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You know what’s the worst feature of my blog?
The drafts folder.
What happens is, I’ll start writing something and I’ll save it as a draft. Then over the next day or two, I’ll continue writing, editing, revising, polishing, playing with it, and saving it.
But somehow, I never get around to publishing it.
Because there’s a part of me that feels finished. That thinks that I did publish it.
Do you have any idea what’s in my draft folder?
Well, of course not, because I haven’t published any of it yet. But I will. That’s the plan for the next few weeks.
Does anyone else have this habit… er, problem?
Over at Kate Hart’s blog, there is a fabulous set of templates for book cover pumpkins you can carve for a literary Halloween celebration this year. I learned of this via a Facebook post by J. Anderson Coats, a friend-I’ve-never-met and author of the amazing novel “The Wicked and the Just,” a historical novel set in 13th century Wales. Her book’s cover was one of the lucky few chosen to be immortalized in silhouette and, hopefully, to be pumpkinized all over the country.
What the heck? I’m all for literary pumpkins!
Here’s my happy pumpkin, all ready to be poked and prodded.
Next, having already printed out the template from Kate Hart’s blog, I attached it to the pumpkin with pushpins.
As I began to poke the outline of the shapes with another pushpin, I observed that it is not easy to transfer a flat picture onto a round surface. I also observed that my fingers began to cramp about half-way through the process, which took something like twenty minutes. You know that I’m a perfectionist, right? There were about a million tiny punctures in that pumpkin. Well, here, I’ll show you:
So then the carving began. After reading J’s blog about how difficult it was to carve the crenellations of the castle towers, I decided to attempt the technique where you don’t actually cut through the pumpkin but just peel away the skin and a bit of the flesh underneath (wow, that sounds sadistic, doesn’t it?). Turns out, the best tools for this were a small, sharp knife; a curved, pointed cheese knife; and a grapefruit knife with its curved, serrated tip. Unfortunately, about 3/4 of the way through the job, that small, sharp knife slipped and sliced into my left middle finger and that sucker bled like crazy. For a half an hour. And then some.
Not one to be deterred, I completed the carving. Sadly, however, my plan to scoop that puppy out and put a candle inside had to be abandoned.
Nevertheless, I think it looks very nice and I hope I’ll get lots of comments so I can talk about J’s wonderful book all night while I’m handing out candy to the monsters on my street.
And, just for comparison, here’s the actual book cover:
Happy Halloween, everybody!
My friend Trudy and I have started watching Shakespeare together once a month. This month’s selection was the David Tennant “Hamlet” (which we had to divide in half).
A few thoughts on my umpteenth viewing of this fantastic play:
1) A person should never think too much about his or her parents’ marriage. Because, really, it’s not something that bears thinking about. Just assume that there were things you didn’t know and leave it there.
Hamlet, of course, can’t just leave it. To him, his father was a paragon and his mother is faithless; but let’s face it, this is the opinion of a young man who worshiped his father and assumed that everyone else did too. Hamlet never considers for a moment that there might be some qualities his mother sees in Claudius that his father lacked (vigor? sexual prowess? a spirit of fun?), nor does it cross his mind that the affair might have begun prior to his father’s death, even though every sign points in that direction. Instead, Hamlet continues to believe that his mother is weak-willed and was seduced after the fact by his uncle. Oh, Hamlet, this and your dealings with Ophelia prove you have no clue what goes on in a woman’s heart.
2) No one besides Horatio really likes Hamlet all that much. Looking at the play from a very English perspective, we expect Hamlet to follow his father onto to the throne under basic principles of feudal law and primogeniture. After all, wasn’t that what all the hubbub was about in Richard II? But in the world of Hamlet’s Denmark, Viking precepts have carried down and a king must also receive the support and acclaim of his people before he can be seated on his throne. This idea of acclaim prevented a weak king from being put in place simply by reason of blood. So what must have happened prior to the action of the play is that, when old Hamlet died, Claudius had more support than Hamlet did, and so he got the crown. We see this again later in the play, when Laertes returns from Paris in a frenzy, blaming Claudius for his father’s death. He storms the palace with a mob at his back, with the mob chanting for him: “Laertes shall be king!” We never see a crowd rallying behind Hamlet, trying to make him king.
3) Laertes is Hamlet’s foil, but Fortinbras is his mirror. The story of Fortinbras is a subtle sub-plot, told primarily in speeches about what is happening off-stage, and therefore, it is usually lost on most people. In addition, because it is mostly going on off-stage, productions usually cut a lot of those speeches, so when Fortinbras suddenly shows up at the end and says, “Hey, too bad everyone’s dead. Denmark is mine now,” it’s usually a bit of a surprise. Who the hell is this guy and what is he doing here?
But Fortinbras is a critical mirror for Hamlet’s character. Like Hamlet, he lost his father suddenly and recently. Like Hamlet, his uncle took the throne that he might otherwise have gained. Unlike Hamlet, he did not take any of this quietly. Fortinbras’ father was killed by Hamlet’s father, and so young Fortinbras immediately set out to make war on Denmark. When evil usurping uncle Claudius sent a request to evil usurping uncle Norway (he doesn’t have any other name) to make young Fortinbras stop, Norway complied, so Fortinbras turned his attention to another victim: Poland. For that, he had to cross Denmark and asked for safe passage, which Claudius granted. In a scene which is almost never performed, Hamlet sees Fortinbras and his army crossing Denmark and indulges in more agonizing self-criticism: I need to be more like him; I need to be active; he has no reason to fight with Poland and yet off he goes, but still I cannot act. The safe passage is, of course, the reason why Fortinbras has every right to be in Denmark when the royal family self-destructs and enables him to swoop in and claim Denmark for himself, which was all he wanted from the beginning. In contrast, Hamlet, who apparently had every reason in the world to do one simple, focused act, has managed to do nothing for weeks, and then, beginning with the execution of two college pals, to bring about the death of nearly everyone he ever loved.
Shakespeare was a master of writing brilliant plays with unlikeable people at the center.
I am a week behind on “The Hollow Crown” so don’t tell me what happened in “Henry IV, Part I” this week. (I’m kidding. I totally know.)
I’m wondering what other people thought of “Richard II,” the first installment of the series. I confess, in many ways, I enjoyed the Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s production I saw this summer more.
The acting in the Great Performances production was stellar. All of these actors are top names at the peak of their powers, and there were really no missteps. Ben Whishaw did a wonderful job as a spoiled, megalomaniacal, effete King Richard, and Rory Kinnear provided a powerful contrast as the active, take-charge but morally conflicted Bolingbroke. One of the best things about watching Shakespeare on film is that the audience can see the tiniest of flickers — of emotion, of eye contact — that add so much to a scene but would be lost to distance in a theater, and there were several of these rich moments in the production.
Where I had trouble was with the director. The heavy-handedness of the religious imagery, and the conversion of Richard into a Christ-figure, was too much for me and unnecessary to the play. In what way was Richard an innocent sacrifice? There was blame aplenty to be laid at his door which he fully acknowledges.
Turning Richard’s deposition and banishment to Pontefract into a parallel to Jesus’s trial and trip to his execution diminishes and distracts from what is actually occurring in the play. It makes the deposition scene overwrought and strange, with the crown hanging mysteriously in midair at one point. When Richard’s wife, dressed in blue, meets Richard as he is being dragged, barefoot and stumbling, through muddy passages by armed guards, the director is clearly drawing a parallel to Jesus’s meeting with his mother Mary, who is traditionally dressed in blue, on the road to his execution. However, that image jars with the reality of what is happening in the scene, which is the poignant farewell of a husband and wife, not a mother and son. Thus, a scene which ought to be sweet and tender becomes, frankly, a little creepy. In the final moment, the camera pans from Richard’s dead body, posed in a similar manner to the crucified Christ, up to an actual carving of Christ on the cross, hammering home the parallel in case we were too dense to get the point. Really, how could we have missed it?
There are enough reasons within the play itself to support the proposition that what Bolingbroke and his supporters are doing is wrong without reaching out for the idea that Richard is a Christ-figure. The constant pushing of that agenda by the director compromised the emotional power of the latter half of the play and diminished Richard’s own personal journey. If Richard is a martyr, what is he a martyr to? The answer is not clear from context. Yes, his fall is tragic but he’s not a martyr simply because he dies pitiably. Richard is a victim, surely, but that alone does not make him a martyr. He does not die willingly for a cause; he has given up on living long before his life is taken from him: there is a huge difference.
One of the keys to making this play work is that Richard must be human: flawed, difficult, unlikeable at times, but always human. Without careful attention to this, the production runs the risk of the audience turning against him and ceasing to care. If a production loses that audience connection with the main character — this play is entitled “Richard II” after all, not “How Harry Bolingbroke Became King” – it has failed. Ben Whishaw didn’t lose me because he was always fascinating to watch. The director lost me; in fact, he pushed me away, because he forgot that Richard had to remain a person, not a symbol, for me to care about him.
What did you think?
The music that’s been in my mind and in my heart lately:
Imagine Dragons, “Demons”:
You can’t help but feel this song all through you, body and soul. And it always, ALWAYS ends before I’m ready for it to end, if that makes any sense.
According to my daughter, the songwriter was contemplating what it might really have been like to be in Pompeii in the final moments. “How am I gonna be an optimist about this?” Love the beat, the voices, the words… all of it.
Atlas Genius, “If So”:
I don’t know what it is about this song, but it gets running on a repeat track in my head all the time and then I’m not happy until I hear it again. Try it. You’ll see.
The Mowglis, “San Francisco”
Is there another song on the radio right now that is more upbeat, more fun, more open-hearted? I don’t think so. Get ready to feel good!
What are you listening to?
Well, I learned that I don’t blog enough.
Seriously. Every day in August, and here it is September 17th and not a peep since Labor Day. What is it with me?
Because the thing I learned from blogging every day is that it’s actually not that hard to do. All I need to do is make a commitment and I can do it.
You let go of perfection (ha!); you let go of the idea that each piece has to be a well-crafted essay all polished and shiny; you let go of length and depth and concentrate on just getting something out there. And it can be fun!
I learned it really helps to have a list of topics to work from so I’m not having to come up with things to write about all by myself. Those suggested topics are also fairly broad, not too controversial, and easy to write about (three things you’ve done/not done on your bucket list… a few favorite books… places you’ve visited…). I need to bear that in mind when I think about the blog, instead of getting all tangled up in my own ideas.
Also, keeping it short is a virtue for a blog. I’m already over 200 words here, and really, what more do I have to say?
In conclusion, then, I’ll say: sorry for teasing you like that with all that blogging in August and then silence in September. I’m going to find some good prompts to help me keep this going on a more regular basis because I really enjoy it (and I hope you do too). I’m going to rework the balance in my life (again) and make this happen.
Anyone got any good ideas?
As a huge fan of Neill Blomkamp’s “District Nine,” I had high hopes for his recent film “Elysium.” Blomkamp understands that science fiction and fantasy, at their best, can be a powerful means to question and comment upon our society. Unfortunately, “Elysium” was disappointing to me in several ways, but there were a couple of scenes that succeeded in showing us, crystal clear, something important about the world we live in or the world we are making for ourselves.
One such scene is relevant to the holiday we enjoyed in the United States yesterday: Labor Day.
It occurs early in the movie, when the main character, Max, arrives at his job at a factory. He is late due to a broken arm, but he goes to work anyway because there are more workers than there are jobs and he doesn’t want to lose his place to someone else. His manager, seeing the cast, at first refuses to let him on the factory floor, but Max convinces him to let him go. The manager agrees, because Max is a good worker, but docks him more than the actual time he is late.
Once in place, Max struggles to do the work one handed. It is hard, physical labor; it’s hot and badly ventilated; and there are radiation signs and hazard labels everywhere. At one point, he slides a pallet of metal parts into the room where they will be irradiated and tries to shut the door, but the door jams because the pallet slipped. This now holds up the line. The manager comes over to find out what’s happening and orders Max to go into the room and fix it. Max is inwardly terrified: he knows the danger of that radiation and wants to refuse. But he also knows if he refuses, he’ll be fired. So he slides through the crack of the door and shifts the pallet, but before he can get out, the door slams shut and the radiation cycle begins.
Here the director cuts to the control room, where screens register ”biological matter detected” so we, the audience, understand that the system KNOWS that Max is in there… and that the process continues anyway.
Max receives a lethal dose of radiation which will kill him in a matter of days. The plant medic hands him some pain pills and sends him home. This, then, kicks off the main action of the film.
I can’t have been the only person who was horrified at this situation. Whether or not you’ve ever worked in a factory (I have, one summer during college), you know that this kind of thing just shouldn’t happen. It wouldn’t happen. When the door got stuck on the pallet, I waited for it to spring back open automatically — because that’s what happens in a factory. When that didn’t happen, I thought, Okay, now he’ll hit an emergency button and it’ll open — because that’s what happens in a factory. Then the boss threatened him with the loss of his job or peril to his life, and my horror with the situation grew. When the system sensed Max’s presence in the room and DID NOT SHUT DOWN, and Max lay on the floor convulsing in pain as his shift-mates pounded helplessly on the door, I was cringing in my chair. This just SHOULD NOT HAPPEN because there are fail-safes and emergency shutdowns and safeguards built into the line.
Max lives in a world without organized labor.
He lives in a world of unregulated free enterprise.
Sometimes, we need to be reminded of how it could be. Labor Day is a day set aside for us to remember.
Well, I made it!
Thirty-one days of blogging every day. I had great plans for this final post.
And wouldn’t you know it, I’ve got a migraine coming on.
So it’s not going to be what I wanted it to be, but here’s some of it.
I am so grateful to all of you who have come along on this journey with me, reading, liking and sharing your thoughts on my posts.
I am very grateful to those of you who have decided, based on what you found here, to follow my blog. I will try very hard to make it worth your while to stay. And next month, I promise I’ll stop by your blog and say hi!
I am grateful for the experience of writing every day. I have been a very erratic blogger up until now, and there’s always one excuse or another. But now I’ve seen that I can do this. And it can be fun!
I am grateful for the chance to learn that I can share aspects of myself and my experience and that doing so can build connections with others. It’s scary, putting yourself out there, and I’m glad that I did it this month.
So thank you. Thank you for coming along. Thank you for reading, liking, following, sharing, participating, and commenting.
Thanks for being here.