Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Classics Club 9 and 10: Much Ado About Nothing and The Tempest

Much Ado About Nothing is one of Shakespeare's comedies focusing especially on the relationships between Hero and Claudio and between Beatrice and Benedick. Beatrice and Benedick are older and seem to have some "history". They engage in witty repartee, claim not to like each other and have no intention of marrying. Yet, by the end we realise that their barbs actually mask affection and it is no surprise when, after Benedick proves himself to Beatrice, that these two end up together. While their relationship will undoubtedly continue to be stormy it does feel genuine and a match between equals.

I found the relationship between Hero and Claudio to be much more troubling. Most of their romancing is done via intermediaries and he appears older and controlling. While she doesn't seem unhappy she doesn't appear to have a lot of agency either. When Claudio is maliciously and erroneously led to believe that Hero has been unfaithful, he cruelly shames and rejects her at the altar. All (except Beatrice and then Benedick) turn heir back on her as well.

When the truth is eventually revealed her father and others conspire to marry her to Claudio, although it is not until after the ceremony that he is made aware of exactly who he has married. Why anybody would want to marry their daughter to someone who had so cruelly mistreated her, and why others would want to celebrate such a union remain a mystery to me.

So while, as usual, I enjoyed much of Shakespeare's writing especially the witty exchanges between Beatrice and Benedick, I found the play as a whole troubling and ultimately unenjoyable. I'm aware that placing my twenty first century views on a play from another era when sensibilities were very different is not entirely fair but that's my honest reaction.

The Tempest on the other hand did not press any hot-issue buttons for me, so I was free to enjoy Shakespeare at his finest. The Tempest is the last play that he wrote by himself and is one of just two that has a totally original plot. In it Shakespeare shows himself to be as masterful as his main character, Prospero.

Prospero, formerly the Duke of Milan, and his daughter Miranda  have been exiled to an island for the past twelve years. Over the course of the play he uses his magical powers to conjure up a storm which wrecks a boat carrying, among others,  those who usurped his Dukedom. He dazzles them with his powers, forgives them for overthrowing him,  receives apologies in turn, renounces his magic and prepares to return to Milan as it's leader. In typical Shakespeare fashion there are many interwoven and complicating sub-plots, most notably the romance between his daughter Miranda and  Ferdinand, son of the King of Naples who played a role in Prospero's overthrow.

One intriguing aspect of this play is the way it explicitly draws parallels between Prospero's magic and the "magic" of the theatre. I also enjoyed the way it touched on themes such as revenge versus forgiveness. Placing it in the context of Britain's growing colonialism, added another layer to my appreciation and understanding of this play.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Week Ending 26 April 2015

Our first week back into formal, structured learning after a two week break went smoothly and uneventfully. Nothing much to write about at all in a week with few real highlights. Since I'm committed to blogging every week here is a brief recap.

* Dh finally retired from Scouting. He started out regularly parent helping when Mr 22 first got involved twelve years ago and within a matter of months was a warranted leader, first with the Cub section (8-10 year olds) and then with the Scout section (10-14 year olds). He continued even after our children were no longer involved in the group (Mr 17 is still involved in Scouting but at another group since our group doesn't operate sections for those older than 14). His retirement really feels like the end of an era.

* Miss 14 attended another module for her coaching/leadership course through Gymsports. This was a practical session on rhythmic gymnastics and she was surprised she enjoyed it as much as she did. Just one module left and the  course will be finished.

* Our hob and oven both stopped working on Saturday evening. A problem with the circuit breaker that requires an electrician. Since I'm not willing to pay call out rates for the weekend and because Monday is a public holiday here I'll be without regular cooking facilities for at least two days. We solved the problem on Sunday evening by using some two-for one vouchers we had for a Mexican takeaway. I'll have to see what can be cooked on the barbecue and hope the forecast rain holds off until the problem is resolved.

* Mr 17 took part in two Anzac Day marches to commemorate our war veterans.

* I found this on Miss 14's noticeboard.

Time to rethink our approach to physics I think. She has one more week on the current unit and then she can look at some other resources I have to see if she prefers those to what she is currently using. I suspect the dislike might be for the subject in its entirety though! The irony is that she chose to do physics this year - it wasn't a subject we required.

Linking up with the Weekly Wrap-Up over at Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Week Ending 19 April 2015

This has been a wonderfully quiet and relaxing week. The weather was terrible at the start of the week. The last time our city saw snow in April was 23 years ago. Still it's been the perfect excuse to stay at home. There has been

movie watching,

We don't have a proper table tennis table or net but they commandeered the dining room table and used some plastic containers as the net!

game playing,

Miss 14's pile on the left; mine on the right.

book reading,

With the cooler weather we started feeling like soups, curries and casseroles. We love browsing through  books and magazines looking for new recipes to try.

and menu planning.

The weather improved later in the week and Miss 14 and I managed one birding trip - a bush walk with a small group of fellow birders. Not a lot of variety, but large numbers of kereru and fantails.

Linking up with Kris's Weekly Wrap-Up.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Week Ending 12 April 2015

On Monday morning Miss 14 departed for her ornithology camp - a departure that was not without hiccups. After the alarm went off at 7am I called Miss 14 and then went to the kitchen to feed the dog and cat and start breakfast. After a while I glanced at the clock on the microwave - 6:15. What? Then the dawning realisation. Daylight savings ended the day before and dh had neglected to alter the alarm clock in our room. As it turned out the extra hour was advantageous. Since we were ahead of schedule we headed to the airport early. Mr 17 dropped us off. When Miss 14 went to check in the airline staff refused to let her do so until she could prove she was over 12 (and thus entitled to fly unaccompanied). We had no proof on us since it had never been asked for on any of her previous flights. Luckily we live fairly close by and Mr 17 was able to grab her birth certificate and speed (not quite literally but I suspect he was pushing the limit!) back and drop it off, meaning we were able to get her checked in with just 5 minutes to spare! Miss 14's flight was only an hour and she was going to text me when she had met up with the people (strangers to us but relations of a friend) who were putting her up for the night and transporting her to where she needed to go the following day. After an hour and a half I'd heard nothing. A check online revealed her flight had arrived early but a text to her didn't get a reply. About 45 minutes later the land line rang - Miss 14 saying she had arrived but couldn't text since she couldn't find her phone. We later located it in the car. She also said rough weather was forecast and they'd had to change the venue for at least part of the camp since the ferry wouldn't transport them until the weather improved. All-in-all not a promising start.

Thankfully the rest of the week went much better. Except the weather that is - it rained 90% of the time every day bar the last one! Still she had a fantastic time with two days on one island and three on another. Both are predator-proof scientific reserves which play an important role in the conservation of many of our endangered species. Before the camp started her hosts took her to an urban wildlife sanctuary where predator proof fences have enabled a variety of native wildlife to flourish within the city.

All up she saw 17 new bird species for the year. Ten of them she'd never seen before at all. She especially enjoyed all the practical, hands-on activities -  catching, banding, measuring and monitoring. She also enjoyed the evening card playing sessions and was awarded a prize for "Best Poker Face"!

This island was home for a couple of nights.

A Fluttering Shearwater being processed. This camp gave her hands-on experience with seabirds which she hasn't had before.

A Yellow-Crowned Parakeet about to be banded. She'd never seen one of these in the wild before, although our local wildlife park has a captive population.

A North Island Robin. We've seen the similar South Island Robin before, but this one was a first for her.

The Kaka (or Bush Parrot) has always been one of Miss 14's favourites.

We get fantails in our backyard but they are constantly flitting about and thus hard to photograph. So she was quite pleased with this shot.

This is a Sooty Shearwater chick. These shearwaters nest in burrows on one of the islands. While the parents were feeding at sea the chicks were removed from their burrows, weighed, measured and banded before being returned. This was one of Miss 14's favourite activities even though one of these cuddly looking chicks gave her a nasty scratch and two others relieved themselves all down her front. She was the only one in her group to suffer this fate! Birds obviously don't enjoy being removed from their burrows. Her other battle scar is a bite mark from a Little Blue Penguin which she'd just removed from its burrow.

A Takahe. These birds were once though to be extinct until being rediscovered. in 1948. Their conservation status is critical and they are heavily monitored.You can see the antenna of this bird's transponder.

She even spotted this eagle (complete with Gandalf) in the airport terminal while waiting for her flight home!

All-in-all a fantastic bird-related week for Miss 14.

Linking Up with the Weekly Wrap-Up over at Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Week Ending 5 April 2015

This was our last week of the quarter and boy do we need the two week break. I think Miss 14 has had a bit too much on her plate and we're both bordering on burnout - crankiness was bubbling to the surface all week long! If a break hadn't been on the calendar I think we'd have been taking one anyway. Instead we modified our workload, took some time out for one fun activity and muddled through the rest of the week, getting through the bulk of the work that we deemed most important. And it was a short week (both Good Friday and Easter Sunday are full public holidays here) with yummy treats involved which helped us get by!

This is the second year the Big Egg Hunt has been in our city. Miss 14 and I spent an hour or so one afternoon seeing how many of the large, decorated ceramic eggs we could find. This year many of the eggs were behind windows, which made photography a bit more challenging. Miss 14's favourite was the egg in the centre.

Given the name of this blog I was pleased we managed to find Serendipity Egg!

Easter is always a good excuse for home economics. This year we made plenty (too many) of hot cross buns. Miss 20 and Miss 14 also made some chocolate eggs that were much appreciated, albeit messy in the making.

We've also been busy preparing for Miss 14's ornithology field camp next week. Since it is on a protected island there are very strict quarantine regulations. We've had to check all her gear (including all the seams, Velcro closings, pockets and any other hidden spots) for seeds, soil, foliage or other unwanted items, as well as thoroughly washing all her shoes.

Linking up at Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers.