Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Trivial tidbits, week one

During my time in New Haven, CT this summer, I spent every Tuesday night dominating pub trivia with my favorite Chaucerians.  While there are some facets of Yale that I do not miss--91 Howe, EXPLO, modern art installations, the ill-timed ringing of a cell phone--I have noticed a void in my life during these past few trivia-less Tuesdays.  And so, in honor of brain stimulation, I bring you Tuesday trivia.  Trivia on my terms--meaning no obscure questions about which Beatles' song has the fewest words (the answer to which cannot be accurately researched through Wikipedia, just another reason it shouldn't be used as a valid source of information.)  Instead, you'll get questions about whatever seemingly unimportant topic I find important at the time.  I'm excited about sharing my useless information with you.  Without further ado......

Why does Ferb, of Disney's Phineas and Ferb, have a British accent when his brother, Phineas, does not?

Phineas and Ferb is by far the best kids' show on television.  Witt.  Science.  Inventions.  Secret agents.  Twirpy brothers.  Catchy musical interludes.  If you have a child, especially a boy, it's a must.

Actually, it's a must even if you don't have a child.....

Monday, August 30, 2010

The tie that binds

Braden woke this morning and said "I feel like it's a tie kind of day."  Not exactly characteristic of most 8 year-old boys, who tend to prefer action-hero t-shirts over "fancy clothes," but definitely a common occurrence at our house.  An occurrence that makes my heart smile.

Braden's love for ties started when he was quite young, maybe even as little as three.  Some may think he loves ties because of some preference of mine, but this is an interest he acquired and developed independently of my influence, highlighting even more that this energetic boy is his own person.  We shop for ties often--in honor of piano recitals, in preparation for school picture day, in celebration of holidays, in reward of other significant occasions or in mere want of a new tie.  As he has matured, so has his fashion sense.  Ties that clip, adorned with cute  embroidered animals have given way to a more sophisticated array of ties that tie, most cut from a fashionable stripped material.

This morning he wore such a tie.  Red with diagonal blue stripes.  As you can tell from the pic, he needs PaPa Curt to provide him with a refresher course in how to tie it, but you can also see his enthusiasm for his appearance (messy hair and all). (Don't worry, he combed that mop before leaving the house.) When he entered daycare, and one of the teachers commented on his dressiness, he replied, "Thanks.  I tied it myself."  He feels good in a tie--proud and accomplished--and that's more than alright with me.

I think Braden was right.  Today was a tie kind of day.  Here's hoping tomorrow will be, too.

Before Beauty and the Beast, May 2010
Uncle Travis and Aunt Cat's Wedding, July 2009

With Mr. Chris, piano teacher, December 2009

Friday, August 27, 2010

Friday night lights

I love football season.  Emphasis on season.  I'm fairly indifferent to football itself.  I enjoy the game enough, preferring high school play where I know the players over college or professional, but I don't have a team (or care if you have a team) over which I would disown my son should he choose to attend school at its rival. 

Football season, on the other hand, makes me smile.   The energy throbbing through a stadium on a Friday night supersedes that of any other sporting venue.  (This is a bold statement coming from a gal who would rather watch baseball or soccer over football any day.)  This is because football season offers something for everyone. The savory smell of tailgating.  The enthusiastic voice of the announcer.  The peppy spirit of the cheerleaders.  The brassy tones of the marching band (and the reverberating cadence of the drum line).  The serious stance of the coaches.  The admired athleticism of the team.  The endless patchwork of team colors, wooing and booing in echoed support of the home team.  These things, and more, make football season my favorite of them all.

Tonight we attended our first home game as Jefferson City Jays.  I have been to more than a few season openers in my time as a teacher and I can safely say that I like the JC football tradition already.  Not only did the Jays walk away with a win against the McCluer North Stars tonight, they also gained two new fans. You might assume that I have to be a fan given that I'm a teacher, but school spirit is not a contractual obligation.  While supporting school programs builds rapport in the classroom, I would have become a Jays' fan tonight regardless of that.  Here are the reasons why:  Central Bank hosted a tailgate for the entire stadium--Stars included--prior to the game, completely free-of-charge.  No catch.  No soliciting.  Just pure community and camaraderie; each person at the game received a t-shirt with "JC Football:  A Family Tradition" on front and the season schedule on back.  Each person.  Not just the first 500 or just the JCPS faculty.  Each person who entered the stadium.  Additionally, the public relations manager for the school district, a person I have met several times since school started 20 days ago (and a person I never met in my previous district) announced the game's action from the press box.  Usually this is the job of a former coach or a high school media personnel, but at JCHS, an employee in central office (a "higher up," if you will) announced.  (And he did it better than that Mike Ditka character, in my opinion.)

So I'm a Jays' fan because of free stuff?  No.  Although I really like free stuff, that's not it.  I'm a Jays' fan because of the emphasis on community at tonight's event.  This team is called the Jefferson City Jays and they carry that name in representation of an entire town.  And tonight the town came out to support their Jays in the band, on the sidelines, and on the field.

Tonight, I felt a little bit at home in this Missouri life.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

My favorite things (at Yale)

They may not be raindrops or whiskers, but these are my favorite things from Yale.  (My favorite things from my travels elsewhere will follow later.)

In no particular order:

The Iron Maidenheads, who went by many different team names (Iron Maidenheads was my favorite; Semantic Anarchy led us to victory) over the course of 6 weeks, played trivia every Tuesday night while in New Haven.  Most weeks, I was joined by James, Aaron, Elizabeth, Susannah, and Hans (but Renee and Ann each joined us once) in search of intellectual stimulation unrelated to Chaucer and the Middle Ages.  (Though we were always hopeful for a question about the Peasant Uprising of 1381.)  On our final Tuesday, WE WON FIRST PLACE, dominating the forum and beating the second place team by 50 points.  We can leave New Haven satisfied.  After all:  "There is no substitute for victory."  Douglas MacArthur

At Yale, all of the intersections on campus are set for double-crossing.  Nope, not fancy trickery, but instead the ability to cross the street on the diagonal.  (The picture above is a visual representation of that, not a tribute to The Beatles.)  This convenience makes up for the fact that you cannot make a right turn on red anywhere in New Haven.

This is my classroom.  I spend 9 hours here each week, circled around the table with my classmates, talking about history and literature.  It's just like a scene from Gilmore Girls (except it's real life).  The classroom is in a building called Linsly-Chittenden which is on Old Campus.  The auditorium has beautiful Tiffany windows and a fireplace.  It's surreal.

I shared a picture of the exterior of Sterling Memorial Library in one of my early blogs.  While the architecture is gorgeous (and inspired by a cathedral), it is what lies in the stacks--in the belly of the beast if you will--that draws me in.  The stacks, a labyrinth of knowledge, are intoxicating.  Within these catacombs one finds century-old (or  older) secrets waiting to be discovered.  4 million texts are housed within this maze and I only had 6 weeks to enjoy them.

One day during our second to last week we took a class trip to the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library on the Yale campus.  These manuscripts are beautiful beyond explanation.  We viewed a facsimile of the Ellesmere Chaucer (the manuscript that holds the most completely accurate arrangement of The Canterbury Tales), The Siege of Thebes, a text of Arthurian romances, and an indulgence scroll.  (Indulgence scrolls were posted in the Church and provided sinners with specifics on how many "Hail Marys" to recite to reduce their time in Hell after death.)  It was an amazing experience.  And watching Dr. Patterson in this arena was incredible.  He manipulates the fragile texts with ease.  It was equally intimidating and inspiring.

The tintinnabulation of the bells of Harkness Tower in Branford college mesmerized me my first night on campus.  That night I arrived to Yale at the start of the 7:00 pm carillon.  The peeling chimes can be heard for miles, including the block of 91 Howe, and created, for me, personal zen.

The first two photos were taken on High Street, the campus view of Harkness Tower.

Check out information about the Yale Guild of Carillonneurs.  This is where you will find me next summer!  http://www.yale.edu/carillon/yamasaki.htm

The last two photos were taken inside the courtyards of Branford college.  You get this view on the campus tour or if you live in this residential college as a student.  The residential colleges provide everything the students needs:  dorm sleeping, cafeteria, buttery (snack bar), library, common room, gym, dance studio, music labs, and much more.  There are 12 residential colleges at Yale and students are assigned to them as Freshmen.  It's like Hogwarts without the sorting hat; I would want Branford as vehemently as Harry doesn't want Slytherin.  Get more information about the residential colleges here:  http://yalecollege.yale.edu/content/residential-colleges.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Let's hear it from the boys

In my previous post I discussed the view of Medieval motherhood presented in "How the Good Wife Taught her Daughter," a view that I like despite its trite proverbs and anti-feminist doctrine.  When I "discovered" the poem in my research on motherhood, I learned that it has a mate entitled "How the Wise Man Taught his Son."  The author of this lesson, which is written in prose as opposed to verse, is also unknown, but it is believed that it was published for the first time in 1470.  It does not seem to be written in response to "the Good Wife," but it does share some interesting parallels.  Since it's about parenting, I consider it close enough for my purposes, so I'm going to share it with you.

Like the good wife, the wise man begins his prose to place God before all else; he does not, however, emphasize the importance of tithing.  (He does spend a great deal of time discussing finances later in the prose.)  He keeps with the wife's organization by continuing on to dismissing gossip.  (Gossip is something that has come up time and time again in The Canterbury Tales.  In the Manciple's Tale, a crow meets his end for gossiping.  Usually the tales assert that women talk too much; I won't argue that this is untrue, but obviously men could spin-yarn, too, given the man's advice to his son.)  Both parents now emphasize the elements of countenance, with the man's primary concern being truth.  As truth is a principal theme of The Canterbury Tales, it seems appropriate that the son should learn of its importance.  The man's lesson to his son diverts from the path set by the good wife at this point.  Instead of moving on to marriage, he discusses work.  Seeing as how a woman's work revolved around her mate and her home and a man's would have been outside of it, I can see how these topics, though different on the surface, are the same upon analysis.  The attention given to tavern behaviors is slight, especially in comparison to the wife's, but I already ranted my views on that.  He closes, as does the wife, with details about maintaining the home, though his focus is primarily financial whereas the wife's is functional.

Both pieces identify the role of each gender within their society so I am not bothered in any "I am woman way" by the presentations or implications of each piece.  The "Wise Man" reads a little sexist, in today's voice, but it's appropriate for its Medieval audience.

Plus, the poem about the mother came first.  I think this is evidence of a mother's superiority!

Source:  The Babees' Book.   www.yorku.ca/inpar/babees_rickert.pdf

She's no Rosie the Riveter

In my attempt to understand the role of mothers during the Middle Ages, I frequently encountered a poem entitled "How the Good Wiif Taugte Hir Dougtir" (How the Good Wife Taught Her Daughter).  Written by an unknown author, it is believed to have first been published in Codex Ashmole 61:  A Compilation of Popular Middle English Verse in 1430.  (Its authorship is dated nearer the beginning of the 14th Century.)  Touted as a piece of instructional literature or advice text for the Medieval mom, I narrowed my investigation to this piece of poetry in hopes of more clearly defining motherhood.

Seeing as how the poem is over 200 lines long, I've included a few of my favorite stanzas:
(Good luck with the Middle English!)

Be fayre of semblant, my der doughter;
Change not thi countenans with grete laughter,
And wyse of maneres loke thou be gode.
Ne for no tayle change thi mode,
Ne fare not as thou a gyglot were,
Ne laughe thou not lowd, be thou therof sore.
Luke thou also gape not to wyde,
For anything that may betyde.
Suete of speche loke that thow be,
Trow in worde and dede — lerne this of me.
Loke thou fle synne, vilony, and blame,
And se ther be no man that seys thee any schame.

Now I have taught thee, my dere doughter,
The same techynge I hade of my modour.
Thinke theron both nyght and dey,
Forgette them not if that thou may.
For a chyld unborne were better
Than be untaught — thus seys the letter.
Therfor, Allmyghty God inne trone
Spede us all bothe even and morn,
And bryng us to thy hyghe blysse,
That never more fro us schall mysse.

(Or read it in a Modern translation found in The Babees' Book:  Medieval Manners for the Young.)

Be of seemly semblance, wise, and other good cheer;
Change not thy countenance for aught that thou may hear.
Fare not as a gig, for nought that may betide.
Laugh thou not too loud nor yawn thou not too wide.
But laugh thou soft and mild.
And be not of cheer too wild,
My lief child.

Now have I taught thee, daughter, as my mother did me;
Think thereon night and day, that forgotten it not be.
Have measure and lowness, as I have thee taught,
Then whatever man shall wed thee will regret it naught.
Better you were a child unbore
Than untaught in this wise lore,
My lief child.
The blessing of God may'st thou have, and of His mother bright,
Of all angels and archangels and every holy wight!
And may'st thou have grace to wend thy way full right,
To the bliss of Heaven, where God sits in His might!

One of the major arguments against the poem regards its tone.  The mother's role in the poem is to prepare her daughter for wifehood (oh yeah, I totally made that up) and eventually motherhood.  This is really no different than the role of a mom today.  (My mom always said she was trying to mold us into respectful, self-sufficient adults.  This is a very reasonable parenting goal; I hope I can do that well with my son.)  In my experience and philosophy, mothers are teachers and nurturers and the "Good Wiif" does not diverge from this ideal.  However, when read with modern, feminist eyes, the poem is a little off-putting.  Given that it was not written for bra-burning, liberal activists, I think it provides the glimpse of Medieval motherhood I set out to find from the beginning.

The mother begins by advising her daughter to be attentive to God and church (including specific execution of tithing and direction in prayer) as would be expected of all Christians, not just the females.  She then moves to suggestions about finding a husband, encouraging the daughter to receive any man humbly, without overt behaviors that could lead to sins of the flesh.  The daughter's countenance--fairness, honesty, composure--are the mother's next topics of heed, followed by several stanzas regarding tavern behaviors.  (This passage of the poem sounds as if the Pardoner wrote it.)  According to the good wiif, the  "tavern bring[s] thy credit low" and the daughter should avoid them for fear of "fall[ing] into shame."  The tavern behaviors are followed by admonishment of sports and hunting and any other such pleasurable things and an intense recommendation for the daughter to just stay at home and "love thy work much."  (These four stanzas most incite my feminist wiles.  I know they speak to female roles in Medieval culture, but if one can assert that these hobbies are bad for women, they must be equally bad for men.  Women are not more easily imbibed than men merely because they are women.  And men have spent decades sitting on couches, wearing a butt imprint into the cushions, in worship of the "big game," yet we have cautioned women against sports since before poets thought to sign their names to their work.  Annoying!) (However, if you regard the passage from the position of traditional gender roles, it makes a lot of sense.  As addressed before, women worked within the home, men without.  Women weren't forbidden from sports initially out of some masochistic control, but out of balance of domestic roles.  Maybe many of society's issues with marriage come from the blurring of those lines.  But I digress...)   After encouraging the daughter to love being at home, the good wife devotes the rest of the poem to maintaining the home, including specifics about raising children with a firm hand.

This organization, from start to finish, clearly identifies the role of the mother within Medieval culture.  By focusing her attention first on God, she establishes a Christian foundation for her children that would have been customary at this time.  The importance of family is further enhanced by her encouragement to find a good mate and make a good home.  Despite the hope that her daughter entirely avoid drinking and sports, the mother establishes simple rules, presented as proverbs, by which the daughter can live.  Although the proverbs themselves over-killed the message a bit, the poem provides me with the image of motherhood I have found lacking in Chaucer's tales.  (Sorry Chaucer.  This doesn't mean I love you any less.)

This good wiif (and mother) may not embody the female persona with the same visionary power as Rosie the Riveter, but she embraces her responsibility with parallel zeal.

Chaucer's mothers could learn something from her.

Sources:  Biggs, Michalove, and Reeves.  Reputation and Representation in Fifteenth-Century Europe.  Koninklijke Brill.  The Netherlands.  2004.

Bardsley, Sandy.  Women's Roles in the Middle Ages.  Greenwood Press.  Westport, CT.  2007.

Codex Ashmole 61.  http://www.lib.rochester.edu/camelot/teams/sgas4frm.htm

The Babees' Book.   www.yorku.ca/inpar/babees_rickert.pdf

Slow as molasses

I must take a moment to segue from my motherhood in the Middle Ages theme and share an interesting piece of American history with you.

Since this past weekend was my final one in New England (for this summer, anyway), I packed it with several days of traveling.  On Friday I went to NYC again and on Saturday I spent the day relaxing by the pool and beach at the Waterford, CT home of one of my Chaucerians.  This relaxing day was followed by a marathon trip to Boston where I saw the entirety of The Freedom Trail and a game at Fenway.  While I could spend another week de-stressing on the beach, The Freedom Trail was so cool that I'm already planning a trip there next summer.  Given his fascination with American History, my son will love Boston.

Along The Freedom Trail one encounters all the elements of American history that are synonymous with being an American:  the route of Paul Revere's ride, the Old North Church, the USS Constitution, the site of the Boston Tea Party, and the Purity Distilling Company.  That's right, the Purity Distilling Company, home of the Boston Molasses Disaster.

Evidently, when molasses overheats, it is not slow at all.  In fact, it flows quickly enough to create a flood and kill people.  Don't believe me?  Check out this link:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boston_molasses_disaster.  (I don't normally encourage the use of Wikipedia for research purposes, but it will suffice as a starting point.  If you wish, you can investigate further from there.)  Although this disaster occurred almost 150 years after Revere's heroic ride, it is an interesting snippet of Boston's history.  On a warm day, that portion of The Freedom Trail still smells like molasses (and sacrifice).

I can't begin to catalog everything I've learned this summer.  From class to weekly trivia night to local travel, these six weeks have provided me with a wealth of knowledge.

Now if only I can retain it long enough to share it with others...