Hodge Podge: Going to the Theatre, Television and the Future of History

I thought I needed a post that sort of cleaned out the attic. Something that talked about all the little random things that I’ve been thinking about in the last two weeks, but don’t really fit into a larger post.

All’s Well That Ends…..

Meh. Well, that’s not being entirely fair. As usual the Shakespeare Theatre Company did not disappoint. Beautiful set, great acting, however I do think I may have found a Shakespeare play I didn’t love. At first glance the show seems to turn the usual Shakespeare woman on her head–Helena is forward, a little bit manipulative-while Bertram is weak and less…realistic (as loosely as the term may be applied). An argument can be made that my dislike is grounded in the fact that this is one tale of the Bard’s that I have never read, but there was something about the way Bertram had to be tricked into loving Helena that just seemed wrong.

But I guess I’m looking at it from a “today” perspective–but apparently in Shakespeare’s own lifetime it was not well received due to the break from the expected “role” of  a woman of Helena’s class–and maybe that is what makes this typical Shakespeare. Changing role’s, identity switches, all a commentary on established norms of the time. Maybe, but I don’t buy Bertram’s one line switch from hate to adoration for his wife–just because she managed to fulfill the two impossible conditions he had put before her (get his family ring, and have his child).

On a random note I was listening to this episode of Radio Lab and was surprised to find out how many words and phrases that are now part of day-to-day speech that are all a part of Shakespearean Lexicon. Cool.


So my dad taped two segments of the CBS show 60 Minutes for me from this past week. The first was on the archaeological dig at what is believed to be the City of David in Jerusalem. In short, the story was about the meaning of the City of David to the Jews in the city, and how the current political situation and peace talks will effect the dig. The story also emphasized the difficulty and the role of the past in the identities of the Jewish and Arab people in that region–along with the volatility of the conflict between settlers and the Palestinians. As I’ve said over, and over, that the connection of people to history is alive and well–and you could see the passion for that history in the eyes of both sides in the dispute.

The second story was a detective story surrounding an 11 minute reel of film that depicts the trolly ride down Market Street in San Francisco. What’s remarkable about the story, aside from seeing all the pieces come together, was just how a film historian pinpointed the date of the film by looking at the water on the ground, the construction levels of the building–the license plates on the cars in each frame to narrow the time frame of the film down to early April 1906. Having just been to San Francisco I knew the meaning of this date before the story actually told us–that just days after this film was shot the city, this street, was destroyed by the earthquake and subsequent fire.  What this segment really illustrated for me was just how a piece of the past, an object or a filmstrip can evoke wonder and awe–especially when that last connection is made, that glimpse pack to a past on the brink of catastrophe, a world that would no longer exist in the same way again.

Then there was this week’s episode of How I Met Your Mother entitled “Architect of Destruction.” The episode as a whole was hilarious, as usual, but the storyline that dealt with the destruction of a New York City landmark hotel (that had fallen to hard times) with a new construction (though well designed) bank building. I hated how the one who wanted to protect the building was depicted as a crazy activist loon, and that the idea of incorporating the existing structure into the design was merely a ploy for Ted to get the girl…and when he couldn’t he didn’t consider it worth his time. I know, I know its a sitcom and shouldn’t be taken seriously, but really?

Not to mention that during the whole episode no one used the words historic preservation even once. Food for thought.

NaNoWriMo: The Future of History

So this year I am participating in National Novel Writing Month for the second time. Unlike last year where I jumped into the process on November 1 with no planning, I’ve been thinking about what I want this year’s project to be about. It’s a bit complex (translation–not completely formed) so I won’t bore you with details, but I am aiming to mix my two loves science-fiction/fantasy and history and am looking for ideas for what futuristic historical tools might look like. One of my characters is a sort of an archaeological detective, and is trying to suss out the past using updated digital versions of what we use in the historical trade. For example–archaeologists look at stratigraphy as one way of dating the objects they find in the ground–would a future version of dating a midden, or a series of objects be as simple as a fast, instant scan? Is it going to be about getting information faster, or would it be a flashier version of ground penetrating radar–just dressed up differently? Anyway–just looking for some ideas from fellow historians to kick off the brainstorming.

Note: In the next week I’ll be at the National Preservation Conference in Austin, Texas. Check out the virtual attendee page to keep track of what’s going on, and check back on the blog to see what I’m up to!

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