Thursday, 13 May 2010

Persuasion - Jane Austin

After Le Morte D'Arthur, I needed something brainless and happy. I enjoy Jane Austin, but I really don't care to sit an analyze her work. I read it for fun. So far I've read of hers Pride and Prejudice, Northenger Abby, and this. I still hold Northenger Abby as my favorite. There's really nothing like a book mocking your own genre. :P

Anyway, Persuasion is the story of Anne Elliot, daughter of Sir Walter Elliot. Anne fell in love with Captain Wentworth when she was 19, but because of her position in society, which her family and friends saw as being higher than it actually seemed, her mentor and father both opposed their marriage. So she broke it off, and Wentworth went away and sulked. Fast forward 7 years, and her father is massively in debt because of the way he and her sister, Elizabeth, run the household. To avoid loosing the land, they lease it out to an Admiral and move to Bath to attempt to live more within what they can afford. Mary, her other sister, is married, has kids, and lives in a town about 3 miles away. Anne goes to live with Mary where, unlike at home, she actually has something of a place in the social group. Her dad ignores her mostly, and Elizabeth doesn't seem to even like her. Mary complains about everything under the sun, but her husband's family is welcoming of Anne. Side note - Mary's husband first proposed to Anne and was rejected.

While she's at Mary's place, she runs into Captain Wentworth who now has money but seems to be more interested in Anne's sisters-in-law. On a trip to Lyme, Louisa, whom he seems to favor the most, is downright stupid and jumps off a ledge to have him catch her. Well, he drops her on accident and she gets a concussion. Just prior to this, Anne's cousin, Mr. Elliot, passes their party and shows interest, and Cpt. Wentworth begins to show jealousy. Anne eventually moves to where her family is in Bath, and Mr. Elliot continues his interest in her and by the time Cpt. Wentworth comes to Bath has everyone gossiping that they're getting married.

So, I'm pretty sure almost all of this genre of books ends happily... or as happily as they can. Jane Austin is a bit lighter than any of the Brontes that I've read. She pokes fun at a lot of the culture and ideals of the upper class, quite pointedly in Persuasion, but also in Northenger Abby. It's been too long since I've read Pride and Prejudice to remember more than it being one of those love stories that succeeds in leaving you happy by the end.

I think it's a comment on how bad my day was on Wednesday when I was finishing up Persuasion that a letter from Cpt. Wentworth to Anne had me crying on the train. >.> *sigh* Seriously, nothing tear-worthy in Jane Austin. Anyway, it was a good book. It's not an overly interesting or unpredictable story, but Austin's jabs at the society keep it amusing even if you've read far too many of that type of book for your sanity.... not that I have or anything.... not me. It's a nice easy read too. I highly recommend Jane Austin's work for anybody who wants to read "classic" literature that's not incredibly dry or difficult to trudge through. No trudging involved in her stuff. I still have quite a few of hers on my list, which, speaking of, I doubt anybody wants a copy, but if you do, let me know and I'll send it to you. There's almost 200 author entries on it.... not intimidating at all... >.> <.< Lindsey and I actually added a lot to it. There was no Austin, Steinbeck, H.G. Wells, or any of the anti-utopia novels! We added a few non strictly "literature" favorites on there too.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Le Morte D'Arthur Volume I - Sir Thomas Malory

I have to split this up, because after over two weeks of reading I'm having dreams of me having to go to therapy because of reoccurring dreams of being stuck in armor.  It's just under 600 pages, and I've finally made it past 300, actually to 310, but I just can't do it anymore.  So I'm going to cut it in half, since it's already split into volumes I and II.

The story, especially near the beginning about Arthur, is pretty  much the story I'd say most Americans know from Disney's The Sword in the Stone.  Merlin disguises Uther to fool Arthur's mother into thinking he's her recently dead husband and thus Arthur is conceived.  They marry a few days later, and when Arthur is born he is sent in secret to live with Sir Ector.  After Uther dies comes the story of the sword in the stone, the knight who can pull the sword is the rightful king of England.  Years later, at a tournament, Arthur forgot Sir Kay's (Sir Ector's son) sword and couldn't get into the house in time so seeing the sword in the stone, he runs up, pulls it out, and gives it to Sir Kay to fight with.  Sir Ector recognizes the sword and the knights and barons repeatedly make Arthur pull it out, trying themselves over and over until Merlin and those on Arthur's side get sick of it and the barons try to kill him.  Long story short, they fight, Arthur kicks their butts, sleeps with his sister, has a kid by the name of Mordred, and establishes himself as king.  Somewhere along the way he gets the Round Table from another king and then we get into the stories of the different knights.

Sir Gawaine begins his career as a knight by refusing mercy to another knight who surrendered and in the process of trying to cut his head off cuts the head off of his lady.  He is made to swear an oath to be especially gentle towards ladies to make up for that, and also to never deny mercy to a knight who surrenders.  He's not very good at this.

Sir Launcelot loves Queen Guenevere, but despite the fact that literally everyone knows this, Arthur manages to not find out.  He's the perfect knight, strong, practically unbeatable, loyal to his king and to his love, courteous, and, yeah, the perfect knight.  He's also pretty predictable and flat throughout Volume I (though this changes a bit in the beginning of Volume II).  He goes between hating Sir Tristram and loving him after Sir Tristram saves his life.  He's interesting in his own way, but too perfect (though I find it odd that the ideal knight is involved in a love affair with his king's wife and remains perfect).

Sir Kay is a moron and a jerk.  Arthur sees him as a brother, considering they were raised as such, and so he's one of the knights of the Round Table, but he's really really stupid.  He makes fun of everyone, even though he's really not a strong fighter... at all.  And he really doesn't learn any better from finding his boot stuck way down his throat.

Sir Gareth is pretty nifty.  He's Sir Gawaine's brother (half-brother to Sir Mordred).  King Lot of Orkney, I believe, is their father (but it's kinda hard to keep those things straight).  He came to Arthur's court leaning on two servants and unarmed and asked for two gifts.  The first gift was that he be allowed to remain at the court for a year with food and drink.  The second one he would ask at the end of the year.  Arthur granted it, and Sir Kay made fun of him and called him Beaumains (fair hands).  Beaumains went to work in the kitchen under Sir Kay's orders, and after a year a damsel came asking for a knight to go with her to rescue her lady who was trapped in a tower.  Beaumains asked for his second gift, to be knighted and take the quest.  He left the court armed with his own armor and confused the heck out of everyone.  Sir Gawaine and Sir Launcelot were the only two who didn't make fun of him.  The damsel raged on him the whole trip until he proved himself.  After several adventures, he finally marries the lady who was trapped in the tower.  (Some of the adventures included a conjured knight that the first damsel raised to attack him and prevent him from sleeping with her sister, the lady in the tower, before their wedding night.)  Sir Gawaine finally finds out who Beaumains is (still confused how he didn't recognize him, but that's a pretty continuous theme in this story), but Sir Gareth prefers Sir Launcelot's company to Sir Gawaine's because his brother isn't a good knight.

Sir Tristram (Tristan) isn't part of Arthur's court in Volume I, but he has his own story in Le Morte D'Arthur.  He's the nephew of King Mark of Cornwell.  He started his career as a knight by saving Cornwell, but his uncle hates him.  Tristram and Isold are another Launcelot and Guenevere, but with flaws.  Tristram royally messes up sometimes, and gets caught doing it.  Isold is married to King Mark (who married her to spite Tristram who loved her), but loves Tristram.  In one of the more entertaining bits of Le Morte D'Arthur, Tristram is followed and exposed by one of King Mark's knights while lying with Isold.  He then proceeds to kill something like ten knights butt naked and make his escape.  After several years he marries someone else, though he never sleeps with her, and makes Launcelot his enemy.  He makes it back to Tintagel (King Mark's castle)  he finds letters between Isold and one of his knights and goes crazy for the hurt.  He spends six months, again butt naked, in the forest before he's found by King Mark (who doesn't recognize him), healed, and exposed by a hound of Isold's and therefore banished from Cornwell.  He goes on to have more adventures and eventually ends up a prisoner of Morgan le Fay who makes him carry a shield during a tournament of Arthur's.  The shield is a dig at Arthur, Guenevere, and Launcelot.

Arthur himself is pretty boring, and when he does things, they're mostly unbelievable, but I suppose that's the romance around him.  After securing his kingdom, he gets allies in France and eventually makes his way to Rome and controls Europe.  He's a pretty flat character though, and not overly bright.

A few things I noticed; there is a lot of romance about the knights in this book.  They fight with honor, even at the cost of their lives.  Malory has them removing their opponents helmets when fighting on foot before they kill them, which as far as I've researched might be physically possible, but it would in no way be easy or practical.   There are opposing ideals regarding love and loyalty, and it seems like when it's "true love" there are double standards.

I don't understand courtly love.  I think at this point I'm not going to figure it out by reading about it.  I think I need someone to explain it to me.  I don't get it.  It seems too contrary to itself.

I nearly forgot Merlin.  Merlin gets killed by Nimue fairly early on.  He's also not a wizard, he's more of a prophet, and apparently a pervy old man, which is why Nimue killed him.

I think if I was doing research on Arthurian legends, which would be interesting, this might be easier to handle.  I think breaking it up into books or chapters might also make it easier.  It's not a read-all-the-way-through book by any means.  I haven't been daunted by a book in years, heck, I made it through Paradise Lost without getting bored until the end.  I'm actually excited to read the poet that's next on my list, and I hate poetry.  I was going to try to read this all the way through, but that's not going to happen.  It's interesting because it is in Middle English, and the edition I have preserves that.  It has modern spellings, which makes it readable for me, but the language as it was is preserved.  Caxton, the editor of the oldest copy known, did a horrible job.  Chapter breaks are in strange places, chapter titles are mini-reviews, and it's just poorly put together.  As a book, if we stuck it in as fiction, it stinks.  As a historical text, it's interesting enough.  I'd need good incentive to go back and study it though.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Ophelia and the nightmare vacation

That vet I took Ophelia too... I'm still mad at her.  I need to go in and get my cats' records and demand my $60 back.  I took Ophelia to a different vet the next day, because she spent all of Saturday puking up spit despite the shots and immediately puked up the medicine I gave her Sunday.  The new vet is actually an animal hospital.  It's huge and immediately gave me the feeling of a North American animal clinic.  Divided waiting rooms, completely separate observation rooms, a few dozen staff.  The doctor who saw Ophelia spent a good five minutes feeling her stomach and took X-rays when she felt something not right.  Why didn't the first vet do more than poke gently around for a few seconds?  Why, when I told her there was a possibility that she had gotten into roach poison, did she not do a blood test?  This vet did.  Ophelia got poked, X-rayed, ultra-sounded, and stuck with an IV which she had to keep in till the next evening.  I brought her home Monday, and she's been fine.  Something was stuck in her intestines, probably a hair ball.  I have to take her in for a check-up tonight, and I'm going to ask about hair ball remedies here to avoid this in the future.  I'm thinking tomorrow or Sunday I'm going to the old vet and getting those charts.

It's hard not to be furious, even a week later when Ophelia is okay.  Had I followed what that vet said, I don't even want to think what might have happened.  At best, Ophelia would have taken longer to recover, which means going longer without food.  An injection or two of vitamins isn't exactly enough, or I would have been able to take Ophelia home overnight without an IV in her paw.  My biggest problem in talking to the old vet is language.  I don't know the words I need very well, and I'm mad, which means when I'm trying not to scream at somebody and talk politely, I have trouble putting words together in any language.

Angie came and visited for a few days.  That was nice.  Tokyo was crazy crowded though.  We went to a random free concert... they were surprisingly good!  I wanted to stay for the whole thing, but Lindsey and I both had to work in the morning.  We may look for another of their concerts sometime.  They were fun.  Best part was that it was $5 for the drink ticket and free admission.  I like those. :P

And I'm back at work and dreading two of my next three classes.  I'm having a lot of trouble with one of my co-teachers, and one is just a flake who doesn't know English very well, so she's a pain to deal with. The one I'm having trouble with though is being belligerent and disruptive.  If she does it again today I'm writing it down before I get on the train and calling my company.  I'm not dealing with that all year.  I was near tears last week and left work fuming and looking for jobs in New York.  Yeah... really not looking forward to that class.  I've worked with this teacher before, and she was one of my favorites last year.  I feel like she's mad at me for some reason and taking it out by being obnoxious in my class, but I have no idea what she could possibly be mad at me about.  Other people I've talked to have suggested personal problems in her life, but I don't care what's going on.  Personal problems can distract you, but they're no reason to be a complete bitch to your coworker in front of 40 students and affect the environment of the whole class, literally bringing it to a stop.  No excuse. (>.<)  At least the other school is going really well.  This one class is enough to make me want a new job though... which is bad, cause I put up with a lot last year and managed.  I think partly because my co-teacher for my problem classes worked with me to try to make the classes better, and this time it's the co-teacher disrupting the class.  I want her out of it, but by law she has to be there since I'm not a licenced teacher. Then shut up, sit in the back, and let me lead the class on my own.

*sigh* Here's hoping for the best today. Maybe she's out sick.

Concert tomorrow.  I'm excited about that.  I saw Dacco on Christmas Eve last.  They're a fun band.... they suck, but they're hilarious and at least (I think) they know they suck.  Yura sama's so happy on stage.  It's easy to ignore his terrible singing and actually surprisingly hard to stand straight and not fall over laughing.  I'm pretty sure that's the last concert I have tickets to until July.  June's gonna suck! >.>  Need to find something to go see.  My friend's band has a concert tonight, but I don't already have a ticket, and it's not happening even if he gave me a free one.... not that he even told me about the concert.  He just wants me to teach his vocalist English pronunciation and be his "American friend." ... I'm not bitter at all today!  Haha.

Okay, I'm off to relax before my next class.  I'll have lunch to destress between bad teachers at least. XP  And off topic, but I'm still barely half way through Le Morte D'Arthur...and I still can't pronounce the "thur" part.  That book takes forever to read!  I feel like I'm going and going and I should be 100 pages in and I'm like 15. (>.<\)  I can only take so much smiting.... no, actually, that's not true, and the fact that Sir Tristram keeps finding himself naked and going crazy is quite funny, but I'm a bit tired of Sir So-and-So smiting Sir Who's-a-What's-It, taking his horse, and giving it to Sir Falls-a-Lot.  And the French names are really no more clever than those, which, aside from being annoying cause I can't pronounce them and they're dumb, makes it really hard to remember who's who.  I did like the part about Sir Tristram in prison today though, the one line:
For all the while a prisoner may have his health of body he may endure under the mercy of God and in hope of good deliverance; but when sickness toucheth a prisoner's body, then may a prisoner say all wealth is him bereft, and then he hath cause to wail and to weep.
That was probably the first line in the whole 260 pages I've gotten through so far that really had feeling behind it... and it was really randomly placed, because after that we went back in time to before Sir Tristram was sick at all, and he really wasn't sick and in prison for very long before the guy holding him let him go.  It felt like a tangent where it was.  The introduction to my edition made mention of this line (I think it was this one anyway, one about one of the knights in prison was all they said) and hypothesized that Sir Thomas Mallory (the author) might have been a prisoner at one point in his life or while he was writing Le Morte D'Arthur.  I can see where they got that idea, aside from having two records of a Thomas Mallory... one of them being a knight who was imprisoned. XP

Okay, seriously going away now.  5 minute countdown has begun.

Saturday, 1 May 2010

On Pets

Over the last few weeks I've spent almost $200 at the vet between the two cats.  Soushi's better, thankfully.  Still never managed to get a pee sample... o.O But he's acting normal, so I'm going to assume he's fine for now.  Ophelia, on the other hand, has thrown up 6 times in the last 24 hours, so she got to take a trip to the vet today.  She was such a good girl though.  She just laid on the table against me and let the vet look at her and give her shots.  Kinda makes me thinks she's really not feeling good.  No food for her until tomorrow morning, though what she puked up I'm not sure because last night she was vomiting water.  I hope she's okay.

I didn't get up that long ago, but with yesterday as sucky as it was, and with how today started, I kinda just want to go back to sleep.  I think I'll go get a coke instead.  It's hot out.  I need to figure out what to do with my hair that doesn't hurt my head.  Ponytails are a no-go again.  It's too long.  Owwwwww.  Studying didn't happen yesterday.  I don't know that it'll happen today.  We'll see after I get some caffeine.

I had a good breakfast/lunch though.  I cooked ground pork-beef with asparagus and carrots in yakiniku sauce.  It was quite tasty.  The insides of my eyes are still white though.  Slightly more pink, but still mostly white.  Might have something to do with eating mostly pasta and veggies all the time.... cooking is such a pain.