If She Were a Man…

Every year by spring break, I have at least one school subject that needs catching up on.

The subject this year is Classical Literature. Basically all I need to do is finish the Phaedo by Plato, read a couple of Greek tragedies, and begin Julius Caesar and Antony and Cleopatra by Shakespeare. There are several reasons why I am so behind. I think they’re fairly good reasons. One of the main reasons is that I am really good at guessing on tests and getting a fine score. Let’s be clear: I did not cheat on any of the tests.

I didn’t get behind because I don’t like reading Classical Literature. I do, which is why I’m catching up on it. But there is one main thing that I don’t like about it: the portrayal of women of Ancient Greece.

When I condensed The Iliad and Odyssey, I talked about how the men thought that they owned women. The whole Iliad story happens because Achilleus and Agamemnon were fighting over a girl. Even Odysseus, who is probably the nicest Greek, isn’t pure.

When he was returning home, he had affairs with a whole bunch of women. It took him 20 years to get home and all that time Penelope, his wife, remained faithful, even though it was very, very, very hard. Everyone pressured her into getting married again, but she waited for Odysseus. When he finally came home, he told her all about everything that had happened to him. Did Penelope disgustedly say, “And I waited 20 miserable years for you! I wish I had gotten married again when everyone thought you were dead!”? No, she did not. She said, “Oh! you are so manly and popular. I am the luckiest woman alive to still have you as my husband!” Penelope is the epitome of the perfect woman in Ancient Greece.

I personally like Klytemnestra better. She was Agamemnon’s wife. Before Agamemnon went to Troy, he sacrificed his daughter to have fair winds. He tricked her by saying that she could get married to one of the Greek heroes. She was all dressed up for her wedding day and then was killed by her father. Obviously, Klytemnestra was very angry that her daughter was dead. When Agamemnon came home, he expected to be welcomed as a hero. He came to Klytemnestra all happy and introduced her to his new girlfriend. I do believe that Agamemnon may have been the dumbest jerk in all of antiquity. He survived 10 years of battle but was killed in a bathtub by his wife. I say it served him right! At least Klytemnestra had a sense of justice! She avenged her daughter and her honor and everyone else Agamemnon had been a jerk to, and that was quite a lot of people. This is her:

 

Notice the blood around her feet

Notice the blood around her feet

Ok, she’s not exactly a role model. But if she were a man in Ancient Greece, she would have been celebrated as someone with a great sense of honor and justice. She would have been a hero… like Agamemnon. I know this as a fact because when her son murders her to avenge his father, he is celebrated for getting rid of the worst woman in Ancient Greece.

I am so happy that I do not live then.

Anyway, it’s about time I got back to catching up with school before spring break is over. I hope you have been inspired to read Classical literature.

And if you are not, I don’t really blame you.

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Down the Rabbit Hole (Is My Favorite Expression)

I love Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass because nothing makes sense. My life tends to be like that. I read into things way to much and then realize they mean nothing. People in this world and in Wonderland contradict themselves regularly. I feel just a little bit lost and out of place, like Alice. The Alice books make me feel right at home. You could say that these are some of the books that understand me. One of my favorite movies is Tim Burton’s Alice (I don’t care for the cartoon version as much, too cute) and one of my  favorite poems is “The Jabberwocky.” “The Jabberwocky”  is the only poem that I have memorized, and it is so lodged inside of my brain that I don’t think I will ever get it out. I say it to myself (silently) at concerts and contests as if to say, “The whole world is mad and you’re mad and it’s mad that you’re doing this, but who cares? It’s fun and exciting to be mad.” Really what I’m saying is,

“Twas brillig, and the slithy toves

Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;

All mimsy were the borogoves,

And the mome raths outgrabe.”

And I think about this:

Image

And I can interpret that whole stanza. No one has ever asked me to do it, though. When I do it anyway, people slowly disappear.

A lot of people don’t like Alice in Wonderland. I was reading some consumer reviews once and the complaints made me want to laugh. I understand not liking Alice, but some of the reasons were fairly funny.

  • There is no character development of Alice and no plot. There is no character development because this is a fairy tale. One reads fairy tales for the imagination and the interesting situations and characters and themes. I have never read a fairy tale that has any character development. Don’t feel like you have to relate to or like Alice. No one does.

Of course there’s no plot! That’s what makes it great! Alice falls from one thing to the next. She says the wrong thing and everyone hates her for no apparent reason. (Hasn’t that ever happened to you?) She is rushed along and has no control of anything. (Don’t you ever feel like that?) There is one thing that irritates me about the plot. It is the fact that it is all a dream. What a cop-out, Lewis Carroll!

  • Because of the lack of plot/character development, I can’t finish the book, so I try again every single year. First of all,  if you don’t like something, don’t read it! Second of all, Alice and Through the Looking-Glass put together are 233 pages. That’s including pictures and fairly large print. It won’t take you very long, and it’s not very hard. If you are trying year after year to read this, just sit down and have a few miserable hours. I believe you can do it!
  • There are too many weird things including, but not limited to, Alice talking to herself. If you think it’s so weird, don’t read it! And also, talking to yourself isn’t all that weird. You must hang out with a very select group of people.
  • Lewis Carrol was on drugs when he wrote this. First of all, I doubt it. Second of all, so what? Nietzsche was in an insane asylum when he wrote most of his important stuff, and we base a lot of modern philosophy off of him. In my opinion a good book is a good book, it doesn’t matter (usually) what the circumstances were for writing it.

I’m sure there are more reasons for disliking Alice in Wonderland; if you know of some, be sure to let me know. I don’t really mind that a lot of people dislike them. It makes these books feel more special to me.

Are you one of the few who likes Alice in Wonderland or do you hate it?

 

 

 

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Eight is Enough Part 2: The Oldest Advantage

If you  read a lot of fairy tales, you may notice that there are a lot of recurring themes. Things like, “Mothers die before fathers and step-mothers are always evil” and “If you are kind to strangers, they always end up being highly important people who will make your life better forever after” and “Nothing ever happens once you get married. Your story ends here.”

The one theme that has bothered me a bit is, “The youngest child is always the smartest, kindest, most brave, favorite, etc. child of the family.” The reason why this bothers me is that I am an eldest child. (Technically I am the the second eldest, but since my older brother doesn’t live at home anymore, I think I get to take up his title.)

If you are not an eldest child, you may have not noticed this theme. It is certainly there. In “The Little Mermaid” by Hans Christian Andersen, the title character is the youngest of seven siblings. She is her father’s most favorite daughter and is by far the most beautiful. She is the only one of them who earns a soul.

In “The Twelve Dancing Princesses” the youngest daughter is the only one to notice that they are being followed to their secret dancing-place. Note that whenever she expresses this fear, her eldest sister is always the one to tell her that she is being silly and that no one can possibly be following them. Of course the youngest one was right, and when they were found out, she was the one to marry the future king because she was the most beautiful.

In “Beauty and the Beast” Beauty is the youngest of six daughters and six sons. She is the favorite of her brothers and father, but all of her sisters, who are ugly and cruel, hate her. Of course Beauty is the only one who  will get to know the Beast and then ends up marrying him when he turns into a rich, handsome, magical prince.

And then there are the many variants of the tale about three siblings who all set out on the same task. The first brother/sister is too stupid and unkind to accomplish the task given. The second brother/sister comes slightly closer to completing it, but they also fail. The youngest brother/sister, against all odds, accomplishes the task and gains riches, power, and perfect marriages in the process.

What is it about eldest children that everyone dislikes? Are we all mean? Do we have a bigger sense of entitlement? I don’t know. What I do know is that I love being the eldest and would never want to be the youngest.

I can tell dumb jokes like,

“Knock, knock”

“Who’s there?”

“Who”

“Who who?”

“Are you an owl?”

And I get loud, uproarious laughter every time.

I have seen practically every cartoon that has come out in 17 years. I love cartoons. And if anyone sees me going to a theater to watch one, all I have to say is, “Well, my mom wanted me to take the kids to see this…”

I get to play knights and other imagination games. I love knights, so I regularly go on quests with my brothers. Somehow I always end up being the dragon.

And there are also the normal not-as-exciting-but-fairly-useful-benefits as well. I can pretty easily slip into being the leader of a group. Parents always want me to babysit their kids. I know what is currently cool to nine-year-olds.

I believe that the glorifying of youngest children is a reaction to youngest children being the underdogs of a family. But if youngest children have good older siblings, they don’t have to be underdogs. At least that’s the theory I’m trying to put into practice.

And in the meantime, I get an audience who will laugh at any joke I give them.

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I’m Just Gonna be a Hedgehog

I cannot even begin to say how relieved I am that it is spring break. The goal for this break for me was to get all caught up with the school I got ridiculously behind with. Of course, this goal has been to no avail so far. I have not even gotten around to doing what I was assigned to do this week.

Here’s what I have done so far:

  • Had a picnic and bonfire during which I pretended to be a hedgehog with my brother Seuss and also scared him with a story about ghost deer. (I had no idea the story would actually be scary.)
  • Walked the river trail with a friend I have been trying to get together with for quite awhile now. It was in the rain, and we were both completely drenched by the time we finished the three-mile loop. We had ice cream to compensate.
  • Began my reread of The Princess Bride which is just as good if not better than I remembered.
  • Had an early Easter egg hunt. I didn’t find as many eggs as I was allotted but that was OK because I was reminded that I don’t like jellybeans.
  • Reread The Secret Garden and decided to grow my own garden like I do every time I read the book. I realized that I am probably more like Colin than all the other characters. He was a sickly boy who stayed in doors and couldn’t walk and didn’t really want to do anything- just like how I have been feeling all February and March. He discovered that he could walk and wanted to “live forever and ever and ever” after he got into the garden and discovered what spring was. Now what with spring break and the potential for good weather, I feel as if I am becoming stronger and more alive like Colin.
  • I have decided to write a blog post every day for the rest of the week. This may or may not happen. After all it is spring break and what is spring break for except to waste time and reread children’s books when one has Greek tragedies and other such things one should be reading. Or at least that’s what I think it’s for.

What have you done for spring break?

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Do I Really Have to Come Up with a Title?

For some reason, I always want to write whenever my judgement is at its poorest.

Like right now. Right now, if I wasn’t writing, I would either lie on the floor and stare at the ceiling or pester every one of my family members until they hate me as much as Harry Potter hates Draco Malfoy. Instead of doing either of these things, I am writing a blog post which anyone in the world can see if they cared to.

Which is a terrible idea.

Originally I was going to write a post about last weekend. I was at The Justice Conference in L.A. with my dad. It was one of the best experiences of my life. While I was there I made all sorts of plans about coming back and changing my life and the world.

But then I actually came back. Now I am too tired to think, much less change the world.

Now I feel lousy for more than one reason. Not only am I a tired human, but I have also not accomplished anything all day. I tend to not feel happy unless I am accomplishing things efficiently. And then I have to remind myself that I am a human being not a human doing.

My mother has often told me to tell myself what I would tell a friend who is in the same situation. For example, if I saw a friend about to walk in front of a bus I would say, “Don’t do it, man” which is the same thing I tell myself when I get the same urge.

Me: You seem tired, bored, and brain-dead all at the same time, why don’t you go read one of the 11 books you are in the middle of? You are rarely ever too tired to read.

Friend: I would except not a single one of those books sounds at all interesting to me.

Me: Well, what would you like to read?

Friend: Maybe The Princess Bride, but I don’t own it, and I can’t get it at the library because I am currently a danger to society.

Me: Oh. If you could do anything right now, what would you do?

Friend: Sit on the beach in a hot tub eating an unlimited number of chocolate-covered strawberries.

Me: You know what? I recommend that you lie on your floor and listen to Brandi Carlile.

Friend: How could I not act on such sage advise?

I hope I don’t regret this post.

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A Love/Hate Relationship

I have often complained that practically every story ever told has romance in it. Every book, every movie, everything has romance, and it gets boring. When most of my friends went boy crazy at about age 12, I didn’t understand any of it. At 17 I still don’t. Maybe my emotional/hormonal growth was stunted; I don’t care what happened. What I do care about is that almost every book I’ve read spends a lot of time on a subject that I don’t understand and don’t want to read.

This might be why I am writing my Valentine’s Day post two days late.

I don’t dislike all romance. There have been several books that I thought were enhanced by their love stories. So, in honor of this belated Valentine’s Day, I will discuss these chosen few.

The Princess Bride by William Goldman This is a great book and a great movie- so rare! The book is both goofier and darker than the movie, which is really bizarre. The setup is that it is an “abridgement” of “S. Morgenstern’s Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure.” The “original” novel was a great story but had too much excess material. (If you have read The Odyssey, you know what Goldman is talking about.) William Goldman edited out all things superfluous and has a running commentary throughout. It is brilliant and hilarious. I recommend it if you liked the movie. If you didn’t like the movie, I don’t know if I could recommend anything to you.

Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare This play has two love stories. The one I like is between Beatrice and Benedick. Beatrice is a quick-witted woman who likes to insult people, particularly men. Beatrice and Benedick spar the entire play and are basically tricked into falling in love with each other.

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien One of the few things I dislike about The Lord of the Rings movies is the drawn out love story between Aragorn and Arwen. I only remember about two paragraphs in the book referencing this romance, one where we meet Arwen and one when the couple marries. The romance that I like in the book was between Eowyn and Faramir. All I can say is it is sweet. To be honest I can’t quite remember why I liked it, which means it’s time for a reread. I suddenly feel like this is a really lame recommendation. Just read The Lord of the Rings

Captain Blood by Rafael Sabatini This book is an old-fashioned adventure/romance like The Last of the Mohicans. It is about Peter Blood, an Irish doctor turned pirate. But he is a noble pirate. He names his ship the Arabella. Guess the name of his sweetheart. I enjoyed both the characters of Captain Blood and Arabella, and I had no qualms about them falling in love. This is just a fun story, and I am slightly embarrassed that I like it so much especially since I’m not sure why.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

What are your favorite romances?

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For the Love of Libraries

I love libraries.

I love the fact that they are completely free. I tend to not want to buy a book unless I know I will reread it. My family requests just about every media we have ever wanted from there. And we are willing to wait a long time for it to come. My sister Sherlock and I have waited for months for each season of our favorite BBC TV show, Sherlock (go figure). Sherlock (the sister, not the detective) has been number 30 or later in line for music albums. We don’t want to buy something we may or may not like!

I would not be the reader I am without libraries, and I truly appreciate them. But there is one thing that I don’t like about libraries. The librarians.

I don’t know what it is, but there is something up with librarians. There are some who seem angry every time you ask them for help. (Isn’t this your job?) Some won’t get a joke. But there is one who we call “the crazy library lady.”

I first met the crazy library lady during last summer’s reading program. Every summer my library offers a program where, if anyone under eighteen reads for three hours (it’s a bit insulting, I know), we get a free book. The lady would not let me choose a book. She pulled book after book off the shelf and read the blurbs on the back, in a loud and dramatic voice. Whenever I picked a book off the shelf she acted annoyed that I was trying to make a decision for myself.

The next time I saw her she was apparently patrolling the library displays. The displays were of ereaders that said “Touch me!” Two kids were trying them out. The crazy library lady shouted across the room, “Those are not for playing with! I want you two to do something else!” Um, excuse me ma’am, the sign said “Touch me.” You should take them down, they’re misleading.

Another time Sherlock had to pay a fairly large library fine. The woman flipped out. The whole ordeal ended when she called our mom to make sure that she knew that 1) her daughter had a MASSIVE fine and needed to be better watched with her books and 2) did you know that her daughter is using her library card?She needs to get one of her own. (It’s contradictory, I know. That’s why she’s crazy.)

I have never kept my head around this woman long enough to look at her name tag and figure out what her real name is.

People wonder why kids don’t use the library much anymore. Maybe the librarians scare them.

Good thing I like the building they work in enough not to stay away.

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