Looking Back

Monday, December 26, 2011
So looking back (and with a quick e-mail from my professor), I noticed that I had never posted the link to the fellow blog mentioned in a previous post. As a quick reminder, this blog was created as a connection between fellow book club members. This way they have something to record their thoughts and have an online list of the readings for the different months. The way I stumbled upon them was through their recent read of Macbeth and Genevieve's blog post about it. Here's the link for any who are interested on connecting with "Mothers Who Know"

Enjoy, and happy reading!

Final thoughts...

Monday, December 12, 2011
   Engaging Shakespeare ... If you missed it, I'd be rather confident in saying you missed out. It was a great event. I was a little disappointed by the fact that there wasn't much room for the art displays, but I believe that we were at least able to put together a nice display. A lot of people were crowding around and having a hard time seeing it all, but I think that they were able to at least enjoy it. My part of the art was mainly focused on my act by act sketches with my lesson plan theme picture located next to the lesson plan.
   I was quite pleased and somewhat surprised by how much I talked at the event. Not only with others, but about my blog and about my interpretation of a particular art piece. I was glad that people seemed interested to know more about the symbols that I had drawn about and the motivation behind it.
I believe that this project has enabled me to study Hamlet even further and to see some of the different themes as well as some of the different interpretations of each theme. For instance, Mason's theme of death in his lesson plan was very bleak and pessimistic, whereas I took it to be a simple pondering on whether or not death was really all that bad. It was also neat being able to see Averill's performance with three Shakespearean couples and the themes that those characters portrayed. This really helped me to see how Shakespeare was showing examples of problems that everyone can relate to.
   For my final Hamlet piece, I wasn't able to set it up due to a lack of room, but I wanted to portray a symbolic representation of how the further you study Shakespeare, the more you see and the more questions you ask. You begin to see the small complexities that he brings to his characters that makes you wonder how it applies to your life and how you relate to characters such as Ophelia, King Lear, and Miranda. I tried to represent the even greater threads of knowledge that come through the study and further look into Shakespeare.


   I hope I have been able to portray all of my learning through this blog and who knows, I may just keep posting. Sometimes its crazy where you find connections to Shakespeare! It has been a great semester and I will never look at Shakespeare the same again. He was truly an amazing writer who was able to capture the essence of human life and character into his plays. There is a reason why his name lives on.

Signing out for now...

Nature's storms...

Monday, November 7, 2011
As we start to read King Lear, I see several parallels to Macbeth. One of these is the reaction of nature to the deeds of men.

In King Lear, the daughters Goneril and Regan turn against the natural order of things - or in other words, they turn against their father. This upheaval of what you can call the natural affection causes nature to not only start behaving unnaturally, but it will also try to get back to a normal, or natural, state.

In Macbeth, there was the strange events in nature the night King Duncan was killed (an act against nature, as kings were believed to be divinely appointed at that time).

Lennox describes it in this way:

The night has been unruly: where we lay,
Our chimneys were blown down; and, as they say,
Lamentings heard i' the air; strange screams of death,
And prophesying with accents terrible
Of dire combustion and confused events
New hatch'd to the woeful time: the obscure bird
Clamour'd the livelong night: some say, the earth
Was feverish and did shake.

In the next act Ross talks with an Old Man about what strange occurrences had been going on:

"by the clock, 'tis day,
And yet dark night strangles the travelling lamp:
Is't night's predominance, or the day's shame,
That darkness does the face of earth entomb,
When living light should kiss it?

Old Man:
'Tis unnatural,
Even like the deed that's done. On Tuesday last,
A falcon, towering in her pride of place,
Was by a mousing owl hawk'd at and kill'd.

And Duncan's horses - a thing most strange and certain-
Beauteous and swift, the minions of their race,
Turn'd wild in nature, broke their stalls, flung out,
Contending 'gainst obedience, as they would make
War with mankind.

Old Man:
'Tis said they did eat each other.

They did so, to the amazement of mine eyes
That look'd upon't.

So it can't be any surprise that when King Lear's daughters turn against their natural affection towards their father, that strange occurrences start to happen in nature. And in this case, it comes in the shape of a storm.

The Earl of Gloucester:
      Alack, the night comes on, and the bleak winds
      Do sorely ruffle. For many miles about
      There's scarce a bush.

Duke of Cornwall:
      Shut up your doors, my lord: 'tis a wild night.
      My Regan counsels well. Come out o' th' storm.

In Macbeth, nature seemed to fight back. I don't think it was a coincidence that the first sign of Macbeth's downfall was the coming of the woods against him.

Third Apparition:
Macbeth shall never vanquish'd be until
Great Birnam wood to high Dunsinane hill
Shall come against him.

So, never having read King Lear before, I can't wait to find out if nature will rise up again, or if the events will be purely a man-made ending. I'll have to wait and see . . . 

Designing with Shakespeare

Wednesday, November 2, 2011
So as I've been talking with my professor, I've started thinking about my final project. At first I was thinking of completing a landscape design for each play that would represent different aspects and themes that are unique to that particular play. However, as I thought about it, I decided to take it one step further.

Stage design.

No, I'm not going to be building a set for each play.

I'm going to be comparing landscape design to stage design.

And then I'm going to do a landscape design for each play and talk about some of the aspects that could be represented on the stage and some that are unique to the landscape.

Maybe I'll do a set design too. Who knows. That would be a lot of work...

I'm not quite sure if people realize how much time and effort is put into a landscape design. When done right, each and every plant is placed specifically for its aesthetic properties, but also for its functional properties and how well it would do in the particular place it is in.

Some of the things that need to be considered for each plant that is placed:
   - maintenance requirements
   - light requirements
   - water requirements
   - color
      - the possibility and timing of flowers
      - the color of the foliage
      - the fall color and time of color change
      - the winter appearance of the plant
   - the texture of the foliage
   - the height, spread, and overall shape of the plant
   - how well it fits with all of the other plants in the area

Oh, and also the random facts about each plant. Like the fact that you shouldn't plant catmint if the owner has cats - or else it won't last very long.

Or if you plant a spruce tree at the end of a large patch of grass where the young kids are going to be playing nearby and falling in after their soccer ball.


Fortunately, though, for this design I won't have as many functionality problems as these are going to be more of a professional gardens style of design. That means it doesn't have to be super-low maintenance (the requirement of most home-owners today) and that it won't hold the usual requirements of recreation area, outdoor entertainment, and/or pet-friendly.

So, I've been asked to go through a simple watered-down explanation of the process of completing a design, so here goes.

      First, you meet with the client. Walking around the yard, you get a general feel for the existing conditions and then you talk about everything. What kind of style they want. Whether they have pesky neighbors they want to block out or have a problem with mud in parts of their yard. You talk about what they would like to see in their yard and if there are any particular things they would NOT like. You get a feel for what they need in their yard as far as functionality goes (things like whether they host a lot of outdoor parties, need space for kids to practice their volleyball, or if they have a passion for gardening). This is the time when you really need to get to know the client so that you know what they want and so you can know how best to make their dreamscape come true.

      Second, you get out your tape measure. You measure the wall, the windows, the tree spreads, the width of the patio - pretty much everything and more. Doing my first design I was amazed at exactly how much there is to measure. The possibilities are endless! This is also when you find out the location of the electric lines, water lines, and anything else you don't want to dig into. You will also need to get the measurements of anything that will stay in your design (such as trees, fountains, patios, and walkways) and you will have to get to know conditions such as prevailing winds, sunlight direction, and soil conditions.

Fortunately, though, I'm not designing an existing lot, so I won't have to deal with clients or with measuring out existing features.

      Third, you draw up a basic structural design. This will be where you decide where you want what features in what areas (like the main entertainment area right next to the play area for the kids so that parents can watch the younger ones). Going off of this, you designate a specific shape for each area and decide what kind of layout it will be (such a curvilinear design, diagonal design, etc.)

      Fourth, you need to choose all of the plant material and hardscape material. Most of the time there will be a general idea of what you want (a.k.a. - what the client wants), but this is the step you put it all together and figure out all of the minute details for everything. This step is very important and takes a lot to place everything just right (as I mentioned before). This step can really make the difference between a design that looks good for a couple years and then starts to fall apart and the design that continues to look great with the care (or more usually, the lack of care) from the client.

      Then finally, the part that sells the design - the graphics. You need to do all the drawings and present it in a way that will be pleasing to the client and that will satisfy and fit their personal style and expectations. It also has to realistically represent what will be in the yard and the overall feel of the finished product. On some designs the graphics portion of the design may be the most time-consuming of the steps.

So there you have it. Landscape Design 101.

A lot more complex than simply planting a couple of flowers, huh?

Learning in the Light of Dr. Burton

Monday, October 31, 2011

      This post is for my Shakespeare class and  mainly for my professor. The contents should not make you feel like I am simply posting because I am assigned to. Another warning - this is a self-evaluation so I will seem very self-centered and critical. I would instead read a different post in which I actually discuss Shakespeare instead of discussing myself.

Learning Outcomes:

   Shakespeare Literacy:    
      As I think about all that I have learned over the summer, I realize that Shakespeare has really come alive to me. I don't only think of Shakespeare as a playwright, but as I think about him, I think of different pieces of literature that he has expressed his ideas and his creativity through. Before the semester I had read all of the pieces that we read in class, but I felt (especially in the case of the Tempest and Love's Labour's Lost) like I had simply glanced over them and hadn't put in the time and effort to make the plays come alive to me until this semester.

   Analyze Shakespeare Critically:
      I am now more fully able to analyze the plays now through examining the text and different productions as well as through other styles and pieces of literature being read during Shakespeare's time. This is demonstrated in my blog posts, especially the one about Macbeth (post). I have been able to analyze some of the deep messages that are taught in the plays and have realized that the more I learn about these plays and about Shakespeare, the more I realize I can never finish analyzing his works. I have explored many themes in Shakespeare including the religious symbolism in the Tempest, the play within a play in Love's Labour's Lost and in Hamlet, and the amazing images Shakespeare adds to convey his messages in The Winter's Tale, Hamlet, and in The Tempest.

   Engage Shakespeare Creatively:
      I have not had many chances to perform Shakespeare, but I have been able to draw up a few landscape designs that would visually and symbolically represent the individual play and convey some of the themes found in the particular play. I was thinking of doing something different for my final project though, as it has to be a group project. Yet, this hasn't stopped me from trying to focus more on the imagery that Shakespeare uses in his plays and the important messages that these images portray.

   Share Shakespeare Meaningfully:
       I have also been able to spread my knowledge and develop my writing skills through online sources, such as blogging, goodreads, and twitter. Before this class, I had never used blogging or twitter and had never written a review on goodreads.  Now, halfway through the semester I have learned different techniques to not only use blogspot, but to also create an attractive, appealing blog and posts. I still have more to learn about twitter (to shorten my comments and punctuate correctly, or incorrectly), but I have started tweeting and am learning a great deal. I have also posted a review of Macbeth on goodreads and am more confidant than before. Also, doing a blog search through google, I found a blog of LDS women who have formed a book group in order to continue learning. They just finished reading Macbeth and I was able to leave my comments and have a great discussion with them about it. I got their permission to link to their post, where you can see some of my comments. I feel that I have learned a great deal in different methods of writing and sharing through technology today.

Self-directed Learning:
      Through this class, I have actually been excited to post on my blog. This is not just because I like getting my assigned post out of the way, but it gives me a chance to go back over the play that we have been reading and to look at it in different ways that I can then portray in my post. I love being able to comment on others' blogs as well as seeing their comments on my own posts as it helps me to better develop the ideas present there. I have found a real sense of accomplishment through this class and through my discoveries and blogging about Shakespeare.

Collaborative and Social Learning:
      I believe that everyone in my group has brought great insights into our discussions as they each have different aspects of the play that they are looking at. Speaking of the members in my group, I would mention Austin for some great insights in class, and Mason for his great comments and conversations he starts on posts. Justin likes to sit back and listen to our conversation, but when he puts in his two bits, they are usually well thought out and insightful. I would describe Gabe as fitting the clown role through his bringing a lot of humor into the group, which is good because it usually gets us to converse in the first place. It has been fun getting to talk with others about these plays. I was also able to talk with my mom about Hamlet as she is taking a writing class and is reading it for the first time. I referenced her to my blog in order to help her get some thoughts forming concerning Hamlet's relationship with Ophelia (the topic of her essay).

Looking Ahead:
      As I mentioned earlier, I know that learning about Shakespeare is never complete. I used to wonder how there could be English majors who study Shakespeare all their lives as I thought that there would be a point in which you would simply know everything. I now know how these great works can lead to a life full of study and learning. As I also mentioned earlier, I was going to complete a landscape design of each play, but as it is a group project, I have now thought of playing a game for my final project. It is no ordinary game, but is called In the Manner of the Adverb. We would film it of course, or perform it in front of the class. It would include several different scenes from various plays and will have each scene played out in the manner of the adverbs. I believe that this will bring greater insight into the particular scenes as you will be able to look at the scene from a different perspective. What will change and what will stay the same as Prospero tells Miranda of their past in an excited manner. What about a spontaneous Hamlet? Sure, he is in some scenes, but would it fit in his 'to be or not to be' speech? I believe that this will give a greater understanding of each character and will show how there are several different interpretations of character, but that their actions usually fit with a certain attitude of character.

Connecting with others... through Macbeth?

So this week we have been challenged to go beyond our own little bubble and try to connect with others through our personal Shakespeare play. This, for me, means Macbeth.

Now I was thinking, how can you connect with someone through Macbeth? ...

      ... So... have you had any run-ins with evil Scottish tyrants lately? ...

      ... So... what do you think about murdering for your own personal gain? ...
   Not quite right...

      ... So... how well do you know Shakespeare? ...
   Eh, getting closer, but the nerd factor is still high.

I tried convincing my brother to come see Macbeth with me (you can check out my previous post to see how I liked it) yet, he wasn't all too interested. He thought it was going to be a bunch of men in tights.

Not exactly.

The closest thing was a kilt. I told him about the action-packed plot, but he said "so, pretty much everyone just dies." Close, but not everyone dies, or we'd have a Hamlet repeat. I was able to share with him, however, about Macduff and his challenge to Macbeth. I was able to explain that Macduff wasn't simply trying to take over the throne hemself, but that he was revenging his family's cruel murder. That got him thinking, but he still refers to Macbeth as 'the play where everyone kills each other'.

That wasn't the most thought-provoking or positive message.

So then with my boyfriend Ian. He was thoroughly interested in Macbeth after watching the trailer for the Patrick Stewart production of Macbeth. So, we watched it together and his curiosity was piqued. Then, reading my previous post in which I compared Macbeth to Oedipus, we were able to have a great discussion concerning the role of fate and whether or not Macbeth could have escaped the witches' prophecy or if the only thing that sealed it was his hearing about it. This helped me to solidify my own opinions concerning Shakespeare's tragedies.

And on the topic of fate...

As I tried to expand my horizons and reach out to people I don't know, I stumbled upon a blog that contained a review of Macbeth and broke it down into distinct themes that were found therein. This blog was perfect as it was created by a group of women who share my faith and who have formed a book club in order to further their learning. I was able to comment about some of the points that this fellow blogger made about the relevance of the themes today and she was flattered that I had found their site. We really were able to connect with our similar beliefs as well as through our shared goal for continual learning. I was also amazed at some of the connections she had made on the religious aspects of Macbeth which I had never thought of before. It was great being able to see our common interest and viewpoints as well as to learn from each others' different insights.

So... am I just rambling on now? I think so. I just want to say that if anyone has any thoughts concerning Macbeth, or needs any sort of help understanding it, feel free to ask. It's really all together that we figure things out.

The Fall...

Wednesday, October 26, 2011
      Reading through the final words of the Tempest, Prospero does something that can be looked on as strange - he gives up his power and asks the people for compassion on him to take him back to Naples.

      I asked myself why he would do this and why Shakespeare would end his play with the submission of his all-powerful character and I kept coming back to the idea of agency. Throughout this whole play, Prospero has been seen as a god-like character in that he goes around watching and leading all the others. Through this, he tries to reveal each person's true character - that of the scheming Antonio, the true Ferdinand, and the plundering Stephano. Yet, at the end when he unveils everyone's true characters he does not pass any judgement. Then, with his last words he asks the people if by their own good will they will free him from his prison (the island) and take him back to Naples.

      I believe that in this play, even though it is filled with spectacles and unusual happenings, the true principle is the power of choice. Antonio chose to scheme and plot to kill the king. Gonzalo chose to be a loyal subject. Ferdinand chose to marry Miranda, and Caliban chose to follow a new master that led him to attempted murder. Prospero is the one who unveils these acts, but realizes that he cannot then force his power upon people to take him back to his named freedom. It is their choice to free him and to accept him as who he is - not an all-powerful being, but as an old man whose strength is weak and whose choices were only meant to help everyone.

      Now my charms are all o'erthrown, 
      And what strength I have's mine own,

      Which is most faint: now, 'tis true, 
      I must be here confined by you, 
      Or sent to Naples. Let me not, 
      Since I have my dukedom got 
      And pardon'd the deceiver, dwell

      In this bare island by your spell; 
      But release me from my bands 
      With the help of your good hands: 
      Gentle breath of yours my sails 
      Must fill, or else my project fails,

      Which was to please. Now I want 
      Spirits to enforce, art to enchant, 
      And my ending is despair, 
      Unless I be relieved by prayer, 
      Which pierces so that it assaults

      Mercy itself and frees all faults. 
      As you from crimes would pardon'd be, 
      Let your indulgence set me free.