February 29, 2004
Lord of the Rings Takes Its Place at the Top!
I am pleased. I am very pleased. "Return of the King" pulled it off. I . . . Well, I'd like to say that I knew it would, but I merely hoped it would. After all, the Academy isn't exactly known for handing out awards to the right people these days.
But now the greatest movie trilogy of all time (to date) has been given full honors, as is only natural. Eleven Oscars! w00t! Not only is it tied with "Ben-Hur" and *gags* "Titanic (Load of Crap)" for most Oscars of all time, but it now holds the record for a film winning all of its nominations. This record was previously held by "Gigi" (of all things) and "The Last Emperor" which each won all nine of their nominations.
Anyway, this is really, really great. And now . . . 5 . . . 4 . . . 3 . . . 2 . . . 1 . . . *real life resumes*
The Yiddish Project, Phase Two
Some of you will recall (and most of you will not) when Wilson and I decided that it would be fun to pick up Yiddish. I believe it was sometime during last October, as a matter of fact. *checks* Yes, you'll find it at the end of my entry for October 1st . . . And we did pick up some Yiddish. We learned a number of words, and derived much amusement from dropping them into conversation. In fact, we still do . . . But I shan't bupkeh anymore than is necessary about that.
The point of all this is, the Yiddish Project moves forward with the added feature you will notice on the right. Yeah, right over there. Well, look harder! Under Recent Comments . . . Over Archive by Category. Yeah. That. You'll find an identical feature on Wilson's blog. It is high time that the Yiddish Project became a community experience.
And before I go, I'd like to share with you all a very special link that I ran across last night. It's the latest aid for you and your . . . ummm . . . "partner" to get your children in bed and to sleep. Where they will spend the night tossing and turning, with visions of sugar-plum fairies dancing in their cute little heads. If you only read a few, make sure you note the ones at the bottom, they're the best.
February 27, 2004
It's a madhouse . . . a madhouse!!!
Well, I feel more than a little irresponsible for unleashing this particular monster on the world at large. And by monster, I mean play. And by the world at large, I mean . . . myself and whoever else was in the least disturbed by certain performances.
However, clearly, I am rather irresponsible, so I suppose it's alright to feel that way every now and then. And this week's play is my personal favorite (of Shakespeare's) so I don't care.
Anyway, this week we performed King Lear. Now I have it on . . . ummm . . . "authority" that this is the most difficult of Shakespeare's plays. Obviously I'm referring here to a certain class that I'm taking . . . You know, if there's one thing I'm tired of hearing about, it's the criticisms and difficulties that "modern readers" (that's almost a complete oxymoron) have with the plays we're reading. Modern readers are generally idiots. This is an awesome play.
Whatever. Time for this:
Wilson- King Lear
Milton- King of France, Edmund, Oswald
Anna- Regan, Goneril, Duke of Burgundy
Scholl- Duke of Cornwall, Edmund
Moore- Duke of Albany, Lear's Fool
Myself- Earl of Kent, Curan, First Servant, Oswald, Captain, etc.
Sharptiano- Earl of Gloucester, Knight, Gentleman, Second Servant, etc.
Ardith- Cordelia, Goneril, Regan
Gallagher- Lear's Fool, Third Servant, Edgar, etc.
Scott- Edmund, Messenger, Gentleman, etc.
Uncle Doug- Old Man, Herald
You'll note the presence of a few new players this week. Uncle Doug was kind enough to lend us his geezer voice in between roller blading in all directions. And Ziggy displayed his talents as a madman. Good stuff. There are so many intense scenes here and there, but there were generally solid performances all around. Wilson obviously thought that King Lear was difficult to get a handle on, but then . . . I guess he is. Lear is a character of such wild and extreme passions . . .
I died twice. Again. These would be the fourth and fifth times for me. And the thing about it was, both of them were completely random. They were both characters I just happened to pick up, incidentally, and then they just kind of . . . died. I'm either getting really good or really annoying at saying, "O! I am slain!" I've done it at least once in every tragedy we've acted so far. Wilson, of course, has also died once in every tragedy. And Ardith died twice in this one as well . . . both times "off-screen." I'd think that perhaps Shakespeare had a thing against killing females on-stage, thinking also of Ophelia, but . . . no. Gertrude and Juliet leap immediately to mind as counter-examples. Hmmm . . . other notable dying stuff: I sensed a bit of frustration from Scott. Edmund was having a bit of trouble giving up the ghost at the end there. He divided his attention between bleeding and talking for a number of pages and managed several reasonably lengthy soliloquys before he finally succumbed.
Act III- Such a freaking cool act . . . And sitting, as Kent, amongst the three madmen (well, okay, a madman a fake madman and a Fool . . . whatever) I'd say that I truly and deeply sympathized with my character. That's gotta suck. I have my own little questions about Edgar, though . . . He gets into that whole "madman" thing a bit too much and a bit too well . . . He has issues.
It occurs to me, noting the end of this play, and running my mind over various others, that the chief tragic device employed by Shakespeare is the one that makes you sit back and yell at the characters, "Wow, y'all have the crappiest timing ever! Geez!"
Everybody sits around jawing with Edmund while he's really busy trying to die until "somebody" (read "Kent" . . . the guy who generally thinks of these things) says, "Oh! Ummm . . . Where's the king, by the way?"
Edmund: "Oh my goodness! I forgot! I sent him off to be executed!"
Kent: "Hmmm . . . That's probably not a good thing. Shouldn't somebody go take care of that?
Albany: "Yeah, probably. Who's gonna do that?"
Edgar: "I guess I will."
Albany: "Okay. Have fun."
Kent: "Hurry back."
Edgar: "I will, I will . . . Oh! What if they don't know that I'm delivering the message from you, Edmund? That might be problematic. Maybe you could give me a token or something, y'know."
Edmund: *slaps forehead* "Good thinking. Here, take my sword. I'll just unbuckle it here . . . There we go. Alright. Off with you then. You should probably hurry."
Edgar: "Uh-huh, sure thing. Be back in two shakes of a lamb's tail." *leaves . . . finally*
Albany: "Well, I'm glad that's taken care of. So anyway, what were you saying, Edmund?"
Edmund: "Drat. I lost my train of thought. And my doublet is getting all bloody."
Kent: "Ummm . . . Edmund? I think it's about the time, buddy."
Edmund: "Huh? Oh. Right." *dies . . . finally*
Edgar: *comes back* "I'm glad I only stopped for one drink on the way! The king's okay! They . . . uhhh . . . kinda killed Cordelia, though. He's not very happy about that."
Kent: "Well, shoot. At least he's still alive, though, huh?"
Lear: "Alas, Cordelia! My favorite daughter! Noooooo!" *dies*
All: "Well, shoot."
Right. That notwithstanding, I think that the quality of writing in this play is . . . rather exceptional, to say the least. (Well, duh . . . it's Shakespeare. I mean exceptional even compared to his other plays, clearly.) He explores a lot of really interesting themes in this play as well, and it's just generally great.
Notable line of the week: "Let copulation thrive!" Special, that. As is the rest of that little speech by Lear . . . in fact . . . Aww, what the heck:
Thou shalt not die. Die for adultery? No.
The wren goes to't, and the small gilded fly
Does lecher in my sight.
Let copulation thrive; for Gloucester's bastard son
Was kinder to his father than my daughters
Got 'tween the lawful sheets.
(Act IV, Scene 6)
February 23, 2004
The Sequel That Never Should Have Happened
So obviously at this point I can go any number of places. I mean, I'm sure half a dozen horrible movies popped into your head from Disney alone when you saw my title. But I'm not talking about a movie . . . at all. I'm talking about a day. This is the part where I link you to that fateful day and we remember exactly why this should never have happened again.
Okay, are you back yet? Do you remember now? This was clearly a very bad thing. And it happened again. I seriously lost even my usual microscopic modicum of sanity today. I stayed up until 6:00 last night . . . ummm . . . which would generally mean this morning . . . because I had to finish that freaking scene rewrite for Batts. Hmmm . . . I didn't mention that on here, now that I think about it. Batts decided that we ought to rewrite Act V, Scene 3 of Romeo and Juliet, changing whatever we wished. And he wanted us to try and do it in iambic pentameter. He didn't insist, but . . .
So anyway: Generally, you don't rewrite Shakespeare because he did a really good job and you just can't. But it's kind of a . . . whatchamacallit . . . a class assignment, or whatever. So I did it. And now I hate myself. Again.
Not to mention the fact that I wound up doing it in iambic pentameter, just because, and I distinctly remember that I was having a dream in iambic pentameter when Wilson woke me up this morning. After breakfast I went over to the computer labs with Martinez and printed off my re-written scene. I read it to Martinez on the way to chapel and took suggestions from all and sundry. Ideas came to me throughout chapel, and by the time I left for English Lit II, I had mostly the effect that I wanted. I walked out of chapel and realized that I was very distinctly thinking in rhythm.
And then the caffeine finally reacted with the sleep deprivation. I spent twenty minutes walking up and down a hallway, concocting ten-syllable lines while wildly waving my hands about (counting on my fingers). I don't think very many people saw me . . . but then, I wouldn't know. I sat down in English Lit, still counting syllables, but the next hour of class (fortunately) drove it quite out of my head. Dr. Watson told some rather amusing stories (every time he opened his mouth today, it was funny) and I also opened up my Norton Anthology to "The Importance of Being Earnest," on a whim, and started casting it for the performance a few weeks hence. And, of course, I skimmed through most of it. And bit my fingers a lot, because it's dreadfully funny, even when you're not really really tired, and I didn't want to disturb the rest of the class. (They were all talking about Elizabeth Barrett Browning, you see.)
Random sidenote: Statistically, roughly 99.9% of all famous quotes from poems (especially those about love) are ripped horribly out of context and often mean quite different and somewhat disturbing things when read within the whole of their proper surroundings. This fact amuses me. But so did Scholl's chipmunk joke earlier.
Anyway, after class, I headed for SAGA in unusually high spirits and things went downhill from there. All self-control went out the window, especially since I was drinking more root beer to strengthen myself for the coming Batts class. And a fat lot of good Scholl and Gallagher were doing! Anna resorted to behaving in an equally hyperactive manner and blaming it on me. Martinez was the only one even trying to help me out.
I was talking in a single run-on sentence, repeating one word a dozen times in a row, twitching my head in odd directions repeatedly, making any number of compulsive odd hand motions. It was bad. And I couldn't stop because it felt like I would explode if I didn't burn energy in all directions. I found the whole thing to be very tedious, but I can't decide whether to apologize to everyone who was at lunch or figure out some way to charge admission next time. So we'll just leave that whole thing alone.
Oh, and then Scholl and Wilson and Gallagher decide that we should all go see Dr. Kubricht. Thanks, guys. Wasn't that just all kinds of special?!
And while I'm listing off all the people who blatantly took advantage of my condition, Scott just stood there and let me have a heart-to-heart talk with his stupid origami turtle until I figured out what was going on myself and left for Shakespeare class. Jerk.
So, I made two discoveries today: The proper combination of Watson and Wilde for a 55-minute period heightens the effects of the caffeine, while an equal dose of Batts and Shakespeare has the exact opposite effect. I was almost normal when I walked out of that classroom at 2:25, and quite happy to be back . . .
And now I'm going to go read that one book that I must read for American History. And all those other books that I'm reading. Including the book that Dr. Watson gave me today and said I'd enjoy.
Robert Browning & The Insane Lover Obsession
The sullen wind was soon awake,
It tore the elm-tops down for spite,
And did its worst to vex the lake:
I listened with heart fit to break.
When glided in Porphyria; straight
She shut the cold out and the storm,
And kneeled and made the cheerless grate
Blaze up, and all the cottage warm;
Which done, she rose, and from her form
Withdrew the dripping cloak and shawl,
And laid her soiled gloves by, untied
Her hat and let the damp hair fall,
And, last, she sat down by my side
And called me. When no voice replied,
She put my arm about her waist,
And made her smooth white shoulder bare,
And all her yellow hair displaced,
And, stooping, made my cheek lie there,
And spread, o'er all, her yellow hair,
Murmuring how she loved me--she
Too weak, for all her heart's endeavour,
To set its struggling passion free
From pride, and vainer ties dissever,
And give herself to me for ever.
But passion sometimes would prevail,
Nor could to-night's gay feast restrain
A sudden thought of one so pale
For love of her, and all in vain:
So, she was come through wind and rain.
Be sure I looked up at her eyes
Happy and proud; at last I knew
Porphyria worshipped me; surprise
Made my heart swell, and still it grew
While I debated what to do.
That moment she was mine, mine, fair,
Perfectly pure and good: I found
A thing to do, and all her hair
In one long yellow string I wound
Three times her little throat around,
And strangled her. No pain felt she;
I am quite sure she felt no pain.
As a shut bud that holds a bee,
I warily oped her lids: again
Laughed the blue eyes without a stain.
And I untightened next the tress
About her neck; her cheek once more
Blushed bright beneath my burning kiss:
I propped her head up as before,
Only, this time my shoulder bore
Her head, which droops upon it still:
The smiling rosy little head,
So glad it has its utmost will,
That all it scorned at once is fled,
And I, its love, am gained instead!
Porphyria's love: she guessed not how
Her darling one wish would be heard.
And thus we sit together now,
And all night long we have not stirred,
And yet God has not said a word!
I read a lot of romantic poetry this semester. This is somewhat logical, since we were kind of studying the Romantic Period and all, but I think it made me a bit complacent. Coming on the heels of Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, Shelley, Keats, and especially Tennyson, Browning was a definite change of pace. What threw me off, though, was the fact that he pretended to be doing the same old thing as all the others at first.
I was feeling rather peaceful and complacent as the romantic scene was set in “Porphyria’s Lover.” I was pleasantly picturing the peaceful scene, trying to experience the poem and catch the author’s wavelength. And I was succeeding, I thought. There is a frightful storm going on outside, but inside all is calm comfort and tender affection. This seemed like an important contrast. The long, blonde hair, and head on the shoulder were a nice touch, and I was feeling altogether serene when he started playing with her hair.
I’d rather like to have a snapshot of my face when he choked her with it. I know I looked as shocked as I felt. However, since I didn’t get a picture of myself, I was forced to make up for it by recreating the effect. So I went and told a lot of people about it, and was highly amused by their reactions, which were more or less similar to mine. But the really creepy part of the poem, of course, is what happens next.
The narrator proceeds to restore Porphyria to her former position and sit there with her dead body for the rest of the night. The last line confused me, at first, so I read it through again. What does the silence of God imply about the sin he has committed? Does it serve as proof that he has done the right thing? I don't think so.
In fact, I don’t think that God is silent at all. God is omniscient; he knew what Porphyria’s lover was going to do. It seems to me that the wild storm that rages throughout the night, even before the dreadful murder happens, is clear evidence of God’s displeasure. The storm, described as it is at the beginning of the poem, seems to foreshadow the awful events that will transpire, if you are paying attention (which clearly I wasn’t, the first time through). The poem ends with the assertion that God is silent on the matter, but we know that this is not the case. Clearly God is neither silent nor pleased, as is clearly indicated by the opening lines. The meaning of it all, one way or another, seems to hinge on the storm.
The style of the poem, naturally, reminds me of the work of Poe. One of his stories that comes immediately to mind is “The Tell-Tale Heart” with its emphasis on the eyes of the victim, the extreme overconfidence which leads him to simply sit there with the body rather than attempt to hide what he has done, and especially the cold, clinical recounting of the story by which the narrator hopes to convince us of his sanity and only succeeds in doing just the opposite.
It seems to me, as I think about it, that madness in literature and in the movies is often revealed through an unnaturally strong feeling of ownership that the madman believes himself to have towards a particular woman, whether or not she is in love with him or even knows he exists. It is the sort of thing that one commonly finds when examining the psyche of a serial killer.
I don’t remember the exact period when modern criminal psychology became more prevalent and started being taken seriously, but it certainly wasn’t as early as this poem was written. So how did Browning tap into this? Did he just have incredible insight into the darker side of human nature, or is there a more sinister explanation? Obviously, there doesn’t seem to be any indication of any such behavior from him, but if I were a woman . . . Ummm . . . Hmmm . . . Y'know, hypothetical situations like that can't go anywhere good, so nevermind. But I wonder if Elizabeth Barrett (his wife) kept a wary eye on him. I know I would have.
Robert Browning, aside from being a talented poet, had a keen and disturbing sense of the grotesque and the macabre, just like Poe. Considering the fact that they were contemporaries, I can’t help but wonder if they influenced each other's writing in any way. That possibility not withstanding, they did write on some of the same themes, and they did it well. Fun stuff.
Lord Tennyson & The Looney Female Obsession
Yeah, I know I already wrote something about "The Lady of Shalott." This is different. Shut up and read it.
On the surface, “The Lady of Shalott” is a rather ridiculous poem. I’ve read three different versions of the Arthurian legend in my (short) time: I read the Howard Pyle version (which is more traditional) quite a long time ago and don’t remember it very well. More recently I read T. H. White’s The Once and Future King (which is my favorite, being more satirical in nature . . . I strongly recommend that you read the provided excerpt, if you never have), and Stephen Lawhead’s Pendragon Cycle (which attempts, sometimes successfully, to combine the fantastic elements of the story with some degree of historical accuracy and a distinctly Christian worldview).
I don’t remember the episode described in Tennyson’s poem from any of those versions, so I’m not entirely certain where it came from, and lack, perhaps, some key background information. As such, this is how the poem appears at first blush: There is a random woman stuck in a random tower on a random island near Camelot. Apparently she is the only one in the tower. I don’t know how she manages practical necessities (like food) but she is under some kind of enchantment, so perhaps that accounts for it. Her job is to sew what she sees of the world in her magic mirror into a tapestry that she is weaving. There is a window within glancing distance, but she can’t look out of it or a curse will fall on her . . . for some reason. One wonders about the wisdom of having said window at all, but I digress.
So as she sits here, who should happen along, but Sir Lancelot himself! The description is stunningly dramatic. You can just picture him (only when you do, you shield your eyes, lest you be blinded in the glare) galloping in slow motion, armor sparkling and glistening like mad in the sunlight, long, flowing hair blowing out behind him in a shimmering wave, peasant girls swooning right and left. Now, I have been told that females, like jackdaws and raccoons, are fascinated by shiny things. I cannot speak one way or the other as to the veracity of this statement, but in the case of the Lady of Shalott, Lancelot’s radiantly shining armor seems to have turned her head a bit. Unsatisfied with the fleeting glimpse she got in her mirror, she goes to the window. Now, this is obviously a big mistake, because all hell breaks loose inside her little tower and she knows her days are numbered.
I am reminded, somehow, of the story of Eve from Genesis. She, too, was forbidden to do one specific thing, she, too, gave into the temptation and did it anyway, and she, too, was cursed to die as a result (but did not die right away). The only real difference, in this case, is that there the Lady of Shalott has no man to drag down with her . . . Lancelot having wisely continued on his merry way (his doom will be along soon enough, and it will be in female form, of course). However, also like Eve, the Lady of Shalott can’t stay in her nice, protected sanctuary anymore now that she has looked out of the window and seen the real world.
I’d like to imagine that her next move is entirely her own decision and has nothing whatsoever to do with the curse. She’s going to die, that’s certain, but what she does until then is entirely up to her, I think. So, what does she do? She slaps her name on a boat, climbs in, and floats herself in the general direction of Camelot. And she dies on the way.
I think she’s sending a message to Sir Lancelot, in typical female fashion. Sure, he was just galloping along innocently, minding his own business, but (to her mind) look what he caused! She has to die now, and it’s his fault. So her final act is to lay a guilt trip on him. She’ll float her carcass down to Camelot, and he’ll see that she’s dead, and then he’ll be sorry. Logically, it wasn’t his fault, and it wasn’t his problem, but the Lady of Shalott is clearly the emotional type . . . no logic in this one, fellas, and he’ll be made to feel that it was his responsibility just the same.
But we men have the last laugh in the end. Like a typical male, Lancelot totally misses the point of the entire message and (ironically) remains blissfully ignorant of his own role in the tragedy. Sure he seems a little melancholy for a few minutes when he sees her there, but, judging by what he says at the sight of her, I’m guessing he’s just mourning the passing of a pretty face. Moral: Women are subtle and vindictive. Men are oblivious and self-centered and not terribly bright. Men win.
Maybe my assessment of this poem is a bit fanciful, and maybe not, but one way or another, I really like the poem. It has a beautiful and prolonged rhythm in each "stanza" with its four rhyming lines, “Camelot,” three rhyming lines, and “Shalott.” The descriptions are full of colors and characters and settings that are brighter and larger and clearer than real life. And it’s actually a fairly good King Arthur story with its magical enchantments, knights in shining armor, and fair damsels in lonely towers. I enjoy those elements, as long as I don’t think about them too hard, and “The Lady of Shalott” is a highly enjoyable piece of escapism for me.
February 22, 2004
John Keats & The Classical Greek Obsession
"On First Looking into Chapman's Homer"
And many goodly states and kingdoms seen;
Round many western islands have I been
Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold.
Oft of one wide expanse had I been told
That deep-brow'd Homer ruled as his demesne;
Yet did I never breathe its pure serene
Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold:
Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
When a new planet swims into his ken;
Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes
He star'd at the Pacific--and all his men
Look'd at each other with a wild surmise--
Silent, upon a peak in Darien.
"On Seeing the Elgin Marbles"
Weighs heavily on me like unwilling sleep,
And each imagined pinnacle and steep
Of godlike hardship tells me I must die
Like a sick eagle looking at the sky.
Yet 'tis a gentle luxury to weep,
That I have not the cloudy winds to keep
Fresh for the opening of the morning's eye.
Such dim-conceived glories of the brain
Bring round the heart an indescribable feud;
So do these wonders a most dizzy pain,
That mingles Grecian grandeur with the rude
Wasting of old Time -with a billowy main,
A sun, a shadow of a magnitude.
“On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer” gives us the author’s impressions of a particularly good translation of the epics of Homer. And it makes him very happy. You don't hear this kind of orgasmic eloquence very often (if you'll pardon the word in this instance . . . I really couldn't think of a better one). I am reminded, specifically, of Moore contemplating a donut which he holds in his hand, turning it every which way so that it catches the light and expounding at great length on the beauty of the thing. Keats produces two very vivid metaphors to communicate to us the fact that he has a beautiful new world opened up and spread out before him. He has been there and done that, he tells us, but he’s never experienced anything quite like this.
“On Seeing the Elgin Marbles,” quite the opposite of the other, seems very conflicted in its impressions. Unlike Cortez, staring out over a new discovery “with eagle eyes,” Keats is now “like a sick eagle looking at the sky”. Clearly, the sky is where he belongs, where he must be in order to witness these grand vistas, but he is sick and unable to reach the necessary height. He is pained by the marked contrast between the magnificence of the artwork, and the damage and the fading that time and weather have caused to them. The Marbles are but a shadow of their former selves, and he grieves for what is lost. Again, I am reminded of Moore . . . after he has eaten his last cookie and is gazing sadly at the crumbs left behind.
Both of these poems are expressions of an intense overflow of emotion from reading a great piece of literature or viewing a (formerly) great work of art for the first time. Keats got excited about all things Classical and Greek, it would seem, and he didn’t like to see the beauty or glory of it fade. He could probably learn a few lessons from Shelley when it comes to such matters, but that is unimportant. He apparently wasn’t very particular about detail (he said Cortez . . . he meant Balboa) but he makes up for it with his enthusiasm for the subject.
I know people who feel this way about any number of things. I've already mentioned Moore and his food twice, for instance. I get this excited myself about many things. The knee-jerk reaction with Keats’ (or anyone's) expressions of high emotion over the things he is particularly enamored of is one of ridicule. You laugh at him because he is so happy about inky squiggles on a page, or because he is saddened about some shaped lumps of rock, but the fact is, we all have something (or, more likely, somethings . . . even Moore has computers . . . and Sharon, I suppose) that we get excited about which probably seems just as silly and insignificant to someone else. I can certainly remember showing this kind of passion, even, for poems as short as these on occasion . . . not to mention much longer works . . . movies . . . songs . . . paintings . . . just to name a few of the more reasonable ones. I don’t begrudge Keats his obsessions, just as I hope no one begrudges me mine, but, just as others do with me, I still reserve the right to be amused by them.
Percy Shelley & The Ecclesiastes Obsession
How restlessly they speed, and gleam, and quiver,
Streaking the darkness radiantly! - yet soon
Night closes round; and they are lost for ever;
Or like forgotten lyres, whose dissonant strings
Give various response to each varying blast,
To whose frail frame no second motion brings
One mood or modulation like the last.
We rest.- A dream has power to poison sleep;
We rise. - One wandering thought pollutes the day;
We feel, conceive or reason, laugh or weep;
Embrace fond woe, or cast our cares away:
It is the same! - For, be it joy or sorrow,
The path of its departure still is free:
Man's yesterday may ne'er be like his morrow;
Nought may endure but Mutability.
Who said: "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal, these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings,
Look on my Works, ye mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
So, in “Mutability,” we're all a bunch of clouds and old musical instruments and so on and so forth . . . constantly in motion . . . constantly changing. We sleep, we wake, we go about doing our little things here and there, acting out our personal dramas and just generally . . . living. Sometimes we’re happy, sometimes we’re sad, but it all comes out in the wash, in the end. Whatever mood we find ourselves in will pass, each day bringing something completely different from the one before, right? The only thing that remains unchanged is the fact of Change (“Mutability”) itself. Lovely.
Now, in “Ozymandias” you've got some random guy wandering around the desert for no good reason, and he spots something that makes such an impression on him that he remembers it throughout the rest of his travels and bores random people with the story. In some long-forgotten place, half-ruined, broken, and buried beneath desert sands, he has seen the remains of a massive statue (I just can't get away from the end of Planet of the Apes when I think about this, much to my chagrin). It is the image of a forgotten king who ruled a forgotten kingdom. His face is proud and full of the dreadful knowledge of his own power. The inscription on the monument indicates that this king thought that he and his works would be around a lot longer than he or they actually were. There is nothing but this statue left of whatever mighty empire this man built for himself in ages long gone. These things just don’t last, and he didn't figure that out.
I find that Shelley’s poetry brings vivid pictures leaping directly into my imagination. I can’t tell for sure what his mood is in “Mutability,” but I his observations are perfectly accurate. He seems, perhaps, a bit apathetic, as if he is tired of the emotional ups and downs of life and wishes to forswear them. Yeah. Good luck with that one, Pers. Somehow, I doubt he pulled it off. “Ozymandias,” on the other hand, is particularly enjoyable because it fairly reeks of irony. And we can't forget the fact that everyone loves to see bad things happen to people. Watching the mighty laid low is a lot more likely to make us laugh than cry, somehow. There is so much cold, hard pride in the inscription on the broken statue of the king, and such certainty, engraved on the face of stone, that he and his accomplishments will never be forgotten. There is no doubt in his mind . . . But the state of the monument and the surrounding wasteland begs to differ . . . They are a quietly powerful testament to the foolish vanity of the man who thought he would be immortal.
Clearly, Shelley caught the same intellectual wave as the author of Ecclesiastes. In fact, he flat out rips Solomon off. I think it would be fairly safe to assume that he was "inspired" by another source for this poetry. I could quote nearly any verse from Ecclesiastes and it would be relevant to analyzing one of these two poems: The constant references to the ever-changing nature of things, chasing after the wind, the observations that everything passes away, nothing is forever, all that is on earth is transient.
I find that the statement, “There is nothing new under the sun,” (Ecclesiastes 1:9) is especially relevant to Shelley’s poetry. Even his own observations on transience and mutability merely echo the centuries-old observations of a much wiser man who came before . . . Ironic, that.
February 20, 2004
Okay, so this week's play, clearly, was Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw. And, clearly, I have had a heck of a time arriving at a point where I could actually type up my weekly report. Gah! Stupid, freaking BUSINESS! Not to mention certain people who steal certain other people's keyboards.
But here goes nothing:
Ardith- Eliza Doolittle
Wilson- Henry Higgins
Myself- Colonel Pickering
Anna- Mrs. Pearce, Mrs. Higgins, Mrs. Eynsford-Hill
Moore- Freddy, General Narration
Milton- Alfred P. Doolittle, Bystander, Parlor Maid, General Narration
Sharon- Mrs. Eynsford-Hill, Parlor Maid
Scholl- Miss Eynsford-Hill, Sarcastic Bystander, General Narration
Gallagher- General Narration
Such a freaking hilarious play . . . My favorite line, clearly, is the title of this post. Clearly, one must roll one's "r"s like mad when saying it. But there are so many great lines! And they're so funny!
Ardith: "I'm a good girl, I am! Aaaaaah--ow--ooh! Garn!" Heeheehee! I've no idea where she picked up that accent, but it was hilarious.
Wilson: "Eliza, you're an idiot. I waste the treasures of my Miltonic mind by spreading them before you." Heeheehee! Wilson was rather chilling as Higgins, I must say. They are . . . rather similair people. Except Wilson doesn't have an Oedipus complex. I don't think.
Oh, and be sure and ask Milton about his Texan Brit . . . We said we'd make Shaw spin in his grave, and I've no doubt we did.
Scholl as young woman . . . don't go there. Ever. Gah. He was rather too good at it. Uncomfortably so. Oh, and I'd like all of you to give the new small talk a try. It's really quite ripping!
I'm curious as to how that epilogue is incorporated into the play, if at all. It seems generally odd to have such a large chunk of written material that explains what came next and yet is not really part of the play. Curious technique, that. I definitely need to look into more plays by Shaw, however. You know . . . like someday when I have time and stuff.
*laughs at self*
*Time joins in*
*we laugh together*
And yes, this post is excessively disjointed because I don't have time or brain power to expend on any other kind of post at this moment. My next few entries, coming VERY soon, will probably be related to the English journals I'm writing . . . so consider yourself warned.
Continuing . . . My Fair Lady (Pygmalion) is the same movie as Anastasia! The parallels are legion . . . and undeniable. I shall go into them with you on demand if necessary, but I don't feel like typing them all out here. Anastasia packs a bigger emotional punch, certainly, but no more than is absolutely necessary to make it a drama instead of a comedy. And they changed the ending, slightly. But it's all the same story . . . although I suppose I should be sure to attribute the plot to the proper source . . . trippy and jacked-up as the story is.
Of these three variations on the same basic theme Shaw's Higgins character is by far the most unlucky, being rather unfortunately unable to keep a handle on his Galatea, poor devil. In this he bears a closer resemblance to Dr. Frankenstein . . . or Prometheus, I suppose. But then, I imagine he really doesn't care, in the end.
It is, however, an interesting plot to develop in general, albeit an overused one. On an only slightly related note, according to imdb, if you like Anastasia, you will also like (according to a long and twisted string of recommended titles) Home Alone 3. Special.
February 18, 2004
I just returned from seeing Big Fish. Wow. That movie is worth seeing. It is really worth seeing. That's the best movie I've seen since . . .
Well, crap. I've seen so many good movies lately . . . But it was freaking good, and certainly the best of its type (I've never seen a movie quite like it). And now I attempt to walk the fine line between explaining why it was so great, and just summarizing the entire movie.
To hear Edward Bloom tell it, he has lived a life that is so rich and full of color and meaning that reality pales in comparison every time we break back into real life. The contrasts are amazing.
I just typed a paragraph . . . and deleted it. I don't want to go into specifics at all. Which means that now I'm running out of review . . . fast. Amidst all of the fun spectacle, the question running through your mind is: How much of this really happened? What has Edward Bloom really made of his life? Without giving anything away, you come to realize at the end that, not only is "what really happened" completely unimportant, it's downright detrimental. And that the most important sign of a life well lived is what you leave behind you.
I guess. I suck at this sort of thing. There's a lot that I want to say, and a lot that I could say. But you should really just go watch the movie. My conscience pricks whenever I give too much away about a movie that needs to be experienced first-hand.
*Runs off to concoct the story of his life . . .*
It's alive! It's alive!
I had to do an English Lit II journal on the Frankenstein movie we watched. And I figured I might as well post it here, as my review of the movie. And, of course, I'll elaborate as necessary and throw in one or two things I found while I was looking around, satsifying my idle curiosity.
The 1931 version of Frankenstein opens with an earnest warning to the audience that the movie will be frightening. So, we are told, we shouldn't watch if we are easily terrified. Unfortunately, I am part of a captive audience and have very little choice in the matter.
The story itself opens with a scene by an open grave as the priest reads the funeral service and the relatives of the deceased mourn his passing. As the grave is filled in, two wild-eyed and mysterious characters watch from nearby. One of these is Dr. Frankenstein himself; the other is his misshapen, not-very-bright assistant, Fritz. Once the gravedigger departs, the two move in on the freshly buried corpse. It’s all part of their search for body parts to use in the construction of Dr. Frankenstein’s experiments with electricity and life, but he still needs a brain (two would do better, one for the monster and one for himself). Fritz, being a handy little devil, is able to procure one from a college classroom. Unfortunately, he is startled in the midst of the theft and he drops the normal brain on the floor. So he is forced to make do with the criminal brain which was sitting next to the other. D'oh!
Meanwhile, Frankenstein’s fiancé and best friend are worried about him, and track him down with the help of his former mentor from the college. Bla bla bla. Lots of boringness. They are shocked and disturbed by news of what sorts of things he has been working on and so forth.
It is a dark and stormy night, and Frankenstein is about to reach the point in his experiments that he has been working towards for many months: He will bring life to the creature that he has constructed out of spare body parts. Unfortunately, he is interrupted by the arrival of the three who are in search of him. He agrees to let them in to watch his experiment (because he's just very crafty like that). The experiment is successful (consisting of raising the construct up through the ceiling so that it is exposed to the lightning). The creature is brought to life, and all tremble in horror before it.
Now that he has created a monster, I’m not entirely certain what he has been planning to do with it. But that clearly has nothing to do with the movie. Before long, the monster is driven to kill Fritz, who has teased it constantly. And there is much rejoicing. Frankenstein and his mentor kill the monster with a syringe full of . . . killing juice, and Frankenstein goes off to be married, determined to forget all about the horrible experiment. The doctor decides he wants to do an autopsy on the monster, but unfortunately, the monster isn’t actually dead. And he objects to the idea of a biopsy in the strongest possible terms. Frankenstein’s mentor is throttled. I call it self-defense. That scalpel was out and it was coming at the monster's head. No jury in the world would convict.
The monster proceeds to wander out into the peaceful countryside around the quiet little German town, and accidentally kills a little girl (you see, he thought she was a boat). It was totally an accident. He is 100% justified in pleading insanity. No jury in the world would convict. He then proceeds directly to Frankenstein’s house . . . in broad daylight . . . in the middle of town (intuitively knowing where it is, and completely escaping detection), scares the living bejesus out of the fiancé (who Frankenstein has very craftily locked into her room while he searches the rest of the house for the monster), and leaves.
Suddenly, everyone in town knows that there is a monster, and that the monster is responsible for the death of the little girl (there were no witnesses, but . . .?). They split up (and by split up, I mean stay together) and go out in search of it. It's a classic monster-hunting mob, complete with torches and pitchforks. w00t!
Frankenstein commits the classic horror-movie blunder, and goes one way while everyone else goes the other way. He then proceeds to walk around with his head turned only to the left, and walks to the edge of a cliff to look over. Naturally, he is knocked unconscious while he is struggling with the monster. The monster drags him back to the windmill where it was created, with the townspeople in hot pursuit, and much excitement ensues. Dr. Frankenstein is thrown off the top of the windmill, but he isn't quite dead.
This turns out to be the monster’s undoing, as the others are now free to burn the windmill down. He didn't quite have a grasp on that whole "hostage negotiation" thing. The monster dies amidst flames, alone, trapped under a beam. Frankenstein is married and recovers (I’m not to sure about the order here). And his father the Baron gets to drink some very fine wine, surrounded by half a dozen very pretty, young maids with bobbed hair. It is a very happy ending. Totally random, but happy.
I liked the classic, campy way in which this film was carried out. As a fan of classic movies from all decades, I really enjoyed the style, and was reminded of some of the horror and suspense movies that I used to watch all the time. (Perhaps I will speak of The Tingler one of these days. Funniest movie I've ever seen, and I'm not exaggerating.) That said, this obviously was not really related to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein in any but the vaguest possible sense.
We discussed in class the significance of the subtitle, “The Modern Prometheus,” and the one thing about the movie that I especially noticed was the almost complete absence of consequences. Fritz and Frankenstein’s mentor are murdered. A little girl died. Some random person got wounded. An abandoned windmill burned down. Frankenstein gets hurt, but he’ll be better soon. I don’t think anyone was sad to see Fritz go. The mentor is all but forgotten by the end of the movie (I only just remembered as I was going over the body count in my head). The little girl’s death is rather unfortunate, but it doesn’t affect Frankenstein.
He, as the Prometheus character, is not punished in any way for all of his meddling with things he shouldn’t be meddling with. He gets to live happily ever after, and none of the characters that died in the book (of those that actually appeared in the movie) are killed. That pretty much takes the soul out of the story. Oh, it’s still a cautionary tale, I suppose, but almost all of the impact is gone. All that is left is a very cheap popcorn flick which has pervaded pop culture for the past sixty-plus years and completely supplanted the original novel. That’s too bad.
At the end of the movie, I was really only left with one burning question: If it was Fritz all this time, then who in the world is Igor?
I did a bit of research on that. My first search only told me that the first use of the character name "Igor" was in this 1966 movie. A further search revealed this, which I'm sure some of you already knew.
I end this in the classic style of MST3K, with a quote. There are a number of highly amusing and extremely memorable quotes in this movie, but I finally settled on this one from Dr. Frankenstein himself:
Dangerous? Poor old Waldman. Have you never wanted to do anything that was dangerous? Where should we be if no one tried to find out what lies beyond? Have your never wanted to look beyond the clouds and the stars, or to know what causes the trees to bud? And what changes the darkness into light? But if you talk like that, people call you crazy. Well, if I could discover just one of these things, what eternity is, for example, I wouldn't care if they did think I was crazy.
Good night, everyone.
February 16, 2004
Wheeler, "With Post"
Gah. Dr. Watson is kinda sick, now that I think about it. Him and his whole "with poem" thing . . . I don't find that I am entirely comfortable with the idea of giving birth to a blogpost. Mostly because, at best, it winds up being a twisted mutant child. But I had that presentation in English Lit II today, and consequently I am "with post."
To begin with, Dr. Watson is, like, the most absent-minded person ever when it comes to remembering stuff about presentations. He cares as little as I do about them, but has less motivation to remember when they are. I've had to supply the date of our presentation to him every time I've mentioned it thus far (and that has turned out to be often). So this morning I wander into his office to say hello, and pick up the Tennyson recording he's loaning me, and he asks me what I'm up to this morning. I told him I was just generally roaming, skipping chapel (which confused him briefly, since chapel hadn't started yet), and practicing my presentation.
"Oh? Do you have a presentation today?"
I laughed at him. He remembered.
*fast-forwards boring details until beginning of presentation* I go sit in the corner at the front to watch the opening (I know what they're doing, but I'm not involved in this part). Yearsley gets up and launches into "The Charge of the Light Brigade" with the kind of gusto and fervor I don't often have the pleasure of hearing from anyone (except on Thurday nights, from people like Moore). At the same time, Logan comes, well, charging into the midst of us wearing cardboard armor and riding a broomstick ("We found a witch!" . . . fortunately for him, he stayed on the ground). When Yearsley came to "Cannons to the right of them! Cannons to the left of them!" Robert hauls out a double handful of Reese's pieces . . . thingies and lets fly at Logan with a loud "BOOM!" Logan continues to run amongst the desks, half trying to duck and cover from the sprays of candy blanketing the room like . . . grapeshot, I suppose. Very nonlethal grapeshot.
I was amused. Everyone was amused. Watson ate candy, and was highly amused. Then came devo. I tuned out, because I was thinking about what I was going to say. It was on Psalm 92 and it somehow tied in with chapel and with David being a great poet. That's all I know.
Then Robert gave his talk on Tennyson's life. Robert was nervous. I could tell Robert was nervous. And I was somewhat upset with Payton. *notes confused looks* Payton, in Speech last semester, officially made it impossible not to notice every single solitary time that people say "Um" when they are speaking in front of others. And it drives me insane. And Robert said "Um" a lot. Grrr . . .
At least I don't notice when I say "Um" in general. If I did, I'd be really annoyed. However, Robert's talk did give me a certain amount of confidence, because I knew I could one-up it. And then I got up to talk about Lord Tennyson and DEATH . . . (ba-ba-ba-BUM). Tennyson wrote about death, like, all the time. It's rather depressing, I couldn't help but notice, and very affecting, when you're sitting all alone very late at night, reading this stuff and trying to get inside his head.
This isn't as apparent in The Lady of Shalott and Morte d'Arthur because the tone is so elevated and he pours it on so thick, that unless you really just want to get emotional, it's not going to happen. The Lady of Shalott, in fact, is kind of ridiculous, really. It's black humor, highly ironic . . . but probably not meant so. The Lady of Shalott basically sits around in her tower all day and watches the world through her magic mirror so she can record things on a tapestry. She isn't allowed to look out of the window at all or a curse will come upon her because . . . ummm . . . because it's a poem. Shut up. Well, one day, who should happen by, happy singing a tune, but Sir friggin' Lancelot himself. The Lady spots him in the mirror, runs over and gazes upon him out of the window as he gallops off on his merry way (followed, no doubt, by a strange-looking fellow clapping ends of a coconut together).
The mirror cracks from side to side, the tapestry flies out the window, and things just generally suck. The Lady of Shalott, being (as Moore would say) exceptionally crafty, goes down and paints her name on the prow of a boat, then lays herself down in it, clad in far more white than is good for her. She then proceeds to float down the river, lying disconsolately in the bottom of the boat, singing her own funeral dirge, like a right-morbid watery old tart. And so she dies, which kind of sucks for her, I suppose. Then again, she was basically spending all of her time sitting in a tower and sewing while she watched soaps. Personally, I think she wins. So then we get to the irony. Her boat shows up at Camelot, where they are having a party. And everyone shuts up real fast and everyone is very sad. And Lancelot sits and gazes upon the fair lady, and wishes God's mercy on her . . . because she's pretty, (presumably he wouldn't be so charitable, otherwise). And that's how it ends, and Lancelot has no idea that he was the cause of all this. It's incredibly sappy, but I've been in incredibly sappy moods before, so I won't say that it totally sucks. It's rather good poetry . . . very relaxing rythm to it and so forth.
So that's Tennyson and his focus on death in Arthurian legend. Next came Tennyson writing about death in the events of his day. I didn't even bother to try explaining the Crimean War, for obvious reasons. That's gotta be the most confusing war ever. Basically it boils down to France, England, and Turkey ganging up on Russia because France and Russia both want religious rights of one sort or another in Jerusalem. And they all run over and fight each other on the Crimean Peninsula, which, it turns out, is not technically in France, England, Russia, Turkey, or anywhere near Jerusalem. It's kind of a sad little war, in any case. Three years, three major battles . . . But the second one was rather interesting, and Tennyson wrote a poem about a piece of it.
Actually, the Battle of Balaklava was loaded with heroic holdings of the line, heroic charges, heroic last stands, and so forth . . . The Charge of the Light Brigade was the most monumentally stupid of them all, and the most costly . . . which makes it the most heroic, almost by default. So Tennyson wrote about it, because he was into that whole "dead hero" thing.
If you don't know the real story, it's a pretty good one, and I had a good time telling it in class, with various pictures to assist. Balaklava is a particularly hilly region and it is being held by the . . . non-Russians. A massive Russian force sweeps in and chases the Turks away from some artillery that they have set up, and they run off to warn the British. *insert various heroic actions here* As the battle progresses, the officers down on the ground can see very little of what is going on except in certain directions, while the generals up above have a pretty good grasp of the big picture. The commanding general spots the Russians moving in to remove the guns that they have captured from the Turks and decides that he doesn't want them doing that. He sends down a message to the Light Brigade ordering them to "prevent the removal of the guns."
The Light Brigade says to itself, "Self, I wonder which guns he means. Hmmm . . . I only see those guns down there. He must mean those. Rather odd. That's a lot of guns. This seems a bit suicidal. Oh, well. Charge!!!"
Tennyson's "Jaws of Death" is a very accurate description. 673 light cavalry go barreling down the valley in two waves, directly into massive cannon fire, and caught in a deadly crossfire from both sides of them as well. The first wave reaches the guns, and the Russians who were too stupid to get out of the way get mowed down, and the first wave continues forward, plowing into a significantly larger mass of Russian cavalry that is waiting (a bit dumbstruck at this move by the British). Meanwhile, the second wave goes flying by the guns, kills more hapless Russian gunners, and plows into the first wave, which is retreating from much-too-large mass of cavalry that they had so recently attacked. So they're all kind of milling about in the spot, stuck between the Russian guns and the Russian cavalry, and before long it is decided that leaving is just generally a good idea. Unfortunately, the Russian lancers waiting in the wings have moved around in front to cut them off. However, as the British begin to run, the lancers step aside with just a few perfunctory pokes to make sure they keep going. No one is really certain why they did this. I suspect they just didn't want to risk themselves against an enemy that was obviously broken and not coming back.
Long story short, the Light Brigade is down to about 100 men with horses, the British *sort of* win the battle of Balaklava, and the Russians (who had initially thought that the British were just drunk) gain a healthy respect for the light cavalry. Which doesn't actually matter because they are pretty much broken and are unable to play a significant role for the rest of the war.
At this point in my presentation, we listened to the recording of Tennyson reading a portion of his poem. You couldn't actually understand what he was saying at all unless you were reading along. It just sounded like a rythmic, "BLA bla blabla blabla, BLA bla blabla blabla" for a little over a minute. Strangely, if you knew what he was saying, you could very clearly hear him say it.
"Creepy," says I, when it was over (because it kinda was). Then, as I'm about to continue the slide show, the CD continues on into some sort of classical music selection. Heh. "Stopping this would probably be a good idea," I conjectured as I moved the stupid cursor up to take care of it. I suppose I could have turned it down a bit and left it playing, but . . . nah.
I moved on to shaky ground . . . the poem "In Memoriam" written about Tennyson's friend Arthur Hallam when he died at the age of 22. I was more than a bit disturbed, and also most affected, by this poem. It's crazy long, and they don't even include the entire thing in Norton (which drives me up the wall). Tennyson wrote it over a seventeen year period . . . He spent 20% of his life getting over the death of this friend. The work contains 133 separate poems, and all the ones that I read were really good. The thing is loaded with famous quotes, including, "It is better to have loved and lost/than never to have loved at all." (#27)
Dr. Watson wanted clarification (having told me before class that he wasn't particularly familiar with this one): "Now, this is written about a guy?"
"Yes, yes it is."
The thing can be divided into four sections by the chief emotions expressed in each section: Despair, Doubt, Hope, and Faith. So it becomes less depressing, but no less emotional, as you move forward in it. The turning point into each section is written at Christmas time, #s 28, 78, and 104. 9-15 and 19 were all written as he accompanied the body back to England on a ship, these are especially poignant. Also, 54-56 express some very intense anger at and/or doubt in God. But ultimately the best ones are in the last section where he contemplates the afterlife quite a bit, and has dreams of meeting his friend after he dies.
This poem made Tennyson famous when it was finally published in 1950. He was able to marry the girl that he couldn't marry before because he was too poor. He was declared Poet Laureate of England. And he became by far the most popular poet of his age. A dying gift from a friend . . . but he'd rather have had the friend, I think.
I vacillate between being genuinely disturbed at the prospect of a seventeen-year period of mourning and the obsessive writing of poetry throughout all that time, and being deeply affected by the signs of a rather amazing friendship. I tend more towards the latter, because I think I kind of understand just a fraction of a minute portion of the way he felt . . . Maybe.
Finally, I talked about what Tennyson wrote of his own death. "Crossing the Bar" was written three years before he died, and he directed that it be placed at the end of every collection of his works (as far as I understand, it has been). When he died, it was put to music and sung at his funeral, and I am told that you can still find it some hymnals . . . although I have no idea what sort. At this point in the presentation, Yearsley came up and read the poem . . . which is rather a good poem (and so I shall post it).
Sunset and evening star,
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
When I put out to sea,
But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
Turns again home.
Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
When I embark;
For though from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crossed the bar.
It's hard to know when to risk trying to affect your audience, and when to just keep it light (which is considerably easier), but Yearsley did a good job of reading the poem in a very quiet, moving tone. So I went for both, and ended the presentation thusly:
"So, lot's of death and sadness . . . Have a good cry." (This last being something I think Watson might say, and said with my best impression of Watson.)
I got quiet chuckles and a lot of staring off into space. Haha!!!
Wait, nevermind . . . they just weren't paying attention. Ah, well . . . we can't all aspire to the lofty post of English Major, now can we?
I don't know what all the contributing factors were, but we got a 92 (the choice of Psalm was rather prophetic, I suppose . . . Logan should have chosen Psalm 150 . . . drat). That was pretty cool, because it was only about 20 minutes long, and the syllabus calls for 30-35. w00t.
And then we finished watching Frankenstein. *sniggers* Talk about a change of pace . . .
Hmmm . . . time to get work done.
Frustration sets in . . .
Aw, crap. Here I go again. You know, I don't believe it's been quite like this for a good two and a half years.
I have work to do, dadgummit!!!
Ah, well. C'est la vie. *sits back to weather the storm*
February 14, 2004
Romeo and Juliet Post, Take Two
Okay. *deep breath* In the continuing general spirit of St. Valentine's Day, I recreate (to the best of my ability) my post of last night/this morning. We begin with a cast list:
Wilson- Romeo, Prince Escalus, Paris, Chorus, Gregory, etc.
Moore- Capulet, Apothecary, etc.
Gallagher- Lady Capulet, Tybalt, Friar John, Servant, Musician, Watchman, etc.
Myself- Mercutio, Friar Lawrence, Paris, Sampson, Peter, Chief Watchman, etc.
Sharpton-Benvolio, Balthasar, Servant, Musician, Watchman, etc.
Scott- Montague, Servant, etc.
Rachel- Lady Montague, Nurse
Scholl- Prince Escalus
Again, and as always, there was much swapping about of roles and playing of multiple roles and so forth. Ohhhh, there was much amusement to be had this week. I think the bad rap that Romeo and Juliet has amongst many people is rather unfair. It really is a great play, all in all. But who wants to see random people they don't know doing the whole starry-eyed bit? I mean, really, it's bad enough when you have to watch your friends do it. However, when simply performed, and not overdone or taken too seriously, by people you know, it's really quite entertaining. Ultimately, however, I have one word to say about the way events unfold in the play: "D'oh!!!"
Anyway, I had more fun than I should probably be allowed to have with the character of Mercutio. It's rather a nasty and unpleasant habit Shakespeare has of killing off the best characters in their prime (around Act III, I mean). Someone should have broken him of it. Of course, if Mercutio hadn't died, then it would have been a comedy . . . You wouldn't have heard any complaining from me. Come to think of it, he killed two of my characters! Of all the nerve . . . that's just downright insulting. Come to think of it, I've died twice in both of the tragedies we've done. Death speeches are sooo much fun. "Oh, I am slain!" (Who says that, really . . . I mean c'mon!)
So, can I remember what else I'd written about the play? Yeah, right. But I don't recall that it was particularly important or interesting anyway. I would like to note that there are two or three more posts festering in my brain right now, and it isn't very pleasant. But the general lack of time means that they will have to wait. I'm certainly not going to mess with them right now . . . G'bye.
You are too hot.
Alright, folks, in the general spirit of St. Valentine's Day, and because I do this every Friday: this week's dramatic endeavors by the Shadow Council Players.
Ah, yes. And that title needs explaining rather desperately, doesn't it? It won't take long . . . You see, Gallagher was turning in his usual highly amusing performance as Lady Capulet, and that was one of his . . . her . . . their lines, spoken to Capulet when he is angry. Gallagher placed the emphasis of the line precisely where I have it, throwing in a flirtatious lengthening of the "o" sounds in both words. Hilarity ensued. ("What, ho?")
See, the problem is, Movable Type just officially ate its first post, and the above is pretty much all I've got left. The timing is rather bad because it's later than you think, and I'm going to sleep now rather than rewrite it. I'll just do this later today.
February 12, 2004
Wheeler Disappears in a Puff of Work
Bah. I am utterly disgusted with the fact that, after successfully slacking off thus far in the semester, I am now forced to bear down like a madman for the foreseeable future. Now, fortunately, I don't think very far ahead, so the foreseeable future is only a couple of weeks, but that doesn't make things any more pleasant for me.
So, let's share the joy and think about what needs doing between now and the end of February. Today I have a test in American History and there is a nice little chunk of thick reading to be done for Honors Shame.
Tomorrow I have three or four worksheets to do as Batts continues to make a healthy attempt at burying me alive under the corpses of dead trees. I'll just mention that once here, but keep in mind that the trend will, doubtless, continue to add just that much more to deal with three times a week during the coming period. I also have double reading and "lab report/journal" thingies to do for Honors Stupid Questions.
On Monday I am required to spend at least ten minutes discussing the works of Tennyson in front of a room full of people and Dr. Watson. Getting started on that this weekend strikes me as a generally good idea.
On Wednesday evening, my brother will arrive to stay with me through Friday evening. That will be fun, but for the fact that I've got a presentation to deliver Thursday night that will require a number of hours of poring over the works of Josephus and Strabo. Bleah. Generally good stuff, but bleah. I also must have a topic for my paper by then . . . what am I going to write about?!
The following Monday I am required to turn in five English journals. I suspect you all know how many I have done to date (hint: as few as possible).
On Tuesday I will be turning in a five-page report on a 200-page book about Theodore Roosevelt . . . a book which I have not yet read.
On Wednesday falls the dreaded Watson midterm. *runs screaming*
*returns* On Thursday we will have our second test in Honors Shame, complete with turning in the typed-up notes from class.
Friday would probably be a good time to go ahead and turn in the absolute final version of my Inklings paper, which I should probably spend some quality time on between now and then. And there will be more Honors Stupid Questions stuff.
At some point during that same week I expect another Essay from Dr. Kubricht, another Reading Assignment from Dr. Johnson, and another horrible, horrible Batts test. I just pray that the test doesn't hit the same day as that midterm. Ohhhhhh, boy.
So, yeah . . . I'm screwed. Sort of. My reading time is going to take it on the chin, and so will D&D, but that's easily taken care of (don't panic, Martinez and Gallagher). Anyway, all of this stuff is very doable, it's just not fun by any stretch of the imagination. The good news, as you can already tell, is that I couldn't sleep tonight. I tried for about an hour and a half and decided it wasn't worth it.
And, now that I have everything I need to do written down for quick and easy reference, I am going to post this and go do it. Farewell.
February 10, 2004
You may address us as "International Mogul" or "Supreme Potentate," henceforth
A very interesting, potentially humorous, and all-around screwed-up article . . . check it out.
Also, we have succumbed to the latest Internet bandwagon to roll by, and you should too, because it's just that fun!
Our cadre of nations:
All of these lovely nations are located in the up-and-coming region of Shadowlands. Pay us a visit, and get your own nation in there! It takes, like, a very few seconds a day (if it didn't take even less time than Kings of Chaos, we wouldn't be doing it), and it is boatloads of fun for the whole family!
Oh, and if you are feeling particularly subservient and want to rapidly use a combination of both of our titles at once, you may call us "IMPS." That is all.
February 09, 2004
Color Blind . . . or Just Blind?
Am I the only person who finds the concept of Black History Month, and most especially the way it is "observed" at LeTourneau, insulting, degrading, and generally unhelpful in improving race relations and nuking the spirit of racism that still lurks amongst us?
How much sense does it make, really? First of all, why do we have a Black History Month? Check out how it got started. Actually, I think that's kinda cool, right up until about 1976. Let's look at a few numbers . . . The current US population is approximately 13% Black, 1% Native American, 4% Asian, 14% Hispanic . . . and the rest of us are dirty Caucasians, presumably.
Why is there no Native American History Month? No Asian History Month? No Hispanic History Month? I'm not even going to bother to suggest a European History Month because . . . duh. Do we have Black History Month to emphasize a time when we pay attention to a particular minority, or what? Except that the largest minority (I thought it was until I saw the percentages up there) is the one that gets their own month. And now all the "lesser" minorities get shafted. But it's not even the largest minority anymore . . . so why? Obviously we can't have four months out of the year devoted to this sort of thing, that's ridiculous. How about Minority History Month?
Ummm . . . no. This concept promotes racism, pretty much. Why? Because it is discriminatory. Maybe you'd call it "positive" discrimination, or some such nonsense, but you're still treating people differently based on race. It's not a good thing. Why can't we have American History Month? Isn't that what we all are now? Isn't the whole "great melting pot" concept kind of indicative of the fact that America is made up of people from all races, and that no one is any better than anyone else because of it? LeTourneau provides me with the perfect example of why this is so jacked up.
What Admin thinks "Black History Emphasis Week" in Chapel says: We are racially sensitive and culturally competent because we observe PC type things.
What it actually says: God forbid we have black people speak in chapel at any other time than during February.
And the same goes for the rest of the country: "Let's have Black History Month in February because God forbid we pay any attention whatsoever to Black History during any other time of the year."
By the way, I enjoyed chapel this morning, and I think the other two chapels we have lined up this week look really great. I just think it's a shame that we have to have some kind of excuse to invite a "person of color" to speak to us in chapel. And even when we do, it must be announced loudly to one and all, "We are white, and yet we love and respect those who are of a different race and color. Watch us prove this to you during one whole week out of the year. Bask in the holy gleam of our righteous glory. Amen."
My First Attempt to Join the Literary Types: Phase Two
I'm in. I just got the notification e-mail and my paper was accepted for presentation at the 7th Annual C.S. Lewis and The Inklings Conference. I have a funny feeling that they accepted everything, but that is irrelevant at this point. Once again, my paper is entitled "What Dreams May Come: The Purgatory of Dante and Tolkien" and the conference is being held April 1-3. Further details are available here.
By the way, they are so desperate for papers that they have pushed the deadline back to the end of February . . . So if you were in the Inklings class, submit your freaking paper. Geez. That means you. *glares pointedly at all SC members from the class save Randy* Seriously, in all likelihood they will take it and it's a great opportunity and it will be a great experience and not very many people will laugh at you. I swear. Probably. Now I go find people to look it over and offer suggestions, again.
The Perfect Metaphor
I'm generally annoyed that I didn't include this in my previous post, but I want to remember it for future reference, so here it is. Even if you've never read this book, this may still work for you.
The Sound and the Fury is like the cursed carousel from Something Wicked This Way Comes (note picture on cover at link). You climb on and it begins to spin like mad . . . color, flashing, blinding . . . lights, strobing, whirling, dancing . . . noise, half-music, crashing, deafening . . . and you can't get off. Around and around and around and around, and as you continue to go around, revisiting (reliving) the same little path over and over again, you get old, and then you die. And you've spent your whole life trapped in the craziness, living and reliving more times than you can count.
There. I'm glad I got that out of my system.
February 08, 2004
The Twilight Zone
The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
Finished at approximately 0330 hrs, February 8, 2004
This book was a pretty wild ride for me. More of an adventure and an experience than any other book I've read recently. I couldn't (and didn't) just sit and read it. I felt it and lived it. Despite my complaints concerning stream-of-consciousness, I got into the characters' heads and I knew what they knew. It wasn't the same as when you see and hear what the characters see and hear, as in most books . . . I saw and heard what they saw and heard how they saw and heard it. The characters intrigued me. Some, I recognized as people I know (kinda scary). The rest, I felt as if I knew by the time I was done. Jason and Quentin particularly struck a chord, if I had to pick two.
I don't fully identify with Quentin, but I sympathize with him. He is truly a hopeless romantic. He has almost a symbiotic relationship with this ideal of women being pure and unspoiled . . . So much so, in fact, that when the ideal dies, he can't survive it by very long. The odd thing that just occured to me is: I know what happened to him, but I'm pretty sure it doesn't actually say he committed suicide anywhere in the book. On the flip side, he does say, over and over, that he has committed incest with his sister. But I don't think he actually did . . .
The poor guy is full of high and noble ideas about, as I say, chivalry and purity and nobility and love (but not sex by any means) that he has built his emotional foundation on, but he is completely unable to live up to them. And is if that weren't bad enough, he tries to live this out by protecting his sister from a man who possesses all of these traits. Ouch. Forced to recognize that he falls miserably short of his own ideal self, and at the same time, forced to see that his sister is just the opposite of the ideal that he needed her to be, he is doomed.
Jason, on the other hand . . . The first six words we hear out of him are: "Once a bitch always a bitch . . ." If he is harboring any illusions about women, then they are the opposite of Quentin's. Jason is the eternal victim. Everyone is out to get him, all the time. Every move made by the people around him is carefully calculated to cause the most inconvenience possible. And he loves it. He begs for more. When his boss mentions (he doesn't complain, in fact, he says "It's all right.") that Jason has been gone for the entire afternoon from the store where they work, Jason all but begs to be fired ("If it's not all right, you know what you can do about it.") He'd love that, I think.
When he leaves his house after breakfast, Luster still hasn't put the spare tire on the car because he's been watching Benjy (the retarded man).
I went on back to the garage. There was the tire, leaning against the wall, but be damned if I was going to put it on.
Later, when he has gone on a wild goose chase out of town after Quentin (the illegitmate daughter of his sister Caddy, not his brother Quentin who committed suicide) and she has managed to let all of the air out of one of his tires before escaping back to town, he revels in the situation.
Well, I just sat there. It was getting on toward sundown, and town was about five miles. They never even had guts enough to puncture it, to jab a hole in it. They just let the air out. I just stood there for awhile, thinking about that kitchen full of niggers and not one of them had time to lift a tire onto the rack and screw up a couple of bolts. It was kind of funny because even she couldn't have seen far enough ahead to take the pump out on purpose, unless she thought about it while he was letting the air out maybe. But what it probably was, was somebody took it out and gave it to Ben to play with for a squirt gun because they'd take the whole car to pieces if he wanted it.
Ohhh, he loves it . . .
It's a curious thing how no matter what's wrong with you, a man'll tell you to have your teeth examined and a woman'll tell you to get married. It always takes a man that never made much at anything to tell you how to run your business, though. Like these college professors without a whole pair of socks to their name, telling you how to make a million in ten years, and a woman that couldn't even get a husband can always tell you how to raise a family.
He has advice for everyone about everything, all the time. But they rarely hear what it is. Everyone is always doing everything wrong. They're always doing something monumentally stupid. No one has any sense. It amuses him to recognize this and say nothing. If that's the way they want to do it, let them. Of course, he's usually wrong . . . He sees the black man who works at the store making a delivery in the old wagon and notes that a wheel is about to come off. So he stays put to see if the guy'll get out of the alley before it does. The wheel doesn't come off, but that doesn't stop him from going off on an entire train of thought about his lousy perceptions of the whole race, what a poor businessman his boss is, etc.
When he gets two free tickets to the show that's in town from his boss, and Luster begs him for one, he offers to sell it for five cents. Luster hasn't got five cents, so Jason pops open the stove and burns both tickets right in front of him. The only person forced to interact with Jason Compson who I have no sympathy for is Mother. Before I move on briefly to her, I want to mention one other thing: I know Jason . . . well.
Mother is the same as Jason, really. She's just a lot louder and more whiney. She's a much more extreme sort of victim . . . She's a martyr. Out of her four children, Jason is the only good one. The other three were just a curse on her. But she deserved it. She is devoted to Jason. She does everything she can to make his life easier, even though she is sick unto death. And she makes sure he knows it, too. *checks . . . finds no actual evidence that she ever does anything* She knows she's just a burden, but she'll be gone soon, and then his life will be easier, and this comforts her. I guess it's supposed to comfort him too. In any case, she's been saying it for fifteen years. I also know Mother . . . well. *is not referring to his own mother*
The weirdest thing about this book is that the most important character . . . isn't in it. It's like a black hole . . . you only know it's there because everything else is revolving around it. Caddy is the center of everything, but she is only seen in random flashbacks. Without her at the center of things, the family is slowly shaking itself to pieces. It has shattered, it will shatter, it is shattering.
But no one is going to see this happen. There isn't an end to the story. There isn't any closure. In fact, ultimately you end up having read the same story four times. Each perspective filled in a few different gaps, but what you are left with isn't complete. The repetition gave me a sense of futility and of being trapped. I almost get the feeling that if the book went on, I would turn the page only to find myself re-reading Benjy's section. Just as the reader is stuck in the minds of the different characters, so is each character stuck in his own memories forever. I feel every bit as trapped by the crazy world of the book as everyone in it is. You can't get out. You are doomed to repeat.
. . . I think I'm haunted . . .
February 06, 2004
"An Infinite Deal of Nothing"
-Quote from The Merchant of Venice (Act I, Scene 1)
Well, I've been devoting myself prodigiously to the completion of The Sound and the Fury. After I vented in my last post . . . ummm . . . How does one say it? Let's just say that something clicked. I caught the wave. I'm jiving to the groove. Yeah. Something like that. I just lack 50 pages now, and I'm enjoying myself, all in all. More on all that once the book is actually done.
I also went to talk to Dr. Coppinger about the book on Thursday afternoon. I had often noted his sizable collection of Faulkner while sitting in his office staring hungrily at his books, and had always found it odd that The Sound and the Fury was not among the novels on display. Well, as soon as we started talking about it, guess what came out from under his desk (where he apparently keeps it within easy reach). Yeah. And it was full of colored tabs to mark his favorite passages. Very cool.
We talked about why it is so highly acclaimed, what the value of it is, etc. As I said before, more on that later. Then I asked about the rest of Faulkner's stuff. He recommended Light in August and As I Lay Dying as being more "accessible to the reader." And, if I wanted something more difficult ("There's something worse than this?!") his personal favorite is "Absalom, Absalom." Glancing to the side, I noticed that that one wasn't on the shelf either. Hmmm . . .
I was shocked to find that our library actually has every novel ever written by Faulkner. No, really! I'm not making that up! So, that's another *estimates* twenty-ish books tacked onto my ever-growing list of "Things to Read, like, Now."
In other news, this week's play was The Merchant of Venice. Yes, it was supposed to be Romeo and Juliet (for my Shakespeare class, you know), but Batts is, amazingly, even slower than I had anticipated. So we picked another one (I believe Moore suggested it) and Romeo and Juliet will wait a week.
Martinez- Duke of Venice, Prince of Morocco, Prince of Arragon, Lorenzo, Stephano, Leonardo, etc.
Myself- Antonio, Tubal, Balthasar, etc.
Gallagher- Salanio, Salarino, Salerio, Launcelot Gobbo, Nerissa, Jessica, etc.
Scott- Salanio, Salarino, Salerio, Old Gobbo, etc.
Sharpton- Gratiano, etc.
Scholl- Shylock, Lorenzo
Anna- Nerissa, Jessica
Ardith- Portia, Nerissa, Jessica
If you were paying any attention at all, you can't help but notice that many of the parts were played by multiple people. This is because, over the course of two nights and two and a half hours, there was much coming and going by certain persons. As such, the female parts got passed around like candy, if you'll pardon the expression. At one point, I came within a few seconds of playing Jessica myself. Also, the characters of Salanio, Salarino, and Salerio were absolutely impossible to keep straight (especially since they seemed to swap roles depending on which edition you were using) and the long and short of that was, if you played one, you played them all.
I, for one, was highly amused by Sharpton's performance as Gratiano (ask him about Russian/Italian mafiosos). Wilson picked up Shylock at the point where he started really showing his true colors in the play, and the effect was chilling . . . at least to me, since he was up in my face a few times . . . with a knife. Gah. Gallagher, of course, played the clown (Launcelot) for all he was worth, very much enjoying a male role. Martinez generally had loads of fun playing a number of jilted suitors . . . I wonder about that, but no matter.
The last scene, as anyone who has read the play knows, is loads of fun to perform, almost impossible to mess up, and teaches a valuable lesson (that women are, amazingly, even more ruthless and conniving than Jews . . . who'da thunk it?). A few of our number, having read the play in high school, were surprised to find that the edition they read had censored some of the more . . . blatant innuendo and the bawdy double-entendres.
This weekend I have much work to do in continued preparation for the month I am already calling "Bloody February" (there is a plethora of good reasons to do so). And I will finish The Sound and the Fury. And I will continue everything else I'm reading. And I will continue all my normal weekend activities. See you on the other side.
February 04, 2004
The Sound of Fury
So I'm reading The Sound and the Fury, right? And the first 58 pages are absolute murder. But I was expecting that. They're done in "stream of consciousness" and the perspective is that of Benjy, a retarded boy. It's very difficult to tell what is going on. There are something like fifteen very distinct and randomly ordered time periods in this portion (each one years apart from the others, with no indication of what has passed in-between), and you have to figure out for yourself when you've moved from one to the other and back again. At no point are you ever told anything about who the characters are that you are meeting, where they are, when they are, or what relationship they have with each other. You have to figure it out for yourself. To make matters worse, there are characters who have multiple names and characters who share the same name.
It's all very confusing, but I was making a bit of sense out of it, and it was, as I said, only the first 58 pages. Tonight, I picked the book up again to continue. The next perspective is 80 pages of the book, told from the point of view of Quentin, Benjy's older brother. After over 20 pages of Quentin, I reached the following paragraphs (and yes, they're representative of everything so far):
"I asked, but he didn't know whether another one would leave before noon or not because you'd think that interurbans. So the first one was another trolley. I got on. You can feel noon. I wonder if even miners in the bowels of the earth. That's why whistles: because people that sweat, and if just far enough from sweat you wont hear whistles and in eight minutes you should be that far from sweat in Boston. Father said a man is the sum of his misfortunes. One day you'd think misfortune would get tired, but then time is your misfortune Father said. A gull on an invisible wire attached through space dragged. You carry the symbol of your frustration through eternity. Then the wings are bigger Father said only who can play a harp.
"I could hear my watch whenever the car stopped, but not often they were already eating Who would play a Eating the business of eating inside of you space too space and time confused Stomach saying noon brain saying eat oclock All right I wonder what time it is what of it. People were getting out. The trolley didn't stop so often now, emptied by eating."
This is immediately after an entire two pages of completely random dialogue with no punctuation, line breaks, or capitalization . . . Not to mention the complete lack of an indication of who is talking, when, where, why, or about what.
What it mean. Faulkner's habit of not. Stars are pretty. Bed is cool until suspense. Crap the what the Pulitzer surprise glory flees.
*nods to Wilson for his contribution to the above paragraph*
So, Faulkner wins a Pulitzer for writing something that would get me an F from any English teacher in the country? What is that?! I don't get it. How is this any good at all? I'm open for suggestions here . . . explain.
February 02, 2004
The Wisdom of Father Brown
On lie detectors and circulation:
"I've been reading," said Flambeau, "of this new psychometric method they talk about so much, especially in America. You know what I mean; they put a pulsometer on a man's wrist and judge by how his heart goes at the pronunciation of certain words. What do you think of it?"
"I think it very interesting," replied Father Brown; "it reminds me of that interesting idea in the Dark Ages that blood would flow from a corpse if the murderer touched it."
"Do you really mean," demanded his friend, "that you think the two methods equally valuable?"
"I think them equally valueless," replied Brown. "Blood flows, fast or slow, in dead folk or living, for so many more million reasons than we can ever know. Blood will have to flow very funnily; blood will have to flow up the Matterhorn, before I will take it as a sign that I am to shed it."
"The method," remarked the other, "has been guaranteed by some of the greatest American men of science."
"What sentimentalists men of science are!" exclaimed Father Brown, "and how much more sentimental must American men of science be! Who but a Yankee would think of proving anything from heart-throbs? Why, they must be as sentimental as a man who thinks a woman is in love with him if she blushes! That's a test from the circulation of the blood, discovered by the immortal Harvey; and a jolly rotten test, too."
On crime amongst the Irish:
It had happened nearly twenty years before, when he was chaplain to his co-religionists in a prison in Chicago -- where the Irish population displayed a capacity both for crime and penitence which kept him tolerably busy.
"Then I remembered that beyond those ploughed fields he was crossing lay Pilgrim's Pond, for which (you will remember) the convict was keeping his bullet; and I sent my walking-stick flying."
"A brilliant piece of rapid deduction," said Father Brown; "but had he got a gun?"
As Usher stopped abruptly in his walk the priest added apologetically: "I've been told a bullet is not half so useful without it."
"You always forget," observed his companion, "that the reliable machine always has to be worked by an unreliable machine."
"Why, what do you mean?" asked the detective.
"I mean Man," said Father Brown, "the most unreliable machine I know of. I don't want to be rude; and I don't think you will consider Man to be an offensive or inaccurate description of yourself."
"What do you mean?" demanded the other. "Why should he be innocent of that crime?"
"Why, bless us all!" cried Father Brown in one of his rare moments of animation, "why, because he's guilty of the other crimes! I don't know what you people are made of. You seem to think that all sins are kept together in a bag. You talk as if a miser on Monday were always a spendthrift on Tuesday."
"You are more of a mystery than all the others," she said desperately; "but I feel there might be a heart in your mystery."
"What we all dread most," said the priest, in a low voice, "is a maze with no centre. That is why atheism is only a nightmare."