Odyssey – Homer (Stanley Lombardo, trans.)

Hackett Publishing, 1999
After the stories of shipwrecks and survival in Leslie’s book, I decided to complete my Homer duology and do the Odyssey.
It’s another fantastic translation by Lombardo, and brings the poem alive.
Knowing about the poem and actually reading it (for the first time, unlike the Iliad) are two different things, obviously. All the juicy, famous bits (Circe, Lotus Eaters, Cyclops, etc.) that have been passed down to us through art at literature are actually taken care of quickly, with the Lotus Eaters getting so short a mention I kept waiting for them to come back. For me, a lot of this surprise comes from reading Joyce’s Ulysses (10 years ago, blimey), who devotes a whole chapter (“Wandering Rocks”) to an option that Odyssius doesn’t even take. (I wonder how different my reading of Joyce would have been if I had read this first, despite using three navigational supplements alongside it.)
Such a different work than the straightforward Iliad, here full of time-shifts, false narratives, flashbacks. Disguises and tests of loyalty.
In a discussion the other night, my friend DJ mentioned that one of the book’s themes is hospitality, which indeed strikes me as correct. How to treat guests, and how to act when you are a guest is an idea returned to over and over, from the Oxen of the Sun and Circe back to Odyssius’s return, where his ill-treatment at the hands of the beggars makes his revenge much sweeter–though incredibly delayed.
My favorite moment, very personal, is the brief episode with the dog Argus, who waits twenty lonely, abused years for his master’s return, and is the only being that recognizes him in disguise. Once he has seen his master enter his home, the dog gives up the ghost. Homer handles this with great economy and emotion and little melodrama.
Like the Iliad, the epic ends in an unexpected place, with Odyssius about to go out again into battle, but called back suddenly by the gods. Don’t you think you’ve had enough of that, the gods ask, rhetorically.

Edge of the Known World: Dancer Peggy Baker sets out for uncharted territory

“I never expected I would be dancing solo. I expected I would just be dancing with companies. I had no idea that this would grab me by the roots. One project moves me in unexpected directions, and from there the next project arises.”

Dancer, choreographer, and teacher Peggy Baker still expresses amazement at her career and where she now finds herself, despite being someone who has never settled for anything less than what she wants.

She also has never let–and is still not letting–age determine what she can do. At 51, Baker–past member of the Lar Lubovitch Company, original member of the White Oak Project, and now solo performer–is pushing the boundaries and expanding the repertoire for mature dancers. She will be performing as part of the UCSB Dance Department Faculty Concert on October 10.

Read More

Where Have You Been?

Well, I ain’t been to London to visit the queen, I tell ya that. Actually, I’ve been busy writing as usual, but also switching providers (then servers). At the end of September, I was furiously trying to get some writing in on a Friday, trying to make deadline, and that’s exactly when my email went down for the fourth time in a month, all due to my former provider, who shall remain nameless.
I need stable email to do my job, and after another visit to their online help service, where the befuddled tech support guy apologized but said “It’s a big problem, lots of people have been complaining.” It was then I called my good friend Jeff and had him remind me of the success with his most recent provider (who shall also remain nameless in this traditional period, just because I don’t want to jinx it.) So I moved.
Moving was a bit of a hassle, primarily because I didn’t have a whole day to devote to it, and so had to do a little bit here and there. Meanwhile, all my blogs backed up. You will probably see a whole bunch of entries soon. I just sorted out Blogger too, so hopefully everything will be ready soon.
Moving providers also hopefully means I can do a bit more complex web design, including putting up all my writing in a searchable and updatable database, and updating and reconstructing the Konishi discography. Stay tuned.

Bring Back the Enlightenment

Great essay by Neal Gabler in the L.A. Times that calls the BushJunta the first Medieval Presidency

George W. Bush’s Medieval Presidency
Every administration spins the facts to its advantage. As the old adage goes, “Figures don’t lie but liars do figure.” But the White House medievalists aren’t just shading the facts. In actively denying or changing them, they are changing the basis on which government has traditionally been conducted: rationality. There is no respect for facts because there is no respect for empiricism.
Instead, the Bush ideologues came to power smug in the security of their own worldview, part of which, frankly, seems to be the belief that it would be soft and unmanly to let facts alter their preconceptions. Like the church confronting Galileo, they aren’t about to let reality destroy their cosmology, whether it is a bankrupt plan for pacifying an Iraq that was supposed to welcome us as liberators or a bankrupt fiscal plan that was supposed to jolt the economy to health.
Bush has made a great show of his religious faith, and he has won plaudits from many for reintroducing the concept of evil into political discourse. But his stubborn insistence on following his own course, especially after Sept. 11, 2001, may be the most profound way in which religion has shaped his presidency. Bush has a religious epistemology. Having devalued the idea of an observable, verifiable reality and having eschewed rational empiricism, he relies on his unalterable faith in himself not just to inform his policies, as all presidents have, but to dictate them.
His self-confidence is certainly admirable at a time when most politicians mistake opinion polls for empiricism. It is also scary. As writer Leon Wieseltier recently observed, this is a presidency without doubt, one entirely comfortable with its own certainties, which is what makes it medieval. But as Wieseltier also observed, it is doubt that deepens one’s vision of life and often provides a better basis for acting within it. It is doubt that helps one understand the world and enables one to avoid hubris. A presidency without doubt and resistant to disconcerting facts is a presidency not on the road to Damascus but on the road to disaster. By regarding facts as political tools, it compromises information and makes reality itself suspect, not to mention that it compromises the agencies that provide the information and makes them unreliable in the future. And by ignoring anything that contradicts its faith, it can vaingloriously plow ahead

Italian (Opera) for Beginners: At the beginning of her career, Shu-Ying Li takes on her fourth Butterfly

main_butterfly

When asked what will make Shu-Ying Li’s portrayal of Madame Butterfly different in the upcoming production of Opera Santa Barbara (their 24th), the soprano looks down for a few seconds, lost in thought, until surfacing with a broad smile. “Because I’m Shu-Ying!” She then bursts into a laugh, which then spreads to those around her. Miss Li knows that what she has said has made herself sound somewhat of the diva, not befitting someone just beginning a professional career.

But she also knows that its her self-confidence that has gotten her this far, thousands of miles away from her native China, along with dashes of good fortune and helping hands.

The role of Madame Butterfly is one that still goes to more non-Asian sopranos than Asian, although in recent years many able singers from China, Japan, and elsewhere have made the role their own.

Read More