Saturday, November 23, 2013

Relativism vs. Objectivism

I was thinking about Mrs. Quinet's comment about how Montaigne isn't a pure relativist. So I was wondering, what is he? I read a few research articles on Montaigne and the most people seem to think his philosophy lies some where between relativism and objectivism. 

Relativism is the belief that there is no absolute truth, only the truths that a particular individual or culture happen to believe. -
Essentially, relativists believe that different people can have different opinions on what's moral and immoral. 
Objectivism holds that certain moral principles are valid to all individuals and cultures.

I can see how Montaigne is referred to as both a relativist and an objectivist. However, I think the fact that he does show judgement in his writings proves that he is not entirely a relativist. I think Montaigne is more of an Reljectivist (relativist + objectivist), which I just made up. He does assert that what people believe to be immoral or moral is true for them. However, he also holds those individual beliefs to certain standards.

Montaigne In Modern Literature

For the past two days I found myself completely engrossed in rereading Catching Fire and Mockingjay, the second and third books to The Hunger Games series.  I've always understood the references Suzanne Collins cleverly weaves into her novels, but I never realized just how deep they really go. As we began to discuss Montaigne in class, I couldn't help but notice the parallels between "Of Cannibals" and "Of The Inconsistency of Our Actions" within Catching Fire and Mockingjay. It began when I realized her use of character names (Seneca, Cato, Brutus, etc.) were some of the people Montaigne recalled to back up his claims. It was the underlying message, though, that really made me think of Montaigne.

I guess I'll start with "Of Cannibals." Throughout the entire Hunger Games series the reader is exposed to a world in which a handful of humans are forced to act like animals, while the rest sit back and enjoy their luxuries. The plot is quite simple: it is the future, and the U.S. has been divided into 12 districts (each with its own commodity) and one Capital. Because of a rebellion against the Capital 75 years previous, all districts must give up one girl and boy between the ages of 12 to 18 that will fight to the death. The people in the Capital would be similar to the Europeans - they speak in funny accents, wear funny clothes, and are basically considered aliens to every non-Capital person. The districts and their tributes, would be the "barbarians." The district peoples are dirty, most live in poverty, many are uneducated, but in reality they are simply people. They are not the cannibals Montaigne writes of, until they become victors in the Hunger Games. The victors are those who become full of bloodlust, merciless, and cold-blooded killers who must do what they have to in order to survive. There is even one victor who tears another's throat out with her bear teeth. So who are the real barbarians? The Capital people who consider the Games to be simply entertainment, even though they do not understand the true implications of their actions? Or is it the tributes, forced to kill mercilessly to save their own lives, but took over 70 years to finally say enough?

"...I am heartily sorry that, judging their faults rightly, we should be so blind to our own. I think there is more barbarity in eating a man alive than in eating him dead."

The victors are not only damaged physically from their time in the arena, but also mentally. Especially in the last two novels, many of the characters suffer from the terrible memories during their time in the Games. Most become mentally broken and even start to decay by the last book. This is where "Of Inconsistency of Our Actions" comes in. Katniss, the main character, questions who she is, has become, and will have to be many times in the novels. She's plagued by her former actions, and she repeats countless times that her former self is dead. She discovers new qualities within herself that she never saw before (both good and bad), but only through the comments of others. She is the most grounded character, the one who truly knows who she is, yet there is nothing she can do to stop everything from crumbling around her. At the very end of Mockingjay she refers to herself as "patchwork" due to the amount of skin graphs needed to replace a good majority of burns. She doesn't mention it, but she's patchwork mentally too. To keep herself from going insane she repeats a list of factual information that she knows to be true, such as her name, age, what's happened to her, etc., but she never repeats qualities of herself, because she knows how often they change based on certain circumstances.

“We are all patchwork. And so shapeless and diverse in composition that each bit, each moment plays its own game. And there is as much difference between us and ourselves as between us and others.”

In the end, though, Katniss must decide whether to stand by the new regime of rebels and reinstate a new version of the Hunger Games, one featuring the children of the Capital, or allow the new republic to be created civilly. She votes to have the Games one last time, but keeps her ulterior motives within. So, rather than killing the previous President who is the main cause of all this suffering, she kills the new one who would simply allow the same thing to happen again. So perhaps tributes and victors are not simply barbarians, but the ones who contain enough knowledge to make the right choice. Maybe it was Katniss's transition from hunter, tribute, lover, rebel, victor, tribute, insane, icon, broken, etc. that gave her access to qualities she never knew, or wanted to know. Overall, I think there's much that can be said about the parallels between Montaigne and The Hunger Games. It makes us question who the real barbarians are, and gives us knowledge to the patchwork of ourselves.


Among the many innovations in science, math, and the arts during the era we are discussing was the invention of modern tonality.  To the modern ear, music from the periods we've discussed so far can seem rather aimless or random; by the Renaissance, harmony was somewhat better understood and the music sounds more like music.  However, a coherent system of tonality was not developed until the 17th and 18th centuries.

Tonality is based around thirds, which are musical intervals--an interval is just the relationship between two frequencies; if you take two taut strings and set one vibrating in two waves and one vibrating in one, that is a simple interval (namely an octave).  A third interval is what you hear if you play two keys on a piano separated by one note; in terms of frequencies it is a 6:5 ratio (minor third, used in Western music to suggest a sad or contemplative mood) or a 5:4 ratio (a major third).  The traditional definition of tonality is a centering of music around a triad, which consists of a minor third on top of a major third (a major triad--for example, C, E, and G form a C major triad) or a major on top of a minor (a minor triad, like A, C, and E for A minor).  There are 24 possible triads, and each is associated with a key.  The fact that fifths and thirds were consonant intervals had been known since at least the 10th century (our motet begins and ends on a major triad, although Thomas Morley had little conceptual understanding of tonality), but the systemization of them like this was a development of the 17th century that made possible much more formal, complex, and systemized music.  The key difference between tonal music and Renaissance music is that the keys were not just understood as a single, consonant chord, but were extended to their relationship with a scale--that is, a C major triad is associated with the scale C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C, giving a full set of scale "degrees".

This understanding led to all sorts of new flexibility in music--for example, now composers could take a chord--say, C major--and shift it, not chromatically by moving each note one semitone downwards to a B major triad, which sounds like a tonal contrast, but rather tonally by moving each note down along the scale, to what is known as a B diminished triad and sounds more like a tonal development.  This understanding of the relationship between scales, keys, and triads is the foundation of classical music theory and composition, and is the reason why by the 17th century music sounds familiar to the modern ear.

Montaigne and Hamlet

I don't know if Shakespeare actually read Montaigne's essays, but in Hamlet at least he seems to be saying much of the same thing.  Montaigne begins Of the Power of Imagination with the sentence "A strong imagination creates the event" and proceeds with a series of examples of how people's expectations shape their reactions to events.  Hamlet says "there is nothing/either good or bad, but thinking makes it so"; they are both expressing the same sense of relativism.  In the Hamlet quote, I think he uses "but" in the sense "except when"--the distinction is important, since if he uses it in the modern sense, he is actually saying that nothing is either good or bad, while if he uses it in the former sense, he is saying that things can only be good or bad in one's judgment, which is a much milder brand of relativism, and more similar to that of Montaigne.  Anyway, another point where the two authors converge is the premise of Of the Inconsistency of our Actions--Hamlet constantly thinks about how indecisive and slow he has been in pursuing his revenge, and Montaigne takes the stance that nobody can take a consistently reasonable course of action at all.  Obviously, Hamlet is a play and Montaigne wrote a series of philosophical essays, so Shakespeare doesn't deliver any kind of thesis or resolution to the issues it raises, but the same sort of issues seem to pre-occupy both authors.

Montaigne's Tower

The Norton anthology mentioned in the headnotes on Montaigne that he wrote his essays and spent most of his time in a circular tower.  It turns out that the tower is still standing (although the rest of the ch√Ęteau burned down in the 19th century).  The library and study were originally covered in paintings and inscriptions, only a few of which still survive.  Many of the quotes that appear constantly in his essays are carved into the joists in the library:

The above picture translates (I think) as "I am a human, to me nothing" and presumably originally read "I am a human and I consider nothing that is human alien to me.", which is a quote from Terence mentioned by the Norton in connection to Montaigne.  I think this explains why he inserts so many semi-relevant quotations into his essays--he was constantly surrounded by them.

Thursday, November 21, 2013


"And there is as much difference between us and ourselves as between us and others."- Montaigne 

Here is the video I was talking about today in class. Dove did a experiment where they had men and women describe themselves to a forensic artist who drew what they described without ever seeing them. Then they had another person come in and describe the first person to him as well.
I think Montaigne meant that the way we see ourselves is often very different from the way others see us. What Dove found in the experiment was the men and women described themselves in a much more negative way than how others described them. Even if that does not hold true in all cases, it does demonstrate the differences in how we see ourselves vs. how others see us. 

Beware: This video is a bit cheese-tastic.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

A Modern Cave

In Philosophy we started watching The Truman Show, a 1998 film with Jim Carrey, and I really don't have words that do it justice. For anyone who hasn't seen it, it's essentially about the reality television show of Truman Burbank, who's played by Jim Carrey. However, Truman doesn't know his entire life is a television show that is broadcasted live 24/7 around the world. He was "the first baby every adopted by a corporation."Everyone around him, including his wife, are actors. His hometown is a set built under a arcological dome that is completely controlled by the producers, and is so huge it "can be seen from space." It's kind of like inception. It's a world within a world. The only one who doesn't know, however, is Truman. 
While the show is a monumental success (they literally incorporate product advertisements into Truman's everyday conversations), some people see how frankly messed up it is. While defending the show, the creator Christof states, "If he was absolutely determined to discover the truth, there's no way we could prevent him. I think what distresses you is that, ultimately, Truman prefers his cell." After this scene Father Millican asked what this made us think of and right away Plato's Allegory of the Cave came to mind. After realizing how the world he lives in revolves around him, Truman attempts to discover what is going on (we haven't finished watching, so I'm not sure if he does). However, after the producers thwart his original attempts to discover the truth, he becomes discouraged and thinks he is the crazy one. 
This movie is very much a modernized version of Allegory of the Cave. Truman struggles to make the decision between remaining in his ignorant bliss (in the cave) or discovering the truth (venture into the light). I am just in awe of this film. 

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Shakespeare competition

After talking about the Instagram Shakespear competiton I asked around to see exactly who was entering. Sam Griffith informed me about some of the details. The New York Times is sponsoring  the  competition  and the winner gets to be featured in one of their articles. Sam decided to give his "modern hip hop rendition" of  Hamlet's lines about using the play to discover Claudius's guilt. (Disclaimer, this is not the actually submission.)

Sibelius and The Tempest

As noted in an earlier post, Shakespeare's plays seem to have had an endless capacity to inspire composers since their authorship.  Another well-known example of this relationship is Jean Sibelius' incidental music to The Tempest.  The Tempest is one of Shakespeare's last plays.  It is a tragicomedy (originally titled a comedy) set on a fantastical island where the magician Prospero, along with a loyal spirit, Ariel, and his daughter, Miranda, have been stranded by his brother Antonio.  Seeing that Antonio is near the island, Prospero summons a storm to wreck their ship against the island.  He then eventually brings all of the characters to his home on the island, forgives Antonio, frees Ariel, and buries his magical staff.  Somewhat like Hamlet, The Tempest frequently breaks the third wall as Prospero comments on how he uses illusion to control the other actors; Prospero's forsaking magic is often viewed as representing Shakespeare's retirement, since The Tempest is thought to be his last play.

Jean Sibelius (1865-1957) was a Finnish nationalist composer.  He is best known for his symphonic poem Finlandia.  He was initially strongly influenced by Wagnerian nationalism, but he eventually decided it was too brash and arrogant; his music tends toward the more emotional style of Tchaikovsky.  Like Rachmaninoff, he was often criticized for being too conservative in his compositional style, which remained firmly tonal and Romantic while his increasingly modernist peers were experimenting with atonality (writing in no particular key) and other avant-garde techniques.  He supposedly commented that while the Modernists were mixing elaborate cocktails, he served the public plain water.  His incidental music to The Tempest was written at the end of his career, in 1926, after which he effectively retired from composing except for some abortive attempts to write an eighth symphony.  Like Mendelssohn's Midsummer Night's Dream, it consists of a series of vocal pieces and long orchestral interludes:

I think that despite the radically different period and style, Sibelius' piece actually bears a lot of resemblance to Mendelssohn's.  Both chose a comedy set in a fantastic realm, although The Tempest is rather more ambiguous, complicated, and occasionally dark.  I think the biggest difference from the Mendelssohn, except for the instrumentation and other differences that inevitably occur in two pieces a century apart, is the tone of mystery and sometimes of weariness throughout the Sibelius--both pieces evoke energy and magic, but Sibelius's takes a darker turn.

Recorders in the Renaissance

Shakespeare mentions the recorder in Hamlet p. 80 (or act 3, scene 2, lines 351-380).  Hamlet uses them to mock Rosencrantz and Guildenstern's efforts to influence him.

I noticed these lines because for the last couple of weeks I have been spending a lot of time learning and playing the recorder part for Benjamin Britten's (whom Megan mentioned in the music presentation) Noye's Fludde, whose name derives from a 15th century English play.  The recorder is a fipple flute.  In a typical (transverse) flute, the air is blown directly across some edge, and the separation of the airstream creates the sound; in a fipple flute, however, air is blown into a mouthpiece (the fipple), which then directs the air across the edge that creates the sound.  This results in a much easier instrument with a very steady sound, since the air always hits at the same angle, hence Shakespeare's description of the recorder as "easy as lying." Meanwhile, in a transverse flute the player can change the direction of the airstream, giving him or her more control but also more opportunity to mess up.  The recorder has a very simple fingering system consisting simply of holes bored in the instrument, which makes them relatively easy to make but also gives them a small range and makes certain notes difficult to play in tune.

Recorders were invented in the middle ages, but had their heyday in the Renaissance as composers started to write music for instruments (as opposed to medieval plainchant) and composition was more informed by folk music.  Due to their popularity in the Renaissance, recorders were built in a large variety of sizes, ranging from bassoon-like instruments to recorders smaller than modern soprano recorders.  Here is a recording of an Italian piece from the late 16th century:

While modern recorder pieces tend to use the instrument to evoke a rustic flute sound, in the Renaissance they tried to make them sound more like voices.  Modern recorders have a tapered bore, like a piccolo, that gives them some interesting harmonics; Renaissance recorders had straight bores that gave them a plainer sound.  You can definitely hear how this composer simply took the techniques for vocal music and changed the range to fit a recorder choir.

Friday, November 15, 2013

(Reply to Kincy's Post)

I honestly did not know about the skull scene. As Brooke said, I've watched Star Wars more times than I can count, and I never picked up on that reference, either. The scene makes sense to me now that we've read and analyzed the soliloquy. Hamlet always seems to look at the skull in a thoughtful manner, almost as if he's envious of the dead and their lack of suffering. There's a photo of David Tennant portraying Hamlet that I also find particularly interesting. It's his face looking "beyond" the camera and it's all in broken glass, so it seems as if everything about Hamlet has shattered into  pieces.

Cathedral Dome

This photo just shows the inner shell of Brunelleschi's dome in Florence. The roof was actually topped with a copper ball, but the ball was struck by lightening on July 17 1600 and fell from the roof. A man by the name of Andrea del Verrocchio replaced it with a larger ball two years later. Leonardo da Vinci was under his apprenticeship while the ball was being replaced. He was fascinated by Brunelleschi's machines that hoisted the ball onto the roof, so he thoroughly studied them. He made sketches of the machines while studying them; for this reason, many people today wrongly credit da Vinci with the invention of the machines.

William and Anne and Their Not-So-Lovely Love Story

In the fifth grade my very eccentric English teacher informed me of my possible, yet probably not, relation to Anne Hathaway, William Shakespeare’s wife. I figured since we’re reading Shakespeare, I may as well do some research on my maybe relative. What I found was kind of a bummer. I figured William Shakespeare, the writer of the single most intense love story of all time, may have had a pretty romantic personal life.. I was wrong. In fact, most people think Shakespeare was trapped into marrying my really great-maybe-grandma. 
When Shakespeare was 18 and Anne was 26, she got pregnant. As we saw with Ophelia's conversation with her brother and father, for a women to get pregnant or even have sex before marriage was a major scandal. Shakespeare had to marry Anne to save both of their reputations, as well as the reputation of his ambitious family. Even worse, the marriage documents indicate Shakespeare may have been involved with another women. The documents refer to two women: Anne Hathaway of Stratford and Anne Whateley of Temple Grafton. It is possible that Shakespeare intended to marry Anne Whateley, but when Anne Hathaway showed up pregnant, he quickly had the documents altered so they could get married and avoid social suicide. Moreover, Shakespeare, being only 18 at the time, was under the age of consent, which was 21. Meaning, his father could have had the documents arranged and forced Shakespeare into the marriage wether he was willing or not. William and Anne were married six months before the birth of their first child Susanna.
For most of their marriage, Shakespeare lived in London becoming a major success, while Anne remained in Stratford her entire life. When Shakespeare died, the only mention he made of Anne in his will was to leave her his "second best bed."There are so many speculations on what this means that I can hardly summarize it. However, Anne would have legally gotten one third of his estate, seeing as that was the law. When Anne died she was buried next to her husband.
In conclusion, from what I've gather, Anne and William didn't have the most romantic marriage. However, keep in mind that most of what is known about their marriage is speculation. For instance, what if the person writing the marriage documents had dyslexia and just messed up the spelling of Anne's last name. We really can't know for sure. 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

While searching for an accurate picture of Hamlet on Google, I realized that every photo of Hamlet included a skull. We read the scene in the graveyard where Hamlets mopes about the futility of life when he holds the skull of someone who helped raise him. When I read his speech I figured it was just Hamlet being Hamlet and didn't find any revealing insight into Hamlet's thought. But after looking at all of these different portrayals of him, I would say this scene could be the epitome of Hamlet's attitude and outlook on life. He acknowledges that everyone will die and his argument of futility becomes more depressing from there.

I have been thinking about what we talked about in class the other day about double standards for women. Ms. King pointed out that even today society still wants women to have a pure image. Although people don’t necessarily think that all women still need to be virgins before wed, this “pure” image is still expected but in a different way.  Society still expects women to be more innocent than men. I’ll again use the example that I used in class the other day. When Miley and the “blurred lines” guy performed together, Miley got all the criticism. A guy can always do what ever he wants on stage and is glorified for his originality and braveness. Whenever a woman does half the things that a man is acclaimed for, she gets the reputation of being promiscuous and too explicit. There seems to always be a line for women but not for men. I’m not supporting Miley’s naked “Wrecking Ball” video, but I do think she deserves the same response a man would receive. When the Red Hot Chili Peppers came on stage naked and only with socks on that became their iconic image that everyone loved. They didn’t receive nearly as much criticism as Miley has and that was more than a decade ago. Sorry for contributing to the “Miley obsession,” but it did seem like a good example for a double standard that’s still in our society. Again, I don’t think that everyone should flaunt his or her sexuality on every television show and magazine cover, but I do think that men and women deserve the same expectations and boundaries. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

"Artist Shows What Disney Princesses' Happily-Ever-Afters Really Look Like"

Saturday, November 9, 2013

One Minute Hamlet

Note: It's not actually one minute.

That pretty much sums it up.  I love Hamlet's nonsensical recital of famous lines and Yorick's very brief appearance.

Shakespeare and Mendelssohn

Shakespeare has inspired a huge amount of classical music, particularly from the Romantic period.  One of Tchaikovsky's most famous works, for example, is his symphonic poem Romeo and Juliet; he also wrote a piece based on The Tempest and incidental music (basically a score) to Hamlet.  However, probably the most famous musical setting of any of Shakespeare's works is Felix Mendelssohn's Overture (1826) and Incidental Music (1842) to A Midsummer Night's Dream.  In a post at the beginning of the year, I briefly referred to Mendelssohn's most famous piece, his Wedding March, which in fact comes from this incidental music (at 40:32 in the following recording).  Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade borrows a number of effects and chords from the flute parts of the overture.  Here is a recording of both of Mendelssohn's pieces together as a single suite:

The piece is not particularly novel in its form or harmonics; it is actually more or less typical of the early Romantic style in that it follows classical-period conventions of form (there is an exposition, transition, development, transition, and restatement for each theme) and harmony, while adding a programmatic element--if you skim through a copy of the play as you listen to the music, you should be able to pick out some of the correspondences.  It is somewhat unusual in that the lines of the play are sometimes sung over the orchestra; the lines make no sense in this recording because it skips over the unaccompanied, spoken lines between each section.  However, I think the reason that it is so well-known is that it does such a good job of conveying the energy and magic of the play.  (The painting, by the way, is The Reconciliation of Titania and Oberon by Joseph Paton.)

The Printing Press and Renaissance Music

Before the development of the printing press, wide distribution of music to the public was essentially impossible. When printing presses became possible by developers such as Gutenberg, Renaissance composers jumped on it. This was the first stages of music becoming widely available to the public. 
Here's a demonstration of printing on the Gutenberg Press. 

My Girl- Lady Jane Grey

Last year in Euro we watched the movie Lady Jane, which was about the seriously tragic life of Lady Jane Grey, also known as The Nine Days Queen. To this day, she's neck and neck with Margaret Thatcher and Elizabeth I on my list of favorite women in England's history. She was the great-grandaughter of Henry VII, making her a cousin of Edward VI. Edward VI, while on his death bed at the age of 15 in June of 1553, named Jane (age 16) the successor to the throne of England, mainly because no one wanted the Protestant-hater Mary, Edward VI and Elizabeth I's half sister, to become queen. She was married to Lord Guildford Dudley, John Dudley's son who was Edward's chief minister. Jane was named Queen of England on July 10, 1553. The whole thing was a political scheme by John Dudley and Jane's parents. She ruled for nine days until the Privy Council had her imprisoned in the Tower of London. On July 19, 1553 the Privy Council named Mary I Queen of England. In November, Jane was convicted of high treason and sentenced to death. 
Jane was a devoted Protestant and a serious humanist with a first-rate education. Albert Pollard called her "The traitor-heroine of the Reformation." Jane became viewed as a "Protestant martyr," especially after the many executions of Protestants by "Bloody Mary." A book I read, Innocent Traitor: A Novel of Lady Jane Grey by Allison Weir, explains in detail all of Jane's forward-thinking ideas, which is probably why I admire her so much. 

Friday, November 8, 2013

Here are some fun facts I found about Hamlet online
- The movie "The Lion King" is based off Hamlet
- Hamlet is the world's most filmed story after Cinderella
- The original Hamlet was supposed to be quite fat
- Over 200 women have played the role of Hamlet on stage. The most recent being in 2006 when a theater company in Washington produced an all-female version of Hamlet.

I find this last fun fact especially intriguing considering that women during the Elizabethan period didn't act in plays. I'm interested in how they pulled that off, a play composed solely of women, even if they have to play males' parts. I guess they just find women with really deep voices...?

More about the Three Doshas

Physical charactersitcs of a Vata Dosha predominant person is that the person is tall, dry skin, dry hair, don't sweat. Physical characteristics of a Pitta Dosha predominant person is a medium physique, strong, well-built, sweat a lot, and subject too rashes, boils, skin cancer, ulcers, and dry eyes. Kapha Dosha predominant people are strong and have a sturdy, heavier build (they tend to be overweight). They have soft hair and soft skin. Vata Dosha has qualities reflecting the elements of space and air. Pitta Dosha has qualities reflecting the elements of fire and water. Kapha Dosha has qualities reflecting the elements of water and earth.

Some Mythology and Stuff

So while I was looking up apple facts for my UChicago application, I came across why Hercules had to hold up the sky. Hercule's eleventh labor was to retrieve the apple of the Hesperides, who were a triad of nymphs who tended a garden with immortality-granting apples. Because Atlas was the father of these nymphs, Hercules agree to hold the sky for a bit in exchange for Atlas getting an apple for him. After he got the apple,  however, Atlas decided he didn't want to take the sky back. Hercules obviously didn't want to do this, so he asked Atlas to hold the sky for him while he scratched his chin, and Atlas actually did it so Hercules just left with the apple.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Three Doshas

The Three Doshas of Indian culture, also known as Ayurveda Doshas, are much like the four humors during the Elizabethan period in Europe. Doshas are the energies that make up every individual. Various Dosha proportions determine a persons physiological and personality traits (sound familiar?). The Three Doshas are Vata Dosha, Pitta Dosha, and Kapha Dosha. Vata Dosha is the energy that controls bodily function associated with motion (blood circulation, breathing, blinking, etc.). When in balance, Vata Dosha provides for creativity and vitality; however, when out of balance, it can produce fear and anxiety. Pitta Dosha controls the body's metabolic systems (digestion, absorption, nutrition, temperature). When it's in balance it leads to contentment and intelligence, and when it's out of balance it causes ulcers and anger. Kapha Dosha is energy that controls the bodies growth. It moisturizes the skin, supplies water to all body parts, and maintains the immune system. When it is in balance a person will express their love and forgiveness. When it is out of balance a person will feel insecure and envious.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

All Hail King....Simba?

So I kept trying to think of modern renditions of Hamlet, and then I thought: The Lion King
I found a video with all the comparisons, because there are too many parallels to count. 
So here's the main breakdown:

Simba - Hamlet
Mufasa - Old Hamlet
Scar - Claudius
Sarabi - Gertrude
Nala - Ophelia 
Timone & Pumba - Rosencrantz and Guildenstern 

However, I would like to point a few contrasts. First off, Timone and Pumba are not killed by Simba. Nor, as we all know, does Nala drown or Sarabi die. I think the most obvious one of all is that Simba does not actually die, and the circle of life *cue music* is completed (rather than in Hamlet, where everyone basically dies). 

I particularly like the use of Mozart's "Requiem in D Minor" in the video. I find it quite fitting to the mood of the play, and along with Rachmaninov's "All-night Vigil," will probably continue to play through my head throughout the remainder of the play. 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead

I think we should watch Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. The play was written in 1966 by Tom Stoppard. He first wrote a one-act played called Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Meet King Lear in 1964. Then, he expanded upon that play, rewrote it, and called it Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. This new play was first published in 1967. It is a black comedy/parody/satire and is set in the late 1500s (Elizabethan era) because it semi corresponds with Hamlet. In the play, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern try to find their own purpose in the world, and they also try to figure out why Hamlet is going crazy. Much like Hamlet, this play deals with the concept of action and delay. The climax of the play occurs when Rosencrantz and Guildenstern escort Hamlet to England and realize he is going to be murdered when they arrive. However, the two men decide to continue on, failing to act upon the information they have just received. They eventually figure out that they will be killed, too. Obviously, when they figure out they are going to be killed as well, they wish they would have acted earlier.
Tell me what you all think about this for our parody. Amy, Kincy, and I met during lunch to work on the lyrics. So far we have "Soon is the time of leaving, when college apps are nearing, ugh ugh ugh ugh ugh (you get it ) with this graduating class we will cherish the time that's passed (wooh wooh wooh woohh woah woah woah ) "

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Italy and the East

In our discussion of the Italian Renaissance, Mrs. Quinet made several references to Ottoman influences on European art.  I was wondering in what historical context these influences could be placed.
I don't have any books on the subject, and I found fairly little specific information online.  In general, it seems that the Italian city-states, particularly Venice, were alternately at war with and trading with the Ottomans throughout the high middle ages.  The focal point of the relations and trade between the Ottomans, the Byzantines, and the Italians was Constantinople, later Istanbul.  The Byzantines had the oldest claim to the city, but the Venetians actually controlled it after the Fourth Crusade (in which the "Crusaders", sailing from Venice shortly after the Byzantines had expelled Venetians from Constantinople, turned on their Christian erstwhile allies and took the city)  for the first half of the 13th century, and after 1453 it was an Ottoman territory.  The Venetians--who had territories in the Balkans and throughout the eastern Mediterranean--were intermittently in conflict with whoever wanted control of Greece; they had an antagonistic relationship with the Byzantines, and by the apogee of Ottoman power were in constant conflict with them too.
However, Venetians also controlled the trade--in metalwork, incense, and most of all pepper--with the East, and a significant cultural transfer in the interwar periods was inevitable, as we saw in, for example, the Venetian portrayals of the Virgin Mary.
Relations really soured, however, and this transfer ended around the time of the Italian Renaissance.  In the middle of the 16th century, the Ottomans expanded into Catholic Europe: they were famously at the gates of Vienna by 1529, and under the leadership of the supremely competent Suleiman the Magnificent.  Unfortunately for the Ottomans, Vienna was under the control of the Hapsburgs, who at that time were also at their height and also had a competent and powerful leader in Charles V, who finally broke their advance.  The Popes of the time were simultaneously facing this existential threat and that of the Reformation, and the Italian city-states increasingly turned agains the Ottomans, culminating in the Battle of Lepanto (1571) in which a combined Italian fleet defeated the Ottomans in the Gulf of Corinth.

The Shaky Foundations of Medieval Order

Everything about medieval/Elizabethan conceptions of the Great Chain of Being, humors, and other elements of the divine order they saw in the universe seems to me totally arbitrary and illogical. Partly, this is because medieval thinkers expected to find an order in everything that was simple, complete, and perfect. Without that perspective, I intuitively do not accept the idea, for example, that there should be some significant number of pure elements and that each should have a perfect analogue in the human body. However, even given that assumption, I can’t account for the various elements of the medieval worldview. If you expect grand simplicity, why does that automatically mean that everything has to be sorted according to wet, dry, cold, and hot? Why not, for example, use density and strength to classify them? Or why not scrap those classifications altogether, and say that the three elements are red, green, and blue, and everything is some combination thereof? In fact, given only that there is some grand, elegant plan to explain all reality, the only truly elegant solution seems to me to be some sort of monism--everything is one substance. I think that the problem with evaluating medieval thinkers this way, and the reason they came to the conclusions that they did, is that they were told to follow their antecedents (especially the bible, Aristotle, and Plato) unquestioningly and studiously. For example, in order to explain some part of Hell, Virgil urges Dante to remember Aristotle’s Poetics. In the medieval frame of reference, it seems like these texts took the place that physical data take among today’s scientists--everything is supposed to be framed around them; they are not questioned, but rather conformed to and modeled. This explains their arbitrary sense of order; it is simply a way of joining Platonic dualism (sublunary vs. superlunary), Aristotle (who formulated the four elements), and Christian theology while avoiding conflicts between them. The medieval thought is not arbitrary in its derivation, it is just built on foundations that seem, to the modern reader, to be questionable.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Comedy = Tragedy + Time

We've been watching Woody Allen's Crimes and Misdemeanors in Philosophy and a quote that really sticks out to me was the pompous television producer's statement that "Comedy is tragedy plus time." 
I completely agree with this statement. For example, say you do something completely embarrassing. Right after the fact you're mortified and want nothing more than to dig a hole head-first into China. If this is where the story ends, it's a tragedy, mainly because it ends in misery. However, say that you use that situation of utter embarrassment as the topic of your college essay. The essay sets you a part, and ultimately helps you receive admission to your dream school. At first, it was a tragedy. However, after some time the story takes a turn and ends in happiness, effectively turning it into a comedy. Now this is an extremely simplified example. However, I think it shows how in time, things tend to work out. Though this may not be true for all stories (Oedipus?) , I think this statement does hold a lot of truth.