Friday, December 21, 2007

christmas is coming

Yes, it is only days away from Christmas Day, and no, I haven't finished my Christmas shopping, but to get into the Christmas spirit I'd like to write a post about flat Christmas, which happened a few days ago, a celebration of Christmas for the inhabitants of my flat, and Andrew. On Saturday, to be exact. We had stockings, made by Ang (beautifully made) and filled by each other with various stocking like fillers, such as chocolate money and parachute men. There was Christmas dinner and presents from all. It was a little hard to finish Christmas dinner (roast chicken and vegetables) after all the chocolate but it was delicious enough that we succeeded. Oh, and I got a new hat! Like my old one that was tragically lost, but also different. And a bag! And earrings and chocolate and lollies.
I think by far the highlight of the day for me was the bubble blowing. We got champagne bubbles in our stockings, and proceeded to spend much of the afternoon blowing bubbles off the balcony at passers by. Which got some great reactions, particularly from the undercover policeman who sounded his siren (briefly) at us in a show of Christmas (or bubble-blowing) spirit. We were all leaning off the balcony wearing hats and blowing bubble, so I suppose we looked fairly Christmassy. Twas a great way to spend the afternoon.
And then to Carols in Vic Park for Carols and fireworks and candles, all fun things, and home again to light up a Christmas pudding.
And now to wait for the real Christmas (and finish the Christmas shopping).

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

i am here to kill your monster

In amongst the various events that make up my life I went and watched Beowulf the other day, with a bunch of Old English people. There was surprisingly little laughter during the movie. I was very disappointed with it as it just wasn't as bad as I'd hoped it would be. That's what I want out of a Beowulf movie, cringing and laughter and wonderment at what happened to the plot. Ok, this movie did take great liberties with plot and characters and most things I suppose (Heorot looked very 12th C. for instance) but sometimes you have to accept that in a movie and appreciate it for itself. That makes it sound better than it is, and let me say that the character of Beowulf drew the most laughs, as well as the strange amount of nudity. But there were eerie moments and battles that commanded some amount of respect. I wish I saw it in 3d, it was clearly made for it, but I don't think I could have handled Imax for some bits.
One of the things I most appreciated about the movie was the willingness to show the supernatural. Grendel is a troll monster, there is a dragon. And the supernatural is done well, if in a way that confuses the student of Old English. I quite enjoyed this film on balance. But one of the things I didn't like was the unwillingness to be heroic. They do show Beowulf as a hero, but at other times they undermine his heroism, and Hrothgar does not come off looking very good at all. It comes down to something Beowulf says to Wealtheow near the end of the movie (to paraphrase) "I want you to remember me not as a hero but as a flawed man". That seems to be a tendency in fiction at the moment, flawed humans rather than heroes. Which makes me sad, because I like heroes! What makes this more difficult is that I'm aware that this statement oversimplifies the issue. Tragic heroes have been flawed for centuries, and Beowulf is indeed tragic (although how flawed he is is a matter of heated debate among English scholars). Nevertheless there appears to me, in general, to be a shift in emphasis from the heroism to the flaws. A shift towards realism in characters? Or a pessismism about human nature? Meh, these questions are too big, all I really want to do is mourn the lack of heroes around. I can't be alone. Superheroes are very popular at the moment too.
To move away from that vexing question, another interesting feature of the movie is its use of Old English. Grendel (and sometimes his mother) speak Old English, but no-one else. It is interesting to hear it spoken in a movie like that, and sometimes hard to follow (also un-subtitled) but somehow appealing for the Old English geek who can decipher what's going on (sometimes. I also feel inadequate in my Old English skills). There is a part where Grendel's mother speaks either of or to Beowulf, I can't remember, and says "Beowulf, Bee-wolf, the bear" which ALL of the Old English posse picked up on. As Amy said, it was Angelina Jolie doing philology. The thing is that this is a hotly debated topic (what isn't you ask?). There was for a while an argument, which I think was fairly widely accepted, that Beowulf was a compound meaning 'Bee-wolf', which in Old English meant bear. But lately this is being questioned (it was never that strong in the beginning) as the 'bee-wolf' connection may be there but people are baffled as to how that means bear. So if there is one fact that you get from watching the Beowulf movie, please don't let it be that 'Beowulf' in fact means 'Bear', because if you bring it up at a party to someone who knows Old English you will have to listen to a lot of "well, actually"s.
Oh, and the title of this post is a line from the movie that I think is right up there with 'just kidding'.