Sunday, January 20, 2013

Last night, I read the first third of the chapter. Tonight I will read more.

I described it as “badly punctuated.” There's no punctuation at all! No apostrophes, no commas, no periods. The “sentences” are separated by paragraph breaks.

So far, Molly Bloom has thought back to Mrs Riordan, an obnoxious elderly neighbor whom Leopold Bloom flattered; sickness; Bloom's infidelities, present and past; her own seductions and confessions; sex and childbirth; jealousy; aggravating husbands.

In the second paragraph: men are all so different; how strange Bloom is; Bloom is “mad on the subject of drawers”; their first sexual encounter; punctuality; a potential singing trip to Belfast with both Bloom and Blazes Boylan, her paramour; her last concert; hating politics; money; well-dressed men; losing weight, face lotion, and beauty on the wane; the sordid books he brings her; Bloom could do better than his advertising job; Bloom thinking he knows a lot about women's dress.

And of course lots more that I didn't note here.

posted on Monday, January 21, 2013 6:43:26 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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We at the Wild Geese Players of Seattle have been adapting James Joyce's Ulysses for staged readings since 1998, and we will complete the book with the Penelope chapter (aka Molly Bloom's soliloquy) on Bloomsday 2013.

I shall detail my dramaturgical process over several blog posts.

The very first step is to re-read the chapter. It's been several years since I last read it and I don't remember it clearly. I've yet to look at my old friends, Gifford and Blamires, for their takes on “Penelope”.

Molly is lying in bed, daydreaming early on the morning of June 17th, 1904. Leopold climbed in to bed a little while ago, put his head at her feet (as always) and fell asleep. Her mind skits all over the place in a tour de force of stream of consciousness, reliving the past in nine enormously long, badly punctuated sentences.

I shall have to figure out how to break this up, so that our readers have something to work with. For the sake of the audience and the readers, I shall try to tease themes out of the sentences. We usually have a dozen or so readers, more than half of them male. The boys would prefer not to sit on the sidelines and I'm certainly not having them read in Monty Python falsettos, so some reverse-Shakespearean casting is likely.

posted on Sunday, January 20, 2013 8:43:39 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Today, June 16th, is the actual Bloomsday. For expediency, we in the Wild Geese Players usually perform our reading at the nearest weekend.

The Irish Times writes its usual report of a crowd of posers re-enacting fragments of Ulysses in Dublin. Perhaps the best line:

Back in the city centre, a sign outside Davy Byrne’s advertised a Bloomsday special: Gorgonzola cheese sandwiches and burgundy for €12.90. Someone nearby complained loudly that prices had gone up since 1904.

A Spanish translator of Ulysses remarked:

“You don’t have to be a Joycean to enjoy this day,” he said. “It’s wonderful to see literature taking over the city and there are lots of ordinary people, not just scholars.

“That’s a very Joycean act. Yes, he’s difficult and demanding to read, but look around you, and see how people have responded to him. That’s what happens when you capture the soul of a people.”

Colum McCann had his own take on Bloomsday in the New York Times:

Soon my grandfather was emerging from the novel. The further I went in, the more complex he got. The man whom I had met only once was becoming flesh and blood through the pages of a fiction. After all, he had walked the very same streets of Dublin, on the same day as Leopold Bloom. I began to see my grandfather outside Dlugacz’s butcher shop, his hat cocked sideways, watching the moving “hams” of a young girl. I wondered if he had a penchant for “the inner organs of beasts and fowls.” I heard him arguing with the Citizen in Barney Kiernan’s pub. I felt him mourn the loss of a child.

Vladimir Nabokov once said that the purpose of storytelling is “to portray ordinary objects as they will be reflected in the kindly mirrors of future times; to find in the objects around us the fragrant tenderness that only posterity will discern and appreciate in far-off times when every trifle of our plain everyday life will become exquisite and festive in its own right: the times when a man who might put on the most ordinary jacket of today will be dressed up for an elegant masquerade.”

Amen.

posted on Wednesday, June 17, 2009 6:13:51 AM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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Saturday, June 13, 2009

Our 2009 Bloomsday reading is over! I thought it went very well. We had quite a large audience by our standards—about 30 people, we got a lot of laughs, and most of them stayed until the end.

Of all the spaces that we've performed in, I like the University Bookstore the best. The events area is sunny, airy, and spacious, and easily discovered by customers in the store. The staff were very helpful and easy to work with. I'd prefer not to do another event on the same day as the University of Washington's Commencment, however.

Eric came along with a big lens and took hundreds of photos. Emma took a few as well. The best of them are up at Flickr.

Thank you, everyone.

posted on Saturday, June 13, 2009 5:18:48 PM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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Wednesday, June 03, 2009

I just spent over an hour wrestling with the Address Book in Evite, trying to convince it to import a pile of freeform addresses, to no avail. I had to paste them in one-by-one, clicking Add for each one. Feh.

I succeeded in my bigger goal and that was to send out an Evite for our Bloomsday Reading. It'll give us some idea of how many to expect at the reading.

posted on Thursday, June 04, 2009 6:40:35 AM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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Thursday, May 14, 2009

As promised yesterday, I'm posting the poster for the Circe reading. It's a fine painting by Ellen Coyle. The shrunken image here doesn't do it justice. You can download an 11"x14" PDF (6MB) to see it in its full glory.

posted on Friday, May 15, 2009 6:51:25 AM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

We're rehearsing most Wednesdays for our reading of the first half of the Circe chapter of Ulysses next month. It's going well. We need some more rehearsal, but it now sounds like we know what we're doing. Tonight we read the entire piece through from beginning to end, for the first time. Now we know that it takes two-and-a-quarter hours.

We also got the poster tonight. It looks great! I'd post it, but I need to get the painting scanned first.

posted on Thursday, May 14, 2009 6:54:13 AM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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Thursday, April 30, 2009

I just sent out the following press release.

The Wild Geese Players of Seattle will perform a staged reading of Circe, chapter 15 of James Joyce’s Ulysses, on Saturday, June 13th, 2009, 1:30-4pm at the University Bookstore, 4326 University Way NE, Seattle, WA 98105. Donations towards costs of posters and props are welcome.

It is late on the night of June 16th, 1904, and Leopold Bloom has followed Stephen Dedalus into Dublin's red-light district. Bloom has a paternal concern for Stephen's welfare and knows that Stephen is now very drunk. In the Circe chapter of Homer's Odyssey, the witch-goddess Circe transforms Odysseus' crew into swine. In Joyce's version, Bloom will have hallucinatory encounters with the denizens of Nighttown and confront some of his deepest fantasies and fears, before emerging victorious. This chapter is extraordinarily long. We will perform the first half this year and read the second half in 2010.

The Wild Geese have been staging readings of Ulysses and other Irish literature in Seattle since 1998. We are a diverse group of people with an interest in Irish literature, and most of us are either Irish-born or have Irish connections. More generally, Wild Geese refers to the Irish diaspora, after the original Wild Geese, exiled Irish soldiers and their descendants who served in European armies in the 16th–18th centuries.

May 1st, 2009.

Edit: May 5th, 2009: Updated time: 1:00–3:30pm.

posted on Thursday, April 30, 2009 7:16:58 AM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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Wednesday, April 08, 2009

As I mentioned the other night, I introduced two narrators into the chapter of Ulysses that we're reading in June.

I'd say from the rehearsal tonight that the additions are successful, that they clarify the text for the listener, without being intrusive. I expect that I'll have to produce a third draft of the script in a few weeks, but I think the next round of changes will be minor. The second draft required hundreds of small changes.

We gained three new readers tonight. There are plenty of parts to go around, so it's all to the good. We had great difficulty initially last year in getting enough readers from the old guard, until we recruited several new readers.

posted on Wednesday, April 08, 2009 7:18:47 AM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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Monday, April 06, 2009

Moments ago, I completed the second draft of the Circe Part I script for this year's Ulysses reading.

The chapter is couched in the form of a play, making it relatively straightforward to convert to a staged reading. There are, however, huge numbers of “stage directions”, often ironic, generally unactable: A vast, detailed procession in Bloom's honor; Bloom burning at the stake; camels offering mangoes to Molly; and much, much more.

In addition, there are over one hundred characters, most of whom have a line or two, then disappear. They need to be introduced somehow.

So I added two narrators to handle all of this. They steer the reading along, adding much-needed context to aid the audience who won't be nearly as familiar with the text as we are.

Next rehearsal is Wednesday, when I'll get to hear the changed text for the first time. I'm confident that most of the changes that I made will work, but I'll probably need to produce another draft in a few weeks.

posted on Monday, April 06, 2009 8:07:21 AM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

I am co-directing this year's reading of Ulysses with Helen. We have decided to do the first half of the chapter with some light cuts. The Circe character, Bella Cohen, will not be seen until next year, as we'll be stopping shortly before she makes her entrance.

We had a readthrough-cum-planning meeting ten days ago at Helen's and a rehearsal tonight at my house. We'll need several more rehearsals, but it's starting to come together.

We'll be reading at the University Bookstore on Saturday, June 13th.

posted on Wednesday, March 18, 2009 7:00:19 AM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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Thursday, February 19, 2009

So how do I go from the Project Gutenberg etext to LaTeX?

Here's the Gutenberg text for the pictured fragment:

(BLOOM'S WEATHER. A SUNBURST APPEARS IN THE NORTHWEST.)

THE BISHOP OF DOWN AND CONNOR: I here present your undoubted emperor-
president and king-chairman, the most serene and potent and very puissant
ruler of this realm. God save Leopold the First!

ALL: God save Leopold the First!

BLOOM: (IN DALMATIC AND PURPLE MANTLE, TO THE BISHOP OF DOWN AND CONNOR,
WITH DIGNITY) Thanks, somewhat eminent sir.

WILLIAM, ARCHBISHOP OF ARMAGH: (IN PURPLE STOCK AND SHOVEL HAT) Will you
to your power cause law and mercy to be executed in all your judgments in
Ireland and territories thereunto belonging?

BLOOM: (PLACING HIS RIGHT HAND ON HIS TESTICLES, SWEARS) So may the
Creator deal with me. All this I promise to do.

MICHAEL, ARCHBISHOP OF ARMAGH: (POURS A CRUSE OF HAIROIL OVER BLOOM'S
HEAD) GAUDIUM MAGNUM ANNUNTIO VOBIS. HABEMUS CARNEFICEM. Leopold,
Patrick, Andrew, David, George, be thou anointed!


The Gutenberg transcriber has converted all italics to uppercase. All accents on letters have been lost (there were none in this fragment).

Here's the corresponding LaTeX that I derived from the above:

\stage{(Bloom's weather.
A sunburst appears in the northwest.)}

\DownConnor:
\gab{1470}
I here present your undoubted emperor-president and king-chairman,
the most serene and potent and very puissant ruler of this realm.
God save Leopold the First!

\All:
God save Leopold the First!

\Bloom:
\stage{(in dalmatic and purple mantle,
to the bishop of Down and Connor, with dignity)}
Thanks, somewhat eminent sir.

\WillArmagh:
\stage{(in purple stock and shovel hat)}
\gab{1480}
Will you to your power cause law and mercy to be executed
in all your judgments in Ireland and territories thereunto belonging?

\Bloom:
\stage{(placing his right hand on his testicles, swears)}
So may the Creator deal with me.
All this I promise to do.

\MikeArmagh:
\stage{(pours a cruse of hairoil over Bloom's head)}
\latin{Gaudium magnum annuntio vobis.
Habemus carneficem.}
Leopold, Patrick, Andrew, David, George, be thou anointed!


I could simply have used \em to get italics, but I'm a big believer in semantic markup, so I wrote a set of custom macros, like \stage and \latin. The name macros, like \Bloom and \All, are defined in terms of the \role macro. The \gab macro lists the line number in the Gabler edition of Ulysses. It's useful for looking up reference works and it would have been hard to do in reStructuredText.

\newcommand{\stage}[1]{\emph{#1}}
\newcommand{\role}[1]{{\textsc{#1}}}
\newcommand{\Bloom}{\role{Bloom}}
\newcommand{\gab}[1]{\marginpar{#1}}


I used Vim to massage the text.

• For my own sanity, I have broken each clause onto a separate line. Much of this can be done by substituting a newline after every period and right parenthesis. The other breaks require manual splitting and joining of lines.
• Transforming BLOOM: into \Bloom: is a trivial text substitution, :%s/^BLOOM: /\\Bloom:\r/
• All the uppercase text has been converted to mixed case. Much of it needs to be bracketed by \stage{} in this chapter. The rest needs to be treated as \latin{}, \hebrew{}, \french{}, and so on.

I used the following Vim macro to bracket the visual selection with \stage{}.

" ;s => SELECTION -> \stage{selection}
vnoremap <buffer> <silent> ;s u>a}<Esc><i\stage{<Esc>


Breaking it down, since that looks like line noise.

 vnoremap Visual-mode keymap; no further expansion of the right-hand side Buffer-local. Won't apply in other buffers. Mapping won't be echoed on the Vim command line ;s Mapping is bound to sequence ;s u Make highlighted text lowercase; cancels selection > Go to end of former visual selection a} Append } < Go to beginning of former visual selection i\stage{ Insert \stage{

It's necessary to append to the end of the selection first. Were I to first insert at the beginning, the append would happen seven characters (len('\stage{')) too early. (I picked this trick up from Christian Robinson's HTML macros.) Then I have to go back and convert a few characters to uppercase with the ~ operator.

This workflow isn't for everyone and it would be difficult if I had to hand it off to someone else. Most non-geeks would prefer to use a WYSIWYG tool like Word. I loathe Word and I want the control.

All of this is somewhat tedious, since even with useful Vim macros taking care of many of the changes, I still have to make manual tweaks on almost every line. But this is also a virtue, as it makes me intimately familiar with the text.

The hardest task—at least for me—is making the dramaturgical decisions. Usually, it can be hard to decide exactly to whom a particular line should be ascribed—making sense of Bloom's interior monologue, for example, or splitting a long stretch of narrative between several narrators. This year's chapter is written in the form of a play, so that particular problem is gone. Last year was the first time we abridged a chapter. This year, we have to reduce 60,000 words to 15–20,000 words. Whether that's by breaking the chapter into two or more readings, or by deep, deep cuts, I have yet to decide. And that's where the line-by-line familiarity is helpful.

posted on Thursday, February 19, 2009 8:38:21 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

I have a long-standing fascination with typography. In the late '80s and early '90s, I became quite adept with TeX and LaTeX, the well-known scientific typesetting system. When I was at ICPC, I think I read the TeXbook cover to cover—twice. I became the TeX administrator for the CS department while I was at Brown.

And then I moved to Seattle to work for Microsoft and entered the world of Windows, and I left TeX behind for more than 15 years.

I wrote the other day that I prepared the Bloomsday scripts in XML for several years, using XSLT to generate HTML. I used to send the HTML to the readers, but everyone's browser paginated differently when printing, which led to confusion at rehearsals. So I started giving them PDFs: problem solved except for the person who needed a large-print version.

Last year, I prepared the script with reStructuredText. Normally, I use reST to generate HTML, but reST can also generate LaTeX. I decided to use rst2latex to take advantage of LaTeX's superior typesetting.

I wasn't happy with the results. The script looked like a crappy technical paper from the '90s, thanks to the tired Computer Modern layout. CM works well for math, less well for text, in my opinion.

The MacTeX extras included XeTeX, a modern variant of TeX that supports Unicode and OpenType fonts. I experimented with using Hoefler to set the script. You can see the results above: it looks gorgeous.

More to come.

posted on Wednesday, February 18, 2009 8:11:43 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Monday, February 16, 2009

I'm about halfway through the 60,000-word Circe chapter of Ulysses, converting it to LaTeX.

For several years, I took the plaintext from the Project Gutenberg etext, prepared the script in XML, used XSLT to transform it into HTML, tarted it up with CSS, and then saved it as a PDF. You can see a screenshot above.

I'll write up tomorrow why I switched to LaTeX last year.

posted on Monday, February 16, 2009 8:43:25 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Monday, February 09, 2009

As you can see from the attached picture, I just created Facebook Groups for three social organizations that I'm involved in: Freely Speaking Toastmasters, Wild Geese Players of Seattle, and BiNet Seattle.

I set up a LinkedIn group for FSTM too.

posted on Tuesday, February 10, 2009 7:47:24 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Friday, February 06, 2009

It's time to start thinking about this year's reading of Ulysses for the Wild Geese Players of Seattle. The next chapter to be tackled is Circe, the nightmare scene in the brothel.

Most chapters require a lot of work to tease apart into a staged reading, to make sense of the different threads of Bloom's inner monologue, or to attribute fragments of conversation to different characters, for example. This chapter is written in the form of a play; attribution is easy.

But Circe is also enormously long: some 60,000 words. For comparison, many novels are in the range 80–100,000 words. Last year's chapter was 20,000 words and I cut 5,000 words off. It took us the best part of two hours to read those 15,000 words. Clearly, we cannot read the whole chapter. Even if we had the stamina to read for six or seven hours, no audience would put up with it.

My task for this weekend, then, is to re-read the chapter and see whether it makes more sense to simply cut the hell out of it, so that we can complete Circe this year, or to divide it into two or three pieces, which will have to be read at different times.

posted on Friday, February 06, 2009 8:00:01 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Friday, January 02, 2009

It's now two weeks since Michelle's due date. She went into Holles Street Maternity Hospital this morning to have her baby induced. No progress yet. That kid doesn't want to come out! It may be Sunday before it's born.

Ironically, the Wild Geese Players read the Oxen of the Sun chapter of Ulysses last summer, which takes place in Holles Street. Bloom goes to visit his friend Mina Purefoy, who's been three days in labor, and meets up with a crowd of drunken medical students and Stephen Dedalus. Between them, they manage to recapitulate the development of the English language.

We fly back to Seattle in the morning, so we certainly won't see the baby before we leave. We'll be back at the end of July to help my parents celebrate their 70th birthdays, and we'll meet the kid then.

posted on Friday, January 02, 2009 11:25:29 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Saturday, October 25, 2008
Title: The Bloomsday Dead
Author: Adrian McKinty
Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5
Publisher: Pocket Star Books
Copyright: 2007
Pages: 373
Keywords: crime
Reading period: 19 October, 2008

A sequel to Dead I Well May Be.

June 16, 2004: the Bloomsday centenary. Michael Forsythe's archnemesis Bridget Callaghan needs him. Her eleven-year-old daughter has gone missing in Belfast, and Forsythe may be only one who can find her.

In the course of one very long day that loosely recapitulates the events of Joyce's Ulysses, Forsythe cuts a bloody swathe through the criminal underworld of Belfast.

Gripping, if over the top.

posted on Sunday, October 26, 2008 5:21:55 AM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Bloomsday is around the corner. As ever, we at the Wild Geese Players of Seattle are staging a reading from James Joyce's Ulysses, at the Elliott Bay Bookstore, 101 S. Main St, on Sat 14th June 2008 at 4:30pm.

In the Oxen of the Sun, Leopold Bloom visits the Holles Street Maternity Hospital and falls in with Stephen Dedalus and a crowd of drunken medical students, in a chapter that not only recapitulates the forty weeks of pregnancy, it also constitutes a tour through the development of the English language.

I play Stephen Dedalus, the second most important character of the book. In this chapter, it is neither a large nor a small role.

Behind the scenes, I was responsible for turning Joyce's text into a script suitable for a staged reading. A few months ago, I despaired of it. It was a daunting challenge technically, and we didn't have nearly enough readers. I'm happy to say that I found my way through the labyrinth of dramaturgy and a large crop of new goslings joined the Players for this year's reading.

Finally, let me repost a Google Ad that I saw beside one of our internal emails:

Natural Geese Repellent
Enviromentally Safe Unit Rids Geese Maintenance Free, Solar Powered
posted on Tuesday, June 10, 2008 7:43:33 AM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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Sunday, June 10, 2007

I made my radio debut this afternoon. The Wild Geese Players of Seattle read a couple of short excerpts on KBCS from James Joyce's Ulysses, as a foretaste of the readings we're doing next weekend.

This year's reading is of the Nausicaa chapter, wherein Leopold Bloom reposes on a beach to recover from clashing with the Citizen in the previous chapter, and flirts at a distance with young Gerty MacDowell. This is the infamous masturbation chapter that led to Ulysses being banned for obscenity.

There are two readings.

I will be one of several readers giving voice to Leopold Bloom. It is likely that Jim McDermott will once again be reading with us.

posted on Monday, June 11, 2007 2:43:11 AM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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Sunday, June 25, 2006

In May, I pounded out a record 31 blog posts. June draws to a close and this is only my third post.

In brief, here's some of the highlights of June.

The Wild Geese Players of Seattle read the Cyclops chapter of Ulysses on June 16th. I read a part and I was also the script wrangler and webmaster.

My profile on my Windows XP laptop got corrupted. I decided that I would make flatten it and turn it into a dual-boot system. I'm now on my third week of running Ubuntu 6.06 (Dapper Drake). Quite easy to get going. Not so easy to get everything that I wanted running on it.

In late May at WinHEC, Microsoft announced FlexGo, the new pay-as-you-go and subscription versions of Windows. I spent a year working on this project, specifically on the hardware locking that underlies the business model. I swear I will write a more interesting post on this soon.

This weekend was Gay Pride, which was held for the first time at the Seattle Center. I helped staff the Freely Speaking Toastmasters booth yesterday morning.

As one of my commitments when I stepped down as president of BiNet Seattle I made up a new banner, which we marched behind in the Raise Your Voice march yesterday evening.

My woodworking class has finished, so my Tuesday nights are free for the summer. I'm making a coffee table. It's about half finished. I've taken a few photos along the way; I'll have to post some of them.

posted on Monday, June 26, 2006 6:57:01 AM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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Monday, April 17, 2006

I'm a lot happier in my U.S. congressman, Jim McDermott, than I am in my senators, Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell. (Especially Cantwell.)

Jim has been a strong progressive voice in Congress for years. His early opposition to the Iraq War led to him being dubbed 'Baghdad Jim' by infuriated Republicans. He was one of the first national politicians to support Howard Dean's bid for the presidency. He had a big role in Fahrenheit 9/11. And he reads the role of Leopold Bloom for the Wild Geese Players of Seattle's readings of Ulysses.

For a decade, Jim has been fighting a legal battle for freedom of speech. Recently, the appeals court ruled against him, leaving him with a $700,000 legal bill. One Seattle activist is organizing a theatrical benefit for Jim McDermott. More background on Boehner v. McDermott at the preceding link and at McDermottForCongress.com. Send money at the McDermott Legal Expense Trust. posted on Tuesday, April 18, 2006 6:44:48 AM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00) Comments [0] Tuesday, March 21, 2006 I often complain about being busy, no doubt because I have a talent for complicating my life. Things were relatively quiet for a while, but that's not true anymore. At work, we're close to releasing the first version of our product. Happily, crunch time at Atlas isn't nearly as bad as it was at Microsoft. Instead of working eight-ish hours a day, it's more like nine or maybe ten. The pressure level has risen, of course, but it's far from intolerable. The real busyness is in my extracurricular life. I'm the president of BiNet Seattle, a bisexual community group, and have been for the last three years. I also do a hell of a lot of the work and I'm burning out. I recently gave notice that I'm stepping down. (It looks like a successor has been found.) Meanwhile, a lot of planning is going on in an effort to revitalize BiNet, as attendance has been dragging. For the last few years, I've also been heavily involved with The Wild Geese Players of Seattle, as the webmaster and the co-dramaturge. We do readings of Irish literature, particularly that of James Joyce and W.B. Yeats. Every June 16th (Bloomsday), we do a staged reading of a chapter of Ulysses. This year, the longtime director has moved back to Northern Ireland. Currently, I am acting as the director, on top of my other roles, but I don't think I'm the right person for the job, and I'm hoping to find a replacement soon. I'm a member of Freely Speaking Toastmasters, an LGBT speaking club. I've been working on my CTM for far too long, and I intend to knock off the final three speeches this year. I resume my woodworking class next week, which is going to tie up ten Tuesday evenings. I haven't decided yet what I'm going to work on this time. In previous years, I built a very nice set of nesting tables and an unsatisfactory pair of bar stools. In my Copious Spare Time, I'm also making occasional contributions to two open source projects, DasBlog and Vim. I made Vim compile with VC5-VC8, and I promised Bram that I would provide some documentation on debugging Vim with WinDbg and dealing with minidumps. I'd also like to produce a native Win64 version. With DasBlog, I've provided some feedback on the usability of the installation instructions, as well as a fix for dodgy permalinks. I'd also like to make use of my former expertise on IIS performance (see 25+ Tips, 10 Commandments, IIS 5 Tuning, and Professional ASP 3.0) to do some performance tuning of DasBlog. I'd also like to fit in some time for photography; for reading my way through our enormous backlog of books and magazines; writing the occasional blog post; cooking; bicycle riding; traveling; working out; hanging out with my wife; socializing with my friends; movies; and more. Not to mention all the very dull projects around the house and garden that I've neglected. posted on Tuesday, March 21, 2006 7:36:59 AM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00) Comments [1] Thursday, June 16, 2005 For the last three years, I've been involved with The Wild Geese Players of Seattle, an amateur group that does readings of Irish literature, particularly the works of James Joyce and W.B. Yeats. Our big event every year is Bloomsday, June 16th, commemorating Joyce's Ulysses, which takes place on June 16th, 1904. It's a tale of a Jewish everyman, Leopold Bloom, wandering through Dublin one day, and of the young writer (and Joyce's alter ego), Stephen Dedalus. We're working our way through the book, reading a chapter or two each year. In this, our eighth year, we'll be reading Chapter 11, Sirens, at the Brechemin Auditorium in the School of Music at the University of Washington, on Thursday 16th and Saturday 18th. Congressman Jim McDermott will be reading the part of Bloom on the Saturday. Last year and this year, I have been the assistant dramaturge, helping to turn chapters into a script to be read by 15-20 readers. In previous years, the director made a photocopy of the book, wrote attributions ("Narrator 1", "Bloom", "Stephen", etc) on the paper, then photocopied that text and handed it out to the readers. Since the script was a moving target, everyone ended up with a set of scruffy, tatty, inconsistently hand-annotated sheets. It was a mess. I knew there had to be a better way. Now, we've adapted the etext of the 1922 Paris Edition, prepared by Project Gutenberg, which saves a lot of typing. The script is marked up in XML and styled with XSLT to produce an HTML page. After a rehearsal or two, when it's apparent that the script isn't quite right, it's an easy matter to make a few changes, render fresh HTML, and print new scripts. The XSLT required is fairly straightforward. About the only mildly interesting thing is defining one template in terms of another; e.g., I want all the speakers to share the same styling, so I defined a parameterized speaker template: <xsl:template name="speaker"> <xsl:param name="name" /> <div class="speaker"> <span class="speaker"><xsl:value-of select="$name"/>: </span>
<xsl:apply-templates />
</div>
</xsl:template>


which is called thus:

<xsl:template match="bloom">
<xsl:call-template name="speaker">
<xsl:with-param name="name">Bloom</xsl:with-param>
</xsl:call-template>
</xsl:template>


The real challenge in preparing the script is dramaturgical. Ulysses is a notoriously difficult and dense text, woven through with Bloom's stream-of-consciousness interior monologue. Each chapter is written in a different style. Sirens, for example, has musical themes running through it, and we'll be accompanied by a piano player this year.

What would you do with this?

Bloom heard a jing, a little sound. He's off. Light sob of breath Bloom sighed on the silent bluehued flowers. Jingling. He's gone. Jingle. Hear.

Here's what we came up with:

N1: Bloom heard a jing, a little sound.
Bloom: He's off.
N1: Light sob of breath Bloom sighed on the silent bluehued flowers. Jingling.
Bloom: He's gone.
N1: Jingle.
Bloom: Hear.

Or with this paragraph?

--Yes, Mr Bloom said, teasing the curling catgut line. It certainly is. Few lines will do. My present. All that Italian florid music is. Who is this wrote? Know the name you know better. Take out sheet notepaper, envelope: unconcerned. It's so characteristic.

We chose this:

Bloom (Aloud): Yes.
N1: Mr Bloom said, teasing the curling catgut line.
Bloom (Aloud): It certainly is.
Bloom: Few lines will do. My present.
Bloom (Aloud): All that Italian florid music is.
Bloom: Who is this wrote? Know the name you know better. Take out sheet notepaper, envelope: unconcerned.
Bloom (Aloud): It's so characteristic.

We ended up with three narrators in this chapter: N1 deals with Bloom, primarily; N2 is mostly for Miss Douce and Miss Kennedy, the siren barmaids; and N3 handles the other characters.

Lest I scare you off, much of the chapter is quite clear and often very funny, even for people who are unfamiliar with the book.

The James Joyce Portal is a good starting point for matters Joycean.

posted on Thursday, June 16, 2005 7:54:52 AM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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Monday, July 07, 2003

(Originally posted to Home at EraBlog on Mon, 07 Jul 2003 15:34:22 GMT)

I gave the following speech to Toastmasters on June 25th, 2003, as Speech #4, "Show What You Mean". Clearly, I've reused some material from my earlier post about Bloomsday. I'm also finding that I take longer to deliver a speech to an audience than I do when rehearsing, so I cut some of the material on the day to fit the seven-minute limit.

I've uploaded some photos of the reading to one of my other websites.

BLOOMSDAY

"Stately, plump Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead, bearing a bowl of lather..."

So begins James Joyce's Ulysses, one of the most famous, and famously difficult, novels of the Twentieth Century. The book is by turns funny, obscure, insightful, and irritating.

The whole book takes place in Dublin on June 16th, 1904 and tells of the wanderings of Leopold Bloom, a middle-aged Irish Jew, and of Stephen Dedalus, a young writer who is Joyce's alter ego.

Nowadays, there is a thriving Joycean industry in Ireland, that re-enacts portions of the book on Bloomsday, June 16th, the anniversary of Ulysses.

Next year is the centenary and you can be sure that the Joycean industry will make the most of the occasion. Ireland loves Joyce now: he helps bring in the tourist dollars.

This wasn't always true. Ulysses was banned in Ireland until the 1960s. It was considered obscene, pornographic, and profane. It's true that Joyce was an apostate Catholic who mocked the Church and that he was unusually frank about lust, sex, and excretion, but the novel is undoubtedly a work of literature, not mere base titillation.

Ulysses was also banned in the United States when it was first published in 1922 because it was considered pornographic. That ban was overturned in 1933.

Bloomsday is celebrated outside Ireland too. In many cities around the world, you will find groups of Joyce fans celebrating on June 16th. In Seattle, the Wild Geese Players have been staging readings of Ulysses for the last few years. This year, I joined them.

We staged readings from Chapters 8 and 9 at the Brechemin Auditorium in the School of Music at the University of Washington. We had a cast of about fifteen readers who read aloud from scripts, acting the parts of various characters. We were watched by about forty people, only half of whom were related to the cast.

Ulysses is very loosely modeled on Homer's Odyssey, the classic Greek epic, which tells of the wanderings of Odysseus, who took ten years to return home from the siege of Troy. (Ulysses is the Roman name for Odysseus.) Each chapter of Ulysses roughly corresponds to a book of the Odyssey. Each chapter is written in a very different style. Leopold Bloom represents Odysseus the wanderer, while Stephen Dedalus represents Telemachus, Odysseus's son, and Molly Bloom represents Penelope, Odysseus's wife.

Chapter 8 of Ulysses is The Lestrygonians. In the Odyssey, the Lestrygonians are foul cannibals who threaten Odysseus's crew. In Ulysses, Bloom wanders southwards through the center of Dublin, encountering sights, smells, food, and drink as he goes. He enters one pub in search of lunch, but is repulsed by the gorging and gluttony of the customers. He moves to Davy Byrne's pub, where he eats a calm lunch. Bloom's interior monologue takes up most of the chapter, as he observes people and places on his walk. There are a number of encounters along the way.

This chapter was difficult to stage. Bloom moves from one encounter to another. We had perhaps twenty scenes in ninety minutes. I myself played four minor characters.

I came on first as Denis Breen, the half-mad husband of Mrs. Breen, whom Bloom has spent the last five minutes talking to in the street. I shuffle unseeing across the stage, muttering to myself, clutching an enormous tome to my chest. A real stretch!

A few minutes later, when Bloom is recalling a pro-Boer student riot at Trinity College Dublin, I return, playing the part of one of those students. Wrapped in my old Trinity scarf, I stride onto the stage bellowing such slogans as "Up the Boers!" and "We'll hang Joe Chamberlain on a sourapple tree!" It wakes the audience up nicely.

For my third part, I play the barman in the first pub that Bloom enters, the one that soon repels him. I get to utter in my best working-class Dublin accent such memorable lines as "Roast beef and cabbage", "One stew", and "Pint of stout", while serving some of the customers.

My final role in this chapter was slightly meatier. I played Tom Rochford, one of a trio who enter Davy Byrne's pub as Bloom is eating his lunch. We stand around, ordering drinks and arguing about horse racing.

Chapter 9 of Ulysses is Scylla and Charybdis. In the Odyssey, Scylla is a six-headed monster, while Charybdis is a whirlpool. In Ulysses, these dangers are metaphorical, as the journey becomes becalmed in the literary debate between Stephen Dedalus and other writers of the day, We are subjected to torrents of language, in lyric, in dramatic, in verse, and in prose form, as well as Stephen's interior monologue. The debate wanders through the life of Shakespeare, especially his relationship with Ann Hathaway; Shakespeare's work, particularly Hamlet; and the nature of father/son relationships.

This chapter was much easier to stage, if harder to follow. Almost the whole chapter takes place around some tables in the National Library. We sat mostly, although we did stand for the Hamletesque play within the play, and Buck Mulligan wanders around poking into things.

I read the smallest of the main roles in this chapter, that of Mr Best, an inoffensive young man in the mold of Bertie Wooster, who can't quite hold his own in the debate that rages between Stephen and the other writers.

He says such things as "But Hamlet is so personal, isn't it? I mean a kind of private paper, don't you know, of [Shakespeare's] private life. I mean I don't care a button, don't you know, who is killed or who is guilty..."

I enjoyed myself that night. I hope I have conveyed something of the flavor of the evening, if not much of the book itself. That's difficult to do without reading aloud passages from the book, and this speech format doesn't lend itself to that.

Cut due to lack of time

Several times in the last 20 years, I have attempted to read Ulysses. Always before, I gave up in the first half of the book. Some of it is very difficult, especially when Joyce is playing with language.

I'm rereading the book once again. I've not yet finished it but I've gotten further than I ever did before. I've learned two tricks. The first is not to give up if a section doesn't make sense. Just keep going. It'll get more enjoyable. I don't think it all makes sense to anyone on the first reading. The second trick is that sounds are very important. Joyce was a poet. Subvocalize or speak aloud the odder bits and the music will come through.

It is said that Ulysses is the most difficult of the entertaining books and the most entertaining of the difficult books.

posted on Monday, July 07, 2003 9:13:25 AM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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Wednesday, June 11, 2003

(Originally posted to Home at EraBlog on Wed, 11 Jun 2003 03:54:21 GMT)

I have recently become involved with the upcoming local celebration of Bloomsday, on June 16th. James Joyce's Ulysses takes place on June 16th, 1904. In Seattle and elsewhere, fans of the book re-enact portions of the book. In Dublin, Joyce has spawned a whole industry: ironic, when you consider how little recognition he received there during his lifetime. No doubt, the Joycean industry will go into overdrive next year for the centenary.

The Seattle group has been working its way through the book since 1998. This year, we are reading Chapters 8 and 9, "Lestrygonians" and "Scylla and Charybdis". I had been vaguely aware that readings were held every year, but I hadn't been to any of them. Two weeks ago, I saw on the Seattle Irish News mailing list that more readers were needed, so I decided to apply. I am reading Dennis Breen, Dixon, the barman in Burton's restaurant, and Tom Rochford in Chapter 8, and Mr. Best in Chapter 9. The reading will start at 8pm on June 16th, at the Brechemin Auditorium at the School of Music in the University of Washington.

Chapter 8, "Lestrygonians", describes Bloom's peregrination through the center of Dublin. He crosses the Liffey and heads south towards the National Library. Much of the chapter is Bloom's stream of consciousness, as he observes people and places along the way. He runs into a few acquaintances and ends up in Davy Byrne's pub to eat lunch.

Chapter 9, "Scylla and Charybdis", takes place in the National Library. Bloom is briefly observed in the background, but doesn't say anything. Stephen Dedalus, Joyce's young alter ego, is the subject of this chapter. He holds forth in a long discussion of Shakespeare and Hamlet. As usual, he's witty, erudite, and not a little insecure.

As a Dubliner, you might expect that I have an affinity for the book. I first attempted to read Ulysses in 1982, the centenary of Joyce's birth, when I was 17. I gave up after a few chapters, finding it heavy going and obscure. I've tried it again a few times since then, but have never got more than a couple of hundred pages in to the book.

I'm trying once again. This time it's going better. No doubt, because I have a motivation. But also, it makes more sense to me. I've learned two tricks. The first is that if a section doesn't make sense, don't give up. Keep going. It'll get more enjoyable. I don't think it all makes sense to anyone on a first reading. The second is that the sounds are very important. Joyce was a poet. Subvocalize the odder bits and the music will come through.

Someone once said that Ulysses is the most difficult of the entertaining books and the most entertaining of the difficult books.

I'm looking forward to the reading.

posted on Wednesday, June 11, 2003 9:11:31 AM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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