Last night I made some poor tequila-related decisions (N.B. — the problem with not putting enough ice in your double margarita is that you go, ‘uh oh, I need to drink this while it’s still cold, so you basically end up doing a couple tequila shots with lots of sugar!) But the margaritas sustained me through watching the Hope for Haiti Telethon (I hope they raised a lot of money and it’s not at all their fault that I can’t watch these things without thinking of the “Musicians for Free Range Chickens” skit from Saturday Night Live — though as I was recapping events for my friend who doesn’t have a TV, I did speculate on exactly how ridiculous the combinations of performers, songs and statements could become before she accused me of making stuff up; I’m still striving to figure out how Madonna singing Like a Prayer is relevant to the plight of earthquake victims).

I also watched the movie In the Loop, which is a British political satire about events leading up to the Iraq War, involving political advisors and spin doctors and incompetent politicians. I enjoyed it a lot (though I cringed because of events it was depicting); Tom Hollander is amazingly good at playing a character who’s a complete idiot, yet keeping him human; he also played Mr. Collins in the 2005 Pride & Prejudice (the one with Keira Knightley as Elizabeth). It’s probably sad but true that there aren’t any American filmmakers who would be willing and able to pull off a satire like this.

This morning, after fighting the after effects of tequila with coffee, I finished the first half of The Magicians, a novel by Lev Grossman, which starts out feeling like a Harry Potter knockoff, but eventually turns into something weird and beautiful, that cuts closer to the bone than anything I’ve read about what getting a liberal arts education can feel like.

My plan for the afternoon involved taking a couple of BBC Shakespeare DVD’s that I hadn’t watched yet back to the library. But I started playing this King Lear, “just to watch the first act,” and that’s gone about as well as you’d expect it would if you keep in mind that I’m kind of obsessed with this play. Though I don’t think I’ll watch to the end — ie, the depressing part. (I just got to the storm scene, which mostly reminds me of how Chris Claremont, when he was writing X-Men comics in the 80s, used to give lines from Lear’s dialogue to supervillains — female supervillains at that).

If I had to focus on one reason that this play fascinates me, it’s the way that absolutely nothing about the tragedy in it seems to be inevitable. [ETA: to fix a double negative. what i’m trying to say is that it’s all very, very evitable] When we learn the framework of tragedy, we tend to focus on stories where the protagonist is doomed by the very setup. Oedipus Rex and Antigone and Hamlet all start with the principal characters in what is basically an impossible situation, created and dictated by past events. Oedipus killed his father and married his mother without knowing it, and the tragedy lies in how he finds it out; Claudius murdered Hamlet’s father and when Hamlet figures out what happened he’s bound to take some kind of revenge. The major events already happened, the characters just have to deal with the consequences.

Lear isn’t like that. It starts out with a domestic squabble, and elevates through a series of more and more domestic squabbles, with right and wrong on every side. And gradually, almost imperceptibly: first you let your bad-tempered elderly father go out in the rain, then you don’t go after him, then you actually lock the gates so he can’t come back in, then you threaten to punish anyone who helps him, and somehow this elevates into what I think has to be the most shocking act of onstage violence in the Western canon — where a character is blinded by having his eyes gouged out. What fascinates me is that as many times as I read or watch it, I can’t figure out exactly what was the point of no return.

And I’m not sure exactly when I’m going to turn this off and take it back to the library so I can get get some proofreading done that I promised to people, and then go out with friends this afternoon.

There are worse problems to have on a Saturday afternoon.

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