Entries from November 2010 ↓

On the road again

Well, we’ve successfully moved about 2,000 miles to our new home, and I’m happy to say that means we can actually spend time watching movies (and writing about them) again.

In terms of watching, we’re just about to close out the “Roman Britain” period and enter into “Sub-Roman Britain (Saxons and Normans)”, which is a period that yielded plenty of fascinating stories. Since the film version of “Eagle of the Ninth” isn’t coming out until 2011, I’m reading the 1954 book to fill in some of the gaps between 117 AD, Gladiator (192 AD) and the story of St. Patrick (440s).

And finally, it’s a sad fact that this early in the timeline, relevant movies are sparse, and it’s always a bit painful to have to skip over something when we can’t get ahold of a copy. So I’m also quite pleased to have located a copy of the last film in the Sub-Roman segment, a 1976 BBC teleplay called “Penda’s Fen”.

Like many stories that deal with Britain’s mythological history, it blends contemporary and historical elements, the latter of which qualifies it to represent the 650s AD. If we’d had to skip, it would have been a jump from the 440s to the 800s with nothing in between, which I’m sure we can all agree would have been tragic indeed.

A new book about Cleopatra

(Skipping ahead a little chronologically and moving over a few countries…)

Today I heard a great interview on the radio today with the author of a new biography about Cleopatra that goes back to original sources.

Listen to the story here (if you’re in the US — not sure if it works in the UK). Just in case, I have uploaded the mp3 file here. Usually NPR will post interview transcripts within a few days, so keep an eye on it.

There is also an excerpt available here.

If the name is indelible, the image is blurry. Cleopatra may be one of the most recognizable figures in history but we have little idea of what she actually looked like. Only her coin portraits — issued in her lifetime, and which she likely approved — can be accepted as authentic. We remember her too for the wrong reasons. A capable, clear-eyed sovereign, she knew how to build a fleet, suppress an insurrection, control a currency, alleviate a famine. An eminent Roman general vouched for her grasp of military affairs. Even at a time when women rulers were no rarity she stood out, the sole female of the ancient world to rule alone and to play a role in Western affairs. She was incomparably richer than anyone else in the Mediterranean. And she enjoyed greater prestige than any other woman of her age, as an excitable rival king was reminded when he called, during her stay at his court, for her assassination. (In light of her stature, it could not be done.) Cleopatra descended from a long line of murderers and faithfully upheld the family tradition but was, for her time and place, remarkably well behaved. She nonetheless survives as a wanton temptress, not the last time a genuinely powerful woman has been transmuted into a shamelessly seductive one.

Fascinating, right? Based on the interview and the excerpt, I’m definitely going to buy this book. And you can too, right here at Amazon US or Amazon UK!