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Running Around in the Rain

I should really be doing something else. That seems to be the most prevalent theme in my life. The constant internal conflict. I want to do this but I should be doing that. And then, as soon as I can do the thing I wanted to do, I don’t want to do it anymore. I want to do something else, and the previous want becomes the current should. During the school year, I want to be blogging or writing creatively or sitting around all day reading or even just finding some time to clean my room. What I should doing is homework. Of course, I procrastinate the homework, but feel that if I’m not doing homework, how dare I do anything else, so the things I want to do get procrastinated as well. I certainly have time to do both, but the things I enjoy always seem to take back seat.

So, I make all this wonderful resolutions. I decide that when the summer comes, I’ll do all those things I would love to be doing during the school year, but just can’t. I never plan to do very much in the summer, like get a job or go to camp, and I tell people that I don’t have plans aside from a week or so at the cottage and a week or so on vacation. But I do have plans. I plan to read — smart books, enjoyable books, any and all books — I plan to write — blog posts, short stories, a flipping novel — I plan to organize — my closet, my room, my life. In short, I plan to do everything that will make me happy, I plan to conquer the freaking world. But then, because I plan to do all these things and have the best summer I’ve ever had (and do all this because it’s what I want to do), all these wants become shoulds.

And it isn’t just that I should read, because I like reading, but then it’s about what I should read. I should read smart novels and stories and poems, that will expand my mind and make me seem smart, but then, I should also be enjoying what I’m reading. And so, if I decide that I’m going to spend this moment reading, and even if I’m not thinking of all the other things I should be enjoying, I worry that maybe I should be reading a different book. It’s the same with writing. Should I write on my blog now? In a journal? Should I instead be writing ficticiously? Should I be trying out a writing prompt? Maybe I should give my “novel” a go?

This moment, I’ve chosen writing on my blog. But now I feel that maybe I should abandon this post, because who wants to hear me complain about my pathetic problems? I should really be writing about the trip to England I just got back from. I should tell you about my visits to Stratford-upon-Avon, where Shakespeare was born or to Bath, where Jane Austen once lived. I should review one of the three Shakespeare plays I saw. I should be writing about those experiences or any of the other very cool, very literary things I saw and did. But I just don’t feel like it. Probably only because that’s what I think I should be writing about.

One of the pictures I took in England that I feel like I SHOULD post. Taken at 4 Sydney Place in Bath — where Jane Austen once lived.

That’s really the problem with me. I never want to do anything if I actually can. If I should. Only if I can’t. I never feel as compelled to write as when I don’t have a pen and paper with me or as when I have stuff to do that I don’t feel like doing. I never feel as compelled to blog as when I don’t have internet access or my laptop handy. I was itching to post on my blog for the two first days of my trip when I still hadn’t gotten internet set up. Then, as soon as I did, I wrote this post, which didn’t have that much to do with the awesome things I was actually doing in England. The next day I wrote another post, also not really about what I had been doing and seeing. Neither were what I felt that I should be writing. After that, I had internet access the entire rest of the trip and we were back at the hotel fairly early a few nights. But because I knew I could blog, I didn’t really feel compelled to. I’m on vacation, I reasoned. I’ll post when I get home. Because that’s always how it is with me. I’ll do it later. I’ll do it at this or that future date. Then I’ll have the time. I’ll have the motivation. It’ll happen. Later. I hadn’t posted what (or as much as) I had wanted. I felt okay with my justifications and I had a marvellous trip, but I still l felt a little uneasy. I had all these nagging shoulds. I enjoyed everything I did, and everything I did was something I wanted to be doing, but I was in England, so they felt very much like wants I should have. And I still felt the compulsion to blog and write about it, but without the desire and drive to do so.

But then today I tried something different. My room is still in a messy state, as I started cleaning it a couple of weeks ago and decided to finish it later. Add all the stuff I brought back from England to that mess and it’s really not looking so good. So I have to deal with that. Then there’s the stuff I should be doing because I want to. The reading, the blogging, the writing. I was going to do all of this today. I was also going to go run some errands and then come home and sit out in the sun because it was beautiful outside today. The latter two items involve getting dressed (something I tend to avoid until I actually leave the house). So I woke up and spent a few hours taking a shower and eating breakfast and figuring out what to wear — because these are totally things that should take a person a few hours. I was all dressed and ready to leave the house and about to go out, when the clear, blue sky clouded over and began spewing drops of rain.

I was stuck. It was another should versus want to situation. You see, I love the rain. I love the sun even more, but when I have no need to remain dry and a warm towel is at the ready, nothing gives me more joy, nothing is more exhilarating, than running around in the rain. Not only was it something I desperately wanted to do, but it was the epitome of a should not. Who would go out and run around in the rain? What was I thinking? Surely I’d catch my death. Besides, I had just, finally figured out what to wear and gotten dressed. I had things to do, things that I should do.

So I did what any reasonable person would have done. I changed into something I didn’t mind getting wet and I went outside to run around in the rain. My sister refused to join me. Someone who was at my house laughed at me when I came inside with water streaming from my hair and clothes. My mother shook her head — I think ‘crazy’ was the word she used to describe me. But you know what? I didn’t catch my death. I felt as though I had caught my life. Sure, when I came inside I was dripping and shivering. But outside, despite the rain, it was warm, peaceful. I love the steady sound of rain, hitting the wooden deck. I love walking barefoot through warm puddles. I love the warm wind whipping around, throwing raindrops in my face. It feels so good to just let go sometimes. To forget what you should do, forget what other people think, forget how cold you’ll be the moment you come inside and get hit with the freezing air-conditioning.

And because let myself do that, I felt like I had accomplished something. I felt really good about myself, about my decisions, about my life. And now I’ve finally been able to just sit down to blog — something I should do — without feeling like I should be doing this or should be doing something else.

Of course there will always be things that should be done and have to done. Things I don’t want to do, but have to do anyways. But maybe sometimes it’s easier (and more enjoyable) to do those things, if I give myself permission to do something I want once in a while. To do something unreasonable and unnecessary and perhaps a little crazy. Just as long as there’s a dry towel waiting for me when I come inside.

What about you? Do you have a constant should versus want to debate inside your head? How do you reconcile with doing things you’d rather not? Do want to’s ever become shoulds for you?

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Shakespeare, Brave New World and Wireless Internet Access

I’ve been in London for the past two days. And I’m very excited. But not because I was in Stratford-upon-Avon today and just got in from seeing Julius Caesar there. Yes, of course that’s immensely exciting, and it was one of the most wonderful days of my life. I was really going to post about my trip to Hampton Court Palace yesterday. I really planned on blogging about the performance in Stratford. And I should really tell you all about my trip to Shakespeare’s birthplace. Instead, I have a far more concerning and interesting thing I want to talk about in this post. A thought that totally relates to Shakespeare. The reason I’m excited, is because I finally figured out how to get internet access on my laptop in my hotel room. Which is a bigger deal than it would normally be, because I haven’t been able to track down a “Micro SIM” for my iPhone, so I’ve been effectively cut off from the entire world. Family, Friends, WordPress and Twitter all just outside my reach. They say true ignorance is not being aware of what you don’t know. Well, true agony is knowing what you don’t have (especially when it’s something you used to have), but knowing you can’t get to it.

Mercure The Shakespeare Hotel, Stratford-upon-...

Stratford-upon-fricking-Avon Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But hold on a minute. What!? I was at Stratford-upon-Fricking-Avon today and what makes me happy is that I have access to the INTERNET!? But…But… Isn’t the whole point of the internet to google Shakespeare and Jane Austen? I was in their backyards today!! So why do I need google? I got the full experience — in, like, 4D!

Sure, sure. There are PLENTY of justifications. I have them all down pat and completely believe these sweet little ideas by now. I need to be in touch with my family. I need to be in touch with my friends. That’s totally  legitimate! All we have is human connection… right? That’s what’s most important, right? How can I have fun and enjoy myself without sharing my joy with the ones I love and letting them know all the pleasure they’re missing out on? More importantly, I need you guys! What’s the point of thinking of witty things to say about all the amazing things I’m seeing if I can’t tweet those condensed thoughts? I have all these insights I want to share about all the amazing things I’m seeing, but I haven’t been able to develop and share those thoughts here on my blog. If you think of something awesome, but can’t communicate it to your followers, was it a valid thought? (Yes, I know that last line sounds ridiculous and of course it’s meant to be tongue in cheek, but, however flawed, that’s my legitimate thought process of late.)

Switching trains of thought, but still heading towards the same destination, I read Brave New World  months ago for school. It didn’t overtly change my life, but it was certainly not a book which lost its tight grip on me the moment I finished the last page and closed the cover. It’s horrifyingly relevant to today and anyone who tells you otherwise is probably way too tightly entangled in our brave new world for their own good. They’re probably a card-holding member of the stupid, fickle masses. And now for the Shakespeare connection: there are LOADS of references to Will and his works in Brave New World. Many of these references are in reference to the lack of Shakespeare and his works in “Civilization”. John the Savage is completely turned off by “Civilization” and thinks they are doing things all wrong. One of the major areas of dispute is Shakespeare — John is passionately in favour of the Bard, while the Controller is (rather dispassionately) against Shakespeare and his works.

The Controller’s problem with Shakespeare’s works are not with the works themselves, but with how they fit in with “Civilization”. His plays are banned, but, what’s more interesting, they don’t even have to be. The government has taken care that the citizens have never heard of Shakespeare. Even if a citizen somehow came across one of his works, they wouldn’t even bother with it. They simply wouldn’t understand. John suggests they make “something new that’s like Othello, and that [the citizens] could understand” (ch. 16). However, the Controller explains that “if it were really like Othello nobody could understand it, however new it might be. And if were new, it couldn’t possibly be like Othello” (Ch. 16).

The inability to understand comes not from Shakespeare’s crazy (beautiful) language, but from the content and themes. One of the major premises of Shakespeare’s plays is desire for something one doesn’t have and can’t easily attain — money, power, a man or woman’s love, just to name a few. These themes are completely moot and incomprehensible in a society like the one in Brave New World. Those men and women (or grownup infants, as John sees them) have everything so easily and never have to worry about anything. They live in complete comfort in every way, but they are deprived of the suffering that is necessary to reach deeper understanding, meaning and humanity. They live comfortable, healthy lives, but for what? What’s the point of each superficially happy days, if they lead to nothing more than many years of such days? Their society is stable only so that it can continue being stable. Anything that risks that stability is outlawed, but what’s the point of stability if nothing meaningful or productive is being done with that stability? Life is so easy for them, that it makes you wonder why they even bother. The only way they can find any sort of “contentment” is by getting high on soma; sleeping with whoever they want, whenever they want; and going to the “feelies”, because they can’t even conjure up their own emotions. I call it contentment not happiness (and put “contentment” in quotation marks, at that) because obviously their mindless, superfluous entertainment can’t lead to true happiness.

I think that we, like those in the Brave New World society don’t have to try hard enough for anything — “nothing [figuratively] costs enough here” (Ch. 17). This was made glaringly clear to me upon reflecting on my experience at the phone store today. We went to go get SIM cards in Stratford. I was almost as excited about getting to the phone store as I was about being in Stratford, as my iPhone had been more or less obsolete for an entire day because I didn’t have a data plan yet– I think I’m experiencing withdrawal. When the guy at the store told us they were out of Micro SIMs, the very special and apparently less readily available SIM card that iPhones use, I was a little bit enraged. I remarked to my father (with whom I’m travelling) that it was an atrocity in proportion to a Shakespearean tragedy. Reflectively (at least now that I’ve gotten my internet fix) I think that the real tragedy is that I thought such a minor, superficial issue can be equated with a beautiful work of literature in which everyone has died, been brutally murdered or committed suicide by the final page. The Controller says that “you can’t make tragedies without social instability” (Ch. 16), and it’s ridiculous that I equate my (relatively) minor issue with social instability. Even more ridiculous that this is my biggest problem. I think that since people aren’t dying in the streets anymore, we (I) make a huge deal out of little, stupid problems, because there are few bigger problems.

While retaining our humanity seems to entail suffering and risk, human nature seems to want what comes easily. As the Controller says, “we prefer to do things comfortably.” But John wants more than that. Following our human nature comes easily, chasing after our humanity is far more difficult and he wants the latter.

“But I don’t want comfort,” [he says.] “I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin.”

“In fact,” said [the Controller], “you’re claiming the right to be unhappy.”

“All right then,” said [John] defiantly, “I’m claiming the right to be unhappy.”

Sure, in principal, so am I. I want the right to be unhappy. That sounds very noble and wise. But in practice, if I look at myself objectively and realistically, I have to confess that all I want at the moment is my right to a data plan on my iPhone and wireless internet in my hotel room. And I think being brave enough to admit that (and accept the fact that I’m only human in wanting that) is the first step.

Where are all the “words, words, words”?

Today I went to see the National Ballet of Canada’s production of Hamlet. It was only the second ballet I’ve ever seen, the first being something along the lines of Cinderella with a great aunt, when I was really small, so I wasn’t really sure what to expect. Nonetheless, I was very excited, especially as I loved reading Hamlet for school this year and I just finished re-reading it to prepare for last week’s English exam.

It turns out that they don’t talk much in ballets. Who would’ve thunk it? Probably someone who knows a thing or two about dance, or is at all cultured or who has been to the ballet a few times. Unfortunately, none of the aforementioned qualities are true of me, so while I had an inkling, I really wasn’t so sure what I was getting myself into. Of course, that isn’t to say that I didn’t enjoy it — I did — or that I don’t have some thoughts on the affair — I do. However, bear in mind, that I know nothing about ballet or even dance in general, beyond occasionally watching “Dance Moms” on Slice instead of doing my homework, so this is a pretty uneducated opinion, with more of a literary-minded take on the performance than an assessment of its value as a ballet — mostly because I would have no idea how to assess its value as a ballet.

“Dost thou think Alexander [the Great] looked o’ this fashion in’th’ earth?” (5.1.182-3).
Photo credit: http://national.ballet.ca

In the “Ballet Talk”, before the performance started, the speaker talked about the importance of Shakespeare’s use of language, and in outlining the play’s plot, she touched upon the fact that Shakespeare’s plots where often unoriginal, and what matters more is his language and how he portrays these plots. That being said, she talked about converting Shakespeare’s language and sentiments into movement. I, as someone who apparently doesn’t speak ‘the language of dance’, just didn’t really get it and (for me) a lot was lost in the translation. Of course, it could be argued that there was also a ton gained in translation, and, to someone who can appreciate that medium, it may have been far more powerful than a traditional, theatrical production would be for them. Unfortunately I’m not one of those people.

I’m a words person, I like how they sound, how they feel lolling around on the tip of your tongue, how they can make you ache or laugh ’till you’re in tears. I find music and movement to be beautiful, as the performance certainly was, but it just didn’t move me to the degree I expected, and wanted, to be moved. I saw the silent film The Artist earlier this year, and surprisingly I didn’t miss the talking at all. For some reason, however, I strongly felt the absence of the spoken word in this performance.

That being said, it’s interesting to look at the choice to translate Shakespeare from the theatre stage to the ballet stage. Watching Hamlet play out his inner conflict just physically really got me thinking. Yes, it was an interesting and compelling way to get his turmoil across, but I think that this can be done just as effectively by marrying body language to verbal expression. The woman talking about the ballet mentioned that each movement has deep meaning and serves a creative purpose. Perhaps someone who speaks the language might understand the difference between one hip thrust and another, but I cannot and I felt that much of Hamlet’s “soliloquy dancing” took up more time than necessary. Yes, Hamlet, I get that you’re upset and you’re conflicted, but I understood that five minutes ago, what does this move do to add to my knowledge of your grief? Again, perhaps these physical soliloquys meant more to more discerning audience members, but to me I would have gotten the gist of it in half the stage time.


That’s Hamlet, just being his usual, conflicted, angst-y self.
Photo credit: http://national.ballet.ca

For me, words and imagery paired with that body language would have been far more effective. While I was watching (and my mind was wandering) I was reminded of a child throwing a temper tantrum because she is having difficulty organizing and expressing her feelings. Her mother of course urges her to use her words to explain and work through what’s bothering her. I think that this analogy brings the ballet into a new light. Perhaps this expression through movement is an authentic manifestation of raw emotion, making it a thoroughly appropriate medium for conveying Hamlet’s intensely emotional strain.

That being said, it can also be looked at from the other side, where the mother, or the voice of reason, points out the importance of using one’s words. In the real world, those of us who are emotionally mature express our feeling and interact with one another using spoken language. Of course it is not the only mode of expression, but it seems more mature than just a physical burst of angst and pain. Also, I think that, on its own, movement can only go so far to convey messages. I understood the angst, the slight humour and the love and lust they were depicting, but Shakespeare is about so much more than raw emotions and his words allow him to convey many things on as many levels. From my slight understanding of the ballet, much of Shakespeare’s thematic significance, symbolism and even humour was lost.

This isn’t an argument against the ballet, and I still found myself enjoying the performance quite a bit. While I didn’t get as much out of it as I would have liked, I’m sure this would have been a completely different review if I had some knowledge and understanding of the art form. Is anyone a fan of the ballet (as a whole or with regards to Shakespeare adaptations)? Any challengers want to refute my claims? Any ballets you would recommend? I’d love to hear the other side of the argument, so leave some comments, people!

Happy Birth(and death)day to The Bard!

Today marks the day that William Shakespeare died and is generally accepted as the day on which he was born. If he were somehow alive, The Bard would be 448 years old.

Photo credit: BookFiend on Etsy

When I say it’s “generally accepted”, I mean that it’s sort of like a truth universally acknowledged that a William Shakespeare who died on the 23rd of April must certainly have also been born that day too. No one really knows when he was actually born, but the record says that he was baptized on the 26th of April, so “they” just decided it would be cool for his birthday and death day to coincide (that only happens to the really awesome people, I guess). (Information from http://www.shakespeare-online.com/biography/shakespearebirth.html)

It’s rather convenient for the literary history romanticizers that his real birthday is unknown. This way they can get all excited that he was born and died on same day, regardless of the fact that they mostly just made that up. That however, is not to say that this historical information is that much less accurate (in my opinion) than other “certain” or “proved” historical facts. I think that almost all history is in some way romanticized or biased or expanded upon to make a good story. After all, each individual’s memory of his/her own experiences isn’t even objective and completely accurate, so how can minor details that have been passed down over hundreds of years be?

It reminds me of when I was in England last summer and went to visit the last house Jane Austen lived in before she died, now called Jane Austen’s House Museum. Even her famous writing desk, the very one on which she’s universally acknowledged to have written her manuscripts on, is perhaps just a romanticism. The guides informed us that it’s probably likely that it just may have been the desk on which she wrote, because it had gone to a neighbour when she died and then the neighbour gave it back for posterity, years and years later, because Jane had gotten famous. So they somehow take this information and turn it into a “fact”, well it certainly must have been her writing desk — where else would she have written her manuscripts?

The desk on which Jane (supposedly) wrote her six brilliant novels.
Photo credit: http://district5060gse.blogspot.ca

Everything, in fact, had a similar story, all though, other than the desk, I can’t even recall very much else in the house that was actually there when Jane was (aside, of course, from her donkey cart). Even still, they managed to create a thoroughly romanticized effect. “And this bed,” the sign read, “is kind of, sort of, maybe similar to bed Jane might have, probably slept on.” It was placed in the room that she surely shared with her sister, Cassandra, although interestingly, the museum didn’t place a bed in there for her big sis to supposedly have slept on.

That being said, I not so completely cyinical as I may, at this moment sound (in fact, I try never to be cynical) and these thoughts certainly never even occurred to me while I was actually at Jane’s house. When it was all right in front of me, I was actually quite overwhelmed with the scene they had created. I quite literally burst into happy/excitable-tears the moment we arrived at my favourite author’s house, where once upon a time ago, she actually lived and I couldn’t stop tearing-up nearly the entire time we were. All I’m really trying to get across, is that not everything is as it seems (what a useful cliché that is) and that sometimes it’s important to give things some thought, before wholly accepting them as truth.

And now, in honour of Will’s kinda, sorta, maybe birthday, a quotation from Much Ado About Nothing, which I saw at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre on the same trip to England. (It’s interesting to note, that the theatre itself is also romanticized: it’s an “exact” reproduction of what the theatre standing in Shakespeare’s time *may* have looked like.) This passage is right at the end, once Benedick and Beatrice have finally admitted to being in love with each other, but are still keeping up their silly/witty banter. I love this scene, especially because it’s very similar to a scene that I love at the end of Pride and Prejudice. (These two works are why I’m convinced that Will and Jane invented the rom-com.)

Benedick: I pray thee now tell me, for which of my bad parts didst thou first fall in love with me?

Beatrice: For them all together, which maintained so politic a state of evil that they will not admit any good part to intermingle with them: but for which of my good parts did you first suffer love for me?

Benedick: Suffer love. a good epithet, I do suffer love indeed, for I love thee against my will.

Beatrice: In spite of your heart, I think. Alas poor heart, if you spite it for my sake, I will spite it for yours, for I will never love that which my friend hates

Benedick: Thou and I are too wise to woo peaceably.

What do you think about the romanticism of history? Do you ponder about the legitimacy of things as much as I find myself doing?

 

Beware the ides of March!

Those are some wise, prophetic words, my friend. I recently found out that on March 15 I’ll be writing an in-class essay (on Regeneration — awesome book BTW) for my Studies in Literature class AND I’ll be having my graduation photo taken! Oh, the horror! That picture will end up on the wall of my school, for the whole, entire world to see, for all eternity! And EVERYONE in this town goes to my high school at some point in there lives! (Generally in grades 9 through 12…) And that essay? Well obviously my entire average, in ALL my courses rests solely on that single assessment, and if I do poorly (which is, like, an 80% at my school) my entire life will be over and no universities will want me! (Did you like my impression of 75% of the kids at my school?)

Hmm, I wonder what other great tragedies will befall me on that fateful day?

Welcome to My Shiny New Blog

Dear Readers – wait, can I say that? Do I have any readers (yet)? Okay, starting over, dear reader (HI MOMMY!), welcome to the awesomest blog you’ll ever read (caution: I tend to be slightly hyperbolic, and perhaps a little melodramatic).

Well… how about some introductions?

My name is Elizabeth Anne and I am a book-o-holic. (“Hi Elizabeth,” my fellow bibliophiles respond in chorus).

Okay, full disclosure, that’s not my real name, it’s a pseudonym. But, it’s a lot prettier than my real name and it makes me feel special to write pseudonymously.

Another fun fact: I like to make up words. This is something I do unscrupulously and will continue to do. Feel free to point out spelling and grammar indiscretions, but you needn’t tell me that I’m making up words, I’m well aware and refuse to back down. Shakespeare made up words, and so can I! (Not that I’m implying I can write as well as Shakespeare, or anything, I’m quite well acquainted with the fact that he was a genius and that I am not).

I’m currently in the twelfth grade (or as we call it here in Canada, grade 12 – and yes, as I live in Canada, I do live in an Igloo and ride a polar bear to school. And if you don’t see that for the sarcasm it is you probably aren’t cool enough to be reading this blog). But don’t let my ripe young age deter you from reading on, I’m not a high school kid of the eye-rolling-gum-snapping variety (okay, maybe sometimes) , I’m a high school kid of the gets-made-fun-of-for-crying-over-a-sad-poem-during-English-class variety.

Well, I guess that’s enough for one post… check out some more autobiographical info on my about me page (and yes, I’m aware that if you started on that page I directed you here for more info — it’s just a never-ending cycle that will go on and on until the end of time, sorry about that — but not really *laughs maniacally*).

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