Home » Blog
  • Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing

    on Jun 30, 13 in Marc Sobel by with No Comments

    I have a friend, a retired Literature Professor, who doesn’t like, or maybe approve of, Shakespeare in modern dress. I remember how great and scandalous Richard Burton’s Hamlet was: no sets and modern subdued dress. (IIRC) and I have seen many modern or non-Elizabethan dress Shakespearean plays that I loved. But I couldn’t summon a coherent argument against her position. That is, until I went to see Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing .

    It was wonderful and funny and wildly creative. I am not anything of a Shakespearean scholar or expert but it seemed to me like Whedon didn’t mess at all with the meaning of the play, but he did make it relevant to today’s society (save the death defying value put on virginity. Because honor killings just don’t exist in the 21st century.)

    What he did do was to take the artifacts of Shakespeare’s time and use in their stead the modern equivalent. The accouterments of princely power become bodyguards in suits with earpieces. The messenger holds up his smartphone when Leonato announces “I learn in this letter that Don Peter of Arragon comes this night to Messina.” The hinted at prior relationship of Beatrice and Benedict becomes a morning after the night before silent leaving. (Much less violent than Buffy and Angel’s “one true moment of happiness.”).

    Whedon even puts in a comment on how times have changed with the exchange near the end. Claudio, has pledged to marry a substitute for the Hero who had “died” falsely accused.

    Good morrow, prince; good morrow, Claudio:
    We here attend you. Are you yet determined
    To-day to marry with my brother’s daughter?

    I’ll hold my mind, were she an Ethiope.

    Whedon puts an African American woman wedding guest up front and everybody winces.

    Anyhow, it was a great movie of a great play and I am going to see it again. If I can get my friend to see it, then we can talk about the Bard in modern dress.

    As a comment on the yet unfinished state of the Internet, I was looking for a text of the play and happened upon It had a lot of discussions of various productions of Much Ado, so I searched for “Joss Whedon”. The search engine got no hits but asked “Did you mean: ‘joy shed on’?”

    “Joy Shed On X” sounds like a headline in The China Times English edition.

    Read More
  • Back from Baltic

    on Jun 21, 13 in Marc Sobel by with No Comments

    So, I have been away on a cruise of the Baltic to mainly Hanseatic League cities including Lubeck. There is not much history of the Hanseatic League because they were a bunch of merchants who were successful for a few hundred years because of technology, geography and political weakness.

    This is a town gate from Lubeck which was a primary Hanseatic city. It has a museum inside.

    This is a town gate from Lubeck which was a primary Hanseatic city. It has a museum inside.


    Model of Lubeck in the Lubeck town gate museum. Not sure if there is a copy inside the model of the town gate.

    Model of Lubeck in the Lubeck town gate museum. Not sure if there is a copy inside the model of the town gate.


    They didn’t have heros, just salt and herring. When better sailing ships changed the effective geography and states got stronger, the local rulers ate the goose that was giving them the golden eggs.  Among other causes of their decline was financial innovations, (but in a good way.)  Shows that there are worse things than Banksters. Dukes for example. Learned that herzog is German for duke. Wonder if Bellow had that in mind?

    It’s a valuable note for progressives. Conservatism is often arguing in favor of the old order and it neglects the previous conflicts. Reformation/Counter Reformation, Slavery/Wage Labor, Divine Right of Kings/Magna Carta etc. Even racism has its fashions. The reason that so many WWII war movies have assortments of ethnic characters is that the forties was the period when ethnic nationalities like Poles, Swedes, Italians, Irish, even Jews were becoming “white”. So on the upside, eventually these battles will be over. On the downside there will be new fights. See also marriage equality. In Evil Fighting Beagle these issues center around the idea of hierarchy.  For which the visit to St. Petersberg (Leningrad, Petrograd) and The Hermitage, Catherine the Great’s getaway place provided some perspective.

    The staircase that diplomats would climb to be presented.

    The staircase that diplomats would climb to be presented.



    Romanoff Throne Room. Not at all hierarchical.

    Romanoff Throne Room. Not at all hierarchical.


    I heard an argument that religion, in this case the Catholic Church is not that bad because they did a lot of good things. I made the mistake of replying to the comment by abstracting the argument as “X is not bad because he did Y good things.” It was coming on too strong for a social discussion. (Actually a book group discussion of Free Will and The Moral Landscape by Sam Harris.)

    I apologize for my vehemence. The mechanism will learn and may reduce the frequency of the occurrences. (I’ll try to learn from this experience) Just realized that this is what that famous teacher said. “Do or do not. There is no try.”

    Incidentally for those who want to see and hear what Sam Harris is like in person, I ran into this video. It was recorded in Sydney but there are English subtitles.

    Anyhow, on a cruise, wifi is on the American Plan, expensive and slow. I only had time to search emails for critical issues I needed to respond to (like the light in the fish tank burning out) and label the rest as later.

    I published Evil Fighting Beagle  a few days before I left but hadn’t managed to get the domain for this site switched until the day I got back, and there were still a few glitches to iron out, so no postings til now. More later.

    Read More
  • Evil Fighting Beagle – The origin myth

    on May 28, 13 in Marc Sobel by with No Comments

    Phil had been with us for several years but until that night, I had only seen him as a good beagle.

    Continue Reading

    Read More
Scroll to top