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Sunday: September 30, 2007

Little-Known Fact: BBC Shakespeares

Filed under: — site admin @ 10:28 PM UTC

Amazon and other retailers offer four BBC Shakespeare DVD box sets, of five plays each: Comedies, Histories, Tragedies, and Tragedies II. The list price is $149.99 per box, and Amazon doesn’t discount them nearly as much as most of their DVDs. As I write, the Amazon prices are $134.99 for two of them, $129.99 for the other two, which is as low as I’ve ever seen them. To judge from the three I’ve seen, they are excellent productions, but $529.96 plus shipping for 20 plays is an awful lot of money, and the seventeen plays not available include some of those I most wanted to see — not least because they are exactly the ones I’m unlikely ever to see in a theater.

There is a simple solution, which I owe to a former colleague I’ll call ‘Dr. Johnson’ for his erudition. Amazon UK sells all 37 canonical plays in a big box for a lot less. When I bought them in May, the price was $238.11, including air-freight shipping: they arrived in six days. The Sterling price must have been £115 or so. As I recall, it was £130, and they subtracted £15 for VAT tax since it was being shipped to North Carolina, where we are not eligible for the VAT-funded National Health. The exchange rate has worsened a bit since then, but the Sterling price is now £99,98 including (I assume) VAT. However you calculate it, buying all 37 plays from Amazon UK costs less than half of what it costs to buy only twenty of them from Amazon US. I wonder if it was the BBC’s idea to soak the colonists? Of the three I’ve watched so far, the best (Winter’s Tale and The Merchant of Venice) are not available in the U.S. (The other is Julius Caesar: not bad, but it didn’t grab me like the other two.)

Of course, you will need a Region 2 or all-region DVD player to play the discs, but even a better-than-average all-region DVD player cost me only $170. It will be useful for more than just BBC Shakespeare. Other movies not available in region 1 versions include three Bergman movies from the U.K. with English subtitles and the Orson Welles Shakespeares (Othello, Macbeth, and Chimes at Midnight) with South Korean subtitles. Even some American movies are only available in Region 2: until the Criterion edition came out a few weeks ago, Jim Jarmusch’s Night on Earth was only available in a U.K. edition. I’m so glad ‘Dr. Johnson’ told me about the Amazon UK edition before I bought any of the U.S. boxes.

Saturday: September 15, 2007

Overqualified To Deliver Pepsis

Filed under: — site admin @ 5:12 PM UTC

Joanne Jacobs links to a sad story about five South Korean autoworkers who were fired by Hyundai for not being high-school graduates: they were actually college graduates. My comment there seems worth posting here as well, with a bit of editing:

I’ve been fired from a job for having a college degree, and I hadn’t even applied for it. I was actually just a thesis away from my M.A. at the time. I was between regular jobs in a recession — the Carter administration was one long recession, as far as I could see –, and working intermittently for Manpower. Some of their temp jobs were quite pleasant: working as a flagman for the phone company out in the country when it’s 68 degrees and breezy is very nice, except for the lack of bathrooms.

One week they sent me to Pepsi to help deliver sodas all around the county — including to two prisons (men’s and women’s) and a home for the criminally insane, which was interesting.* On Wednesday of that week, I was told I was fired (by Pepsi, not Manpower). Apparently they were using Manpower to try out possible permanent employees and just assumed I would be interested in signing on full-time. (I’m a Coke drinker myself, and wouldn’t have felt comfortable in a career delivering a product I dislike. Then again, I had the impression the pay was pretty good, so I might have considered it.) They apparently had an unwritten no-college-graduates rule. I certainly didn’t go around telling blue-collar workers I’d been to college and even grad school, and was annoyed that the Pepsi driver wormed the information out of me and then blabbed about it to his boss. He had begged me not to tell his boss about his back troubles so he wouldn’t be fired, and I kept that promise, even after being fired myself, though I was sorely tempted to get a little payback.

*The driver told me to be especially careful delivering sodas to the juvenile wing in the last place. He had had to chase a kid 100 yards down the hall to retrieve three cases of sodas the previous week. What was particularly impressive was that the kid was wearing handcuffs at the time.

Tuesday: September 4, 2007

Why California Sucks, Part 1437

Filed under: — site admin @ 12:29 AM UTC

Estimated cost of a new catalytic converter and accompanying sensors for my 1998 Accord, including labor and tax, minus AAA discount: $902 and change.

Revised estimate after determining it needs a “California” catalytic converter, though the car was bought in Maryland and has never been west of Kansas: $1446 and change.

Actual cost of same: $1436.57. I appreciate the $10 saving, but it didn’t really help much.

It seems to me that the filthy inhabitants of the filthy state of California owe me $534 (I won’t worry about the pennies).

Monday: September 3, 2007

Is This Thing On?

Filed under: — site admin @ 3:22 PM UTC

Appearances may change without warning over the next few days, as I try to settle on a template that looks good on smaller screens and try to get comments working again.

Update: (4:39pm)
Going back to one of the WordPress templates fixes the comments problem, but now I have to see if I can improve the appearance and copy my blogroll into it without wrecking them again. I also have to go through all my old posts and close comments on them individually, so I won’t be flooded with spam comments. I was getting several thousand a day when I turned comments off a couple of months ago.