I finished reading "Vagabonding" by Rolf Potts, and I was so thoroughly impressed that I wanted to start reading it again to catch all the things I missed. It's an easy read and it is well written. It gives good ideas and just common sense advice when it comes to travel. Not only does it address travel, but it also talks about why we travel, why we travel for as long as we do, and what we really can accomplish. At the end of each chapter there are tips, books, and websites you can check out that will help you. I don't have the book with me right now, but I will write a separate blog with some awesome quotes from the book. If you are interested in travel or ever traveling, then by all means READ THIS BOOK! I am so glad Allie lent it to me, and I intend to buy it when I have a place to put it.
So, I recently went to see a performance of "Hamlet" in a cemetery. This is my review, not of the play, but of that particular performance. Before I start, I feel you should know that I am an extremely harsh critic of "Hamlet". It is one of my favorite plays, and it is hilarious. People tend to not capture that. So, going into this, I was super stoked because it's one of my favorite plays, but I was also a little skeptical because it is one of my favorite plays.
Hamlet in the Cemetery
I'm going to start with costumes. I thought they were phenomenal. They were modern with a classic twist. When Hamlet first shows his "madness" he came out in mismatched socks (a reference to an earlier line Ophelia said about his stockings), a "Denmark Correctional Facility" button up shirt that was ripped and missing a sleeve, bunny slippers, a hat, and unkempt pants. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern (who were separated by color... Rosencrantz wore red and Guildenstern wore green) were dressed like two well-paid toughs. Horatio was sporting the sweater vest, and daggers and swords accompanied many of these costumes.
The stage was several rugs lined up in a thrust type stage, and seating was allowed all the way up to the rugs. The props were minimal and usually came with the character. The stage was in front of a tree and they tied up a banner type thing for Polonius to hide behind. It wasn't fastened to the ground and the wind was strong which led to difficulties, but the actors handled it very well.
[I'm only going to talk about the ones that stood out to me... sorry]
Hamlet - I have never understood the "melancholy Hamlet". It doesn't make sense to me. I don't get that impression from reading it. At the beginning of the play I was concerned that we were going to get a melancholy Hamlet, but then I put it in perspective. His dad just died, his mom remarried within a month or two... married his uncle. He was justified in his emotions, and to my joy, he ended up being an excellent Hamlet. Hamlet, for the record, was performed by Justin Scalise. He wasn't my favorite Hamlet, but he is up there. I was impressed. His comedic timing was excellent.
Polonius - I have always hated Polonius. I always think of him as a weasel. I don't know what gives me this impression, but he bothers me. I am willing to admit when I'm wrong. I was so wrong about Polonius. Chuck Ney, professor of directing and acting at TSU, portrayed Polonius, and it was hilarious. It was slightly reminiscent of Bottom the Weaver (one of my favorite Shakespeare characters). Looking at the program, it said he was also in a performance of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and I have to wonder if he was Bottom. Polonius was no longer the weasel and demanding father. He was a bumbling man who meant well and just always ended up getting the wrong end of the stick... or dagger. So, I have to give major kudos to Chuck Ney for changing my mind about Polonius.
Claudius - Hamlet's uncle and recently crowned king of Denmark, performed by Andrew Matthews, is a bad guy... but I couldn't help but like him for the first part of the play. I know the uncle is a totally sketchy guy, but Matthews made me like him. I didn't want to. I know what he did. I feel like he should take a stab at Iago. Iago is one of the most evil characters ever written, but he is so charismatic that you can't help but laugh at and with him. Matthews isn't quite there yet, but I think he has it in him.
The Grave Digger - One of my favorite characters in this play. The grave digger was played by Robert Deike and he was spot on. Hilarious! The timing and execution were awesome. The interpretation of the lines (I don't know if this was the actor's doing or the director's) made me re-appreciate this whole scene!
Director - Andrew Matthews (mentioned earlier) directed this play, and he did a fantastic job. I was quite impressed. I really appreciated his take and interpretation of the lines. Brilliant.
This was not my favorite performance of "Hamlet" but, because I'm such a harsh critic, I really enjoyed it and will list it in my top 3 mainly because it changed my perceptions of how the play should be done. Kudos!
I swear, this book has taken a lifetime to read. Now, I love the way Richard Adams writes, his creativity with language and his use of accent and dialect is really quite amazing. I don't know if you've noticed this about me, but the actual writing is really important to me. The story can be horrible, but if the writing is good the book can be saved. This is why I have a problem with Dan Brown. He writes like a 4th grader... no offense to all those 4th graders reading this. The story was semi-decent, but the writing was just bad. Anyway... on to "Shardik".
I first read "Watership Down" by Richard Adams, and it is, by far, my favorite book. I started reading "Shardik" with high hopes. The first chapter did not disappoint, it had that characteristic language and almost poetic descriptions. It was told from the point of view of a massive bear trying to escape a forest fire.
Chapter two kinda crushed my hopes. Turns out that the book is not told from the point of view of the bear. After finishing the book, I have decided that Richard Adams needs to stick to the point of view of the animal. He's a kind of naturalist, and he doesn't get the same response if people are the main characters.
"Plague Dogs", the other book by Richard Adams, is told from the point of view of two dogs. Awesome. I can't wait to read it to see if I'm right about all this.
Okay, so my actual review of "Shardik". If you read my blog, you know that I usually only give a book a third of the way through to decide if I want to keep reading it. I will admit, that this one was a real challenge. I almost gave up on it many times. I felt that I owed it to Adams to finish it. So I did. For the record, the bear, Shardik, isn't even in a quarter of the book at least. Let me give you the gist of the story (if you don't care, skip this part):
Kelderek is a hunter who stumbles upon the wounded bear colossus. He assumes that it is Shardik, the Power of God in animal form that was destined to return (it's been a few hundred years...). He tells the Baron of his village and is taken to see the Tuginda, a high priestess of sorts. It becomes "obvious" that Kelderek has some sort of connection with this bear, and so is considered a sort of bear-priest. With the Power of God in hand, what else do you do besides take over neighboring kingdoms? So that's what they do. The Tuginda doesn't approve and she goes back to her island as a prisoner... kinda. It's a fluke thing that they actually win the kingdom, and Kelderek is made king. In an effort to promote trade, he regulates and allows slave trading. Bad idea. People don't like the way things are run and there is an attempt on Shardik's life (yes, they drugged him, put him in a cage and carried him with them). Shardik escapes and Kelderek, who never really wanted to be king and just wanted to give his life to Shardik, goes looking for the bear. Delirious from exhaustion and hunger, he ends up in enemy camp. Nice. They let him go because his capital city changed hands while he was wandering around the countryside, but he is required to only stay in this super dangerous part of the world. Guess who he finds there. The Tuginda. Random, I know. So, they team up and end up in a populated yet equally dangerous part of the world where they meet up with some of the other priestesses of Shardik that they had known before. Chance? Word of Shardik meets up with them there and Kelderek, who has pretty much given up on Shardik altogether, is pressured to go find him. Instead, Kelderek is found by a ruthless and unlicensed slave trader and basically put in chains. Ironic, eh? Shardik shows up, kills some people, leaves, comes back and kills the slave trader (it's a pretty awesome scene). Kelderek is free once again. Happy endings all around. The sketchy town where they found the other priestesses has been chosen as a point on the new trade route, and they start to clean up their act. The last 20 pages or so are from the point of view of a foreigner who is interested in trade with Kelderek's side of the world. He keeps hearing about Shardik and asks questions, but Kelderek doesn't really say anything about the story which is rather annoying.
If I could choose which third of this book I would have liked to have read and then left the rest, I would choose the final third. The end of the book is quite possibly the best part. The action is intense, the people are crazy, and the coincidences are uncanny. I'm really glad I read the whole thing. Since the last thing I read was the best part, I'm finding that my memories of this book are slightly biased by how great the last bit was. It really was quite difficult for me to read, but I'm glad I did. I don't ever plan on reading it again... unless I go crazy... which is always an option.
Sorry this was so long, but maybe you understand a little of what I had to go through to finish this book.
There is a store in Austin called I <3 Video. It is a movie rental store, but they also buy and sell movies. From the outside I will admit it looks a little sketchy. I really need to stop going by first impressions, because that is quite possibly the Mecca of movies for me. You walk in the door, you see the counter and workers, and then you step out into a huge open room where the walls and shelves are just packed with books. They advertise that they have movies you can't find on Netflix. As a lover of Netflix, I put this to the test. You know what? They're right. The selection is insane! I could spend hours in there and find thousands of movies I've never even heard of before. I've seen a lot of movies and have heard of many more, but this is a whole new experience.
I look forward to exploring the crazy levels of that store. I'll probably do so on a Tuesday. Why? Because they give away free beer (if you have a proper ID of course) on Tuesdays. They get a keg of Lonestar and offer free beer while you peruse the movies (they do ask for donations to continue offering the free beer game). It's awesome.
So, on my list of awesome stores I've been to in my life, I <3 video is near the top of that list!
For the record, these reviews are my personal opinions about the books I volunteer to read. I'm not getting paid by anyone to read or review them. A lot of people charge a penny for their thoughts... mine are free.
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