opera causes the contents of the textarea not to be sent to the server. Opera has been in contact to suggest workarounds, and hopefully Blogger will act soon. [You can read the details in the Opera forums; typically Status.Blogger.Com has nothing on this issue whatsoever, nor does Blogger's Known Issues page]

In the meantime, I've contacted Blogger support to report the issue, and recommend other Opera users do as well. Maybe if they hear from enough other Opera bloggers, they'll take action more quickly to either fix this problem or revert to an earlier build that worked until they get the new code working.

I'm posting thru Firefox and very cross about it.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005
Posted by Lis Riba at 9:00 AM

My primary personal inbox currently has 655 messages, of which I assume that maybe at most 20 are not spam. So if you've sent me e-mail, you may have to wait a while before I find and get to it. If you're planning to contact me, it may go better to use the weblog comments until I clean out my inbox and render it manageable again.

PPS: Same problem when posting from Opera that it lost the body of my post. Fortunately, this time I copied it to clipboard and checked immediately. Anybody know what (if anything) is going on!?

I have returned
Posted by Lis Riba at 7:30 AM

And somehow Blogger ate my post.

Landed last night around 8pm; got my luggage and through customs by 8:30. Stayed up past 11 telling Ian of my exploits (jet lag? what jet lag?)

I'm off to work in a few; but just wanted to let you all know I'm home, safe and sound.

PS: One tantalising hint (which I preserved from the previous version of this post):

Best (take-home) gifts purchased for Ian:

My favorite (take-home) souvenirs:

  • Silver ring, a replica of one found on the Rose Theatre excavation
  • Library card for the British Library (and just wait until you hear what I held in the Reading Room!)

Mostly what I took away, though were memories. Which I've got to sift through (and in some cases research to accurately describe what I was seeing).

Expect more (much, much more) over the weekend...

PS: Is Blogger having a problem with Google? Each time I submit my post to publish, it's erasing the body! I'm trying this now in Firefox to see whether that works.

Sunday, November 06, 2005
Elysium to a newcome soul
Posted by Lis Riba at 4:45 PM

This is Lis; writing from an Internet cafe in London.

I'm doing well; I'm safe and sound (aside from extremely sore feet) and I have far too much to tell you all than I could possibly write in the 30 minutes I have left in this Internet cafe.

I'm sorry; I'm not even going to try to summarize it now. Forgive me, and check back over the weekend. I've already filled a dozen pages of my steno pad with scratchings of things I wish to share. So be patient, because I expect to write volumes.

No photos, though. When I saw the batteries had run out, I decided just not to bother. Otherwise, I'd be retracing my steps to catch the things I missed the first day, and I think I'm happier for not worrying about what I can or can't should or shouldn't photograph. Just capturing things with my eyes and in my memory. I may poke around online sites for photos of things I've seen that I most want to share. Another reason why I expect to write a booksworth, as I factcheck and map my route and the rest of it...

For now, I'm resting my feet and going to buy tickets to Richard II tomorrow night (since I'm afraid that if I wait til tomorrow tkts may not actually have any and I'll be plum out of luck). Scarily enough, I realized that this will be the first Shakespeare I've seen in a proscenium arch stage in a long time. Most of the productions around Boston that I go to use more innovative (or more archaic) staging.

Anyway, 25 minutes left, and a few other things I want to do while I have this time.

Bye for now; I'll be back Tuesday night!



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