Insights & Art

Straight from the dome to the plate.

Analysis of Julius Caesar and The Prince

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Read, analyse, and annotate one Julius Caesar and The Prince. This should include: A rich literary analysis, drawing on relevant scholarship. Also include detailed examination of how the text relates to the NSW English Advanced syllabus.

750 words.

Julius Caesar and The Prince are two texts which will be studied in tandem in the English Advanced course, under the comparative study of text and context unit. Both texts explore common themes of leadership, morality and deception versus public perception. A key point in the comparative study of text and context units requires students to examine “how the social, cultural and historical context influences texts” and how different environments will create texts with different meanings.

Teachers should reinforce how texts and their environment are always locked in a circular dance, both parties serving as a reflection of each other. Both Machiavelli and Shakespeare lived and published their works during the Renaissance, a time where Christianity, once above public criticism and debate, was having its dogma questioned. This lead to a shift in the relationship between mankind and God, humans were now more responsible for their actions and worldly events. Resulting in increased debates about leadership and pragmatic mortality in the political arena, as reflected in this module.

Whilst the events which follow Caesar’s assassination, such as the appearance of his ghost, the eventual double suicide of Cassius and Brutus and the burning of Rome at the hands of mob mentality, shows that Shakespeare was heavily in favour for the rule of the monarchy. Shakespeare clearly does not approve of Caesar, often portraying him as a tyrant, too blind by his own arrogance and glory to maintain beneficial relationships with his senators, comically highlighted in his constant use of third person when referring to himself “Then fall, Caesar.” Thus it always feels like his eventual demise has been predetermined by destiny, Octavius in contrast is presented as a suitable candidate to rule Rome because of his heritage and his intelligent persona. Octavius’ interaction with Antony during the war foreshadows his eventual rise to power as Rome’s first true emperor;

ANTONY 
Octavius, lead your battle softly on

Upon the left hand of the even field.
OCTAVIUS
Upon the right hand, I; keep thou the left.
ANTONY
Why do you cross me in this exigent?

Brutus’ speech justifying his reasons to become involved in the coup highlights the tyrannical nature of Caesar and how the danger he poses to the foundations of the Roman Republic. The metaphor of Julius Caesar as a “serpent’s egg” is only a small part of Brutus’ speech but it highlights the rich literary analysis one can draw from this Shakespearean play. Throughout the play, Caesar is often described in anthropomorphic terms, ranging from a serpent, a “wolf” who preys on “sheep” (Romans), a lion feasting on the Romans and finally a falcon. This constantly allusion to the savage defines Caesar as a threat whose power will break free from any human restrictions or control. Similarly the egg serves as an accurate symbolism, foreshadowing Caesar’s potential greatness, yet also hinting that since he has not been crowned, he is also at his weakest state. Caesar’s vulnerability almost makes Brutus’ coup against him a moral obligation due the consequences of Caesar rising to the position of emperor and overthrowing the Republic.

Interestingly enough, the aggression and power represented in the anthropomorphism is something which is deemed attractive in The Prince. “The lion cannot protect himself from traps, and the fox cannot defend himself from wolves. One must therefore be a fox to recognize traps, and a lion to frighten wolves.” The juxtaposition further shows how these two texts approach the idea of ruling, for Machiavelli, unfiltered power was a useful tool which would allow a ruler to enact their influence upon society without worrying about the repercussions. In Shakespeare’s view, Caesar’s unchecked ego combined with his inability to work harmoniously with his peers deems his as a poor leader and thus in an act of atonement, Caesar is assassinated.

Another interesting divergence between Julius Caesar and The Prince is where the two authors stand on the importance of physicality. Machiavelli does not mention much on a ruler’s physic believing this intellect to be a more valuable trait “Outwitting opponents with their cunning”. However Shakespeare’s play constantly references Caesar’s body as a way to attack his legitimacy. Whilst Cassius attempts to “wrough Brutus’ honourable mettle” he questions Caesar’s legitimacy “upon what meat doth this our Caesar feed/ That he is grown so great?” this sentence hints at Caesar’s blood thirsty appetite, hinting that Caesar’s political growth has been sustained by the consumption of his opponents. Likewise this rhetorical question conjures images of supernatural growth and further reinforces Caesar’s savagery and animal instincts. Similarly Caesar’s inability to swim after the Tiber and his infertility all serve as marks against his rule, for Shakespeare, a leader often had to embody the values of a warrior, something which Machiavelli disagrees with.

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The Curtain Call of Rhetoric

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Is Technology indistinguishable from Magic.

Rhetoric is something which is constantly evolving, it evolved under the Humanism movement, it defined itself against the scholastic movement and during the Industrial Revolution it became less and less important as economics opened up trade and communication amongst different nations with different languages. With the spread of the internet, rhetoric has also undergone changes as communication adapts to an increasingly shrinking world.

In my opinion, the internet has allowed unknown individuals to publish their thoughts anonymously meaning that ethos is becoming less and less important and instead there is a larger focus upon the strength of one’s arguments. Likewise powerful influences like situated ethos have been nullified by the internet as the author’s physical appearance and socio-economic status are hidden from sight. I also believe that pathos is harder to effectively implement and aggressive tactics such as intimidation would be poorly received as those rhetorical strategies often require face to face communication or at the very least the use of body language to subtly convey certain emotions and feelings.

I also believe that the main purpose of modern rhetoric is not to ‘persuade’ but rather to simply communicate or pass along a certain message or theme, this is due to the widening audience which can access a speech, article, essay, comment or picture. This means persuasion is harder than ever as the audience will have a wider spectrum of values and beliefs ingrained into them by their culture, thus simple and effective communication seems to be more important than ever as language barriers become more apparent than ever on the internet.

Personally I don’t see this evolution of rhetoric as something which destroys the ‘art’ or ‘soul’ of rhetoric, which is a form of knowledge or practice which has under gone many different transitions and likewise a 16th century rhetorician might of complained about the destructive capabilities of the printing press, something which is integral to modern society.  Instead I think it is necessary that rhetoric evolves along with the world so it does not become an outdated skill left to gather dust upon a bookshelf, void of all relevance.

One Language to Rule Them All.

In today’s tutorial we examined the power imbalance of different cultures in any given society and how there is an unspoken yet widely observed hierarchy within society which determines whether an action, word, gesture or belief is correct or incorrect. This was seen in the story of the Indigenous Australian who had a dream that he meet Elvis Presley and immediately and unfortunately I categorised him as uneducated or dumb because he used Indigenous Australian slang instead of ‘official’ and accepted forms of English. I guess that’s the beauty and flaw of language, the emotional connotations attached to words gives speech an intrinsic emotional underpinning and grounds our communication in authentic feelings. However this also means that unlike scientific discourse, there can be close to no objectivity since certain words will have different meanings depending on one’s context.

The connotations surrounding a word reflects one’s true intentions and labels like men and women carry with it certain values, expectations and stereotypes which society dedicates we follow and these values are grounded into the its citizens through constant repetition. It’s interesting that labels which should be completely objective such as Asian, Lebanese or Australian are also burden with specific associations.

The Knife Edge of Acceptance.

Whilst my discussion posts have generally incorporated my perspective and opinions, I have yet to create a post dedicated solely to myself and my experiences, but for week twelve, I think this is appropriate as next week will be my presentation, something I am definitely looking forward to! I plan to speak about male rights and how feminist discourse has meant that sexism against men is now seen as appropriate or acceptable. (I support feminism and I believe it’s done some wonder things to balance up the genders; however the fact I don’t feel comfortable publishing this thread without defining my position highlights how it has influenced social discourse)

A big part of the challenge will be ensuring that I have a positive ethos as advocates of male rights are generally pierced to be women haters and sexists with outdated views, if I am not about to present my speech without respect, restraint and class then my message will neglected and dismissed. It’s important that I assure the audience that don’t support the restrictive and sexist gender roles and I plan to predict and answer a lot of their concerns within my speech. I also want to word my speech so I can subtly pull the audience ‘over to my side’ and this is done by presenting myself as a moderate armed with sophisticated and relevant statistics and arguments to forward my point.

My main aim in my speech is to change society’s perceptions that men can’t be discriminated against which is as ridiculous as saying “white people can’t be discriminated against because most first world countries are white nations!” I want to start my speech off with something along the lines of… “Men are the leaders of society…” followed by “Women are the leaders of society” and if the audience reacts like I expect them to, then I will point to the hypocrisy in their reactions.

I’m definitely going to forgo intimidation and hopefully through a combination of statistics, good will, ingratiation and moderate language I will be able to present my topic without the label of misogynist slapped onto me.

“Master has given Dobby a sock! Dobby is free!”

I’m glad that a course which was built around the concept of rhetoric did not neglect a speaking component, on a more personal level, these past week threes of presentations have been some of the most enjoyable tutorials I have ever been a part of, so kudos to the ENGL2652 tutors and teachers for assembling this syllabus.

I attended two different tutorials during the final stretch of tutorials and something I noticed within both classes was that every presentation except two was quite serious and focused on a topic which was legitimately a serious issue within society. This was the same for people’s ethnos, as most people tried to be well mannered, polite and respectable with only one speaker trying to use intimidation. I was originally considering doing a satirical and sarcastic piece on why Australia should implement the White Australia Policy or why homosexuality should be out lawed, I eventually decided to speak about discrimination against men, but it would of been interesting to see how a more ’emotional’ or ‘less standardised presentation’ would of functioned.

I also noticed that most of the topics were well suited towards the audience of young teenagers with a generally more liberal mindset, maybe it was to demonstrate good will or maybe the speakers were passionate about those certain topics, but a few I recall include banning Christmas, banning plastic water bottles and the dangers of consumerism.

It was my belief that logos seemed to be generally the most effective form of persuasion during these five minute presentations, not to discredit ethnos or pathos, but those aspects take time to build. Whilst a strong and well-timed statistic or fact only ‘required’ a short amount of time to present, meaning the speaker would of time leftover to expand upon their presentations.

The ANZAC Legend and Gallipoli Myth; Dangerous National Narratives

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The ANZAC myth that became indistinguishable from the Gallipoli campaign has become one of the foundations of the Australian identity. The myth romanticised anti- authoritarian larrikin who faced death with a song and a joke, the white male who was willing to give his life for his mates and country. The Gallipoli campaign has become a political tool used by politicians to reinforce a singular understanding of the Australian ethos; Anglo-Saxon and hyper-masculinity. Likewise, the glorification of the campaign and the ANZACs highlight the tension between popular history with a nationalistic agenda and more accurate forms of history which do not neatly fit a preconceived purpose. The changing interpretations of the Gallipoli campaign and the ANZACs involved in the conflict reflected the continuity and change of cultural narratives.

The ANZAC tradition was not always so significant in the Australian psyche, it’s important to acknowledge how the different routes that history could have walked down. In 1973, amongst the surge of anti-militaristic feelings, the Labor government even considered dropping ANZAC day and instead transforming in a day of peace. Only in the recent decades has ANZAC become a day of patriotic celebration, inherently linked with being a ‘good’ Australian.

The last few decades have seen the elevation of Gallipoli and ANZAC day to a national story, both which represent the defining characteristics of Australia and its citizens. The rise in the popularity of the ANZAC legend can be linked to the end of the White Australia Policy, the opening up of the country to immigration threatened to delude the white Australian culture. The white community started to embody the legendary mateship displayed by the diggers who united against a foreign enemy. Even if Australia has slowly embraced multiculturalism, the ANZAC myth has remained inherently white, a distinct line of separation between Anglo-Saxons and other immigrants.

This line of segregation was even extended towards Indigenous soldiers who still fight to get their acknowledgement and respect for participating in this war. However, whilst the narrative of the ANZAC soldiers and the sacrifice at Gallipoli still unquestionably forwards white nationalism, the creation of the ‘Yininmadyemi Thou didst let fall’ sculpture to recognise Indigenous participation reflects a growing trend to widen or question this legendary mythos.

Tony Abbott’s speech on Remembrance Day of 2014 evokes the sense of nationalism and romanticises not only the notion of violence but presents the Gallipoli campaign as self-righteous, ignoring the fact it was supposed to be an invasion of the Ottoman Empire. However most frighteningly is how the ANZAC tradition legitimises the use of violence to combat the alien, the white masculine body charged with the defence of the nation’s borders. This is distinctively reflected in Abbott’s words “Today, we will remember the courage, achievements, pain and loss of all who have served in our name…And we draw strength from their memory.”

The events at Gallipoli and the ANZAC myth are often seen as the baptism of Australia, with the nation maturing and taking their position on the world stage. However, these myths reinforce an insular and exclusive nationhood, with the ANZACs defining ultimately themselves against their allies. The ANZAC’s famous larrikin humour is presented as friendly and charming, whilst in reality their anti-authoritarian mentality often resulted in a lot of troops being ‘Absent Without Leave.’ Their ‘prejudice’ against the British which is also often presented as a positive and a defining characteristic of ANZAC soldiers, which subconsciously reflects modern day Australia’s growing sense of independence from her mother country.

By questioning the ANZAC traditions and the glorification of the Gallipoli campaign, individuals can understand how history is selective, reflecting the dominant culture. They will gain a deeper understanding how facts and statistics may be ignored when they challenge an established notion. For an example, it is popularly accepted that the ANZACs were landed in the wrong location and thus once again let down by their British superiors, however this has been verified as an urban myth by many respected Australian historians. This tale attempts to shift the blame from the Australian and New Zealand soldiers onto another party and instead of acknowledging the failure of the Australian forces to conquer a land which put offense at a severe disadvantage. Furthering the belief that participating in World War I was responsible for establishing the generous and laid-back Australian culture, John Howard famously states the war allowed Australia to tap into “The most admirable aspects of Australia’s national character.” However, this simple and flattering narrative of the ANZACs fails to account for their racist attitudes, frequently calling Egyptians “gyppos” and Indians “niggers”, thus such information is discarded as society no longer accepts blatant racism.

The study of Gallipoli and the ANZAC myth is a fascinating and absorbing topic, when approached from a different angle which contradicts the patriotic story fashioned by politicians and the biased media. The events at Gallipoli and the glorified traits of the ANZACs have left a last impression upon the Australian identity, though with any national history, the simplicity of it can be damaging as it serves to reflect the dominant discourse. Ultimately, popular history which is created for public consumption, with little regard for historical accuracy, can be used to indoctrinate the younger generation for a political agenda. In a modernizing world where people of different ethnicities and cultures are becoming more integrated due to globalisation, it is important to construct an inclusive society that doesn’t marginalise selected portions of society. Australia can start breaking down its racist attitude by first exploring the ANZAC legend, a myth which ultimately defines an Australian.

Teaching from the Heart

Teaching has always been an appealing occupation for me, because teachers have the ability to shape and influence the lives of their students. Whilst a core component of being a teacher involves passing on knowledge about a given subject, the dedication and passion of teachers can often be infectious. For myself, I was greatly inspired by a few teachers from my high school who added humour and creativity to the subjects, they became my role model during my teenage years. Two key aspects which I want to reinforce in my classroom is the need to broaden the scope of English, in a time where multi-modality and flexibility is becoming a greater focus in the workforce. Also I wish to challenge the traditional format of the classroom, allowing students greater freedom to participate in their learning whilst reducing the authority of the teacher in the classroom. For education to remain relevant and accessible it must adapt to the changing circumstances and environment of modern society.

In 2010, ACARA acknowledged the need for English teachers to incorporate different forms of literacies such as ICT, viewing and listening. However, there is a disconnect between the policies and what is being reinforced in the classroom. From my own personal experience, learning in a traditional Christian high school, I felt as if a vast majority of teachers, particularly the older ones, were reluctant to shift from their established teaching style. There was a sense of hostility as if the inclusion of ICT and the move away from essay writing had somehow tainted the purity of English. This outdated view is reflected in a small experiment performed in 2006 with English high school teachers, who were asked to elaborate upon what they defined as ‘literacy.’ Out of 56 participants, not a single teacher mentioned ICT or higher order thinking skills as examples of literacy; instead they only referenced traditional markers of literacy such as grammar and spelling.

English should challenge students and change the way they view texts and society, but it should also adequately prepare them for the work force. The next generation will be disadvantaged if English as a discipline no longer equips them with the tools and flexibility to chart through an increasingly globalized world. I think it’s a shame that most English classes never attempt to divert from essay writing. It wasn’t until I studied education at university did I realise how repetitive my English lessons were, part of me was disappointed that I never experienced the full variety of the subject. Whilst drama is often located at the bottom of the subject hierarchy, it allows students to physically engage in English, in a manner which traditional approaches like essay writing does not. An American Report named Are They Really Ready to Work, published in 2006, found that the average high school employer ranked professionalism, team work and oral communication as the three most attractive qualities in their employees. The collaborative nature of drama pedagogy more accurately reflects the reality of the work place, promoting interactions between students and portraying success as a team effort. However the Australian educational system has yet fully separate itself from ingrained theories such as social Darwinism, thus it still celebrates the success and achievements of the ‘lone wolf.’

Education should be a two way conversation between the students and the teacher, it is important that both parties contribute towards the learning process, allowing students the opportunity to develop a deeper and more personal understanding of their subject. The ascension of the internet has revealed the outdated mentality of Australian high school. Intelligence can no longer just defined by the ability to regurgitate memorized facts because of the widespread access to search engines. Instead the incorporation of ICTs, machinery and the internet has resulted in the workforce shifting towards human capital. Thus it is increasingly important to move away from the outdated teaching format, where the teacher adopts a doctorial style of teaching. The need to foster creativity is a necessary in an age where ideas are more important than physical labour, this can be cultivated by allowing encouraging students to present their opinion to challenge a superficial approach to English.

High school education in Australia seems to be constantly outdated, sacrificing innovation to preserve tradition, highlighted in the English discipline’s obvious bias towards the technical aspects. The analysis of individual sentences or visual scenes, whilst necessary, often overshadows a more comprehensive approach to the text. In my opinion, university has a more sophisticated attitude towards English and essay writing. By providing broad and open-ended questions and by shifting the focus away from English techniques, it allows for more creative and specialised responses. By diverting away from the repetitive formula of essay writing, schools are tapping into the student’s higher order thinking, giving them the opportunity to tackle an issue or question from multiple perspectives. An example of this flexibility in the classroom situation was the university tutorial where different groups had to create a story about a bird and its victim with cardboard. It was one of the most enjoyable English lessons I have ever experienced, since we were able to personalize the story by embedding our meaning and symbolism in the visual medium.

Aristotle once famously said “those who know; do, those who understand; teach” and this has become part of my teaching philosophy as well. I feel very strongly about this and I wish to become the teacher that encourages inclusive dialectic pedagogy to further increase the students’ understanding. I’ve been tutoring since early 2013; I’ve seen firsthand the importance of trusting your students and giving them the opportunity to voice their own opinion. Likewise most of the teachers I connected with attempted to incorporate the students into their lessons, for an example, implementing the use of response cards or group discussion. The common connection in both teaching methods is the break from the standard and predictable lesson format and both are also widely supported by educational research. Classrooms which employed response cards performed much better than hand rising classrooms, with 62.2% of students receiving a 80% or more on a test, a large increase from 29.7%. Langer and Close also writes that on average, group discussion significantly improved engagement and understanding, though student generated questions had the largest impact.

In the English discipline, the effects and benefits of group discussion is widely known and accepted amongst the teachers, with 95% of teachers recognizing the benefits of formative assessment. Yet despite ACARA and the Quality Teaching Framework highlighting the necessity of student opinion and feedback, 61.1% of classes had no discussion at all and only 1 out of 54 classes averaged more than 2 minutes per day. When there is only one authoritative voice in the classroom it subconsciously promotes the idea that there is a single truth, which cannot and should be challenged. This contradicts the changing nature of the modern work force, where problems often have multiple solutions, team work and higher order thinking are usually the keys to solving such problems. Likewise by only pushing one perspective in the classroom, experimentation and making mistakes, both which are natural parts of learning, become frowned upon, since it deviates from the ‘singular truth’.

Allowing students to contribute to the classroom is important because each individual brings their own set of constructed knowledge, thus giving them a chance to contextually engage a very broad and impersonal curriculum. Research has found that the biggest connection to improved academic results is the increase in active student response, yet nearly all the teachers in my high school spent most of the lesson time on academic instruction. Active student response is different to participation which is simply being present during a classroom; active student response is defined as an observable response to instruction. Yet the average high school student spends approximately 50% of the allocated lesson time being distracted and only 1% of the classroom time responding or speaking.

Personally I wish for students to speak up during my classes because that’s a big motivator for becoming a teacher, I want to continually learn from students who have experienced different environments or perspectives. The continuous dialogue is important because it provides helpful feedback, but also I think forming a connection with the students would stop me from ‘burning out’ or losing my motivation. Because I tutor students one on one, I routinely start every lesson with a few questions about their previous week and then we end the lesson with an exchange of interesting information. The information can be facts, statistics or quotes from influential people, but it allows me to glimpse at my student’s passion and if possible attempt to incorporate their experiences or knowledge as explanations or references in my lesson. I do this because it creates a sense of mutual respect, not only do I value my student’s opinion; I am also willing to learn from them.

Being fluent in English unlocks many opportunities for an individual, it allows them to decipher and decode the world around them. Like every other language, English is a discourse with its own rules and associations, students who are unable to engage in such discourse will be alienated, stigmatized and given less opportunities in life. Thus it is important to rethink how teachers approach education, we have to adapt to the changing environment, technology is now an essential part of life and this must be reflected in education. To promote multimodality, the definition of English must be expanded; teachers need to start asking for homework in the form of videos, podcast and Prezi power points. Instead of normalizing submissive and quiet participants, our students should be encouraged to speak up; because research has consistently showing doing so will result in increased academic results, but also because it is important students know their opinion is valued. I wanted to become a teacher so that I could help make an impact upon the lives of thousands, I wanted an occupation centred around human connection and relationships. Hopefully I can be a teacher that ‘teaches smarter’ rather than ‘teaching harder’, a teacher whose infectious enthusiasm spreads beyond his classroom and into the school.

The Second Blog Update

The 18th of May, 2015 has been chiseled into history. Many generations on, my descendants will commemorate this day with a feast. The great songs shall echo through the grand hall of the Ching dynasty, the wine shall flow like the Nile and the ancient kings will rise from their tomb to herald the changing of the new age.

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Ask not what the blog can do for you, but what you can do for the blog.

ONE THOUSAND, EIGHT HUNDRED AND EIGHTY SIX VIEWS IN A SINGLE DAY.

Note that my previous record was 49 views in a full 24 hours, the jump to 1886 represents a net increase of… 3748.9796%. I was completely stunned when I first saw this, believing that either I instantly needed to get corrective eye surgery or that I had taken one too many shots of Vodka that night.

Now you as the audience must be asking, “How on Earth did you get such an explosion in views?” and secondly “Did you threaten the slaves in the basement your friends to continuously press F5 at gunpoint?” After donning my thinking cap and investigating, I found that my website was linked several times in a Norwegian forum dedicated to academia. Many students used my piece analysing the rhetoric in Obama’s Yes We Can speech (which you can found by clicking here) as a scaffold for their own writing.

The Peloponnesian War cemented the greatness of the Spartans in western lore, the 13th belonged to the ferocity of the Mongols, the year 1788 signified the start of the French Revolution and the solidification of modern day European ideals. But the 18th of May, 2015 heralds the triumph of humanity, the forging of the human spirit. But most of all, the 18th of May will forever be the swan song of the Norwegian nation, they rose like a Phoenix from the ashes, dashing away villainy and corruption in a single stroke.

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So what’s next for Insights & Ball? I’m currently completely swamped in assessments though I’m loving this semester as it is really allowed me to dive deeper in my education degree. The timetable gods have also been merciful and I’ve been able to meet some incredible like minded education peers and to strengthen past friendships that I’ve already developed.However I do have a few essays and articles which I do want to publish in the near future, I’ll be on holidays around the end of June.

Schedule

The Fifty Greatest Moments in the Avatar Franchise
This has honestly been a piece that I’ve wanted to publish for many months. I’ve already established my 50 favourite moments from the Avatar franchise in order. However I would like to re-watch The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra one final time just in case I want to make changes. This article will most likely be stretch out over a five separate post starting at number 50 to the magnum opus, I find posting 50 consecutive moments in a row to be a little extreme and very ugly on the eyes.

Tim Duncan; an Ode to Greatness
Duncan is a living legend, the embodiment of a professional, the symbol of longevity. His resume is overwhelming, 5 different championships, 2 MVPs, 3 finals MVP and a ridiculous 18 regular seasons under his belt and another 18 PLAYOFF RUNS played. However, Duncan is nearly the end of his career, how will he proceed? Will he silently exit the game, content with the legacy he has craved out, or will he strive for another championship run?

The Yellow Vicks; a Cherished Memory
The yellow Vicks cough drop will forever be associated with my childhood. My grandmother will always reward me with that delicious treat, promising that this would be the final one of the night. However she could never contain her love for me and by the end of the night, I would sit in my parent’s car with four or five cough drops happily consumed in the stomach. That was close to a decade ago and now her Dementia has cruelly stolen away her memories, ripping down her charisma and destroying her independence. I visited her in the nursing home recently, I tried to make conversation but it was hard connecting intimately with someone who was starting to forget you. As I walked out of her room, I left a packet of yellow Vicks near her bedside table, maybe for one more time she will remember me, the past laughs we shared and how much I loved her.

These are the pieces that I have lined up, however I write whenever I’m motivated and if an idea or an event catches my fancy then I’ll focus on that topic instead. Though I hope that you as the audience have a better idea of what I’m planning to focus upon and I hope that you’ll follow me as I document my life, my beliefs and my experiences before I, too, am whisked off the stage off life.

To my Norwegian viewers, I salute you.

Farvel, Chingy out.

Love, the Two Sided Sword

How do Shakespeare’s Venus and Adonis and Walter Raleigh’s The Nymph’s Reply explore the theme of love through contrasting interpretations?

This essay heavily references Shakespeare’s Venus and Adonis which you can read here and The Nymph’s Reply written by Walter Raleigh which you can also read here.

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“Thank you, I’ll say goodbye soon
Though it’s the end of the world, don’t blame yourself…Now
And if it’s true, I’ll surround you and give life to a world
That’s our own”

Love is an emotion which transcends all boundaries, since it is interwoven to the human experience and a foundation of humanity; many texts have tried to interpret the magnitude and consequences of love. Venus and Adonis twists Ovid’s classic tale to reflect the dance of love, the pushing and pulling between two parties, whilst The Nymph’s Reply emphasizes a cold and logical response to stifle a burst of passion.

In many respects Venus and Adonis could be read as a cautionary tale against resisting the natural temptations of passion and lust and the socially accepted practice of forming a stable relationship to create children. Adonis has reached the age of adolescent, the age where he can openly choose his future, whether that lies in the realm of hyper-masculinity or a reality where he embraces feminine emotions like love. Unfortunately Adonis’ obsession with the militant characteristics of masculinity such as being a soldier or hunting means his “heart stands armed in his ear.” Adonis views love in a logical and emotionless state and thus he is never able to understand its power to unite. He responds to Venus’ advances with more references to his violent and militaristic mentality “remove your siege from my unyielding heart/ to love’s alarms it will not ope the gate.” Adonis’ fixation on the unattractive elements of love ultimately leads to his demise, this epyllion warns about the dangers of forsaking love and delving too deeply into masculinity. On the other hand, The Nymph’s Reply pushes a different agenda, emphasising the benefits of choosing logic over love, believing that desires to reproduce or fall in love are foolish.

Unwilling and unable to succumb to the weakening effects of love, Adonis is consumed with slaying a boar, a symbol of uncontrolled masculinity and reckless passion during the Renaissance. Blinded by his need to prove himself, Adonis forsakes one of the foundational pillars of humanity; the ability to forge and maintain sophisticated and complex relationships. Another interpretation may view Adonis’ death as a warning against homosexuality since one is straying into a relationship deemed ‘unnatural’ since “thou art bound to breed.” This reading is reinforced by the description of the boar as the “loving swine” who had attempted to “nuzzle” with Adonis and merely wanted to plant a kiss on him, the sexual connotations hinting at a possible romance. The tusk “sheathed in his soft groin” emphaises how homosexuality can be dangerous. It symbolically destroys Adonis’ manhood; as homosexual relationships are inherently unable to create new life, necessary to maintain the human species.

The Nymph’s Reply explores the theme of from a different angle, unlike Venus and Adonis which warns about the dangers of isolation and failing to build a connection to others, the Nymph completely rejects the notion of love. Because human life is finite, promises of love and passion will only echo true in the moment, for the Nymph such rhetoric only serves to hide the suitor’s lust. This is echoed in the statement “If all the world and love were young/ and truth in every shepherd’s tongue” the hyperbole sorely contradicts the sombre reality of an imperfect world where the nymph and her suitors live in. An imperfect world where idealistic emotions fall on deaf ears, where promises of fidelity ring hollow.

The Nymph shares a similar opinion to Adonis, believing love to be an intrusive force, powerful enough to strip away one’s independence. The vast majority of the poem involves the Nymph scientifically and methodically refuting the shepherd’s words, “Times drives the flocks from field to fold… Rivers rage and rocks grow cold.”  In the Nymph’s Reply there is a clear focus upon winter imagery, purposely contradicting and countering the connotations of spring, hope and growth found in the shepherd’s response. This is also reflected in “The flowers do fade, and wanton fields/ to wayward reckoning yields.” The physical gifts like gowns, caps and a bed of roses promised by the shepherd “soon break, soon wither, soon forgotten:” the repetition of “soon” further reinforces the fragility of love and how promises of faithfulness, which were once full of joy and gratitude will deteriorate. The decay of natural objects is a metaphor for the fading feelings that humans will inevitably experience. Unlike Venus, who tries to persuade Adonis to have sexual intercourse with her because life is short, beauty will eventually fade and thus one is charged to enjoy and relish their youth. The Nymph sees love as rather pointless, a superficial and trivial feeling which cannot and will not survive the passing of time.

The Nymph stands as the traditional symbol of the Petrarchan mistress, being virtuous and beautiful in one sense but cruel and unempathetic on the other hand. But in Venus and Adonis, this role which is typically reserved for the female is filled by Adonis, highlighting how love and passion respects no boundaries like gender, age or culture. The uncontrollable desires and consequences are shown to bringing out the animal savagery within people, transforming the noble goddess into a fierce and violent eagle. Unsatisfied with Adonis, Shakespeare gives us a gorgy description of Venus’ pursuit “Tires with her beak in feathers, flesh and bone… devouring all in haste… till gorge be stuffed or prey be gone.” The morphing of characters are poetic techniques trying to capture the selfish and destructive capabilities of unchecked lust or passion. These emotions have the ability to transform a human being into whatever it wills, where that is an animal, a flower or be the catalyst for an incestuous and borderline paedophilic relationship.

It is through these animal metaphors that, Shakespeare’s presentation of love starts to match the Nymph’s Reply, “Now quick desire hath caught the yielding prey… I’ll be a park and thou shalt be my deer.” By degrading Adonis to a prey and a deer, the possessive and selfish motivators in love are revealed; Venus’ words are inspired by lust, which is inseparable from love or passion. The extended metaphor of Venus’ body as a park and Adonis as a small, insignificant animal trapped within, further reinforces the one sided nature of love, the negative qualities which the Nymph spoke off. The crippling repercussions are so strong that even the god of love and fertility has fallen victim to her own domain, as Shakespeare paradoxically writes “She’s love, she loves, yet she is not loved.”

There are many similarities and differences between the two texts, as they both try to explore the diverse topic of love from various perspectives. Venus and Adonis focuses upon the push and pull of two people. Whilst it stresses the controlling and damaging aspects of love, if Adonis embraced love, he would have been ultimately saved. The Nymph’s Reply on the other hand aims to purely point out the unreliable nature of love as it attempts to cover up lustful intentions, the Nymph’s responses pushes the belief that love is superficial in a superficial world.

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The Mental Drug of Mediocrity

I was strolling with my friend, Jacob, both of us eagerly awaiting the challenges and joys which would accompany our third year at university. The cold Autumn wind had began to taint the warm earthy buzz of Summer and all around me, joyful optimism was painted upon the faces of my fellow peers. I asked about Jacob’s trips to Papa New Guinea and what lessons he could take away from such a polarising experience.

“I learnt that… That being a good person and wanting to help people really means nothing, it means nothing if you are not currently engaged in helping others.” Over a month later, this phrase has still resonated deeply with me.

There have been many quotes which have expressed a similar opinion, but to hear it from a close friend with similar ideas and values really shifted my perspective. It is very easy to swallow the “tranquilizing drug of gradualism” it is very easy for one to slip into a state of dull acceptance, “I’m a good person, I help people when I can.”

Except, when was the last time I had been involved in charity? It had been years since I gave up my precious time to help those facing difficult situations. How could I claim to be a good person if my existence didn’t positively change the lives and attitudes of my peer citizens? Values such as honesty, friendliness and acceptance are not traits or characteristics which should be celebrated, they are to be expected from any decent human being.

I write this to any one reading, do not be lulled into a mental state of mediocrity, good is never enough if better is possible. rhetoric can never be a substitute for action, the people who talk through their actions are the ones who will have a lasting legacy upon this world. People who dream with their eyes open are the ones whom history shall sing praises about. The call to action has been sounded and it has invited you to help others who share this beautiful planet with you.

“What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.”
– Pericles