(Virtual) Paradise Lost

Shamus Young had a good post about the history of the internet. It introduced me to a phrase I’d never heard before, describing when the internet came to be how it is now, full of trolls and imbeciles. It’s from someone named Dave Fischer, who said: “September 1993 will go down in net.history as the September that never ended.”

What did he mean by that? Young explains that prior to ’93:

September was a big deal for the internet back in those days. As you can imagine, etiquette was important in a world where there were no moderators and everyone was on the honor system. Every September a flood of college freshmen would be given internet access for the first time in their lives. Then they would blunder online and make a mess of things by posting things to the wrong place, or typing in all caps, or failing to read the FAQ…. So every September was this chaotic time where the net had to assimilate a few thousand newcomers all at once, and it usually took about a month for things to calm down again.

It’s funny to read about the internet as a civilized place where ideas could be discussed in a thoughtful manner.  I came later to the internet, so I feel like somebody in a post-apocalyptic setting reading about the lost Golden Age before the great collapse.

Still, there are pockets of intelligent discourse–I like to think of this blog as one of them. Shamus’s is another (although he manages that by banning any talk of religion or politics.) But it’s funny to think that there was a time when it wasn’t a problem trying to find sites where people could have discussions without sinking into a Topix-like morass of name-calling.

Yet another open letter to the Buffalo Bills–oh, never mind! What’s the point?

Yeah, I think Buffalo ought to claim Michael Sam off waivers, but at this point I’ve learned that they never do anything I think they should.

I tell them to get a QB who won a playoff game, and instead they go draft E.J. Manuel.  I tell them not to waste their draft picks on wide-receivers and they trade up to draft an injury-prone one. I tell them they need more pass-rushers, and they don’t bother to get any, and their star at the linebacker position gets hurt.

I’m sorry, but I don’t see how my proposal for a team built around Tebow, C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson running the ball on option plays, with Brandon Spikes (yes, he is the one intelligent addition they have made) stopping the run, Kahlil Mack filling for Alonso, and Michael Sam rushing the passer could be any worse than what they have now, and if nothing else, it would have a first-round pick next year.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags: , ,

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge… thing.

eurobrat has a good post about the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, this trend that’s been so popular on the internet lately.  She’s just as confused about it as I am, though I will admit it’s funny to see people getting ice water dumped on them. I’m still unclear on the concept, or how precisely it is supposed to relate to giving to charity.

But, let’s face it, far more people are watching it to see their favorite (or least favorite) celebrities get soaked than are actually donating anything to anyone when they see it. It’s like the “Dunk the Boss” thing you see at company picnics, combined with the “chain letter” aspect of challenging other people. I’m not sure what is so funny about seeing people get wet, but it seems to be a winner.

Categories: My Opinion

Cool alternate interpretation of “The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask”

Longtime readers know I love alternate interpretations of fiction. I never could make it through Majora’s Mask. Too weird, even for me, and I hate timed games. I loved Ocarina of Time though. In any event, this clever analysis by The Game Theorists does make me a bit more appreciative of the game’s merits:

The 3 Themes Of Literature

A friend of mine told me about the great themes of literature. The idea is that most great books, movies, etc. all have at least one of the following  themes.  She and another friend had come up with two of them–they suspected there was a third, and I’ve included the suggestion I cooked up. Here are the categories:

  1. “Love Conquers All”–Pretty much all happy endings fall into this category. The Harry Potter series practically had this embossed on every page. In Star Wars it’s a little less obvious, but it’s still there.  It can be different kinds of love–romantic, familial, platonic.  I’d say To Kill a Mockingbird is a “love conquers all”, in the sense of a sort of universal, fraternal love between all people (Yeah, that makes the book sound way more gooey than it really is.) Jane Eyre also falls into this category as an example of romantic love conquering all. And for the record, every Gilbert and Sullivan operetta except Yeomen of the Guard and The Grand Duke is in this category also. I’m not sure how bittersweet love stories like Casablanca fit in here–the love story doesn’t wind up exactly where the leads get what they want, but it’s not really a tragedy, either.
  2. “Ya Can’t Fight City Hall”–This is the category for tragedies.  In Greek tragedy, “The Gods” or “Fate” are “City Hall”, and the stories end badly when people try to fight against their will.  Chinatown, one of my favorite movies, is almost the epitome of the “ya can’t fight city hall” genre (e.g. the line ‘He owns the police!” at the end.) Dystopian novels like Nineteen Eighty-Four usually end up being in this category as well.  I think your really good horror stories–like Lovecraft’s best–fall into this as well, with unexplainable, powerful supernatural forces standing filling the role of “city hall.” But the concept can be extended psychologically–in Macbeth, city hall could be either the supernatural forces of the witches or Macbeth’s own failings as a person.  I guess this is because tragic stories have a feeling of inevitability about them, and that’s what makes them feel tragic.  Most of Thomas Hardy’s novels fall into this category.
  3. “The Cake is a Lie”. Most thrillers and twist endings fall into this category by default.  (I took the name from the famous line in the video game Portal.) This is the category for stories where things aren’t as they seem.  The Repairer of Reputations, as well as most unreliable narrator stories–e.g. The Turn of the Screw–are in this.  But also any story where a major element is that characters are deceiving others, or themselves.  This is where I think The Grand Duke fits as well, because everyone is pretending to be something else.  Most “meta” narratives fall into this category, because they are about illusion and deception.  I’d argue that the game Spec Ops: The Line has one foot in this camp, and one in the “ya can’t fight city hall” camp. Works with ambiguity and room for multiple interpretations fit in this category as well.

What do you think, readers? Any suggestions for things that fit these categories? Anything that doesn’t fit any of these categories?  Are the categories themselves nonsensical?

 

NFL haiku

Atlanta

They return to form,

And will be in the playoffs.

But not the S-B.

Arizona

Could be pretty good.

But are in a division

That is much too strong.

Baltimore

They’re like the Giants;

Championship, followed by

Mediocrity.

Buffalo

Can Sammy Watkins

Make E.J. into a star?

History says no.

Carolina

They won’t be as good.

Had lots of good luck last year.

Cannot count on that.

Chicago

Now they have offense;

But it’s their defense that’s weak–

Ya can’t have it all.

Cincinnati

They will fall apart;

Dalton and Lewis will go;

Green new Megatron.

Cleveland

With Johnny Football

Being the next Broadway Joe,

They might beat the Colts.

Dallas

No “D” in Big D,

At least, that is how it looks;

8 and 8 again.

Denver

Seem to have improved;

But stats say that offense will

Regress to the mean.

Detroit

After collapse last year,

Will be hard to be rebuilt–

But what else is new?

Green Bay

Are underrated;

First game will tell us a lot–

If well-refereed.

Houston

Clowney and Watt will

Be difficult to slow down.

But the offense won’t.

Indianapolis

Andrew Luck’s third year

Will be the one where he breaks

Into the “elite” class.

Jacksonville

They’re gonna be bad.

Like, really, really awful.

As in, not too good.

Kansas City

Still a decent team–

But San Diego and Denver

Are too much for them.

Miami

Buffalo swept them

Last year. That alone is a

Harbinger of doom.

Minnesota

Year of Transition–

“Bridge over Troubled Water”

You might even say.

New England

With improved defense

Tom Brady and Belichick

Finally get four.

New Orleans

Maybe I’m crazy;

But Brees has to decline soon–

And he’s their offense.

 New York Jets

Decker in for shock–

Amazing how good you look

When on Manning’s team.

New York Giants

When they’re counted out

Is when they do their best work;

But can’t beat the ‘Hawks..

Oakland

The AFC West’s

“Other” football team is still

Down in the cellar.

Philadelphia

Who needs DeSean

When they have LeSean and Foles?

Reinvent the screen.

Pittsburgh

Will win division

But more or less by default–

And lose in first round.

San Diego

They will beat Denver,

But lose two to the Raiders

And go 8 and 8.

San Francisco

Kaepernick should not

Throw to the right-side corner

With game on the line.

Seattle

The next Dynasty

Makes it back again this year–

But won’t win title.

St. Louis

“Distractions” can be

overcome, but the Niners

and ‘Hawks cannot.

Tampa Bay

Cool new uniforms

Sadly cannot mask the fact

They’re still pretty bad.

Tennessee

Will be wild-card,

And could even win a game–

But can’t beat the Colts.

Washington

After this season,

They will want to change their name,

They’ll have been so bad.

I’ve always said “Ruddigore” was Gilbert and Sullivan’s best. This performance proves it.

I remember when I first read the libretto to Gilbert and Sullivan’s Ruddigore.  I was familiar with the “Big 3″ Savoy operas–Pinafore, Pirates and The Mikado, but Ruddigore was the first of the others that caught my attention–probably because of the name and the fact it had ghosts in it. But as I read it, I was absolutely blown away by how good it was.  This is hilarious, I thought. Why isn’t it as famous as the others?

I’ve always loved Ruddigore the most of all the operas from that point on. The picture-gallery coming to life and Sir Roderick’s chilling song, the gorgeous madrigal at the end of Act I, the “Matter trio”, the brilliant plot resolution which is so, so much cleverer than those in Mikado or Iolanthe.

But while I loved Ruddigore, I never saw or heard a production that quite matched how it looked and sounded in my head. There are lots of good ones, to be sure, but never one that lived up to what I always wanted the show to be.

Until now.

To be precise, this performance by the Stanford Savoyards still isn’t exactly the Ruddigore of my dreams. It’s somehow better. These people are amazing.

Where to begin? The lady who plays Mad Margaret is incredible–she truly seems mad; without straying too far to the point where she becomes just pathetic. She somehow captures both the humor and the pathos of the role and balances them perfectly. Despard is absolutely splendid as a manipulative, but not wholly un-feeling bad Baronet. Richard Dauntless is excited and energetic without being over-the-top.  The fellow who portrays Robin does a great job as the meek-but-moral farmer, who is, I think, the greatest of all Gilbert’s heroes. Sir Roderick is properly confident and threatening as the leader of the ghosts, and in his second scene, seems extremely fond of his old love, Dame Hannah, who is also terrific.

They are all perfect; exactly as I pictured the characters in my mind.

And then you’ve got Rose Maybud. She is better than I imagined. The actress transforms Gilbert’s two-dimensional caricature into a still very funny, but also very human and sympathetic woman.  I wouldn’t have thought it was possible to so completely alter the character while still remaining completely faithful to the script, but somehow she did it.

You’ll notice I haven’t mentioned the music.  That’s because I’m not musically savvy enough to really talk about it, but I know what I like, and I love the way they handle the score here.

There are so, so many moments I could point to as examples of why this is a triumph of theatrical magic 125 years in the making.  Watching the whole thing is really the only way to grasp it, but if I had to pick one scene, it would probably be in the Act 1 finale, at about the 1:21:10 mark, when Robin is trying to hand Rose the veil that she dropped at the revelation Robin is the bad Baronet of Ruddigore, and she refuses it.

It’s a funny set-up–the woman who defines her whole life by a book of etiquette is breaking up with the man who has just been revealed to be rightful legal holder of the accursed title of that requires him to commit a crime a day–except on bank holidays.  It’s absurd and ridiculous and funny.  But you know what else? There’s some real sadness in that scene–I automatically feel sorry for Rose and Robin, even though it’s all silly, and I know it’s all going to end happily anyway.

Sentiment and silliness. Horror and humor. Love and legalese. All these elements are mixed perfectly by the performers, into a unique blend.

That, my friends, is what the Gilbert and Sullivan operettas are all about.

 

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