2014 11 05 16.33.50 Perspective

For my entire life (well, since my feet stopped growing, anyway), I have suffered the woes of having big feet. Size 11s do not grow on trees. And sometimes, a shoe that looks cute in a size 7 or 8 looks ridiculous when stretched out to be big enough for us big-footed ladies.

Imagine my delight in the discovery that in the right setting my feet actually look, dare I say it? Petite? Well, when compared to my boys’ size 15 feet in their brand-new size 15 basketball shoes, they do.

I was telling a group of people the other day that when I post on the Internet, I try to think about whether or not I would be willing for my words (or pictures) to show up on the front page of the New York Times. So often, what I post is probably silly to many, but if I don’t mind the world knowing about that particular silliness, I don’t mind posting it. And while my children would probably hate it if their feet were splashed all over the news, they are going to die of parental-induced embarrassment any day now, anyway, so there’s not much I can do about that. (Srsly, that’s a real thing. I looked it up on the Internet, and you can believe everything you read there).

If the NYT question doesn’t work for you, maybe ask yourself “Would I want my grandma to read this?” or “Would I want my children to read this about me some day?” Whatever you the question, I think it’s useful to ask yourself SOMETHING before posting. Too often I see people on Twitter or Facebook saying the dumbest, most unkind things and I wonder if they really thought before they posted. Words do have consequences, and putting them in perspective — would I want these words to be the one thing I’m known for — might just change your decision about whether or not you will actually post them. Perhaps NOT posting something is the kindest thing you can do for yourself or someone else.

I think the whole world needs a lot more kindness. And a lot more perspective.


Shakespeare so far — #ShakesMOOC and #FLShakespeare

As you may recall, I am taking two different online Shakespearean courses. One is called Shakespeare: On the Page and in Performance (hereafter referred to as ShakesMOOC), and the other is Shakespeare and His World (aka FLShakespeare).

Before everything gets away from me, I wanted to post some thoughts on the plays that I have read thus far. I’m trying to keep this brief, but then I start to get carried away, so please, bear with me.

Romeo and Juliet

512px Jules Salles Wagner Romeo and Juliet 232x300 Shakespeare so far    #ShakesMOOC and #FLShakespeare
By Jules Salles-Wagner (French, 1814-1898) (Bonhams) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
I read this originally in HS and was turned off by it, and thus Shakespeare in general. Reading it as an adult for ShakesMOOC, several things come to mind. First, seeing performances of it, especially Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo+Juliet from 1996, brought home the emotion of their tragedy more completely to me than just reading it.

I resisted the love story the whole through — I don’t have a lot of patience for the overly dramatic. To me, the leap they both make from being instantly in love to suicide being the only option in the face of obstacles is unfathomable to me. Maybe that makes me a pragmatic old fogey, but I kept thinking DUH. Use your resources! Better to live apart now and retreat a bit, to come up with a better plan later!

This will never be my favorite play, but I have a much better opinion of it now. This is, in part, because I am more comfortable with the language, and I came to it with a much more open mind than I probably did when I was a sophomore in high school.

The Merry Wives of Windsor

John S. Clifton   Buck Washing on Datchet Mead from The Merry Wives of Windsor III v   Google Art Project 250x300 Shakespeare so far    #ShakesMOOC and #FLShakespeare
By John S. Clifton (1812 – 1912) (British) (Artist, Details of artist on Google Art Project) [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
This was read for the first week of FLShakespeare. The focus of this class is a little more historical rather than literary — it isn’t dissecting the text as closely, and is using the play as a vehicle to draw out certain aspects of Shakespeare and his life and times.

MWW was a bit of a palate cleanser after the deep, dark depths of R&J, although a lot of the humor and puns went right over my head. I did enjoy it, but don’t’ have a lot more to say about it. That makes it sound forgettable, and it wasn’t, I just didn’t have as much of a connection with it as I do with the others that I’ve read.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

256px Edward Robert Hughes   Midsummer Eve 1908c 209x300 Shakespeare so far    #ShakesMOOC and #FLShakespeare
By Edward Robert Hughes (1851-1914) ( [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

This is one of two plays shared between the two classes. I read this for FLShakespeare about two weeks ago, and we are now starting on it for ShakesMOOC. I am a fan of the comedies. I don’t think (at least I hope!) that this isn’t because I am shallow or superficial and just want to laugh. Even the comedies have serious moments, and challenging themes and language. Just in the first videos of the ShakesMOOC class on MND, I’m learning about the topic of transformation, and how prevalent that theme will be, from the first scene to to the end.

I suspect I’ll have more to say on this play later.

Henry V

This is another one that I read for FLShakespeare. I read some of it by reading the text, and then checking comprehension with a modern text translation, and also watched parts of it on YouTube — various staged and film versions of it. I find myself a little surprised that I’m looking forward to watching a full filmed version. I thought the history plays were probably kind of boring, but….there is still plenty of humor throughout, and seeing it performed makes such a difference. I was also surprised (and yet, not…) to learn some cultural references that are familiar to me…are originally from this play. The phrase Band of Brothers — is a Henry V reference to what I have since learned is a fairly famous speech from the play.


512px Christian Köhler Othello 300x233 Shakespeare so far    #ShakesMOOC and #FLShakespeare
By Christian Köhler (1809-1861) (Koller Auktionen) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Finally, for tonight’s post, Othello.

Oh, Othello.

I’m not even sure what to say about this tragedy. To me, this is far more heartbreaking than R&J could ever be, I think because everything starts off between the two lovers in a way that I was much more willing to buy in to. The main thing I’ve gotten out of the class videos and subsequent discussions is that there really are no easy answers. Iago is evil, but I just can’t let Othello off the hook. Race is involved, but is it a racist play? One of the exercises we could choose to do is a close reading of a short passage. I managed to write 350 words without even trying analyzing just 4 lines of the play. So much detail and so many layers to dig through — so many interesting word choices that give so much meaning that a reader doesn’t even completely grasp at first. Or even second or third! It’s definitely a lesson for someone that might want to be a writer to consider how much weight different words can convey. A lie is one thing, but slander — so much more meaning wrapped up in that word. Slander isn’t just a falsehood, it’s a lie that is malicious and intended to harm.

Overall, I’m glad to have read this, and will be revisiting it for FLShakespeare in a few weeks. I know that it will continue to haunt me.

What’s Up Next

As I mentioned above, ShakesMOOC has just started discussing A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The Merchant of Venice is up next for FLShakespeare. I haven’t started reading it yet, but when I contemplate it, I keep getting Shylock conflated with Sherlock in my head. Which isn’t all bad, because then I get to think of Benedict Cumberbatch.

Randomly, on a Tuesday

1. This pencil cup. It is the dumbest design I have ever seen for a pencil cup, I’ve had it for years, and it has always annoyed me. I don’t know why I keep using it.

IMG 2542 Randomly, on a Tuesday

2. When we were out at the farm raking on Saturday, I hung out with Miles. I think he was happy to see me. He kept rolling around on the concrete in front of me, getting covered with corn dust and then wanting to rub up against me. It was great.

IMG 2510 Randomly, on a Tuesday

3. Speaking of raking. This damn tree dumped a ton of leaves, and as you can see isn’t done yet. I envision another Saturday of raking in my future. Yay.

IMG 2507 Randomly, on a Tuesday

4. I have broken my no-Christmas-music-before-Thanksgiving ban. Home Free AND Pentatonix BOTH have Christmas albums out. I regret nothing.

How to read Shakespeare, tips from a complete novice #flshakespeare #shakesmooc

200 s 300x169 How to read Shakespeare, tips from a complete novice #flshakespeare #shakesmooc

  1. Don’t worry about the fact that you only understand about half of what you are reading.  (Eventually you’ll start to pick up some of it. Eventually)
  2. Listen to an audio version. (Lots of options on YouTube for free)
  3. Read it out loud. (This was easier to do when I was alone. When the family came home, it got weird)
  4. Read it in conjunction with a modern translation. (No Fear Shakespeare)
  5. Watch a production. (My Netflix DVD queue is getting very long)
  6. Remember that it isn’t as long as you might think.  A staged production is usually only about 3 hours!
  7. Read it again. (Repetition, repetition, repetition)

Friends on Goodreads know that I can crank out over 100 novels a year. Reading Shakespeare is requiring a pace somewhat (OK, a lot….) slower than what I normal use.

When I read my first Terry Pratchett book, I was underwhelmed. Then, I listened to one of his books as an audiobook and I was HOOKED. Completely. I needed to hear every word to get all of the humor and word play. I need to remember that ANY time I need to read something closely, reading it out loud, or finding an audio version, and following along with the text is going to be the way to go.

Clearly it’s working with Shakespeare. I’ve now read Romeo & Juliet, The Merry Wives of Windsor, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, plus the first three acts of Othello and and I’m in the third act of Henry V. All of that reading has included some version of listening or reading out loud.

I think Henry V is the hardest for me, so far, but I’m not willing to give up, and I’m not afraid to admit that part of my stubbornness stems from the fact that my reward will be watching Tom Hiddleston in The Hollow Crown: Henry V.



Am I smart enough? #flshakespeare and #shakesmooc

256px DickseeRomeoandJuliet Am I smart enough? #flshakespeare and #shakesmooc
Frank Dicksee [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
When I was in high school, we had to read Romeo and Juliet in 10th grade. (Oh help. That’s the same age as my offspring. o__O) My recollection was that it was excruciating. The language was too hard, it was boring, the characters were dumb, the movie we had to watch (Zefferelli!) was awful and embarrassing, and etc, etc, etc.

{We were to have read King Lear in 12th grade. I can guarantee you that I read enough to get a decent enough grade, but I’m pretty sure I never finished it, and thought it was pretty awful, too}

I was left feeling like I wasn’t smart enough for Shakespeare, that there was a club that I just wasn’t allowed to be in. But that was OK, because if the club didn’t want me, I didn’t want it, either.

Only…….of course……..I did, but I never found the right path to get myself in and feel successful.

Now that I’m a grown up, and recognize that yes, I really am smart enough, two different online classes have found me at just the right time. Both are in their third week, but they are self-paced, and anyone can join in at any time.

The first is Shakespeare: On the Page and in Performance. Video lectures and roundtable discussions from an on campus class at Wellesley, combined with rehearsals and performances of various scenes from the readings make up the coursework. The class will cover 6 different plays, and I’m trying to take the experience fairly seriously — reading every word, watching all of the videos, participating in forum discussions the best I can, without letting it take over my life. The professor’s love and knowledge of Shakespeare is very infectious. He and his students are having a lot of fun, and it’s impossible not to respond to that.

The second class is Shakespeare and his World, and I’m enjoying it as well. I’m not working quite so hard at participating, but I have read both of the first 2 plays (between the two classes, I will end up reading 12 different plays). Each video in the class introduces an artifact relating to Shakespeare or his life and times and the professor uses the object to spark a story and of some kind about, well, Shakespeare and his world.

As of today, I’ve read three plays. The Merry Wives of Windsor. A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

And: Romeo and Juliet.

And you know what? It was all kinds of awesome.