Thursday, April 30, 2009

A Fun Family Celebration

I have a great family that puts up with me and my celebrations. Last week, on the 23rd, (as noted below in a blog) was William Shakepeare's birthday. Each Sunday we have a family dinner and who ever can will come, so last Sunday instead of the regular family dinner we celebrated the Bard's birthday with a feast! We had fans in case we got too hot.

Plenty of trivia questions to try to answer.

Yes, I made everyone wear a hat or flower crown for pictures. Some lasted longer than others in wearing the hats.

Books and information to look at and learn more about WS's life.

But the best part was the food!

We started with cheese curds, grapes, and apples.

Then moved on to the mushy herb and pea soup with shepards bread.

Next came the geletin filled oranges...YUM!

Then the main dish of lemon and onion stuffed cornish game hens and herb roasted potatoes.

And topped it all off with our favorite English dessert, Sticky Toffee Pudding with Butterscotch sauce and cream! YUM YUM!!!

The kids loved to color, sword fight, and put on puppet shows throughout the meal. They are good sports for me and it was a lot of fun! It was also a good excues for me to dress up which I love to do. Happy 445th birthday Mr. Shakespeare!

A Political Rant

I love following the news and politics, even though it makes me CRAZY!!! Last week, after being so frustrated with all the government spending and bailouts happening in Washingtion DC, I heard a commentator make a comment that summed up my frustrations perfectly!

He said,
"I am happy to help the helpless, but not the clueless!"

(Comic and radio host, Dennis Miller, on "The O'Reilly Report", April 15th)

That is exactly how I feel. I think a lot of the spending is going to the clueless and the cheats, and our elected officials either can't or won't make sure the money is going to those who are helpless. I'm glad I can turn off the news and take a break from it when I get too anxious. Sometimes I just want to scream at the TV, hoping they could hear me.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

A great day in History!!!

Happy Birthday!!!!

William Shakespeare was born in Stratford-Upon-Avon on April 23rd, 1564. He would be 445 years old today.
So if you are looking for a great excuse to celebrate...GO FOR IT!!!

A birthday thought for the day:

"How far that little candle throws his beams!

So shines a good deed in a naughty world!

"The Merchant of Venice" (V,i)

Have a great day! (pictures will be up soon of our Birthday Celebration!)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Steve Martin at his best!

I have always enjoyed Steve Martin in almost anything he is involved with. He is a talented writer, comedian, actor, and musician. He was even a writer on one of my favorite TV shows from years gone by, "The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour". Most recently, I was surprised to learn that he wrote the story of one of last years most suspenseful movies, "Traitor". Check it out if you haven't seen it. It is a nail-biter!

However, my favorite Steve Martin project is this movie: "A Simple Twist of Fate". He not only wrote this but also acted in it. It is an adaptation of the classic, "Silas Marner" by George Eliot. Many adaptations of classic novels don't translate well to modern day conditions but this one hits the mark! It is the story of a man who, after being betrayed by his wife, becomes a hermit. He spends all his time working and collecting gold coins. One evening, a toddler wanders into his life and changes him forever.

You follow their new life together as the beautiful little girl grows into a young women. Just to see Martin react to the different stages and challenges of her growing up are classic. A couple of examples are first, as a toddler, how he handles her always wandering off, and as a kindergartner, having separation anxiety. My favorite scene is them acting out while listening to the old classic song, "Running Bear".
There are many other great performances from actors you are familiar with such as, Laura Linney, Catharine O'Hara, Stephen Baldwin, and one of my favorites, Gabriel Byrne (he is fantastic in this!). There are 5 different actresses that play Matilda, the adopted daughter, throughout the movie, and the 10 year old, Alana Austin is perfect! She has a lot of emotional experiences during her scenes and she is really believable. Steve Martin is the perfect father and it is fun to watch him learn and grow through the story also.
This movie was released in 1994 so hopefully you can find it at the video store. It is worth the search!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

"The Merchant of Venice"

William Shakespeare's play "The Merchant of Venice" is a play that is rarely performed but it is one of my favorite of his plays (I know I have said that about other plays).

I don't know whether to class it a comedy or a drama because both are equally displayed throughout the play. It is also considered anti-Semitic, but in every version I have seen, I think the "Christians" come out looking worse than Shylock the Jew ever does. In fact I have yet to see a production of it where I haven't felt sorry for Shylock and the treatment that he recieves from the supposed Christians who don't behave very Christian-like to him.

The story is set in two locations, Venice and Belmont Italy. Bassanio wants to court the beautiful and rich Portia but doesn't have the money, so he asks his friend, Antonio if he can borrow it. Antonio, who doesn't have the ready cash, but will within 2 months time, goes to Shylock to get a loan. The terms of the loan repayment are that if not paid within the 3 month time period he, Antonio will owe Shylock "a pound of flesh". As with most of WS's plays, you have other sub-plots going on, but the main one that explains Shylock's dispare and vengeful attitude is the loss of a daughter, who leaves him and his faith, becomes a Christian to marry the man she loves.

Jared Sakren, the Artistic Director for the Southwest Shakespeare Co., is excellent in his protrayal of Shylock. Not only did he act the part he also directed the play along with Richard Baird. Kaitlin O'Neal and Richard Baird are also excellent in their roles as Portia and Bassanio, and David Loar plays the other title role of Antonio, who is the merchant of Venice. In fact, the entire cast is exceptional, and it is a large cast. Click on the link below to see a promotional clip of the program.
I highly recommend you see this production if you are in the Phoenix, Arizona area during it's run.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Question of Richard III

I recently returned from England and the “theme” of our trip this time seemed to be about Richard III (thanks to my nephew Mitchell’s shared interest in him).

Portrait of Richard III
We visited sites such as, York, Richard's headquarters when he was the Duke of Gloucester and leader of Northern England. This was during his brother, Edward IV's, reign as king. In York we went to Micklegate Bar, the eastern gate to the city of York where Richard’s father and brothers’ heads were up on pikes when he first came into the city, triumphant after winning a battle against Henry VI.

"The White Boar", crest of Richard III
We went through the tacky (he deserves better)Richard III Museum in Monk Bar (the Western gate to York), Barnard Castle, where he lived, Middleham Castle, his favorite castle and where he grew up, and Carlisle Castle, where he was Governor for a short time. My sister took some of our group to Warwick Castle, (I had been there a few times already so didn’t go this time), where Richard visited often and his brother was groomed to become the King (Edward IV).

My nephew, Tyler, at "The Kingmaker" exhibit at Warwick Castle

Lastly, we went through the Bloody Tower at the Tower of London where Richard's nephews were last seen alive and where their bones were found buried under a staircase a few hundred years later. I have studied Richard's lifeover a long period of time, and my thoughts about him have gone from one extreme to the other. I will explain what I mean.

Bloody Tower, Tower of London
I grew up on Shakespeare. I remember the first time I learned about Richard III was from Shakespeare’s play. So the hunchbacked, conniving, murdering Richard was the first version of the story that I learned, because WS wouldn’t lie. In that version, Richard killed his brother, George, the Duke of Clarence, then, when the King died, Richard did away with the his nephew’s so he could become King.

Carlisle Castle

Then as an adult I began to learn an entirely different version of the story. First I read “The Daughter of Time", by Josephine Tey. That was the first time I had ever considered that he wasn’t guilty of the murders. I was intrigued. Next I read “The Sunne In Splendor” by Sharon Kay Penman. That book convinced me of his innocence in the murders.

Middleham Castle and Richard III statue

Another book that I read was “Royal Blood”, by Bertram Fields. In this book the author outlines and evaluates the arguments on both side, for and against Richards guilt. He applys courtroom technics to the available evidence and then in the end he finds Richard III not-guilty of the murder of his nephews.
Middleham Castle

Three years ago I took a class at Oxford and in meeting my classmates at a reception, one woman, a distinguished lawyer from Washington DC found out that I had taken a class previously on the "Wars of the Roses" (the 32 year war between the York’s and the Lancaster’s for the crown). She immediately asked me on which side of the Richard III question I stood.

Window that Richard added while living at Barnard Castle

When I told her I believed him innocent of the murders, she invited me to join the “Ricardian Society of America”, which is a group of history buffs that try to convince the public opinion of Richard's innocence based on the facts that are available. I had never even heard that there was such a group, but apparently there are branches all over the world! One group even meets monthly in a Medieval Hall in York close by Micklegate Bar.

Barnard Castle

It is an interesting subject to study if you are a history buff like I am. As much as I hate to cast any aspersions on William Shakespeare, I have to remember that he was also a practical business man, and wrote the play to please Queen Elizabeth I, whose grandfather was the one that killed Richard at the battle of Bosworth Field.

Ty on the wall of Warwick Castle

WS knew on which side his bread was buttered and so I don’t fault him too much. I leave the question to each of you to see the both sides of the story and make your own judgement after learning the facts.

Warwick Castle

Micklegate Bar

Michael in Micklegate Bar

Same as above

Me, with Richard III (Madame Tussauds in London)
Anyway that is my opinion, and thanks for letting me put it out there!