First Poetry Friday of 2022: A Hunt!

Sir Gawain is feted by a Lord who is very generous with his table. There is much revelry, much laughter, the whole night long. Then, at break of dawn, mass (!), followed by a hunt.

The stags of the herd with their high-branched heads
and the broad-horned bucks were allowed to pass by,
for the lord of the land had laid down a law
that man should not maim the male in close season.
But the hinds were halted with hollers and whoops
and the din drove the does to sprint for the dells.
Then the eye can see that the air is all arrows:
all across the forest they flashed and flickered,
biting through hides with their broad heads.

To be shot by arrows is a particularly gruesome way to die, which self grew to appreciate after watching The Revenant. A forest ambush — the arrowheads were so substantial that self felt ill whenever one entered a human target.

While the lord is at the hunt, the lady of the house attempts to seduce Gawain. But even though she has bolted the door to his chambers, and has him pinned to the bed, he grants her no more than a kiss. In the movie, the lady of the house is played by Alicia Vikander. Self remembers sitting in the theater and being very confused.

Next, a scene of the gutting of the deer, which thank the lord was not in the movie (An excerpt: “Next they lopped off the legs and peeled back the pelt/and hooked out the bowels through the broken belly”). It seems to go on forever, every part of the deer is described, including the offal.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Simon Armitage’s SIR GAWAIN and the GREEN KNIGHT

What we know about the original:

  • It was “probably written around 1400.” It was recorded as being in the collection of Sir Robert Cotton, who also owned the Lindisfarne Gospels “and the only existing manuscript of Beowulf . . . but it did not come to light again until Queen Victoria was on the throne.”
  • Its official name is Cotton Nero A.x., and it sits (of course) in the British Library “under conditions of high security and controlled humidity.”
  • It was written down by “a jobbing scribe,” probably not the author.
  • A line from the manuscript: “Forthi, iwysse, bi yowre wylle, wende mi behoves.” (This was what medieval English sounded like! It has almost no similarity to modern English)

Self hopes she will actually be able to stick with this translation, all the way to the end. She has never read Sir Gawain in verse form. Verse (as opposed to poetry) isn’t really her thing. That said, she did read Emily Wilson’s translation of The Odyssey, and loved it. And she loves the story of Sir Gawain. Earlier this year she saw The Green Knight, supposedly based on this translation, which struck her as mysterious and strange. Which is what led her here.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

The Expanse, S6: It Begins

The Expanse — book and series — sustained self all through last year.

The first episode of the final season — Season 6 — just dropped on Amazon Prime.

And oh, what a beauty. What self loves so much about the series is that the quiet scenes are given as much weight as the action scenes. And, goes without saying, the gorgeousness of Chrisjen, Holden, Naomi, Amos, Drummer, Frankie, Marco, Filip and ‘Peaches’!

October Squares Challenge: Past-Squares

There are many ways to interpret this month’s Squares Challenge, Past-Squares. Self will confine herself to just one interpretation, this whole month of October:

  • Have fun with the word ‘past’ by sharing squares of history and heritage, and that includes past holidays!

Summer is over, but Cal Shakes came back with a vengeance, staging an adaptation of The Winter’s Tale that quite took self’s breath away. She went to see it three separate times in September: two Sunday matinees, and one Saturday night performance. The final performance is tomorrow night. WAAAAH! September moved by too quickly.

See you next year, Bruns Amphitheatre!

Quotes of the Day: The Winter’s Tale

“Go rot! Dost thou think I am so muddy?” — Leontes, The Winter’s Tale

Self grew to love Shakespeare only in middle age, and that was entirely because of Cal Shakes, which is in self’s humble opinion the Bay Area’s best theater company. Of course, it didn’t hurt that her first Cal Shakes play was Romeo and Juliet, where Romeo was played by ADAM SCOTT.

Since then, Cal Shakes has become firmly fixed as a rite of summer. Last year they were forced to cancel their entire season and lay off two-thirds of their full-time staff. This year, they came back with one play, The Winter’s Tale.

As soon as it was announced, self e-mailed son. She couldn’t believe it when he said right off that he would pass. Pass? How could he? He practically grew up with Cal Shakes! She used to bring carloads of his friends here! Of course, they’re all married now, but still!

She ended up seeing it with a friend, while it was still in previews. Before seeing it Sept. 12, self had never read the play, didn’t know anything about the play, would probably have gone through the rest of her life not giving a hoot about the play. Then, she saw it. Ummm. She sat stupefieadd and amazed for three hours. How stupefied and amazed? Exactly one week later she was back, by herself. By then, she’d already begun reading a hefty novel called The Slaughterman’s Daughter. She lugged it along, and remained in her seat through intermission, reading.

What’s really good about seeing a play alone is: you can eavesdrop. The person to her left (separated by two seats) was a woman perhaps a decade older than self, who’d come alone, and was wearing the cutest gold sandals. To her right was a family with teen-age girls, who were at Bruns for the first time, probably just to see what all the fuss was all about.

The parents were sitting immediately to self’s right, the daughters several rows behind. At intermission, the mother went to check on the girls. When she came back, the girls were trailing her. The mother told her husband:

“You know what, I just realized everyone thinks the King is an idiot.”

Daughter: “That’s cause he IS.”

Onward!

Self could remember so many more lines, after watching The Winter’s Tale a second time:

“Good Queen, my Lord. GOOD Queen.”

“Gross hag!”

“Oh! She is warm!”

But her favorite line is the last: Hermione tells a repentant Leontes, “Let’s from this place.” And with that, the play ends. If anyone had told self a week ago that she would end up shipping Hermione/Leontes, she would have said, Get out!

This adaptation of The Winter’s Tale was by Cal Shakes Director Eric Ting and Resident Dramaturg Philippa Kelly. Kudos.

Her love for Cal Shakes is undiminished.

Stay tuned.

April 18 BRIGHT SQUARES

For today’s BRIGHT SQUARES Challenge, self took pictures at the Crocker Museum of Art in Sacramento! Which is just as fabulous as she remembered it being, all those years ago (Then, she was lucky enough to catch a Norman Rockwell retrospective)

(Left to Right):

  • Dale Chihuly (almost identical to the one that hangs in the lobby of London’s V & A)
  • Portrait of the playwright, screenwriter and diarist Christopher Isherwood, by Don Bachardy, American (born 1934). Isherwood wrote the 1964 novel A Simple Man; the movie adaptation won Colin Firth an Oscar.
  • Pacific Ocean, a painting by Jennifer Bartlett, American (born 1941)

What a great museum. Self is so happy she returned to Sacramento for this brief visit. If only the café had been open, she’d happily have lingered the whole day.

For lunch, she stopped at this small pop-up on 16th. The metal chairs had been baking in the sun, which she did not think mattered until she actually sat down. A lady who was sitting at the same table smirked and said, “That’s why I avoided sitting on those.” I took a chair that was sitting in the shade, a bit closer to the lady, and she immediately said, “I’ve had my two shots, don’t worry.”

The lady also told self that there was a “Chinse supermarket” not half a block from where we were sitting, and self got very excited at the thought of loading up on goodies for back home.

In addition to tacos, the pop-up also sold, somewhat improbably, mac’n cheese, and since it’s been forever since she’s had mac’n cheese, she decided to try it. It was good!

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

New Photo Challenge: Share Your Desktop

Playing along with Share Your Desktop — March 2021

For the last few months, self’s desktop has been what might or might not be a still from the great TV series The Expanse (based on the nine-book series by James S. A. Corey — Corey is actually the pen-name for two writers: Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck). If you haven’t watched, you are missing something. The sixth — and final — season is filming now in Toronto. Air date (on Amazon Prime) TBA.

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

Ch. 13: Twelve Years a Slave

Now, Solomon Northup is working for a crazy master named Epps. This part was adapted in the movie — in fact, the Epps scenes have lingered longest in self’s memory. Could also be because Lupita Nyong’o plays Patsey, the fastest cotton picker on the whole plantation — no, maybe in the whole American South. (The great Sarah Paulson played Mrs. Epps: she killed in the role)

This Epps liked to make his slaves dance, even after they’ve had a long day laboring in the fields. He wanted them to laugh. He wanted Northup to play the fiddle.

Crazy!

Chapter 11, Twelve Years a Slave

Self was wrong: the good former master is STILL ALIVE! She was so sure the other planters would kill him, since he rescued his former slave, Solomon Northup, from a lynching, back in Chapter 8.

Anyhoo, in Chapter 10, Solomon’s new master has a foreman who tries to split Solomon’s head with a hatchet and Solomon runs through the bayous to escape. He ends up running all the way back to his former master’s plantation. The good man takes him in (even though there was a law on the books at the time, that a runaway slave must be returned to his master).

And this is what happens in Chapter 11: Solomon is walking by the side of his former master, when who should come galloping out of the bayou towards them but — the evil foreman! He comes alongside Solomon’s former master, and the two begin a conversation.

Self is thinking: any minute now the evil foreman is going to take out a hatchet and kill Solomon’s good former master! But self is midway through Chapter 11, and the two white men are still conversing. The good former master says he knows the foreman tried to kill Solomon, then the foreman explains why he was moved to try and kill Solomon, then the good former master tells the foreman that was not the way to treat a slave, then the foreman says his hound dogs aren’t worth their keep, and the good former master tells the foreman it is evident that the foreman will keep trying to kill Solomon, and Solomon will keep running away, and therefore the foreman must sell Solomon. He says: Unless you do so, I shall take measures to get him out of your possession.

Self does not remember this part of the movie at all, so she has to go on the movie’s imdb page and scroll down the cast list. She has to read practically all the way to the bottom to find that Ford (the good former master) was played by Benedict Cumberbatch! Niiiice! The real shock, though, is when self discovers that the evil foreman, Tibeats, was played by Paul Dano!

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

Voyage: Slaver Ship, 1841

When in sight of the Bahamas Banks, at a place called Old Point Compass, or the Hole in the Wall, we were becalmed three days. There was scarcely a breath of air. The waters of the gulf presented a singularly white appearance, like lime water.

12 Years a Slave, by Solomon Northup, Chapter Five, p. 39

As I read, I keep seeing Chiwetel Ejiofor.

Bravo, what a performance.

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