Monthly Archives: January 2012
Ok, this one’s kind of a giant lie.
- My best friend got married this weekend
- I was the (well, “a”) maid of honour
- I live in a different city
- I have class 8:30 Friday morning
- My brother finished a semester of law and my parents wanted a dinner out to celebrate
- My mom had cake-related questions which apparently needed to go through me and not the bride-to-be, because who wants to cut out the middle-(wo)man when you could endlessly torture her instead?
- I suck at party planning, because I have a very solitary idea of what accounts for “fun”
Ok, so for my minor in Classical Civilization (aka Greek and Roman studies), I’m taking a class in Greek and Roman Literary Genres, and naturally, I had to read the big three: The Iliad, The Odyssey, and The Aeneid. Now, I feel strange as hell writing reviews of the classics – their impact on society is already so established that it almost feels redundant to write a review – that’s why I’m not assigning stars to these books. So what I’d like to do is write a quick little piece on my opinions while reading the book, and then post the essay I wrote for that class, examining the themes of death and honour in Greek society.
The translations assigned were both Richmond Lattimore (who was apparently my prof’s prof). I already owned translations by Robert Fagles, but couldn’t read them for obvious reasons. Now, in my under-educated and surely plebeian opinion (in other words, DON’T JUDGE ME, I think what I think), Lattimore’s translation reads like Shakespeare in that the English verses are convoluted and a bit difficult to follow. I also find that his translation was very stilted and clinical, and managed to make both books (including the incredibly gory Iliad) a struggle to get through, especially when compared to the vivid imagery and immediacy of Fagles’ translations (which I haven’t finished reading, and will therefore get its own post later). I understand his text was chosen because it corresponds more closely to the original Greek, but I wonder if it does a bit of a disservice to the vitality (and epicness) of these epics to be introduced to them in such a passionless manner.
Anyway, I expected to enjoy the more other-worldy and character-driven Odyssey more than the Iliad, but I think you can sense from this sentence structure where I’m going. I kind of loved the Iliad, and its ridiculous descriptions of the various tears, holes, and other damage done spear points and arrows. Even though I spent most of the epic wanting to slap Achilleus and murder Agamemnon (SPOILERS there was no need, his wife got to him before I could), Patroklos, Hektor, and a portrayal of war that was surprisingly even-handed made the play worth it. Although if I never hear the phrase “and his armour clattered upon him” again, it will be too soon.
(Side note: Lindsay! Remember Cartman as Achilleus – “But mooooooooom”? Liane as Thetis! We need to get this idea to Trey Parker stat, I swear.)
Honourable Death in the Homeric Epics: Murder, Revenge, and Duty
Myths are important to any society. They help answer those questions without answers, and give meaning and shape to an often incomprehensible life. In ancient civilizations, the purpose of the philosophy expressed in mythology was to make sense of the world, to answer questions that had no answers; what is the purpose of life? the meaning of death? Ancient myths from around the world have a lot in common. Their stories explain the creation of man, the formation of civilization, and describe an afterlife. In Greek mythology, much of what we know today comes from the two Homeric epics, The Iliad and The Odyssey. Both deal heavily with the theme of death, treating it in similar ways, with the same underlying belief system, but in different contexts.
The Iliad is an epic of war, taking place in the midst of the 10 year battle for Troy. The story as told takes place within a period of a few weeks, with most of the significant events occurring over a few days near the end of the war. At the beginning of the epic, very little time is spent on the battlefield. However, once the talking ends and the killing starts in book 4, it is fairly relentless. Antilochos is credited with the first kill of The Iliad, striking Echepolos with a bronze spear (Iliad 4.457-462).
The poet, a descendent of the Achaian victors of the Trojan War, nevertheless speaks favourably of both the Trojan and the Greek sides, as both sides fight with similar ideals of honour. For example, Hektor is respected as a warrior and a man by the Greeks (Iliad 21.280), and Achilleus is similarly admired by the Trojans. Even Hektor’s wife, Andromache, while warning Hektor of the dangers of fighting Achilleus, allows that he is a great and fair warrior, who treats the dead with respect (Iliad 6.416-420). A heroic code that warriors on both sides of the war appear to follow is outlined by the Trojan Sarpedon, speaking to his companion Glaukos:
Therefore it is our duty in the forefront of the Lykians
to take our stand, and bear our part of the blazing of battle,
[…] Man, supposing you and I, escaping this battle
would be able to live on forever, ageless, immortal,
so neither would I myself go on fighting in the foremost
nor would I urge you into the fighting where men win glory.
But now, seeing that the spirits of death stand close about us
in their thousands, no man can turn aside or escape them,
let us go on and win glory for ourselves, or yield it to others.
Although willing to fight and die for the causes of their leaders, the warriors understand that their opponents, too, are fighting for the same glory and honour, and expect nothing less of them. The importance of adhering to customs is also highlighted during the exchange of armour between the Achaian Diomedes and the Trojan Glaukos:
Let us avoid each other’s spears, even in the close fighting.
There are plenty of Trojans and famed companions in battle for me
to kill, whom the god sends me, or those I run down with my swift feet,
many Achaians for you to slaughter, if you can do it.
But let us exchange our armour, so that these others may know
how we claim to be guests and friends from the days of our fathers.’
So death is treated as an inevitability in battle, and, in abstract, nothing to resent, although the killing of close personal friends does result in the single-minded pursuit of revenge. In response to companion Patroklos’s death at the hands of Hektor, Achilleus kills Hektor and desecrates the corpse, a show of disrespect that is contrary to his previous actions. Indeed, by the end of the poem he has relinquished Hektor’s body to his father Priam. While warriors often “talk big” before launching into the fray, insulting and belittling their opponents, strip victims of their armour and boast over the dead, at the end of the day, there is an understanding that these are the motions of war.
Despite the glory of battle, The Iliad is full of a longing for peace. Both sides pray for an end to the war (Iliad 3.319-323), and there are numerous attempts at a truce. The Trojans themselves resent Paris for bringing about the war; his own brother Hektor suggests they would be better off if Paris had died, even by the hand of his own people (Iliad 3.38-45, 56-57). In this poem, domestic life outside of war is referred to only in passing, as prizes for after victory, or depicted as pastoral ekphrases on the warriors’ shields (Iliad 18.490-607). The metaphorical references to calm, pastoral life stand out in stark contrast during the grisly battle scenes.
While The Iliad brought the reality of the Trojan War home to his audiences by focusing on a few key characters, The Odyssey focuses on the personal journey and struggle of Odysseus, and uses his family members and fellow warriors to widen the scope and importance of the story. The warrior Odysseus’s long and arduous voyage home to Ithaka after 10 years of fighting in Troy gives The Odyssey a more personal perspective than The Iliad, as it follows the plight of the family Odysseus, his son, and his wife, rather than the diverse group of characters who are the warriors of the Trojan War.
Odysseus and his men who are with him on his journey, and the suitors surrounding his wife in Ithaka, are the characters at risk of death in this story, a context far removed from that of battle. Odysseus, his son Telemachos, and his wife Penelope follow the customs of their culture and are ultimately rewarded with a happy reunion. However, unlike the fighters in the Trojan War, the suitors do not follow the prescribed customs of their culture. As Odysseus has been gone for 20 years and is presumed dead, it is expected for the eligible Penelope to choose a new husband. By courting her, the suitors are not breaking custom. However, they impinge on Penelope and Telemachos, taking advantage of Odysseus’s absence and the Greek laws of xenia (guest hospitality) by wasting food, treating the house and its contents as their own, and plotting the death of Telemachos. Lead suitors Antinoos and Eurymachos embody the loathsomeness of the suitors, with the former acting as the imprudent spokesperson for the group, and the latter exhibiting a more low-key form of hypocritical wickedness. He feeds Penelope platitudes and calls Telemachos “dearest” to him, “but himself was planning the murder” (Odyssey 16.435-447; 448-449), and after the slaughter begins in book 22, attempts to pin the entirety of the blame on the already dead Antinoos, taking no responsibility himself (Odyssey 22.48-59). The suitors therefore have no honour, and are not respected by anyone. The poet himself judges the suitors unfavourably, calling them “arrogant young men” (Odyssey 4.769), and placing blame, “For they had begun the wrongdoing.” (Odyssey 20.394)
In fact, the eventual slaughter of the suitors is continuously justified throughout the book: The gods (especially goddess Athene) condone the death of the suitors, and Odysseus is aware of this (Odyssey 22.413-417); the suitors themselves admit that their actions were wrong and deserve retribution (Odyssey 22.45-59); they are warned to cease their unsavoury behaviour by the prophets Halitherses (Odyssey 2.160-169) and Theoklymenos (Odyssey 20.363-370); and during the Telemachy, Telemachos is told by Nestor about Orestes’s revenge on Aigisthos, who together with his lover Klytaimnestra, Orestes’ mother, killed Orestes’ father Agamemnon when he returned home from the war. In fact, Telemachos is told explicitly to use this as an example for his own future actions. “Be brave too,” Nestor says after relating this grisly tale, “so that men unborn may speak well of you.” (Odyssey 3.200). And at the end of the epic, the goddess Athene ensures that no revenge is taken on behalf of the suitors, that the cycle of violence ends with their death: “And pledges for the days to come, sworn to by both sides, were settled by Pallas Athene, daughter of Zeus of the aegis…” (Odyssey 24.545-547). Like Paris of Troy, in stealing the wife of his host Menelaos, violated the rules of hospitality, so too did the suitors of Penelope, and the consequences for the offenders are brutal.
Contrast this with the The Iliad, where the gods cannot go against fate and change the ultimate outcome of the Trojan War. Zeus cannot even save his son Sarpedon from death at the hands of Patroklos (Iliad 16.433-436; 459-461). In this sense, then, it would seem that the suitors are fated to die. Indeed, characters throughout The Odyssey routinely talk about the death of the suitors as a matter of the gods and fate, excusing the physical murders of those men by Odysseus, Telemachos, and their allies as acts willed by the gods. “These were destroyed by the doom of the gods and their own hard actions,” says Odysseus to his old nurse Eurykleia, “[…] So by their own recklessness they have found a shameful death.” (Odyssey 22.413-417). The swineherd Eumaios says to a disguised Odysseus, “The blessed gods have no love for a pitiless action, but rather they reward justice and what men do that is lawful,” subsequently referring to the suitors as “hateful and lawless” (Odyssey 14.83-84, 85).
On the mortal plane, death is an inevitability, but the way that death comes about is usually (but for fate) up for each person to determine by their choices and actions. In both epics, death by sea is decidedly not preferable; both feature the major character explicitly stating their desire to die in any other fashion. In The Iliad, Achilleus pleads to Zeus while fighting the river Xanthos that he may die gloriously in battle rather than drown in the river (Iliad 21.273-238), in particular, “I wish now Hektor had killed me, the greatest man grown in this place. A brave man would have been the slayer, and the slain a brave man. But now this is a dismal death I am doomed to be caught in[…].” In The Odyssey, Odysseus, too, wishes he had died gloriously at Troy, rather than in the storm that seems destined to take his life in book 5 (Odyssey 5.305-312), in particular, “Three times and four times happy those Danaans who died then in wide Troy land […] as I wish I too had died at that time and met my destiny. […] Now it is by a dismal death that I must be taken.” The use of word “dismal” in both instances is telling, as is the implication that those who die at war, fighting worthy opponents, are happy. When lamenting the presumed death of his master, even his swineherd, Eumaios, says of Odysseus, “But now ingloriously the stormwinds have caught and carried him.” (Odyssey 14.371; emphasis mine).
Finally (and fittingly), both poems feature the Underworld, where the souls of the dead are sent down to Hades. In The Iliad, the reader is not taken to the Underworld through the eyes of any character; it is rather mentioned only by name by various characters, and alluded to as the end destination of a gust of wind that brushes past the battlefield, or through dreams such as that in which the shade of Patroklos visits Achilleus. In The Odyssey, however, the poet describes Odysseus’s journey to a specific place, although the directions are vague, where the rivers Pyriphlegethon and Koytos flow into Acheron, and he alone travels to meet with the soul of the blind prophet Teiresias. Odysseus draws the dead out to him through rituals and sacrifices (Odyssey 11.23-50). Here, he interacts with the souls of his departed comrades, and the importance of adherence to rituals and customs is highlighted when the wandering shade of the unburied Elpenor begs Odysseus to give him his rights so he may finally enter the land of the dead and be at peace (Odyssey 11.51-76). This episode is similar to several in The Iliad, where doomed characters and their loved ones beg for a proper burial so their souls may rest in peace. King Priam’s aforementioned supplication of Achilleus for Hektor’s disrespected corpse is an example of this.
The overall theme of each poem is different; The Iliad was a story of war and the effects of Achilleus’s anger, while The Odyssey was a story of one man’s journey home. But the Greek attitude towards death at the time was clearly evident in both, and the treatment of death in both epics shows this. The trips to the Underworld in both epics emphasise the importance of death in the life of Ancient Greeks. Preference is shown for death brought about in certain ways over others (i.e. the glory of death in battle as compared to the dismal, meaningless death of an accidental drowning), and the practice of certain rituals after death must be performed in order for the deceased to complete the journey to the Underworld. Both poems deal with themes of revenge, with the death of the enemy or wrong-doer as the ultimate revenge. The gods’ preferences and the poet’s own tone and descriptors help guide the ancient listener and the modern reader towards certain conclusions (for example, that the death of the suitors is deserved). When taken together, these epics paint a clear picture of the way honour and death were viewed in Ancient Greek society, and the complexities of conduct inherent both in war and in everyday life.
Cannonball Read III: 19-20/52
- The Oresteia (Agamemnon, The Libation Bearers, and The Eumenides) – Aeschylus, trans Richmond Lattimore (-)
- Fight Club – Chuck Palahniuk (****)
- Room – Emma Donoghue (****)
- Three Theban Plays (Oedipus the King, Oedipus at Colonus, and Antigone) – Sophocles, trans David Grene (-)
- The Hunger Games (****)
- Catching Fire (***3/4)
- 5 Roman Comedies (****)
- Thank You, Jeeves (***1/2)
- Survivor in Death (**1/2)
- Aristotle and Poetic Justice (***)
- The Graveyard Book (****1/2)
- Stardust (*****)
- Smoke and Mirrors (***)
- Bossypants (****)
- The Pun Also Rises – John Pollack (****)
- Angela’s Ashes (****1/2)
- Gatehouse to Hell – Felix Opatowski (-)
- The Shadows Behind Me – Willie Sterner (-)
- Let’s Pretend This Never Happened: (A Mostly True Memoir) (****)
- Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) (****)
- Maus I (****)
- Maus II (*****)
- Spring’s End – John Freund (-)
- MetaMaus (****)
- Getting Out Alive – Tommy Dick (-)
- The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared (****)
- Fragile Things (***1/2)
* = irredeemably awful
** = middling
*** = decent; has value (of some sort)
**** = very good
***** = amazingly fantastic
****** = almost never used; the perfect book
Ok, now that I’ve watched BoT a second time through, taken note of my favourite quotes and episodes, and made sure to watch all available special features, I feel comfortable listing this one as complete. It occurs to me I may not be able to watch all shows as thoroughly – Buffy the Vampire Slayer did have seven seasons, after all, and not half-baked, Britishy 13 episode “seasons” either.
As I mentioned in my last post, Portia de Rossi’s Veronica is my second favourite character on the show, but Phil Myman has to be number one, because every single line delivery he has is absolutely golden. So many of my favourite quotes look completely dull when written down, but coming out of Phil’s mouth, they have me rolling (case in point: “it’s working”). It’s not going to crack my list of top five favourite shows or anything (off the top of my head, that would be 1: Futurama, 2, 3, 4, and 5 in any random order: Doctor Who (seasons 1-4), Top Gear, Community, and, oh, South Park? Sure, that could be right) – I usually find the Veridian Dynamics commercials a bit too on the nose – but it’s a worthy way to spend 9 hours, and who knows how great it could have been if it had gotten a couple more episodes? I would love to learn more about Wisconsin’s cheese farms and Veronica’s feelings on the Dutch.
For what it’s worth, as much as I enjoy Andrea Anders and Linda, I liked Ted better with Veronica. Their friendship and chemistry was just so much more entertaining to watch. And actually, I like Linda better with Phil and Lem – it gives her another note to play other than surprisingly forth-coming love interest.
ten thirteen quotes ( I couldn’t narrow it down it neatly mirrors the number of episodes each season got) to get you non-watchers hooked on the show (if only to enjoy your inevitable crushing disappointment when you come to the final episode):
- Chet: Don’t worry, I’ve never hit anyone with a golf club. *beep* At least not on purpose. *beep* Hey, what’s this fun machine? Phil: It’s just a random buzzer. *beep* It’s working!
- Veronica: Anything that starts with “wee” is just a fun suggestion. Like the constitution. And “weee the people.”
- Phil: Ted is like the angle opposite the hypotenuse: he’s always right.
- Ted: I’m going to say no to the meat blob getting a mouth. Mostly because I don’t want to hear what it has to say.
- Phil: Richie and Fuzzle? Their knowledge of microfabrication technology for vascularised tissue engineering vis a vis bovine muscle protein is SO-ho-ho LAST YEAR.
- Phil: Oh god, Lem, you’re using science for no good. We took an oath we would try to do that less.
- Ted: But everybody’s equal. We don’t see disabled people. Well, we see them, we just don’t care. Well, we care, we just don’t treat them differently. Although they do have their own parking.
- Lem: Good news, Ted. We took a vote, and made you the new king.
Phil: And then we took another vote, and you died. Gloriously in battle.
- Veronica: You’re always coming to me with a problem. Just once, I wish you’d greet me with a sparkler and cotton candy and tell me I have the number one album in America.
- Bamba: As I recall, you were the only one who ran from the octochicken.
Linda: Well it freaked me out when it came down from its web.
- Lem: Fireflies. The flaming plates of the insect world.
- Ted: Technically, Mr. Cynical can’t be happy. It’s his power and his curse.
- Veronica: I don’t hate the Dutch. I love the Dutch. That’s why I hold them to a higher standard.
For future Donna, who may someday wonder which episodes to rewatch, here are my favourites:
From season one:
- Win Some, Dose Some
From season two:
- Love Blurts?
- The Great Repression (mostly the second half)
- The Impertinence of Communicationising (no qualifiers, this one is genius)
- Mess of a Salesman (the non Ted’s brother parts)
- It’s My Party and I’ll Lie if I Want to (because of Phil)
And here are my favourite quotes:
Ted: Nature is a fantastic killer of things
Ted: I’m going to say no to the meat blob getting a mouth. Mostly because I don’t want to hear what it has to say.
Ted: What does it taste like?
Lem: Don’t name him or you won’t want to eat it. Remember Chester the carrot?
Phil: Yeah. I miss him.
Phil: You have been on me since I got out and I. am. sickofit.
Phil: Richie and Fuzzle? Their knowledge of microfabrication technology for vascularised tissue engineering vis a vis bovine muscle protein is SO-ho-ho LAST YEAR.
Ted: The fact that you thought I was going to go wash Rose right now makes me think you may not know that much about children.
Veronica: I know they need to be cleaned.
Veronica: I know everyone’s name.
Phil: Next we were looking at what would happen if we dropped a…bunny from an airplane at 30,000 feet. At that altitude, the bunny would…cuddle everyone within a two mile radius. Within four miles, everyone would be…snuggled so badly they would have to be hospitalised with severe burns.
Ted: Thank you everyone. For those of you not sure what’s happening, we’ll have this meeting again tomorrow.
Veronica: Here, I brought you some briefs. The boxers you were wearing didn’t highlight your assets. Penisly speaking.
Veronica: Well, I’m different than other women, Ted. And by different, I mean better.
Lem: It gets dark when you leave the room.
Phil: Well how can I stay mad at you when you say things like that?
VD Commercial: Diversity. Good for us.
Phil: He’s like a god, only it hurts more when he judges us
Ted: But everybody’s equal. We don’t see disabled people. Well, we see them, we just don’t care. Well, we care, we just don’t treat them differently. Although they do have their own parking.
Linda: EAT THEM.
Ted: You stole a baby?
Linda: Only for a few seconds. Turns out just because you wrote your name on something doesn’t mean you get to keep it.
Veronica: You’re so competitive it’s sick
Ted: Not as sick as you.
Veronica: That’s right. I win. Again.
Veronica: I don’t like it down there. It’s chilly, the people are odd, and it smells like science.
Linda: Well I’m not a huge fan of that place either. Last time I was down there, I got chased by some weird eight-legged bird.
Veronica: Ah, the octochicken. We had such hopes for that.
Veronica: If you have any issues at all, come see me. Although that would be a huge admission of failure on your part.
Bamba: As I recall, you were the only one who ran from the octochicken.
Linda: Well it freaked me out when it came down from its web.
Linda: Vaginas everywhere.
Security Guard: Oh my god, I love those!
Phil: Oh. Your ears are always throwing up about something.
Lem: Good news, Ted. We took a vote, and made you the new king.
Phil: And then we took another vote, and you died. Gloriously in battle.
Lem: Rick. It’s me. God.
Phil: This is what it would be like if god was insecure.
Phil: If I wanted to get it on with refracted light, I would.
Lem: If you like lame, you should meet me for a drink tonight after I have dinner with my mom and pretend to go to bed.
Phil: Oh god, Lem, you’re using science for no good. We took an oath we would try to do that less.
Phil: I can write a program that’s triggered by an acid buildup. A sort of acid interface, or “ass face” for short.
Lem: I’m not sure these abbreviations are really worth the time they’re saving.
Linda: He has more problems than you, and you poop in your air.
Phil: I am proud of my time as a syphilitic conquistator. That was the team name. They wanted something the locals found frightening.
Lem: You went to the university of Aruba?
Phil: Where knowledge is king, and clothing is optional.
Bamba: My goodness, how I love the drugs.
Veronica: Ted, you don’t have to do all this. Just say the word and the election’s hers. We did it for Iceland, and we can do it for your kid.
Phil: Ted is like the angle opposite the hypotenuse: he’s always right.
Phil: My head was screaming “nooo” but my mouth was chewing gum.
Lem: Fireflies. The flaming plates of the insect world.
Phil: I’m a scientist, Lem. I’ve been a threat to humanity, the environment, even Jupiter once, but never to a hot girl’s boyfriend.
Ted: Technically, Mr. Cynical can’t be happy. It’s his power and his curse.
Veronica: Anything that starts with “wee” is just a fun suggestion. Like the constitution. And “weee the people.”
Lem: I don’t want Veronica to be the mother of my children. I might like my children.
Lem: He must never know about AquaTed.
Phil: This must be how a baby lion feels. When its mom yells at a receptionist to get its medical records. (Actually just that entire scene. I love Veronica.)
Ted: I know you don’t like to eat children, but it’s that kind of talk, and your cottage in the woods made of candy, that keeps those rumours alive.
Phil: Why do animals get all the best stuff attached to their body?
Lem: I would love to have a blow hole
Phil: Yes, I think you’re sexy. Yes, I don’t have a lot of grown-up drinks, and yes, I wish I had a third yes, and yes I don’t.
Phil: You love the laundry people. You take their side in everything.
Linda: No one likes a pointer. Even in the dog world they’re seen as insufferable.
Lem: If only I hadn’t tried to protect my eyes when it burst, I might have been able to save it. Stupid reflexes.
Most things about the cheese mines in Wisconsin.
Phil: It’s like the Texas chainsaw massacre if someone massacred the chainsaws.
Lem: Don’t worry Chumley. He’s only jealous because your smile is permanent, and his only comes when he’s happy.
Veronica: In 10 years, honey, you’ll look back on this moment and think, “Oooh.” (God I love Ted and Veronica together.)
Linda: Shh. Did you hear that? Somewhere, a but if being smacked against its will. A feel is being copped. A well-endowed woman is being asked if she gives fries with that shake. And so, that is where I’m needed.
Lem: Ultimately I would have chosen you. And I’m not just saying that because you’re the one who survived.
Veronica: Children. They have so many uses. They’re like adorable swiss army knives.
Veronica: You’re always coming to me with a problem. Just once, I wish you’d greet me with a sparkler and cotton candy and tell me I have the number one album in America.
Phil: Now I know what a beard of fingers would feel like.
Phil: WHO DO WE KILL! (Pretty much Veronica’s whole Carl Gordon Jenkins speech.)
Lem: Together, we’re a thing of beauty. Like a swan.
Phil: But on my own, I’ll be like half a swan. All I’ll do is make a big mess and DIE.
Phil: You know what might brighten your day? A peek at the smallest squirrel science can make.
Lem: But we’re going to have to ask you to wear a face mask. He’s crazy easy to inhale.
Phil: I’ve never been this close to your neck before. It is the perfect pedestal for your head.
Veronica: I don’t hate the Dutch. I love the Dutch. That’s why I hold them to a higher standard.
Walter: The Dutch don’t smear herring on half the things you say they do.
Phil: As a child I was beaten up constantly. The best comeback I ever came up with was, “You’re right! I will work on that.”
Veronica: I’m thinking I might need new breasts. These are covered in sadness.
Phil: Your breasts should be on display at the Swiss museum of miniatures.
Veronica: I backed over his foot when I was leaving, which, according to our relationship math means tonight’s the night.
Phil: Give a man an insult, he can hurt people for a day. Teach a man to insult, and he can hurt people who tease him because he never learnt to fish.
Veronica’s babies babies babies commitment speech.
Phil: You have been Philibustered.
Lem: That’s it. Fill up your canker-blossomed hole you ale-soused apple john. That was the Elizabethan model.
Phil: Ye have been served.
Phil: We just got Teducated.
Lem: Ted, we need your help.
Phil: We were working really hard in the lab…
Lem: …and we had this piñata.
Ted: Piñata. That doesn’t sound like really hard work.
Phil: It was stuffed with science.
Phil: Please don’t hurt us, we’re not like you.
Phil: We once meant to buy six four inch petrie dishes and instead bought four six inch petrie dishes.
Lem: It was crazy how slightly bigger it was than we needed.
Veronica and Linda’s head butting conversation with Ted.
Everything to do with Phil and the beeping machine.
Chet: Don’t worry, I’ve never hit anyone with a golf club. *beep* At least not on purpose. *beep* Hey, what’s this fun machine?
Phil: It’s just a random buzzer. *beep* It’s working!
Ted: I thought you hated him.
Veronica: I did. But then he grabbed me by the ankles and attacked me with a piece of wood and everything changed.
- Phil: 38
- Lem: 20
- Veronica: 18
- Ted: 12
- Linda: 9
I REALLY don’t want to write this essay.)
Note: There apparently was a website for Viridian Dynamics at one time, but it certainly doesn’t seem to be working now.
I first came across Portia de Rossi in Arrested Development, and then again in Better Off Ted. In both shows, I thought her mannerisms a bit odd at first, but in both shows she grew on me, and in Better Off Ted, she became (after Phil, and I mean, come on) far and away my favourite character. And this makes sense because in person (and on paper) she appears funny and smart. Of course, in her memoir Unbearable Lightness, her sense of humour only indirectly reveals itself in her recounts of conversations with suits, because anorexia is not a funny illness, and I imagine that no matter how far she has come since 1999, it’s still difficult to treat such a dark part of her life lightly.
De Rossi writes clearly, honestly, and bluntly – there are no histrionics or flowery, colourful passages depicting her descent into despair. Instead, she recounts her experience in a very matter-of-fact way: it’s “this is what happened, this is how I felt, this is what I did.” It is therefore incredibly easy to sympathise because she’s not asking for your sympathy, she’s just putting you inside her head at a point in her life, telling you what it was like for her.
Like many anorexia memoirs, Lightness is clinical, with detached lists of measurements and rituals. The progression of the disease is similar (grossly simplified, it starts off as the desire to be perfect and achieve, becomes desire to be thin as possible as a means of controlling this, and ends up not even being about what you look like, and simply continuing the lifestyle out of habit and familiarity, because you’re afraid to live any other way), as is the initial (and lengthy) denial of the problem, the concern of family members, the slow realisation of the problem, and the long road towards recovery. I would like to point out two things that I think de Rossi did particularly well, however.
One is the way she shows how mental illness sneaks up on you, and the heartbreaking way in which big, meaningful, life changing moments seem to happen over and over again; a realisation hits, you’re filled with a sense of purpose and direction, you think it’s cured and you’re all better, and then it’s more of the same – stuck in an endless loop. De Rossi is incredibly good at portraying that hope/hopeless dichotomy simply and harshly.
The other is the mature handling of her relationship with her mother – she tells the story from the point-of-view of one who has recovered, but while relating the events, she reports her thoughts as she would have thought them back then, without passing judgement or qualifying how wrong those statements might seem to her now. So when she speaks in tones of resentment about her mother, it is clear that this is the Portia of the past talking, and whatever faults her mother may have, she is a fully realised, sympathetic person in this book. Dealing with a difficult situation that doesn’t have a prescribed set of socially acceptable and expected reactions (namely, a gay and severely anorexic daughter – one may want very much to be supportive, while dealing with one’s own issues, and not know quite how to do it), and I can’t imagine she would be disappointed by her portrayal in this book.
In short, Unbearable Lightness was intelligent, thoughtful, and easy to read, and I have a new respect for the actress who made me laugh so much as Veronica and Lindsay Bluth.
And, as a random and possibly tasteless side note, I wonder if it was purposeful that the cover was designed by “Meat and Potatoes Inc.” I mean, really.
(I’ve ended up reading a surprising amount of memoirs for this little project, and I say surprising because for a good long while, I used to skew away from non-fiction – not purposefully, I just tended to latch on to a particular author or genre (e.g. Agatha Christie books, P.G. Wodehouse books, Mary Roach books, science fiction books, and so on, all read in bunches), and happened to go more for fiction. Then there was a wild swing to only non-fiction, and now, after years of buying and borrowing and rescuing books, I have so many that at this point I’m simply taking whatever catches my fancy off the shelf and hoping no one invites me on any more trips to Chapters, so the selection is a lot more random.)
Cannonball Read III: 18/52
Well, it’s the start of a new year, so I thought it would be appropriate to do another one of these. It has now been 372 days (which is, weirdly enough, exactly 186 days after I did the last one, at day 186; perhaps it’s a sign? Next one on July 6th! I love the internet!) since I started attempting to do 100 things, with 628 more days to go. This means I’m 37.2% done, day-wise, with 14% of my list accomplished – which is actually also exactly twice the 7% I had done last time.
So, like last time, I feel the need for a bit of padding. Again, I have 5 things in progress (probably 80% the same ones…), so that bumps me up to 19%. PLUS plus, I could add two to in progress (whiten teeth – I’ve started, but I don’t know how religiously I’m going to do it; and watch the West Wing – I’m up to season 3), and two to completed (technically, I HAVE watched all of Better off Ted, but I want to watch it again so I catch everything, and, if possible, the DVD special features IF IT EVER COMES OUT; also, I technically have started my world travels – I went to Barbados, Thailand, Finland, and Montreal in 2011 – but I know that I meant that one more as a long-term thing, so I don’t want to cross it off when I’m still in the middle of it). So THAT brings me to 23% which is much less pathetic, but also much less true.
Let’s see where I am in July.
Remember this? The problem has been solved. Long ago, actually. We found the missing piece, we plugged it in, we glued the puzzle, and it is now hanging comfortably on my ceiling, and can be called “complete” without any lingering feelings of guilt, emptiness, and/or irritation.
Best New Year Celebration Ever, or what? We baked a cake, watched Ghostbusters and Back to the Future, and drank fizzy grape juice as the ball dropped.
Also there was Mary Poppins and a failed LaserQuest run, but you can’t have everything. Also, those things happened in 2011. 2012 is going to be amazing.
Anyway, so as for Ghostbusters – enjoyed it the whole way through, wouldn’t necessarily watch it again. I laughed out loud several times (Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, obviously; Louis’s smile and random handing of things to people; how big of a jackass Bill Murray is), but overall, it won’t go on my list of classics.
Back to the Future, on the other hand? The first one immediately got the honour of being added to my favourite movies list on facebook. I loved it. I wish to marry M.J. Fox and keep Christopher Lloyd and his cartoon face for my very own. I want to watch it again right now. The second two were more on par with Ghostbusters – enjoyable, not a waste of time, and now I’m done with them.*
The rankings? Back to the Future 1, then 3, then Ghostbusters, then 2.
My ’80s education is nearly complete – I still need to watch most of the John Hughes collection, though. And Ghostbusters 2, I guess.
*Funny story about BttF: we went to Rogers to rent the first of each series, but they only had the third Back to the Future. The whole 25th Anniversary trilogy was on sale there, though, so I bought that and hoped it would be worth it. I am very happy to say that it was. Okay, “funny” may have been overstating it.