strange_complex: (Penelope)
Hmm, we have a bit of a Situation here. This time next week, I'll already be in Cardiff for the Classical Association conference, ready to deliver my paper on Doctor Who and historiography on the Saturday. When I submitted my abstract for that paper, I quite assumed I'd have seen and reviewed all the stories up to and including The Highlanders (where my enquiry ends) by the time I needed to deliver it. In fact I've only just finished reviewing as far as The Myth Makers (see below) and watching as far as The Ark - which means I have another eight stories left to watch and eleven to review. In one week, that clearly ain't gonna happen – not with the lengths of reviews I write anyway.

On the plus side, the paper is shaping up fairly well, and given that watching and writing up these stories is part of the research, it's reasonable enough to use bits of my working day this week to get on with the reviewing – that's what I've done today in order to get The Myth Makers finished. So I'll push on as far as I can over the next few days – which is probably going to mean quite an outpouring of Whovianism on these here pages. Then if necessary I can just watch the three remaining historical stories out of sequence, and that way at least I'll have seen all my major source material by the time of the conference.

I've also decided to institute a more fine-detail approach to cut-tagging these reviews, since they're really too long for a single cut to be very helpful. It means no-one can see what sorts of issues I've discussed until they get behind the main cut, and also that I can't link directly to specific bits of earlier reviews when I'm discussing the same issue in the context of a later story. I really wish I'd instituted this a lot earlier (and might start instituting it retrospectively if I get the time), but better late than never, eh?

First Doctor: The Myth Makers )

The source texts as garbled records of real events )

The Myth Makers and The Romans )

Steven and Vicki's integration into local culture )

Vicki's departure )

There are a couple of things I'd like to pursue further with regards to this story – and may try to do so if I have time before the CA. One is Cotton's use of contemporary academic publications, which I learn thanks to a publication by [livejournal.com profile] parrot_knight is actually quite easy to follow up in this case. Apparently, a 'reading list' still survives for this story, listing items like the relevant volumes of the Cambridge Ancient History and Encyclopaedia Britannica as potential resources. I assume it must be from these that Cotton drew some of the ideas about the historical basis for the Trojan war which appear in the script – e.g. the Trojans as migrants from central Asia who have settled on the coast, or the idea that the Trojan war was really about control of trade-routes through the Bosphorus. I'd also rather like to read the novelisation of this one, since I see from Wikipedia that it takes the very interesting step of having the whole story narrated from the first-person point of view of Homer. I'd love to see what Cotton does with that, since it certainly has the potential to expand even further than the TV version on the relationship between Cotton's story and his source texts. But I strongly doubt I'll have time to fit that in before the CA.

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strange_complex: (Rick's Cafe)
Read mainly while in Vienna.

This would be the third Hardy novel I've read in my life: the other two being Tess of the D'Urbervilles for A-level, and Jude the Obscure when I first moved to Oxford. The trajectory of the title character is much the same in all three cases: they make a foolish mistake in early life, appear to bounce back from it, enjoy a period of happiness and / or prosperity, find to their cost that their early mistake is not so inescapable as they thought, and finally die in ignominy and despair. This is, of course, a classic tragic plot as the ancient Greeks would have recognised it: much the same happens, for example, to Sophocles' Oedipus.

Some people find this sort of stuff depressing, but personally I love it. If there's one thing tragedies certainly have it is Romance. Like a crumbling ancient ruin, they speak eloquently of the vanity of human endeavour and the transience of life and worldly success: and the lapsed Goth in me can't get enough of that. Hardy's tragedies, though, have a lot more to them than forehead-stapling. I remember being struck when we read Tess at school by how cleverly he wove symbols and metaphors out of the landscapes which his characters move around: and this was very much true again here. His well-defined secondary characters, observations of human nature and rich vocabulary only add to the pleasure.

Around the time I started reading this book, I found out that Ciarán Hinds had starred as the eponymous Mayor (Michael Henchard) in a 2003 TV adaptation of the story - I think because I also saw Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day around the same time, and was browsing through his IMDb page in the wake of that. I haven't seen the adaptation, but just knowing that made me see the character of Henchard with his features all the time I was reading - and in my brain at least, he put in an excellent performance!

So, just as watching Brideshead has made me all the more determined to read the book, reading this has inspired me to hunt down the TV series. It's all good.

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strange_complex: (Me Art Deco)
On Saturday, I reached the grand old age of thirty-two, and went on an outing to Castle Howard to celebrate. I had [livejournal.com profile] redkitty23 and her partner, Vincent, as house-guests for the weekend (en route to a Primatology conference in Edinburgh), so we were able to pile into Anna's cute little retro-style Fiat 500, swoop [livejournal.com profile] big_daz up from Wortley, and head off out into the countryside.

At first, we were guided on our way by 'Ken', the Australian voice on Anna's Tom Tom, but he unfortunately let us down by taking us straight into an all-but-stationary traffic jam going past York. Luckily, however, we had an alternative Yorkshire navigation system available to us: Daz Daz, armed with Local Knowledge and a road atlas. And so it was that we found ourselves bowling through Georgian brick-built villages and along sunlit country lanes, listening to The Cure while our hair whipped around in an invigorating breeze, and only got to Castle Howard half an hour later than Ken had said we would. [livejournal.com profile] snapesbabe and [livejournal.com profile] matgb, alas, were not so lucky, and despite gallant efforts to join us were eventually forced to turn back before they had even arrived. :-(

And this was a great pity, not only because it deprived me of the opportunity to lust over their new purple Ka, but also because Castle Howard is ace! It really is a stately home par excellence, with expansive grounds, beautiful formal gardens, fountains, peacocks, endless opulent drawing rooms, rococo furniture, plutocratic portraits and so on. But I think what I liked best about it was the extensive collections of Classical sculpture (which seemed to go on and on in every hallway and corridor), and the answering neo-Classicism of the building itself and the works of art which adorned it. It began to feel as though you couldn't turn a corner without seeing something Classical or Classically-inspired: which is quite frankly exactly how I think the world should be. ;-)

Anyway, a day like that is probably best told in pictures, rather than words, so here are some of my favourite photos from our outing )

... and if you liked those, you can see the full gallery here.

As we left in the late afternoon (Ken still relegated to the boot in favour of Daz Daz), Anna suggested that we should eat out in the evening. I'd planned to cook us a casserole, but who would cook on their birthday when friends were offering to take them out instead, eh? So we ended up at Jino's, where we guzzled delicious Thai food, and the waiters put a candle in my ice-cream when Anna told them it was my birthday, and then returned home to mine for frighteningly potent cocktails.

Presents were mainly books from my family, but Anna got me a beautiful orchid, while Daz (who clearly knows me far too well) got me an enamel K-9 pendant like the ones shown below (just one, though!), and my parents got me a Tiffany floor lamp to go in my dining-room:

Presenty goodness )

So, all told, an excellent day, and some nice mementos of it to take away with me. So far, I'm enjoying being 32. It feels like a nice solid, self-confident age to be - properly into my 30s, in contrast to 31, which felt a bit apologetic about it. It's also a multiple of eight, which I've always thought of as being 'my' number - not necessarily my lucky number, but just the number that signifies me. As being born on the 2nd of the 8th and growing up in a house with the number 82 will tend to make you think...

Here's to my thirty-secondthird year on this planet, then. I intend to make the most of it.

strange_complex: (Apollo Belvedere)
Taken from [livejournal.com profile] aletharch, and reposted here because it's fantastically important:

New Classical texts being deciphered from the Oxyrhynchus archive at a rate of knots!

I think I probably need to go and lie down for a bit while I take the implications of this on board.

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