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Category Archives: Education

Romeo & Juliet: My Very Own Personal Experience

The balcony scene

Romeo courts Juliet prior to their mutual display of stupidity.

I was going through some of my old files and came across this paper I wrote nearly sixteen and a half years ago. I was in a program at California Lutheran University called ADEP (Adult Degree Evening Program) where I was attempting to earn a Bachelor’s degree in . . . I don’t remember, but it was something like “Information Technology”. Unfortunately for me, the lower division classes were designed for eighteen to twenty year olds, and I was nearly 54 years old at the time. Much of it was boring and I was a bit miffed at having to slog my way through material, much of which I was quite familiar with.

At any rate, one of my classes was a performing arts class, which I really did enjoy, especially because it gave me the opportunity to spend some time on stage. Being somewhat of a ham, it was great fun. This review of Romeo & Juliet, which was the first (and, I believe, only) Shakespearean play I’ve attended, is the result of an assignment. Here, then, is that review in all its stupendously innocent glory.


 

Having never seen a performance of this play, and neither having previously read it, I was uncertain as to how I would pick a favorite character amongst the many. This was made even more difficult by my rusty Elizabethan English. Nevertheless, at curtain time (figuratively speaking, for there was no curtain) I sat attentively and pricked that portion of my brain devoted to my ears, straining to find meaning and direction in the activity taking place before me.

Romeo and Juliet were too easy. Besides, the actor doing Romeo played him with a type of boyishness which bordered on, shall we say, dweebiness . . . or perhaps a certain goofiness reminiscent of Jim Carrey as either dumb or dumber (I forget which role he played). Juliet was, of course, sweet and petite, but singularly uninteresting from my point of view.

Mercutio, however, was a character I liked immediately, even though most of the time I couldn’t be entirely certain I understood what he was saying. I do believe early on I caught a glimpse of at least one of his objectives. He spoke of “fine foot, straight leg and quivering thigh, and [especially, I assumed] the demesnes that there adjacent lie”[1]. Certainly, this is what I was most interested in when I was a young, impetuous man. This, then, I felt was one of Mercutio’s primary objectives; to get laid.

This isn’t to say he had no other objectives. Certainly, he wished to demonstrate his loyalty to Romeo and the Montague household, but my overwhelming feeling during the play was that, above all else, Mercutio wished to tear off a piece, if you will. All other objectives were subordinated to this overarching quest.

I can think of at least two major obstacles which stood in his way. The first was Romeo; this was, after all, his show. His obsession with Juliet dominated the play (how strange), and greatly cut into Mercutio’s stage time. The other obstacle, as I saw it, was Tybalt who (rather pointedly) ended Mercutio’s quest to achieve any of his objectives.

Mercutio’s tactic then was one of challenge and bravado. Perhaps, if Romeo hadn’t been such an insufferable dolt, Tybalt would not have gotten in the cheap shot which ended Mercutio’s presence in the play, rendering his tactic moot. Who’s to say? This has been happening for many hundreds of years now, and the result is always the same is it not?

Except for the fact that the seating was not designed for the comfort of a man temporarily crippled with a palsied foot, I enjoyed the play immensely. As I said, I had never seen this nor, in fact, any Shakespeare and it was quite enjoyable.

My two favorite characters where Mercutio and the Nurse. I thought the Nurse was played brilliantly, and I watched her closely. Her facial expressions and body language were superb. I also thought Mercutio played well. I wish that I had been a little closer so I could have seen both their faces more clearly.

As I, er, intimated above, I thought the actor who played Romeo made him out to be rather foolish. Since I have never seen this play performed by others, I don’t know how he has been interpreted previously. The impetuousness with which both Romeo and Juliet pursue their relationship and, ultimately, end it is reminiscent of today’s teenagers and reminded me of teen love affairs and the high rate of teen suicide. Perhaps, then, Romeo was played as he should have been. A bumbling numbskull marginally responsible for the death of one of his best friends, not to mention himself and his putative love. Call me callous, but I found him singularly unsympathetic. I might have killed him myself, if Will hadn’t saved me the trouble.

Thanks for the tickets. I could go on. I find flowery language grows on me and, given time, could no doubt tell you of my experience in rhyme, perhaps even in heroic couplet. However, this is ADEP and I’m injured, a mere shadow of my former self. I end, anon.


[1] I looked this up on the Internet. Hey! Like I said, my Elizabethan English is rather rusty, so I thought I’d check and see if the lines jibed with what his actions said to me. Indeed.

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The Rise of Homo Avarus

Homo Avarus - Greedy Man

Any Doubt This is How it Will Play Out?

I think it’s time we recognized there is a new species of primate in the neighborhood. We, of course, are quite familiar with our own species, Homo Sapiens (Wise Man), currently recognized as the only non-extinct species of hominid in the genus Homo. However, recent events make it quite clear there is a huge number of so-called humans who are not “wise” at all; they are self-centered and, apparently, lacking in decency and empathy for anyone not exactly like them.

These people just elected the most unqualified, inept, and uniquely hateful man to the highest office in the land, President of the United States. Only a few days after the election, his “victory” is already resulting in a significant uptick in hate crimes and bullying. He is appointing some of the worst people to ever disgrace public office in our country, and he is planning on actions that will set our progress as a people back 50 years.

This is, of course, what was always meant by the slogan “Make America Great Again.” By great, we know the real meaning of that slogan to be “let’s take America back to the 1950s, when people we don’t like (those of color, members of the LGBTQ+ community, disabled people, and other “others”) were relegated to the background and expected to stay there and quietly accept their positions as second-class citizens . . . or not.

What he has proposed, and what he is no doubt beginning to set into motion will be the greatest reversal of progress on human rights within our country we’ve seen in quite some time. His administration is already preparing legislation that will make it possible to discriminate against people because of their “religious objections” to their lifestyle. He’s floating names of Cabinet posts and department heads that are an absolute nightmare for anyone with a working brain and a conscience; Ben Carson for Secretary of Education, Sarah Palin for Secretary of the Interior. It feels almost hyperbolic to take those appointments as serious and well-reasoned.

I suspect he, and those he will have in his administration, have been emboldened by people who are either reasonably clueless or who are so selfish and incapable of empathy, they just don’t care how much destruction this man will wreak on the most vulnerable. As long as they get back their “sense” of control and privilege, how it affects others is of no consequence.

Although I think this represents a tragic misunderstanding of how interrelated we, as both citizens and non-citizens, are in keeping the economy strong and growing, a singular lack of empathy seems to be the driving force behind his popularity and (what I hope will turn out to be) pyrrhic victory. For these reasons, I suggest we recognize a new species of human, one that is solely concerned with itself and only interested in the well-being of others if it directly affects their safety and comfort. In other words, Homo Avarus; greedy man.

Little do they know they’ve been massively punked, and are about to find out just what kind of carnival barker they’ve put into the most powerful position on Earth. It’s going to get ugly, and it’s little consolation to know that those who enabled this man are going to pay a heavy price as well. Stay strong, my brothers and sisters. I was hopeful we were going to move forward, but that is clearly not the case. We are now faced with what may be the greatest challenge of our lives, certainly of my nearly 70 years on this planet. We need to figure out how not merely organize, but also how to educate and how to teach ourselves and others to sift through the mountain of garbage that passes for information and reporting via the mainstream media and even much of the virtual media we consume via Facebook and Twitter. We have an enormous job facing us, one I don’t expect to see the result of in my lifetime. <sigh>


How Do You Talk To Children?

Came across this on Facebook and wanted to share it. I have seen adults doing these very things; in fact, I believe I’ve been guilty of it myself, though I make every effort to be engaged with children, especially my own.

I recently attended a new school orientation, as my 12-year-old is beginning 7th grade and it is her first encounter with middle school – we chose to keep her in her elementary school through the 6th grade, which we believed was useful for her special needs. I was very encouraged by the welcoming and uplifting tone everyone at the school took when dealing with the children. Better yet, my daughter’s 1st grade teacher is now the Director of Student Services at her middle school, and my wife told me she’s the only teach she had who didn’t complain about our daughter. Encouraging.

Take a look at this video and see if you recognize anyone; yourself or your child’s teachers or some of the administrative staff at any school. They’re not all like this, not by a long shot, but it’s important to keep in mind how easy it is to dismiss children and affect them in ways that will stay with them; possibly for their entire lives.


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