Monthly Archives: April 2013

Fire at the National Library of Wales

National Library of Wales copyright Caroline Ramsden

My brother who is currently a student at Aberystwyth University (my old uni) text me earlier today to tell me there was a fire at the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth. I have a joint honours in English Literature and Welsh, and as a part of my Welsh language studies we visited a lot of important Welsh cultural institutions to talk to the staff about the role of the Welsh language there. The National Library of Wales was one of these, and I remember being terrified at the idea of being there when a fire broke out because of the tour behind the scenes.

The National Library of Wales is a copyright library which means that it holds a copy of every book or newspaper published in the UK. There are miles and miles of shelves behind the scenes and because many of the documents are very rare, they would be damaged by water sprinklers in the event of the fire, so they have air tight steel walls which come down before the room is pumped full of carbon dioxide to prevent the materials stored becoming fire damaged. I think a special alarm sounded to let you know that the steel curtains were coming down and you had a minute to get out. Really scary. At least you’d stand a chance of getting out of a burning building.

You can read more about the fire here

The Republic of Letters Project at Stanford

Excuse me a moment, I have my geek hat on. In work today I heard about a really cool Digital Humanities project being developed at Stanford University which I thought that you might be interested in. It’s called The Republic of Letters and it is a big data project which allows users to map letters that were sent between European and American intellectuals during the Enlightenment and filter by writer and date to allow academics to draw conclusions from the data, making visual representations of Enlightenment era social networking.

An example of data mapping from the Republic of Letters project at Stanford University, copyright Stanford University.

Their website has some case studies and the tools section has some interesting screenshots, so it’s definitely worth checking out if you’re interested in writers from the Enlightenment period. There’s loads of interesting information on the website. It’s really cool seeing a tool like this being developed and I can’t wait to see how it aids research in the Humanities. It could be like the use of satellite imaging in archeology and that’s thrown up some really interesting things.

Shakespeare’s Birthday Playlist

Shakespeare's Birthday Playlist Happy 499th birthday, Mr Shakespeare! Following on from my post about my favourite Shakespeare Inspired Songs last year, I thought I would really liven the party up with a Shakespeare inspired playlist from my Spotify account. Let me know if there’s anything great that I’m missing and I’ll make sure I add it (Phantom Siren sent me some great suggestions last year).





So we have a mixture of songs about Shakespeare plays, songs inspired by Shakespeare lines and a few sonnets set to music… Now all we need is some Shakespeare style party food and we’ll have a good thing going.

Labyrinth TV Series

Promo image for Labyrinth TV series 2012

Did anyone else watch the mini-series adaptation of Kate Mosse’s Labyrinth starring Jessica Brown Findlay, Tom Felton and Vanessa Kirby? And if you did, were you really disappointed in it?

I’m not sure who wrote the script, or whether it received a hard edit, but I thought that the character progression sucked to the point where characters in the books were totally transformed. Sajhe is played by a twenty something all the way through, so instead of seeing a boy growing up in love with Alais and doing everything he can to protect her, you get a (slightly gormless) brooding young man who stares at her in a creepily perverted way throughout. Audric wasn’t old or frail enough and was far, far too smug, thus enhancing this weirdness. Likewise, there’s no chance for a relationship/reconciliation to develop between Alais and Guillame or Alice and Will, so Alais looks weak and insipid in the formed and creepy spontaneous face sucking breaks out between the latter.

The typecasting didn’t help either. I’m not sure that it’s bad acting per se, but Jessica Findlay Brown pouted her way through the series in a poor repetition of her portrayal of Lady Sibyl in Downton Abbey to the point where she looked a little concussed as though she was waiting for Carson to come in and explain what the heck was going on. Oriane was played by Morgana from BBC’s Merlin, who occasionally plays the part of Irish actress Katie McGrath, but fortunately, she didn’t need to act in this role, just stride around cackling madly (as in Merlin) while trying to maintain a constant accent and simulating bad sex with Alais’ husband.

Oh and the sex was bad. If you’re going to do it, do it properly. Oriane and Guillame looked as though they were doing some weird form of aerobics, lined up in their respective positions ensuring that there was at least two feet of air between their persons at all time. And I’m not a prude by any stretch of the imagination, but I’m not sure what exactly lingering shots of Jessica Findlay Brown’s naked arse added to the telling of the story. It’s a lovely bum, don’t get me wrong, but it just felt a bit creepy, as if I were POV of the newly perverted Sajhe. In fact, the concept of the Grail seemed to be secondary to the weird sex/tangled relationships element of it.

It’s a pity that this hadn’t been made into a bigger budget film, or at least a proper TV series and actors who weren’t playing stock types from other popular series. All in all a real let down for me.

What did you think?