Maybe you’ve seen Shakespeare in the news recently, with the whole “refudiate” situation and Sarah Palin.  While I did hear about that, the most important reference to Shakespeare is my new class on post-1603 Shakespeare.  I’m terrifically excited, and am in love with my new Bevington collected works.  It’s huge, and takes up 75% of my messenger bag, but it’s beautiful.

We’re reading Othello (and seeing an outside performance August 1), Hamlet, Macbeth, and King Lear.  The professor’s area of interest is in gender and sexuality studies, and so the overarching theme will be *drumroll* gender roles and sexuality!  I find that extremely interesting, as I take every opportunity to explore women’s roles in antiquity and the Middle Ages and am a proud feminist myself thanks to Gustavus.  (No, I wasn’t indoctrinated, or anything, but I experienced how my female friends and classmates view the world as professionals, independent people, gay, straight, bisexual, Christian, atheist, etc.  Plus, the red “This is what a Gustavus feminist looks like” didn’t hurt either…  I still have fond memories of a male poli sci professor speaking to the senior class wearing one of these under his robes and flashing it like Clark Kent becoming Superman.)

Anyway, it will be a nice change from SQB and an uninformed, interruptive instructor.

I’ve begun to read the first play for Monday, Othello.  It’s so beautiful, and the marriage between Othello and Desdemona begins better than any marriage I’ve read about recently (The Miller’s Tale, The Franklin’s Tale, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Lanval, etc.).  Those marriages begin either with the man in total domination over the woman, the woman in complete control over the man, or a marriage of “equals” to the depressed extreme as in the marriage between Averagus and Dorigen.  Othello and Desdemona love each other in the Christian way and in Venus’ way.  It’s true love mixed with passion.  Of course, Iago comes to stir those flames of passion, creating doubt and destruction by the end, but the beginning is good, right?  The issues of the Moor’s bestial qualities corrupting the pure, white, Venetian virtue of Desdemona is interesting.  (“Even now, now, very now, an old black ram / Is topping your white ewe.”  Othello, 1. 1)  Disturbing, but interesting.  Language is carefully used to convey meaning, and I think my maturity since last reading any Shakespeare, my viewing of several plays last summer, and the Bevington’s notes all make me very aware of language.

Chasseriau's Othello and Desdemona in Venice, 1850

And that brings me to a nice stopping point before I go on another lecture about the importance of the text and construction of language…  To sum up, the text is important.  The author uses it carefully as a whole work and in pieces, ultimately creating a text larger than the sum of its parts.  You should appreciate the text.  Please?

Wherein I spake of most disastrous chances,
Of moving accidents by flood and field,
Of hair-breadth ‘scapes i’ the imminent deadly breach,
Of being taken by the insolent foe
And sold to slavery, of my redemption thence
And portance in my travels’ history.

But words are words; I never yet did hear
That the bruised heart was pierced through the ear.
Othello, 1. 3 (both)

I understand a fury in your words,
But not the words.
Othello, 4. 2

Movie note: The Kenneth Bragnagh Othello is breathtaking, with Laurence Fishburne as Othello and Bragnagh as Iago.  Stage Beauty with Billy Crudup and Clair Danes focuses on the staging of Othello just as women were being allowed on the stage.  For a true and good version of Othello, pick of Bragnagh.  For a commentary on the gender roles of Renaissance England and the evolution of staging, Stage Beauty is entertaining.

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In the spirit of the wonderful new film, Toy Story 3, my roommate and I had a long discussion over dinner one night about toys we played with and toys the current generation has.  I remember having a large, blue, plastic Fisher Price easel, which helped to train me as the best artist in my first and second grade classes.  (Sadly, the artistic ability and perfectionism ruined any future career plans in that field.)  I had actual wooden blocks, Legos which were not from special $200 sets that boxed one into building one particular thing, Barbies, My Little Ponies, a plethora of stuffed animals, an American Girl doll with furniture made by my grandfather, honest-to-God real Golden Books, and King’s Quest games which required my dad to type instructions instead of pointlessly pointing and clicking.  Ryan also had many of the toys listed above, including a few race cars and action figures.  These toys fueled our imaginations, and enabled us to spend hours and hours by ourselves, creating new worlds and fantastic relationships among our toys.  Who says a teddy bear and a Barbie can’t date?  What do you mean that a Lego house can’t live inside the plastic refrigerator?  Why can’t Kirsten be the shepherdess of the ponies?

Kirsten, my American Girl Doll

High Flier, my favorite My Little Pony of all time

Now, the world seems to be filled with cheap imitations of the toys I remember.  I’m hard-pressed to find a quality kickball or set of blocks in this day and age; believe me, I’ve tried.  Everything seems to either run on batteries, talk, or need a television.  What happened to quality counting for something?  Despite the feminists’ understandable rage against Barbie, and I’m including myself in that group most of the time, Barbie is an excellent role model.  Her multitude of career paths foster creative thinking and problem solving, as well as show young girls that women can be astronauts, military personnel, and doctors.  Sure, there are the usual cheerleaders, teachers, and fashion models, but there’s a good balance of “independent” and “strong” female careers and supposed Barbie personas which blend in with the “soft” and “feminine” options.  I am going towards a career as a teacher, myself, which fits right into that stereotypical female career range, but for a time during my childhood, I could imagine myself as a politician, a firefighter, and a CEO through my Barbies.  Not to mention, they had fabulous clothes and furniture.  My allowance usually went into acquiring new clothes and pieces for the house I’d create under my mom’s desk.  I even set up a “shop” in one of Barbie’s cases, creating the hangers out of pipecleaners and tags out of small, cut pieces of tape.  (Of course, I stopped playing with Barbies by 1996, so I don’t think any of the scandalous costumes had surfaced yet.  And Bratz?  Don’t get me started…)

Australian Barbie, my first "nice" doll in my copious collection and an example of the kinds of Barbies I chose and played with as a child

I’ve made the decision to limit my future children’s exposure to commercial Dora video games and dumbed-down versions of the toys I once had.  Nothing I buy or create for my child will be a cut-and-paste scenario; the fun in being a child and in playtime is that anything is possible.  I wouldn’t have been the person I am today without such a wonderful, creative childhood, and I am determined to forbid any toys from boxing in my children.

Bridal Beauty My Little Pony, my second favorite MLP, often cast as High Flier's mommy

Long live playtime, and thanks to all the dedicated toymakers out there who understand the importance of a well-crafted and simple toy.

Or play with a toy...

Today I flew back to Washington from Oklahoma, with a connection in Denver.  The trip was fairly uneventful (as opposed to the trip in May), except for several minutes’ delay on both flights.  I sat next to a nice, if very talkative and, erm, open woman on the way to Denver.  She was going to visit her best friend who lives in Denver and who has a house in Las Vegas and who was her best friend since they were 12 (she’s 57) because it’s a short trip and her husband is on a transplant list and so can’t travel but who does support her going back to school and who had gone to Oahu and Cancun with her.  (Yes, this is what the plane ride was like.  Now back to your regularly scheduled grammar rules.  But, really, I could have had someone like this.)  I felt sorry for several people on the second flight who had been on standby.  They were seated and ready to go, but the plane was refueled, meaning it was overweight.  So the United staffers pulled these standby passengers off the plane.  I can’t even imagine that.  I think I’ve been on standby once, and I was a mess.  I went around tracking down another flight because my initial one had been oversold.  How cruel to yank someone out of a plane they’d already settled into!  Is there really that big of a weight difference between a mostly full flight and an actually full flight?  Jonah Hill was on Leno the other night, and pointed out that he can’t see the difference between a slightly inclined seat and an upright seat or between having an iPod on and having it off.  He’s right; would one of these minor changes really make a difference?  If they do, we have a larger problem to worry about if iPods can bring down the plane.  (Video of this coming potentially soon.  Or whenever I can find it on YouTube.)

The real highlight of my trip was probably the Sketch to Screen exhibit at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art.  I went with my friend, Grace.  It was an amazing collection of movie memorabilia.  The green dress, the green dress from Atonement, the flying dress and dinner dress from Titanic, Maximus’ armor from Gladiator, Queen Elizabeth’s purple gown from Elizabeth: The Golden Age, the drapes dress from Gone with the Wind, Atticus Finch’s glasses and briefcase from To Kill a Mockingbird, and Wolverine’s outfit from X-Men, among others.  I loved the dress from Queen Christine (must rent that, for the Swede in me) and those Titanic dresses.  Titanic was the film that made me fall in love with films.  I think it was the first movie to be covered in depth by the press when I was old enough to appreciate it.  I remember thick articles about filming in Newsweek and Time, along with my girlie magazine of choice at the time, Seventeen.

"I saw it in the window, and I just had to have it."

I may not have the talent to design gowns or to paint pictures, but I think I have an appreciation for art and workmanship.  Costumes help to create the mise-en-scene for a film, especially a period film, and say so much about each character.  In Shakespeare in Love, for example, Viola wears several amazing costumes for each type of occasion: wedding, Greenwich, church, ball, and everyday, not to mention her cross-dressing outfit for Thomas Kent.  Shakespeare has one deep teal outfit for the duration of the film, with one change when he plays Romeo.

This exhibit reminded me why I love films, and especially why I love period films.  Seeing firsthand how and why something was made for a particular film, actor, and scene enhances my awe for the industry.  For a good article on the best film costumes, check out Time here.

Now to bed.  I’ve gotten into two novels, and I’d like to finish at least The History of Love before classes resume on Monday.  Woo-hoo…  5AM wake-ups!  Or something.

I’ve been very absent from the blogging world for a while, and a lot has happened since I last wrote.

I was very emotional about the whole family thing last time, as anyone could probably see, mostly because as children we tend to remember the hurtful stuff and not the wonderful bits.  I truly miss my extended family, and really want to meet my cousins’ new(ish!) spouses and children.  The last time I saw most of my extended family, excluding those who were living in Texas around the same time we were, was when I was very young.  I think I was 10 or 11, while my closest cousin was 17 or so.  Add to those uncomfortable memories the fact that I think some of them think I’m having a romantic relationship with or am sleeping with my roommate (which I should point out, I’m not, as he’s a brother to me and anything more than that would be, uh, awkward to say the least).  It wound up being impossible to do, anyway, as my Latin final was in the very last final exam time, ending at 6:30 pm the night before the party.  I somehow doubt that I would have been good company after all that cramming, a long flight, and probably very little sleep…

As I believe I mentioned before, I was accepted into the MA programs in Medieval Studies / Medieval and Renaissance Studies / Medieaval Studies at St Andrews, York, and Durham.  I finally accepted DURHAM!  I’m so excited and really can’t wait to get enrolled and find out where I’m living and if I got financial aide, etc, etc, etc.  It’s just such a beautiful place and I really feel like I’ll fit in well, especially since I’ve been corresponding with the girlfriend of my dad’s colleague’s son (got all that?) who is currently at Durham.  I know what I need to work on and how I need to prepare, which is why I’m determined to work my butt off this coming term at Washington.  I know that those grades and that transcript aren’t really for anything but to satisfy my own incurable desire for knowledge, but I think they’ll help me to jump into a master’s schedule.

Speaking of UWash, spring quarter starts tomorrow today!  If I can get all the signatures I need from my professors and departments, I’ll be taking two English classes (Middle English and Chaucer) and a history colloquium (Medieval Outlaws).  I’m so amazingly excited.  Really.  I mean, medieval outlaws?!  A class to just focus on the late medieval writer Chaucer?!  A class where I can learn to read Middle-freaking-English and the original Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Piers Plowman, and Chaucer?!  My brain is totally going to explode, in a good way!

Let’s see, on the film front, I’ve been using my Netflix membership wisely and have seen some great movies in the past month or so, and more in theaters.  Here’s my list of films and if they’re starred, they’re worth seeing (in my opinion):

  • Alice in Wonderland (3D)
  • How to Train Your Dragon*
  • The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus
  • Up in the Air*
  • Fantastic Mr. Fox*
  • A Serious Man*
  • Rebecca (Hitchcock, 1940, one of my new favorite films AND books!)*
  • Northanger Abbey (2000s, PBS/BBC)*
  • The Usual Suspects*
  • Sherlock Holmes*
  • Avatar*
  • Precious*
  • The Hurt Locker*
  • The Informant!*
  • Cinema Paradiso (complete with the cutie from Like Water for Chocolate!)*
  • Mulholland Dr. (* if you’re ready for a VERY distorted film that will make you wonder, “What the heck was that about?!”)
  • Hunger*
  • Unbearable Lightness of Being*

I’m eagerly awaiting The Princess and the Frog and An Education.  I should mention that Northanger Abbey up there has the fantastic Carey Mulligan in a supporting role.  As far as the theater films go, I am so excited for Clash of the Titans, Robin Hood, and Sharpe’s 16 (I have the episodes 1-15 at home, and admit that British history under Wellington is much more interesting when including Sean Bean).  I also should mention that I probably will have some kind of intellectual orgasm from the new Robin Hood, which is unusual for me.  I loved Elizabeth and Shakespeare in Love and Queen Margot, but that’s not my focus.  I hated (with a firey passion) Troy and Alexander, though Ridley Scott is mostly amazing, with Gladiator and Kingdom of Heaven to show for it.  And I have two copies of each of those on DVD (theatrical and extended editions.  Shhh–no judging!  I like my DVD extras and commentary.  Plus, more Russell Crowe and buff Orlando Bloom is NEVER a bad thing!)

I’m going to leave it at that for the evening.  I actually have to be up in the morning.  Where did spring break go?!

Here are a few pictures to hopefully entertain you.  I was able to see my cousin, Scott, last week when he was in the Seattle area for his work with Microsoft.  We ate at the Crab Pot restaurant on the waterfront, which was amazing.  I haven’t seen him and the rest of his family since we first moved to Oklahoma City, and he and his wife, Laura, are incredible people.  I remember holding their two youngest boys in my arms after they were born and knowing then (at 13? 14?) I wanted to be a mom.  I even crosstitched an ark for their eldest, Matthew, when he was born.  I really can’t wait to see them almost grown up and to meet the youngest, Ryan, for the first time.

The second picture is from Veronica’s visit to Seattle.  We met at Pike’s Place Market on a Sunday, and then I met her on the UW campus for a Coke after class the next day, when this pic was taken.  Don’t worry…  Our expressions are completely normal.  We have a tradition of taking pictures with utensils in our mouths each time we get together!

Here’s to a happy spring to each of you!

Scott and me, March 2010

Traditional Picture of Veronica and Me, March 2010