Posts Tagged ‘History’

Julius Caesar

November 4, 2017

I went and saw Chesapeake Shakespeare Theater’s production of Julius Caesar last week and it got me thinking. Most stories that Shakespeare wrote had heroes and villains. Even the histories painted certain characters as good and certain characters as bad. That is the way humans tend to divide things. We split up actions and people as Right or Wrong. Of course, we often overlook that people are more shades of gray but that is very complicated to think about. Anyway, here are some thoughts based on what I was thinking about. It is clumsy and mostly unresearched but here it is.


Julius Caesar

We know that Julius Caesar was a charismatic leader of the Roman Republic based on lines from the play. A big bit of evidence is that he is highly beloved by the people of the Roman Empire. Being beloved by the people does not necessarily mean that a politician is a good person. In fact, that is some of what Cassius warns against during Act 1. There is a danger in putting any human on a pedestal because you will almost always be eventually disappointed. People are not perfect and should not be treated as such. Praising people like Ronald Reagan or John F Kennedy tends to push their glaring faults and their transgressions into the shadows. We know that Caesar was starting to buy into his own hype and was highly susceptible to flattery. He could have ended a democratic system of government and named himself a King, not recognizing that people are less fallible than a person. It was only a matter of time before he let himself rise to take the crown.


Cassius

Cassius is a schemer and a sweet talker. Somebody who is well-spoken is somebody you really have to listen to closely to catch not only the words they are saying but all the words they are not saying. When you listen to Cassius, his cause does not seem so righteous. Yes, he agrees Brutus that Caesar must be stopped from ending the Republic. However, he spends a lot of time talking about how he and Brutus are just as good as Caesar. He seems more interested in tearing Caesar down than protecting the public from a monarchy. You have to watch for people who seek to tear people down rather than build things up. Caesar is right to fear him because he is a smart guy with a ruthless agenda. It is Cassius’ idea to kill Caesar and he would have absolutely supported murdering Mark Anthony too if Brutus had not put an end to that talk. Later, he is the first of the conspirators to take his own life when things start to turn against him. I can never trust somebody who is hungry for power but quick to run when the hard work or the punishment comes. He is a weasel and is all fair talk and very little substance.


Brutus

We are told that everybody regards Brutus as an honorable man. His love for Rome is so great that he is willing to sacrifice the life of his friend to keep the democracy running. While I view the sacrifice of Caesar as necessary, killing him was never the answer. When politicians are assassinated, they immediately become saints in the eyes of the public. Violence should absolutely be the last resort when it comes to solving a problem. And yet, the conspirators seem to jump right to it. Brutus goes from agonizing over the plan to taking control of it and leading it. He allows himself to be talked into something that never should have happened. There had to be some more political way to dismantle Caesar’s popularity. Brutus’ heart is in the right place. If you have a friend who is going to ruin everything, you do what it takes to stop that friend but there is such a thing as excessive force. The Romans saw that and they were able to use it as a weakness to use to drum up armies against the noble house of Brutus and the other conspirators.


Mark Antony

Mark Antony pretty much started the whole mess. If you look at Act I, it is Antony who publicly offers Caesar a crown. Antony sees the love that the public bears for Caesar and seizes on the opportunity to win points by offering Caesar a crown. He knew that Caesar would probably turn the crown down (which he did) but he probably already knew that it would put more bad ideas into Caesar’s head. This scene is an inciting incident that makes the conspirators desperate to get rid of Caesar, leading to them making the bad choice of murder. When the deed is done, Antony is distraught over the death of his meal ticket/friend but makes a deal with the conspirators to help them smooth things over. He immediately reneges on that deal and incites the crowds against the conspirators through expert emotional manipulation. We have seen lately what damage a populist movement can do. He latches onto Octavius (the future first emperor of the Roman Empire) and drives Octavius to fight to the finish, only accepting surrender when the conspirators were dead. His actions, waging a war against a criminal group to bring them to justice and to unite the country, may seem just at first. Just remember that this was all in support of installing a tyrant.


The People

Finally, we have the people who are also not blameless. As a citizenry in a representative, democratic government they have a hand in their fate. They are the ones who cheered Caesar for a military victory and cheered even more when he was offered the crown. They are shooting themselves in the foot by giving away any power they had in the first place. They are complicit in the political tension which eventually gives birth to the death of Caesar (and indirectly the subjugation of the people under the Roman Empire). The people have few thoughts of their own. When Brutus speaks after the assassination, they almost instantly forgive him because of his eloquence, earnestness, and reputation. Yet, when Mark Antony speaks a minute later, they very quickly turn to cursing Brutus and the rest of the conspirators. Granted, this is directly after the murder of the head of state but it is troubling to watch them switch positions so fast. People today seem just as fickle, heavily influenced by social media, news outlets, propaganda, and politicians’ ‘heartfelt’ speeches.

Conclusion:

There are no heroes here. This is truly a story of gray areas and I cannot decide who to root for. The conspirators mostly had the best intentions but their methods were over the top. Caesar’s pride went before his fall but that fall should have been political and not fatal. Anthony through oil on the fire when a cooler head would have prevailed. At best, Brutus might be considered a tragic hero because his heart was in the right place but his missteps caused his downfall and death.

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Romance

September 18, 2017

I have been thinking lately of romance. It is not because I have met someone. In fact, it is just the opposite. I have not met somebody in a long time and I am alright with that. It is not that I am settling for something less than I want, either. I have never really pursued a romantic relationship in my life so far. I remember being at summer camp when we had dances with our sister camp Camp Netimus. We would travel to their territory or they would travel to ours. Under a big pavilion, we would have loud eighties and nineties music played at us and we would be expected to exist there until it was time to go to bed.

The first few times, I was bored out of my skull. I hung out with my friends but there was nothing to do. I wanted to sit and write or read or play Gameboy but it was not allowed. It was too loud to have a proper conversation. My friends urged me to start asking girls to dance. I had no interest in doing this. I love girls. I am attracted to girls. However, I felt like I was pressured into asking girls to dance. I did it poorly, I’m sure. For whatever reason, the majority of them did not want to dance with me. It was humiliating at the time to ask and get a no each time. Mostly because I did not want to ask in the first place. That probably showed.

When a girl did say yes, I had no idea what to do and I was so self-conscious and shy. I moved around like she did but my introversion made it hard to feel anything other than a nonexistent searing-hot spotlight. After a song or two, I would thank the girl and never see her again. I do not remember their faces. Somehow I remember their names even less. I remember that they were kind to me and I was not unkind to them but I probably left the impression of a shy, uncoordinated boy. I also remember asking a female counselor to dance (she looked young!) and her declining politely. Instead, she proposed a group dance, a construct used by middle school dances everywhere.

When it came to school dances, I was friends with a group of nerds, geeks, and outcasts and so we were more interested in fooling around and having fun rather than going after the girls. At that point, girls were friends and not potential romantic partners. It was a hormonal time so there was a lot of physical attraction but I never pursued anything romantic. I remember very clearly looking at one particular girl who I thought was pretty. I had gone to the same school as her for nine years. I thought that she would be the one that I would date if I was going to date. I knew nothing about her. I just thought that everyone was dating and that, as a point of pride, I should probably be dating. Thankfully, I never pursued that. It was such twisted thinking.

College was a time of crushes. There were many crushes that drew me in and were really fun to think about and even obsess over. For the most part, they were fun and nice young women who treated me well. There was one who probably easily figured out my secret crush. She definitely played with me. I would have done a lot for her. She said I should shave my hair and get a tattoo. I said I thought that was a good idea. But even looking back I cannot see myself spending a portion of every day with her. It was physical attraction and the desire for love in general, not romantic love. I wanted to feel special. That kind of thing is not real to me anymore.

That is to say, if somebody comes along that inspires real and romantic love then I will pursue it. However, I am not really looking for it. I like my life. Well, I like what my life is becoming. I am bettering myself every day through therapy, exercise, and general self-improvement. I really enjoy living alone and being alone and entertaining myself. I venture out every so often to hang out with friends and laugh and connect. I think that is exactly what I need right now.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

December 22, 2015

Star Wars has been around my entire life. A New Hope came out 5 and a half years before I was born. The Empire Strikes Back came out two and a half years before I was born. I was five months old when Return of the Jedi came out. I don’t remember exactly when I eventually watched the original trilogy but I think it probably wasn’t at 5 months. I do know that when I watched the movies, I liked them a lot. Even as a kid I was a fantasy fan more than I was a sci-fiction fan but I did love space (I wanted to be an astronaut). Star Wars was able to give me both Fantasy and Space in sufficient portions. I liked the cocky smirk on Han Solo’s face. Luke’s lightsaber, Leia’s fire, Ben’s wisdom and Vader’s spookiness. I never really cared for the droids but hey neither did most of the characters in the movie. I had a huge pile of Star Wars action figures and I read some of the expanded universe stuff as I got older.

I eventually saw the original trilogy in theaters when they released the special editions and the magic that had faded was renewed. On the heels of that gift, they started to release the Prequel trilogy and now I was old enough to eagerly greet the movies in theaters. They were disappointing but they got better as they went along. I defended those prequels the best I could but eventually my enthusiasm cooled and I packed Star Wars away except for watching The Clone Wars tv show now and then.

So it was with a great mixed emotion when Disney announced that they were planning their own Star Wars trilogy now that they owned the property. Several franchises had flourished under Disney including Pixar, Marvel and The Muppets just to name a few. Still, I was concerned because the original trilogy was not perfect but the prequels had definitely tarnished a lot of what was good in the franchise. Were the original actors too old to come back? Would JJ Abrams lose his way and create something less than good? Was there even anything left to mine in the Star Wars universe? There were just too many questions. I had been hurt before, so why try again? Because the trailer was interesting and new and nostalgic all at once. Moreover, I felt obligated to see it out of geek pride. Also, my friends said it was good on Saturday. So all of this was in my mind as I stepped into a movie theater at 3 in the afternoon in Martinsburg, WV.

I will stop here to give a fair warning that, although I’m earnestly trying not to spoil anything, I understand if you stop reading now. Go watch the movie and come back here later. I try not to include spoilers but I know even the slightest thing can be a spoiler for some people.

From the very beginning I was hit with nostalgia and then I was very intrigued. The movie did a great job of mixing the new with the familiar. One of the greatest faults of the The Phantom Menace was that it started with a boring scene about trade negotiations. Every Star Wars film before or since has started with some sort of interesting and/or action-packed sequence. They definitely fully regained that ability to grab you right away and pull you into the story. I definitely felt pulled in and the movie didn’t let me go until the credits rolled. I walked away humming the music, just barely able to keep the humming under my breath. I was smiling pretty hard during and after film. Honestly, the film felt a little like coming home. Sure things were different but most of those things were better and all the things you liked were still there.

It was so good to see Han Solo again. I know Harrison Ford doesn’t really understand the impact of the character and doesn’t enjoy it but he really pulled it off. Carrie Fisher was even more likeable as Ex-Princess Leia and she was a sight for sore eyes. Thankfully BB-8 wasn’t annoying at all after months of having him shoved down my throat. John Boyega was a total surprise hit as I was intrigued about his character in the trailer but was unsure how it would work out. Daisy Ridley is absolutely the actress and character we all deserved for being fans all of these years. Both of them work so well together and separately and I’m excited to see where their story goes. Everybody was absolutely great in their roles even all the bit characters and the CGI characters were so well done that it didn’t feel artificial like the prequels. The whole thing was written by two people. JJ Abrams has come a long way from the mess that was Lost and has even come a long way from the Star Trek reboot. Lawrence Kasdan wrote The Empire Strikes Back which was, until today, my favorite Star Wars movie and his work showed in this one.

Go see this movie whether you’re a Star Wars fan or not. There’s so much I loved in this movie that I just can’t talk about openly. I don’t want to ruin it for somebody who hasn’t seen it yet. I want to tell everybody I know to see it and everybody I don’t know as well.


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