A live toad every morning

Corrections to the blogosphere, the consensus, and the world

Monday, September 12, 2016


Went to see (on film) the Almedia Theatre production of Richard iii, with Ralph Fiennes; a fairly intimidating performance, lacking the antic malice of Olivier. There were some lines I didn’t remember –
I have no brother, I am like no brother; 
And this word 'love,' which graybeards call divine, 
Be resident in men like one another 
And not in me: I am myself alone. 
 on returning home, I checked it out and found they’d shifted quite a lot out of Henry VIth Part 3 into Richard – and left out other bits, particularly from the last battle scenes.  Let me see, what other Richards have I consulted?  Anthony Sher, and Ian McKellen.  But I should see if I can buy the rest of the Wars of the Roses tetralogy to add to our already vast stack of unwatched Shakespeares: I think we have a tempest, a Macbeth, and a Hal 8 waiting.  Rose resists putting them on for the good reason that she’s virtually certain to fall asleep in front of them unless she’s been forethoughful enough to have six strong coffees in the afternoon.
The trouble with Richard, though, as a study in villainy, is not that Richard is over the top but that he has to be so very over the top to be any worse than everybody else in the family, or, indeed, the peerage.  Everybody is plotting the death of everybody else; if you gave the soliloquies to someone else – Buckingham, say – Richard would almost fade into the background.
Actually, that bit of Hal VI III – and in the actual play,
brings to mind Peer Gynt;
Out yonder, under the shining vault,
among men the saying goes: “Man, be thyself!”
At home here with us, ’mid the tribe of the trolls,
the saying goes: “Troll, to thyself be — enough!”
Anne felt that way:
I want to be normal, to love and be loved, crisp new love, but I still prefer not to make close bonds with mortals. Mine is the troll's motto, "To thyself be enough."
I didn’t ask her if she was rooting for Richard, but I wouldn’t be surprised; a disability thing.
In the Olivier version, too, he actually retained, a few lines from Colley Cibber’s rewriting – the one that drove what one might call the real version off the stage for two hundred years, except that, as the Fiennes version shows, the real version isn’t staged today either, it being rather hard to follow as being the last  episode in a continuing series.  One episode of Game of Thrones would be hard to follow, too.

Anyway, I’ve ordered the Hollow Crown from Amazon, with Cumberbatch as Richard, and am weighing up going back to the Peter Hall version, with Ian Holm.  As Schopenhauer says, when purchasing books one is under the illusion that one is purchasing the time needed to read them, and the same goes double for DVDs.

Friday, September 09, 2016

Give me that old time religion

I entirely agree with Julie Szego  (Age, 9/9/16) that in a secular society like ours we shouldn't tolerate religously-based body-shaming clothing practices.  I do, however, have some difficulty understanding why covering up the bits that Jehovah wants covered is OK and only covering up the extra bits that Allah wants covered is wrong. Let's have some consistency; if we're going to say that god's handiwork should be exposed to the sun without shame, let's listen to Apollo and start with trousers.

Thursday, September 01, 2016

What I did on my holidays

What I did on my holidays
By Chris Borthwick

After blanketing two nations
With a swathe of presentations
Rose came home with little patience
Needing some time off the clock:
So to build up her bonhomonie
I signed her up for an Astronomy
(And sightseeing and gastronomy)
Weekend at Ayers Rock.

I had made the whole arrangement -
A prescription for derangement
And a cause of some estrangement
On the trip to Field of Light,
Where the hostess was insistent
That our absence from her list meant
That our booking, while existent,
Was for quite another night.

Rose wallowed deep in sorrow
Till the advent of the morrow
Brought astronomers to follow
And infusions of caffeine:
And several days of lectures
Would effectively infect us
With incredible perspectives
And authority to dream.

Outside, we apprehended,
Were the southern plains extended,
But inside the vision splendid 
Of the everlasting stars -
Though everlasting’s a misnomer --
With black holes and quantum foam a
Final ending was gone over
In the coffeeshops and bars.

We had rather more than two tries
Seeing Uluru at sunrise,
The whole idea was unwise
As the cloud obscured its face;
But who could feign abhorrences
As moisture fell in torrentses
In waterfalls on foreigners
Assembled at its base?

Beneath the Olga’s towers
We walked happily for hours
Viewing unexpected flowers
In the unexpected rain:
We felt our withered souls expand
Like puffballs in the desert sand,
Rose blossomed like the desert[1] and  
We’d gladly go again.

[1] Mind you, she still has worries –
take number one, for starters:
I mucked up the photos, and
she wants my guts for garters.
Myself, hey, what’s the problem?
I put it to you, chaps:
Which would you rather – Clancy,
or the Banjo’s outback snaps?

Monday, August 08, 2016

Gods and Men

Went to see Suicide Squad, the latest DC comic epic.

No worse than I expected (though not, like the new Ghostbusters, a pleasant surprise),  but pretty crappy,  largely because the plot was offensively self-refuting.  To be fair, though, it’s very very hard to get any working plot in a universe that, like all multicharacter superhero universes, includes people with near-godlike powers (like Superman or, here, the Enchantress) and people with no special qualities except good pecs (like Batman or, here, Harley Quinn). In one scene the god is slicing aircraft carriers in half with his powerbeams, in the next he can’t cut through Deadshot’s armguards and he’s getting hit over the head with a baseball bat. The basic forces of the world have to shift from instant to instant to allow the plot to continue, making it very hard to make sense.  In more or less consistent universes, like Watchmen or Miller’s Dark Knight series, the more powerful creatures kill the less powerful, which can’t happen in superhero movies because you want all the characters still around next movie.

Anther thing that were wrong with Suicide squad (which really doesn’t call for this degree of close reading, but still)  was a misunderstanding of what sub-genre it was.
A superhero movie, yes, but also a caper movie – you assemble the team, each with a particular trick that will be needed in the caper, and then you have the caper where they each show off their thing. The first part was perhaps done, after a fashion, but the second wasn’t; they all fought the hordes of evil in much the same way, by shooting them, which hardly counts as a superpower…. perhaps only for Americans? Will Smith was the lead star in it as Deadshot, a no-miss marksman, but that’s still the most boring superpower ever, and if they had to have him then he should have been the only one to carry a gun…  though without it, Harley Quinn would be very underpowered, which is a difficulty.

And the gun motif was only emphasised again, not to say run into the ground, by having the group overseen by an army bloke, Colonel Flagg, who was supposed to be in there as the token good guy, and he did a shitload of shooting too.  What part of ‘superpower” doesn’t DC understand?

Oh, and at the end Deadshot is with his little daughter, helping her with his maths homework, and she cutely says “Hypotenuse?  That would be like when you’re on a tall building shooting at someone on the street?”
He says “Well, you have to account for wind, bullet weight, etc. etc….” 
A charming vignette, but a good father would have taken the next step and told her that no, a shot to the street wasn’t a hypotenuse because it wasn’t a straight line, being a (fairly flat) parabola. 

There is no force, however great,
Can stretch a cord, however fine,
Into a horizontal line
That shall be absolutely straight.

and the same goes for non-vertical projectiles subject to gravity. 

Thursday, June 30, 2016


It’s said that Britain has spoken, and the will of the nation must be respected. It’s a convincing argument, but nobody in Australia has the right to make it.  When we have a referendum it has to win both a majority of votes and a majority of states. If the Oz rules applied over there, Scotland and Northern Ireland would have had a veto. If the Pommy rules applied here 5 additional referenda would have passed, and the government would have powers over aviation (1937), marketing (1946), and industrial employment (1946), and senate terms would always be in step with the house ((simultaneous elections, 77; terms of senate, 1984).  Reluctantly, I have to think better of the Australian constitution. We may have peculiar Senate terms, but we're not going to Brex all over the living-room carpet.

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