Oh, Maybe That’s Where I Get It

Here’s a funny family story that does not involve my geeklets, but I thought you folks would like it.

My older (and only) brother, who lives across the country and who I see about once a year, posted a picture on Facebook of a broken tablet device and the caption, “This is why you don’t let people use your stuff.”

And of course his local friends commented the usual – “that sucks”, “omg how did that happen?”, “can it be fixed”, etc.

And then our mom commented.  Our mom lives closer out here by me, so she too sees my brother once or so a year, and basically lives for our Facebook updates.  The smallest “Sun is up, going to be a great day today!” comment from one of us is always guaranteed to get some sort of, “Have a great day, love you! xxxooo” from mom. (Which is exactly what moms are supposed to use Facebook for, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.)

What she wrote to my brother was, “It’s just like my mother, your Nana who you don’t even probably remember, used to say – neither a borrower or a lender be.”

So there ya go. My mom, who is in her 70’s, quoting *her* mom, who *died* in the 1970s, quoting Shakespeare.  She’s right, I don’t remember Nana, but I have to imagine I would have had a lot to talk about with her.


Geeklet Studies Romeo and Juliet : Oh, Come On

We’ve all heard the tragedy of my daughter’s class not getting to finish Romeo and Juliet. They’re forever stuck in Act 3, with Juliet just having discovered that Romeo is banished.  Never was a story of more woe, than that of my daughter and her eighth grade English class.

My daughter even read that post and told me over dinner, “It’s going to be ok, Daddy. But at graduation if you see my teacher you are *not* to go near him.”

So yesterday she comes home from school and says, “Well, I’m up to Act 5 Scene 4!”

“How’d that happen? You reading it on your own now?  When did you find time to read that much?”

And then I get the rest of the story.

Seems that the school had a lockdown drill today.  I’m not sure the protocol precisely, but it involves the entire class being huddled into a small space like sardines.  I know this because apparently a handful of girls could not stop giggling over it, and a handful of teenage boys saw it as a golden opportunity to grab some teenage girl bottom.

And their teacher lost his mind.  Unable to express to them the seriousness of the situation, once the drill was over and they were back in their seats, he apparently raged beyond anything that they had seen before (he’s a yeller anyway), throwing out insults and curse words with reckless abandon.  Just like you see in the tv shows, they were assigned a mandatory essay, due Friday, on the history of school shooting – anybody that doesn’t complete it does not get to participate in the end of year class activities, including a harbor cruise.

He then cancelled whatever fun activity they had scheduled for the remainder of the day and told them to sit quietly in their seats and read.  What did they read?  You guessed it – Romeo and Juliet.

I could do little but roll my eyes at that.  So is it a punishment at that point?  Or was taking it away in the first place the punishment?  My daughter was all, “Fine, I wanted to read it anyway!”

In the teacher’s defense, I think he was right to be upset and expect that Romeo and Juliet was merely the closest book and held no special significance.  I talked to my daughter about that this morning.  “Somewhere in your lifetime,” I told her, “His job description went from hey try to keep these kids interested long enough to teach them Romeo and Juliet, to Hey you might be called upon to die today to protect these children, and never make it home to see your own.”  So for those children to not respect the gravity of what is a very real situation, when he himself has to imagine his own potential death, yeah, I can see why he was pissed off. (For the record my daughter claims to be innocent of any wrongdoing, and that a specific handful of girls started it – but unfortunately it only takes one to make enough noise for the gunman to find all of you, my darling.)

I may not be happy with the way the Shakespeare situation turned out, but I’m definitely on his side here.


Geeklet Studies Romeo & Juliet : The Tragic End

In sooth, I know exactly why I am so sad.

On Wednesday, April 6, my daughter told me, “We start Romeo and Juliet next week.”

It’s a moment I’ve been waiting for since she was five years old.

I’ve been keeping you all updated as best I can, from the stories I’ve gotten.  For just about two months I’ve heard about them studying Shakespeare’s life, the sonnets, writing their own sonnets, watching the movies, reading the modern translation, watching the movies, acting it out, watching the movies…

And then yesterday she tells me that the end of the year is upon them and they will not have time to finish the play.

I can’t even really get my head around how that happens.  They are right in the middle – Juliet has just been told that Romeo is banished.  And that is where they will stop.  Just like that, the teacher collected their books and put them back on the shelf. Done.  Interested students don’t even get to keep them for an extra week to read ahead.  He’s moved on to whatever else is left for the rest of the year, which apparently means grading papers.

I was lying awake in bed at 3am last night imagining all the different responses I might have to this.  Is it his fault? Is it just a curriculum thing where the 8th grade in this town says to squeeze in Shakespeare at the end of the year if you have time?    Nope — there are three “teams” of 8th grade students, and the other two finished it.  So, it’s just him.

Oh. Ok, then….ummm….did he just go into such a deep exploration of the text that they fell behind?  So that my kids’ understanding of the first half of the play exceeds the other classes?

Well, no.  I came home one day and my daughter told me they’d watched Gnomeo and Juliet.  You gotta be kidding me.  You couldn’t have squeezed in another act instead of watching that children’s movie that they’d all no doubt seen already since it came out six years ago?

I am very sad about this.  My daughter has been looking forward to it.  She’s at least one student – and probably not the only one – who went to school each morning thinking, “I hope we do Shakespeare today.”  I’m especially sad for any others who did not grow up in a house surrounded by Shakespeare, for whom this was their first experience, who came away thinking, “This is awesome, I want more of this.”  I can’t help those children. That’s his job.  And whether there’s one more of them out there or twenty of them, he’s failed them.

Next week is middle school graduation and there’s at least some possibility that I’ll get to speak with the man. I have no idea what I’ll say.

Who Are The Icons of Shakespeare?

Who are the most visually defining characters in Shakespeare?  What I mean by that is, if you take away the words, and just present the person, what is the visual representation that makes people say, “Yup! I recognize that. That’s ________.”

The easy one, of course, is Hamlet.  Put a young looking guy in an all black, Elizabethan-looking outfit and have him holding a skull. Done.

But … what else? Or, rather, who else?

Juliet in the balcony is pretty iconic – but can she be, without the balcony? I suppose if you always pair Juliet with Romeo you can have two young Elizabethans, one holding a vial of poison, one holding a dagger.

Three witches around a cauldron scream “Macbeth!” to me, but they don’t actually show Macbeth the character. You could have Macduff holding Macbeth’s head, but that identifies the former, not the latter.

How about hunchback Richard III?

I’d love to put big fat Falstaff on the list.  I think that if we made a poster of Shakespeare characters and people knew that, and then started trying to recognize them, that you could spot Falstaff easily.  But what if Falstaff was the only character? Is there some way to portray his jolly old self that makes you immediately recognize him?

Alexa, Back Me Up

I thought, after I developed my Shakespeare Geek skill for the Amazon Echo, that I’d have no use for it. After all, I know all of the content I put into the thing.  Turns out it’s my greatest invention ever.

Middle geeklet: <asks math homework question>

Oldest geeklet:  “Are you serious? How do you not know that? Daddy, I was trying to help her with this stuff on the bus yesterday and I asked her whether 6.25 or 6.5 was bigger and she didn’t know. How do you know not know that?!”

Me: “Take it down a notch, that’s not being helpful.”

Oldest: “No, but seriously, point two five.  Point five. How can anybody not know that?”

Me: “Alexa, tell Shakespeare Geek to insult my child.”

Alexa: “Thou art like a toad; ugly and venomous.”

Middle geeklet:  “Ha!”
Oldest:  “Daddy!”
Me:  “I didn’t say it!”
Oldest: “Yes you did, you programmed it!”
Oh I’m going to have fun with this.