20 July 2017

Sword of Honour

     The latest book I listened to was Sword of Honour by Evelyn Waugh. It was my first experience of Waugh's writing, and I greatly enjoyed it. Apparently the book is actually a trilogy of novels, but the edition I listened to seamlessly connected them and I didn't even notice. 

     The plot follows Guy Crouchback (lovely name, I know) and his experience as an English soldier during World War II. Most of the action takes place in a military setting, which is usually boring to me, but Waugh does a wonderful job of being just technical enough--but not too technical--that it's both informative and engaging. My favorite part of the book (as usual) is the array of gloriously diverse characters. Despite the complete absence of physical descriptions, I felt as though I knew each character personally and could picture each one with ease. I was laughing out loud countless times while sitting at my computer at work. The close of the story is not as satisfying as I would like, but I can't think of a single book ending I did enjoy completely! 
     Sword of Honour definitely got me interesting in reading more Waugh. Especially if all his books are so hilarious! It is a great story, with a wonderful balance between plot and character. A must-read for anyone who enjoys British literature!

18 July 2017

The Brothers Karamazov

     I recently read The Brothers Karamazov by the Fyodor Dostoevsky. On the whole, it was very interesting and I enjoyed it, despite the fact that the plot was difficult to follow most of the time. There was a distinct lack of likable characters (only one to my count), but that doesn't usually stop me from enjoying a story, and it didn't this time.
     The story follows the Karamazov family: Fyodor Pavlovich, the dissolute father; Dmitri (Mitya), the military son who follows somewhat in his father's footsteps; Ivan, the atheist and scholar; and Alexei (Alyosha), the kind and quiet would-be monk. Relations among all the members of the family are strained, and there is talk of theft and mental illness--especially when Fyodor Pavlovich is murdered.
     A good chunk of the story is a murder mystery, but with one downfall: you never find out beyond doubt who the murderer is. Woven into the seams of the mystery are many tragic, frustrating, funny, and entertaining encounters between characters. I know this book is considered great literature by many people, but if there is a deeper underlying theme, I definitely missed it. Wouldn't be the first time, either. I'll leave the analysis to the scholars.
   Anyway, this is a book I would recommend to anyone who knows what to expect from Russian literature and is looking for an entertaining and not-too-deep story!

11 July 2017

Matt & Isabel's Wedding

At last, the long-awaited day arrived! I don't have very many pictures, but here are the few I took.

05 July 2017

Shakespeare Camp 2017 - performance day photos

Photos from the Shakespeare Camp performance are here, courtesy of Mrs. Scott!

group photo in the shirts

Tessie doing my hair

shirt signing

Marie getting her hair done (we played the same character)

Getting ready backstage!

Viola and the sea captain

Cesario (Viola) and the Duke

Maria and Sir Toby Belch

Sir Toby and Sir Andrew Aguecheek

Lady Olivia with Malvolio and the Fool

Malvolio in his yellow stockings and cross-gartering

the fool pretending to be Sir Topas the curate

Group picture backstage!

It was an amazing seven years of Shakespeare Camp. I'm so grateful that I was able to have this experience in homeschooling!

03 July 2017

Shakespeare Camp 2017

My seventh and last Shakespeare Camp was as wonderful as ever! This year we put on Twelfth Night. Here is a synopsis of the plot:

     Viola is shipwrecked on the coast of Illyria and she comes ashore with the help of a captain. She lost contact with her twin brother, Sebastian, whom she believed to be drowned. Disguising herself as a young man under the name Cesario, she enters the service of Duke Orsino through the help of the sea captain who rescues her. Duke Orsino has convinced himself that he is in love with Olivia, whose father and brother have recently died, and who refuses to see charming things, be in the company of men, and entertain love or marriage proposals from anyone, the Duke included, until seven years have passed. Duke Orsino then uses 'Cesario' as an intermediary to profess his passionate love before Olivia. Olivia, however, forgetting about the seven years in his case, falls in love with 'Cesario', as she does not realize the Duke's messenger is a woman in disguise. In the meantime, Viola has fallen in love with the Duke Orsino, creating a love triangle between Duke Orsino, Olivia and Viola: Viola loves Duke Orsino, Duke Orsino loves Olivia, and Olivia loves Viola disguised as Cesario.
     In the comic subplot, several characters conspire to make Olivia's pompous steward, Malvolio, believe that Olivia has fallen for him. This involves Olivia's uncle, Sir Toby Belch; another would-be suitor, a silly squire named Sir Andrew Aguecheek; her servants Maria and Fabian; and her fool, Feste. Sir Toby and Sir Andrew engage themselves in drinking and revelry, thus disturbing the peace of Olivia's house until late into the night, prompting Malvolio to chastise them. Sir Toby famously retorts, "Dost thou think, because thou art virtuous, there shall be no more cakes and ale?" (Act II, Scene III) Sir Toby, Sir Andrew, and Maria are urged to plan revenge on Malvolio. They convince Malvolio that Olivia is secretly in love with him by planting a love letter, written by Maria in Olivia's handwriting. It asks Malvolio to wear yellow stockings cross-gartered, to be rude to the rest of the servants, and to smile constantly in the presence of Olivia. Malvolio finds the letter and reacts in surprised delight. He starts acting out the contents of the letter to show Olivia his positive response. Olivia is shocked by the changes in Malvolio and leaves him to the contrivances of his tormentors. Pretending that Malvolio is insane, they lock him up in a dark chamber. Feste visits him to mock his insanity, both disguised as a priest and as himself.
     Meanwhile, Sebastian (who had been rescued by his friend Antonio, a brigand who Orsino wants arrested) arrives on the scene, which adds confusion of mistaken identity. Mistaking Sebastian for 'Cesario', Olivia asks him to marry her, and they are secretly married in a church. Finally, when 'Cesario' and Sebastian appear in the presence of both Olivia and Orsino, there is more wonder and confusion at their similarity. At this point, Viola reveals her disguise and that Sebastian is her twin brother. The play ends in a declaration of marriage between Duke Orsino and Viola, and it is learned that Sir Toby has married Maria. Malvolio swears revenge on his tormentors and stalks off, but Orsino sends Fabian to placate him. (source)
     I played the part of Olivia for the second half of the play. (We have a custom of splitting parts because so many people sign up for the camp.) I was one of three seniors this year, and we had a great time at our last camp. There are some promising actors emerging from the younger kids! I hope I'm able to come back and visit and/or help with future camps.
     And now, a large jumble of pictures from my phone.

     I'll post pictures of the actual play later!

10 June 2017

Gone with the Wind

     This week I finished listening to Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell for the second time. I loved it just as much as I did the first time (and still hate the ending). It is often called the "great novel of the South," which I think is an apt description. Reading it definitely made me more interested in the Civil War and the way it changed day-to-day life for both the North and the South.

     For some reason, I tend to enjoy books whose main characters are not likable...Gone with the Wind is definitely an example of that. In fact, you could argue that there isn't a single likable character in the entire novel. But somehow that makes it more enjoyable, more compelling. Vain, manipulative Scarlett O'Hara; coarse and unpredictable Rhett Butler; maddeningly sweet Melanie Hamilton; ineffectual Ashley Wilkes...they're all obnoxious in their own ways, yet somehow the reader can't help but love them. Or at least care what happens to them.
     One nice aspect of this book is that no character's actions are all good or all bad. (Not even Melanie's!) They're much more human in the way they all make mistakes and all have moments of goodness. There are misconstrued motives, miscommunications, volatile characters, stubborn characters, some who are both stubborn and volatile. It's easy to be pulled into a book which is so like real life. Pulled into it enough to stick with it through the entire lengthy saga.
     I listened to Gone with the Wind as an audiobook. The whole thing was just over 49 hours long. (For comparison, Les Miserables is over 60 hours and War and Peace is almost 62.) It's an exciting 49 hours! Murders, romances, parties, escapes, danger, death, humor, history...it all happens between the pages of this book.
     There is an old and very famous movie of Gone with the Wind starring Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable. It was made in 1939 and is the highest-grossing movie of all time in Canada and the USA. It was the first major film in color, too. It's more than four hours long, but man they had to cut a lot from the story! The original cut of the movie was over seven hours. I wonder if even that was time enough for the whole story. Anyway, it's a very well-done adaptation. It would be interesting to see a newer version of it (now that film in color is no longer a novelty), but it seems that no one has undertaken the task since 1939. Ah, well, perhaps for the better.
     The main downfall of the book is its abysmal ending. Talk about no closure whatsoever! Remind me never to write an ending like that in one of my books.
     So anyway, I really like Gone With the Wind. I know some people who hate it, which I can understand. But I'd say it's worth a try for anyone who's interested in a great civil-war romance!

02 June 2017

Ordination Mass

Our church choir at St. Thomas More was asked by the bishop to sing for the Mass of priestly ordination, as the Cathedral choir is on tour in Europe. It was an epic, three-hour Mass, and so much fun to sing for! We had six men being ordained to the priesthood--what a blessing! Congratulations to Fr. Brian Eckrich, Fr. Tyler Mattson, Fr. Joseph Scholten, Fr. Andrew Thuringer, Fr. Timothy Smith, and Fr. Thomas Hartman!

Here's a recording of the entire thing: (PS the organist was amaaaazing)

Some pictures from the Diocese's FB page:

There were Knights of Columbus and some Knights and Ladies of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre.

The newly-ordained with Bishop Swain!

29 May 2017

Senior Recital and Open House

Saturday was the big day: my senior recital! It went really well and I'm happy to be done with practicing the same songs!

The program:
Sonata in e minor Hob XVI:34 - Franz Joseph Haydn
O Praise the Lord - Maurice Greene
Nocturne Op. 32 No. 1 - Frederic Chopin
Intorno All'idol Mio - Antonio Cesti
Three movements from Partita III in a minor - Johann Sebastian Bach
American Lullaby - Gladys Rich
Panis Angelicus - Cesar Franck
Two movements from Dolly Suite for Four Hands - Gabriel Faure

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After that was over, we headed home for a fun and relaxed open house. It was great to catch up with old friends!