Saturday, May 14, 2011

Event Blog #4

“The Sweet Happy Life of Francis Macomber”, a short story by Ernest Hemingway, details the excursion of an American couple on a safari in Africa and the assistance of their guide as the man goes hunting for lions. At first, he falters in cowardice, and his wife despises him for it; she shuns him in favor of their safari guide. Francis is inexperienced and timid, and allows his wife to control him because he doesn’t know what else he would do without her. Yet, when he asserts his dominance on the savannah, it’s like a switch is flicked on within him; he is suddenly mature and ready to take life by the horns, so to speak. It is with this peace of mind knowing that he finally has control over his life that he dies, which is the most honorable way a man could kick the bucket: while in complete and utter control of his life, doing something utterly heroic. His death came at the most convenient time, because he may or may not have lost his gumption when he returned to the US, thus Francis died with dignity and honor.

“Tell the truth but tell it slant--” by Emily Dickinson relates to this in that it asserts that we as humans cannot handle the whole truth at once; it must be a gradual build-up, else it could shock us and have dire consequences. This rang true for poor Francis Macomber, who understood everything in one quick moment, and didn’t know how to properly conduct himself afterward; thus, his wife caught on to the idea that he was finally going to assert himself in life, and killed him before he could decide to leave her.

“Success is Counted Sweetest”, another by Dickinson, also rings true for Macomber, because his relatively minor kill of buffalo was his only success for the trip, and yet it was sweet enough to change his entire perspective on life. This poem explains that those who do not experience success as much appreciate it the most when it happens to them. “I heard a Fly buzz--when I died” tells of a death predicted and seen long-coming, which could be related to Macomber in that the tone of the story was too tense for both he and his wife to escape intact; she was far too power hungry for him to walk away from this trip a better man, and her behavior, in a way, foreshadows Macomber’s eventual demise. “Because I could not stop for Death—”, details how Death came to pick up the narrator, who believed she was far too busy for death; this is an odd juxtaposition because the narrator and Death are a calm, collected couple throughout the poem, a direct contrast to the tense power struggle constantly occurring between Mr. and Mrs. Macomber.

For this event, I participated in the student-directed One Acts, the first bill, which consisted of the shows Chalky White Substance, The Problem, and The Dumbwaiter. Chalky White Substance dealt with the issues of betrayal and loved ones, which definitely shares themes with “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber”. It depicts a scene in the distant future, a snapshot into a gay relationship now that the female population has nearly dwindled to zero as a result of the chalky white substance that now covers the earth killing females. The government is a totalitarian one, and violation of the rules is subject to death; the elder man can sense the younger becoming more cheeky and bold, and rather than go down with him if he got caught (or, in Mrs. Macomber’s case, sticking around to see if Francis kept his newfound cajones upon their return to the US), he reports him to the government (rather than shooting him himself, like Mrs. Macomber). Both works detail scenes of betrayal, though while Francis died at the perfect moment in his life, the younger man in Chalky White Substance still had plenty to live for.

Event #5

For this event, I chose to attend the screening of The Bride of Frankenstein, a sequel to the movie Frankenstein, but not the novel, as the movie ended with Dr. Frankenstein alive as to allow the sequel to be produced. The movie follows the experiences of the monster as he desperately tries to find solace or shelter, yet is rebuked at every turn as a result of his appearance, while Dr. Frankenstein’s former mentor attempts to play God and craft the creature a bride. After speaking with Frankenstein’s mentor, the monster is on board with this plan, and even assists Dr. Pretorius in forcing Dr. Frankenstein to help him create the bride by kidnapping Elizabeth. The bride, however, is repulsed by the monster, and is a menace herself; seeing this, the monster urges Elizabeth and Dr. Frankenstein to escape while he sacrifices himself to make sure that the bride and Dr. Pretorius don’t cause trouble for anyone ever again. It is a moment of pure selflessness in which the monster realizes the abomination that has been created, and what needs to be done to prevent anything from progressing further.

This is similar to the novel Shane by Jack Schaefer; Frankenstein’s monster is a nomad, eventually settling with a kind blind man who teaches him the meaning of friendship, though he is eventually driven away from them. Shane is also a nomad who comes to live with Joe and his family, and also is driven away from them; when he is driven away, however, he makes the ultimate self-sacrifice and gets himself shot in a gunfight that was originally intended for Joe to battle. Both Shane and Frankenstein’s monster die protecting what they have come to cherish: a sense of friendship. Shane also is a loner like the monster, and though he loves Joe’s wife, does not get her in the end; the monster never gets his bride, either, though he deeply loves the idea of a companion and seeks one not only in the novel, but also in the film.

Both Shane and Frankenstein’s monster end up finding fulfillment in other people, though it is implied at the beginning of both pieces that people have hurt them before.

Event Blog #6

William Shakespeare is by and far one of the greatest playwrights of all time, and Twelfth Night is one of his most commonly known and parodied plays. Countless plays, films, and novels have been based off of the premise of this play, which revolves around the idea of true love and identity, and how misleading either of the two can lead to mass confusion. Viola has been separated from her twin brother, Sebastian, and both think the other dead, while the Duke of Orsino is in love with the only other royal in town, Olivia. Viola meets the Duke of Orsino and falls in love with him, though he is not aware of this as she is dressed as a male page and assumes her brother’s identity in order to get closer to him. He sends her to woo Olivia, who had been previously undeterred from her mourning period (she vowed to isolate herself for seven years after her brother’s death), yet Olivia’s poetic way of phrasing the Duke’s love causes Olivia to fall in love with the disguised Viola. Sebastian then happens to come into the equation, and everyone eventually comes clean about their true identities, and Olivia and Sebastian wed as well as the Duke and Viola. Despite the happy ending, the validity of Sebastian and Olivia’s love is still in air; their relationship seems shallow, based solely on appearances and Viola’s words. The Duke and Viola enjoy a slightly more stable relationship, as they got to know each other as friends first before beginning anything romantic (mainly because Viola was in drag for the majority of their relationship).

As an event, I chose to attend the student-written-and-directed musical Now! That’s What I Call a Musical by Brett Messiora. It parodied the high school of 90’s yore, where everyone was a stereotype that you could pick out on a sitcom. It was based on the premise that a new girl arrived to school, only to fall in love with the most popular boy in school, though the nerdy boy was in love with her. As the most popular boy in school had an argument with his girlfriend (predictably, the most popular and snotty girl), he ended it and asked out the new girl to spite his now-ex. The popular girl, realizing that the nerdy guy was in love with the new girl, forcefully adopted him as her new boyfriend. After a series of hilarious miscommunications, the new girl and the nerdy guy end up together, and there’s a lovely musical number to tie it all together.

Both of these pieces involved complications in love as a direct result of dishonesty; yet, in either work, the objects of affection may have been intimidated by an immediate declaration of love (except perhaps in Twelfth Night, where that sort of thing is grounds for a marriage) and things may not have worked out. The general message of these pieces seems to be that eventually, regardless of whatever complications that may arise while you pretend to be someone else in order to woo the love of your life, everything will work out perfectly in the end.


“A Father” by Bharati Mukherjee, “Serving up Hope” by Stephanie Shapiro, “Directions for Resisting the SAT” by Richard Hague, “First Practice” by Gary Gildner; each of these pieces have one thing in common: they all focus on expectations.

“A Father” by Bharati Mukherjee concentrates on the life of a traditional Indian man and the expectations he has for his daughter; while she excels at these expectations in her career, and is self-sufficient, she utterly fails his expectations socially. She is unattractive and rude, and though she wants a baby, she cannot find a father, so she obtains a sperm donation in order to get pregnant. This violates her father’s expectations of her future in regards to a family, and it ends violently for his daughter and her insolence concerning his expectations.

“Serving Up Hope” by Stephanie Shapiro details the restaurant in Baltimore that provides jobs for recovering drug addicts that are trying to get back on their feet. The couple that runs it defy society’s expectations to treat addicts like pariahs, turning down the idea that they are unfit to even share a street with and allowing them to do something as intimate as preparing food for people every day.

“Directions for Resisting the SAT” by Richard Hague is an instructive poem on how to, again, turn down society’s expectations to treat the SAT as the most important thing in the world, and rather, not prepare for it. This is an interesting concept, as one of the most common expectations of the general public is to do well in life, the root of which is hinted at being high SAT scores.

“First Practice” by Gary Gildner depicts the first practice with a new coach, during which the coach forms expectations of each player. The first practice is where first impressions are made, and those are the impressions that form the basis for the rest of the entire season.

Event Blog #3

For my third event, I attended Relay for Life at Loyola; it is a massive fundraiser that lasts for weeks and finally culminates in an all-night event during which groups circle a track in order to boost the battle against cancer. It was one of the most depressing events I attended all semester; having lost friends and family to cancer, the different presentations truly hit home. During the vigil in which everyone circled the track at once holding candles in silence, they played a Powerpoint on the wall with different pictures of victims of cancer; just the sheer volume of people there, all struck by the gravity of the disease, was both chilling and heart-warming at the same time. Hundreds of people attended, and it was wonderful to see such an enthusiastic turn-out for such a great cause. It was also a celebration of survivors, however, and a celebration of life in general, which perfectly related both to Frankenstein by Mary Shelley and to “One's-Self I Sing,” and “I Sing the Body Electric” by Walt Whitman. Both Whitman poems exalt the idea of humanity, and how glorious we are as human beings. He asserts that life is one of the most precious things one can have, and that we should celebrate everything about it, from the wonder of our bodies to the miracle of the way our minds work. While “I Sing the Body Electric” is the more broadly directed poem, “One’s-Self I Sing” is meant to be a celebration of one’s own body, and how one should truly celebrate their own life before they begin to celebrate others.

Frankenstein, however, evokes deeper questions about life; it details the attempts of a scientist to ascend to the level of God himself and create life, though it is not out of a celebration of this miracle. He succeeds, only to find that his monster, though sentient, is wholly repulsive, and he shudders to think that he had violated nature so. It emphasizes, in this way, the need to celebrate all forms of life, be it beautiful or hideous. Frankenstein’s monster was intelligent, if not a bikini model, and his isolation from society and the disrespect of his life drove him to violate the sanctity of life even further as he turned to senseless murder to gain his revenge.

Dr. Frankenstein neglected his creation, and shunned him, and the results of this were a miserable creature and a miserable existence looming in the future for Frankenstein as the creature attempted to recreate the isolation that it felt in Frankenstein’s life. It is repeatedly emphasized that though Frankenstein’s monster may be an abomination against God and against nature, he is still full of life and deserves all of the same rights as we do.

Event Blog #2

For this week’s event, I saw the Evergreen Players’ production of Our Country’s Good, a play set in Australia during the time it was a prisoner for English convicts. The play features a sympathetic officer who realizes that the prisoners are, for the most part, good people in a poor situation; with tensions rising in the camp as a result of dwindling supplies and no word of shipments from England, he offers to assist the convicts in putting together a play for the entertainment of the officers. It works in the favor of both sides; the officers gain free entertainment in a place where there is little to do, and the prisoners have something to occupy their time other than misery and menial labor. This is similar, in part to Flannery O’Connor’s short story “A Good Man is Hard to Find”, which details the journey of a poor family and their spiteful grandmother on an attempt to vacation in Florida, which the grandmother does not desire to go. She manipulates the family into making a detour towards a house she remembers as a child, but realizes she has gotten them lost for no reason as the house is in an entirely different state. The family ends up in an accident, only to be accosted and killed on the side of the road by a group of bandits the grandmother had previously been complaining about. Her mantra throughout the piece is “a good man is hard to find”, which is ironic as she herself is an awful person. The camp in Our Country’s Good, conversely, is filled with people who are supposed to be “bad” men, but are rather excellent people in poor situations, many for which the punishment did not suit the crime.

One of the poems assigned was “God’s Grandeur” by Gerard Manley Hopkins, which details the remarkable elasticity of nature and the wonderful powers of God. Regardless of what man does to his environment, its beauty manages to persevere. This also occurs in the convicts in Our Country’s Good; despite all that they have been through, and all that they are forced to endure at the hands of the (at times, cruel) officers, they still manage to be good people. They are fiercely loyal to each other, and have a firm sense of community and righteousness. Even as one of the convicts faced the gallows for refusing to answer whether or not she knew about an escape that had occurred, she still did not sell out her friend.

“Happiness”, a poem by Jane Hirshfield, speaks of a lover who can sense the pressures of society melting away when she is with her loved one. This mimics the love triangle depicted in Our Country’s Good; both the officer in charge of the play and a convict are in love with one of the female convicts, and both praise her for her inherent ability to make them feel as if they were back in England. The officer asserts that she is so lovely she makes him forget his family back home, and how much he misses them, as well as the stress of attempting to keep the peace between the officers and the convicts within the camp, whereas the fellow convict assures her that she makes him feel as if he had never been arrested, and as if there is hope for him to return to England one day.

Milton, Shakespeare and Gilbert

Both masters of the sonnet, John Milton and William Shakespeare are renowned for their different styles of writing; Milton tends to have more religious subjects, whereas Shakespeare more often than not regales the reader with exclamations of his love. In “When I consider how my light is spent” by Milton, he laments the loss of his eyesight in that he feels he can no longer write as well, and writing was his service to God. He is at first puzzled with why God would take away something so crucial to his gift, and give him such obstacles to continue writing for Him, yet finds reasoning in that God does not need John to write, though he does so anyway. He then views his loss as a test, and assesses that his works will now be more valuable to God since it takes more trouble to

create them now.

Shakespeare, on the other hand, chooses to encapsulate his idea of love within the sonnet “My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun”; in his era, authors were famed for their flowery prose and descriptions of lovers that seemed as if they were divinity personified. Shakespeare utilizes the poem to poke fun at these authors, implying that if they feel the need to build up their lovers to more than they truly are physically, they must not love them as much as Shakespeare loves his “dark lady.” He points out each of her faults in the poem, and realistically compares her physical features to descriptions utilized by many of the more flowery writers, and sums up the sonnet by citing that though his mistress may not be perfect, he loves her unconditionally regardless.

We also read a piece by Elizabeth Gilbert monikered "One Word"; this piece ties together both Gilbert and Shakespeare's views on love and spirituality, and details the struggle to find a balance between the two.