Saturday, October 27, 2012

Seeing the world through other cultures

In my conversational English class the other day, we somehow got into a discussion of war and prejudice and immigration and US foreign policy.  These are the sort of topics you have to be really careful with, but it was a brilliant class conversation.  That day, I had students from Iraq, Mexico, China, Thailand, France, Slovakia, and Guyana.  Quite a United Nations.  In the end, we agreed mainly on the goodness of ordinary people on the small scale, and the horror of national greed on the large scale. 

We also decided that everyone who wants a real education should travel out of their own country for a spell, and not just to a beach in Mexico.  In my own case, travel has rather forcibly pried open my mind and let in a lot of things that wouldn't be there otherwise.  And though it has—regretably—actually enforced a stereotype or too, it's killed far more. 

When I was little, I thought America held a monopoly on democracy and freedom and the good life, and that everyone must want to be us.  Then I traveled.

I met real people.  Unlearned many things.  Grew to love—or at least accept—the differences and similarities that bind us all together in often complicated knots.  And only threw a few tantrums when things didn't work they way I thought they should.

As Mark Twain said, "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts."

Travel on, and maybe one day we can truly be citizens of the world.  

Saturday, October 20, 2012

My Eclectic Reading List

Feeling Very Random

I've been reading all sorts of things lately, many outside of my normal preferences.  I've enjoyed it, but I have to admit, some of the selections involved rather much slogging through pages I wished were from some other book.  Nevertheless, I think it's important to try varied types of literature.  And yes, it's all literature!   

My list of recently read books:

1)  Life of Pi, by Yann Martel  .  Great book, about a boy who survives for months on a life raft with a full-sized Bengal tiger.  This is actually the second time I've read it, and I'm still not quite sure what to believe at the end.  Highly Recommended.

2)  Birds of Prey, by J.A. Jance.  A mystery set on an Alaska cruise.  I read it because I was eagerly anticipating my own Alaskan cruise.  The setting, unfortunately, was the best part.  I've read that it isn't Jance's best. 

3)  Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury.  Classic science fiction, read in honor of the illustrious author's passing.  Interesting premise, and perfect darkish ending, but overall a bit too poetic and preachy for my tastes.   

4)  Klondike Wedding, by Kate Bridges.  A historical romance (yes, a historical Harlequin romance).  I read this too because it related to my recent trip to Alaska.  However, it delivered very little history.

5)  The Amaranth Enchantment, by Julie Berry.  A random juvi fantasy I pulled off the shelf.  A Cinderella story which, though well written and pleasant enough, just didn't captivate me.  I'm also tired of main characters who are thieves.

6)  The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver.  Fantastic!  Strange book about a missionary family in the Congo during times of unrest.  Though sometimes the style annoyed me, I still admired every word of it.  Fascinating dark details and moral issues.  One of those books that stays with you.     

7)  Macbeth, by William Shakespeare.  What can I say?  I'm not really a Shakespeare fan.  The plot has some interesting bits, though it could have been much condensed (see my post here.)  Intriguing characters in Macbeth and his wife.  Multiple great lines.  A lot of extra words. 

8)  Skinny Dip, by Carl Hiaasen.  Not even sure what genre this is.  Comedy revenge mystery?  Zany characters and interesting settings, but not that much of a page turner for me. 

9)  Call of the Wild, by Jack London.  When I was younger, I used to joke about not liking "dog in Alaska" movies, meaning all those beloved animal/animal against the elements stories that were popular at the time.  This was truly a dog in Alaska story, and had some interesting bits, but it could also have been much shorter.   

10)  Runaway; Stories, by Alice Munro.  Literary short stories by Canadian author.  All interesting in a slow, dreary, deliberate sort of way, but all with anti-climatic endings.

So, that's my list:  from Shakespearean plays to Harlequin romances to dog in Alaska stories, I've had a very eclectic reading list for someone who mostly sticks to fantasy, historical fiction, and science fiction.

Read on!     

Friday, October 12, 2012

Mangled Macbeth, Act 5

Mangled Macbeth
Written by William Shakespeare.  Abridged, translated, and slightly mangled by Melinda Brasher.

Act 5 scene 1
DOCTOR:  I've watched two nights with you, but haven't seen evidence of your claim.
GENTLEWOMAN:  I tell you, I've seen her rise from bed, throw on her nightgown, unlock the closet, take forth paper, write upon it, read it, seal it, and then return to bed, all while fast asleep.
            Enter Lady Macbeth
GENTLEWOMAN:  Look, here she comes.  Upon my word, she's fast asleep again.
DOCTOR:  How did she get the candle?
GENTLEWOMAN:  There's always one by the bed.  It's her command.
DOCTOR:  Her eyes are open.
GENTLEWOMAN:  Yes, but they're vacant.
DOCTOR:  What's she doing?  Look how she rubs her hands.
GENTLEWOMAN:  I've known her to do it for a quarter of an hour straight.
LADY MACBETH:  Yet here's a spot.  Out, damned spot!  Out!  Shame, my husband.  A soldier, and still afraid?  We mustn't fear who knows it.  None can question our power.  Yet who would have thought the old man to have so much blood in him?  And Macduff had a wife.  Will these hands never be clean?  All the perfumes of Arabia will not mask the smell of blood on these hands.
DOCTOR:  This disease is beyond my practice.
LADY MACBETH:  Go to bed, husband!  Look not so pale.  Banquo's buried.  He can't escape his grave. 
DOCTOR:  Foul whisperings are abroad.  Unnatural deeds breed unnatural troubles.  Infected minds spill their secrets.  She needs God more than she needs a doctor.

Act 5 scene 2

LORDS:  The English army, led by Malcolm, approaches, burning with revenge.  We'll meet them on the field near Birnam Wood.  The tyrant Macbeth is fortifying Dunsinane.  Some say he's gone crazy.  Others who hate him less call it a valiant fury.
ANGUS:  Now he feels his secret murders sticking on his hands.  Those he commands obey him out of habit, not love.  Macbeth feels his title hanging loose about him, like a giant's robe on a tiny thief.
LORDS:  Let's join Malcolm, who will heal the kingdom.

Act 5 scene 3

MACBETH:  Bring me no more reports. Till Birnam Wood moves to Dunsinane, I shall not fear.  And what about the boy, Malcolm?  Was he not born of woman?  The witches promised no man born of woman shall have power over me.  So flee, traitorous lords, and mingle with these English cowards.  I shall not fear. 
            Enter servant
SERVANT:  There are a thousand—
MACBETH:  Geese?
SERVANT:  Soldiers, sir.
MACBETH:  Pluck up your courage, lily-livered boy.  Give me my armor.  Scour the countryside and hang anyone who talks of fear.  Doctor, how's my wife?
DOCTOR:  Not so sick as troubled.
MACBETH:  Can't you heal a diseased mind?  Pluck sorrow from her memory and with an antidote deliver her to sweet oblivion?
DOCTOR:  In these matters a patient must administer to himself.
MACBETH:  Throw medical practice to the dogs.  Give me my armor.  I will not fear death until Birnam Forest comes to Dunsinane.
            Exit all but Doctor
DOCTOR:  If I were safely away from here, no amount of money could tempt me back.

Act 5 scene 4

SIWARD:  What wood is this before us?
MENTEITH:  The wood of Birnam.
MALCOLM:  Let every soldier cut a branch and carry it before him, to hide our numbers.

Act 5 scene 5

MACBETH:  Hand out our banners.  The castle's strength will laugh a siege to scorn.  If my deserters weren't padding their forces, we'd easily beat them back home.  What's that noise?
SEYTON:  The cry of a woman.  [Goes to door and returns.] The queen is dead!  [aside] By her own hand.
MACBETH:  I wish she'd died later, when we had more time for grief.  Out, out, brief candle!  Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more.  It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.
            Enter messenger
MESSENGER:  I don’t know how to explain what I saw.
MACBETH:  Well, try.
MESSENGER:  As I stood watch, I looked toward Birnam and anon, methought, the woods began to move.
MESSENGER:  I'll endure your wrath if I’m wrong, but soon you'll be able to see it yourself:  a moving grove.
MACBETH:  If you're lying, I'll hang you on the nearest tree.  "Fear not, till Birnam wood do come to Dunsinane."  And now it does.  Ring the alarm!  At least we'll die with our armor on.

Act 5 scene 6

Malcolm:  Throw down your leafy screens.  Attack!

Act 5 scene 7

MACBETH:  They've tied me to a stake.  I cannot fly, but must fight.  But was not my enemy Malcolm born of woman?  Such a one I need not fear.
            Enter Young Siward.  They fight.  Siward died.
MACBETH:  Take that, you man of woman born!
            Exit Macbeth
MACDUFF:  Tyrant, show your face!  The day is almost ours, but if you have died on someone else's sword, my wife and children's ghosts will haunt me forever.  I beg Fortune to let me be the one to find and kill you!

Act 5 scene 8

MACDUFF:  There you are!  Turn and face me, tyrant.
MACBETH:  I have enough of your family's blood on my hands.  Get away.
MACDUFF:  I have no words.  My sword will speak for me.
            They fight.
MACBETH:  I live a charmed life, which will not yield to one of woman born.
MACDUFF:  Hah!  I was not born, but ripped prematurely from my mother's womb.  MACBETH:  Curse it all!
            They fight.  MacDuff slays Macbeth and caries him off stage. 
            Enter Malcom, Siward, and others.
MALCOLM:  We have gained victory.  So great a day is cheaply bought.
SIWARD:  Except my son, who died in valiant battle like a man.  Had I as many sons as I had hairs, I could not wish a better death for them.
            Enter Macduff with Macbeth's head
MACDUFF:  Hail, Malcolm, King of Scotland, I present your usurper's head.
ALL:  Hail, King of Scotland.
MALCOLM:  Good lords, I hereby make you all earls.  We'll waste no time in calling back our exiled friends and righting the wrongs done by the butcher, Macbeth, and his fiendlike queen.  Thank you all, and please come to my coronation party up at Scone.      


For the real thing, read Macbeth, by William Shakespeare
To read from the beginning, click on Mangled Macbeth Act I
Also Check out "Shakespeare:  "Therein Lies the Confusion"

Friday, October 5, 2012

Czech Sauerkraut Soup--my newest travel article

Beautiful Wallachia, Czech Republic
Yeah for Czech Soup!  I have another article published on Travel Belles, a great website for travelers, especially women of an adventurous nature.

They have personal travel stories, photo essays, travel tips, local food articles, and more, all in a site that's informative but fun.

For a taste of kyselice, one of my favorite Czech soups, read my article: "Cooking Around the World:  Czech Sauerkraut Soup"