Weekly Photo Challenge: To Build Or Not To Build

To Build Or, Not To Build

That’s not a hard question at all. I’ve mentioned my love of LEGOs before, but I haven’t really taken any photos of them. Considering this week’s challenge calls for something awesome among the mundane, these little bricks were perfect. Yes, that’s a Hamlet-themed figure, my favorite of the bunch (except maybe the Goth Girl. She’s adorable). Yes, that is also the LEGO Leaning Tower of Pisa in the background; I get one of the Architecture sets every year for Christmas. It’s a fun, geeky way to inspire more traveling and building.

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Daily Prompt: Literature And Caffeine

Hey, folks. Today’s Daily Prompt is all about teachers. Specifically, the ones who have had a significant impact – good or bad – on your life. This one’s actually kind of tricky; I was on decent terms with all of my instructors, but few of them ever stood out. I’ve always been an overachiever in academic settings – yeah, I was that kid – so teachers focused more on helping the struggling students. I got the (quite wrongful!) impression early on that they didn’t really care about what they were teaching, and were only there for temp work or couldn’t find employment at better schools. Just show up for class, finish the assignment, get the A, and move on. Nothing personal or mind-blowing.

That all changed when I transferred to a university for my upper division coursework. In my first semester, I had a class on Renaissance Literature. I was expecting the instructor to be an bland, cranky, grandmotherly type just like nearly every English teacher I’d had before. This professor, however, was full of energy, enthusiasm, and cracked tons of jokes throughout the lecture. She was so intense and ridiculously over-the-top, it was infectious. I later found out that she had a venti triple-shot Starbucks concoction before showing up every morning. The caffeine made her the life of the party, and it gave a serious boost to her presentation. Some students don’t like that kind of loopy personality (I certainly would’ve tired of it under different circumstances), but no one could deny its effectiveness. The only time it backfired is when she misread the syllabus and assigned the entire Book of the Courtier to be finished in a single overnight reading. It was insane, but we got it done. As an apology, she dropped the final exam from the course. Coincidentally, that extensive reading helped inspire my current world view.

Woe to anyone who underestimated her, though. There was a good reason she was in charge of the department’s graduate program. As goofy as she was in lecturing, she was absolutely ruthless when it came to grading, structuring, and editing. Not doing an assignment in perfect MLA Format was an insta-fail. Don’t craft an argument well enough? Be ready to get called out on it. I pride myself on my writing, but I wouldn’t be nearly as good without her turning my work into a jumble of red marks and annotations. Some of my finest papers were written in her classes. She challenged me to improve, something no other teacher even tried. This is on top of her bringing in extra books, movies, plays, and artifacts she’d collected over the years. She cared enough about what she taught to make it interesting, and spent plenty of one-on-one time with each of her students. She wanted us to be at our best, and nothing less.

Needless to say, that Renaissance Literature class wasn’t the last I saw of her. I ended up taking her courses in Shakespeare, Milton, 19th Century British Literature, and Critical Writing On Drama. I improved with each passing course, eventually becoming one her top students. She gave me her personal copy of the Bedford Companion to Shakespeare, as well as a film version of Hamlet. It eventually culminated on my graduation, as she was the one who shook my hand and nodded as I crossed the stage. That was such a long time ago, but I can remember it so clearly. I miss those strange but oh-so educational times. Maybe someday I’ll get a chance to thank her for what she did…maybe with a Starbucks gift card.

A List Of Mementos: A Work In Progress

A List Of Mementos: A Work In Progress

  • A finger painting of a clown, to remind me of where I began.
  • A bachelor’s degree, to remind me of what it means to overcome.
  • A chess set, to remind me why I love strategy.
  • A Galileo thermometer, to remind me of my inspiration.
  • A bottle of sparkling cider, to remind me to appreciate family while you can.
  • A glass sailboat, to remind me that the best memories are timeless.
  • A lanyard, to remind me that honesty and persuasion can work wonders.
  • An iPod that says Non sum qualis eram, to remind me to accept change.
  • A Necronomicon, to remind me why I love horror.
  • A copy of The Dictionary of Imaginary Places, to remind me to keep dreaming.
  • A puka shell necklace, to remind me of the spirit of Aloha.
  • A cave painting charm, to remind me to keep exploring.
  • An old walking stick, to remind me of the mountains I’ve climbed.
  • A stamp from 10,000 ft. up, to remind me that the climb is just as important as the view.
  • A miniature anchor, to remind me to keep taking chances.
  • A miniature gilded elephant, to remind me to seek opportunities.
  • A miniature Eiffel Tower, to remind me that some things are worth the wait.
  • A cable car ticket stub, to remind me some things aren’t.
  • A scorpion in plexiglass, to remind me of places to which I’ll never return.
  • A wooden Mayan charm on a string, to remind me what heat and time truly feel like.
  • A pewter Majora’s Mask, to remind me why video games are art after all.
  • A set of pins, to remind me to share my passion for literature.
  • A LEGO Hamlet, to remind me why I love being a geek.
  • A Hello Kitty Chun-Li, to remind me that I should accept all aspects of myself.
  • A pair of Buddhist prayer bead bracelets, to remind me to stay curious.

May The Verse Be With You!

Hey, folks. Have a Star Wars and/or literature geek like me on your holiday list? You might want to check out William Shakespeare’s Star Wars.

No, seriously. This does exist, and it is awesome. It’s the entirety of A New Hope rewritten to look like The Bard of Avon’s writing, right down to the iambic pentameter, chorus, and stage play formatting. Everything is there, from Han Solo shooting Greedo to the duel between Darth Vader and Obi Wan Kenobi. Not to mention the dramatic musings of R2-D2:

“This golden droid has been a friend, ’tis true,/ And yet I wish to still his prating tongue!/ An imp, he calleth me? I’ll be reveng’d,/ And merry pranks aplenty I shall play/ Upon this pompous droid C-3PO!/ Yet not in language shall my pranks be done:/ Around both humans and droids I must/ Be seen to make such errant beeps and squeaks/ That they shall think me simple. Truly, though,/ Although with sounds obilque I speak to them, I clearly see how I shall play my part,/ And how a vast rebellion shall succeed/ by wit and wisdom of a simple droid.”

Zounds.

Daily Prompt: Tattoo….You?, Or: Blank Skin, Too Many Choices!

Hey, folks. Today’s Daily Prompt is about tattoos. Much to the surprise of anyone who assumes I’m a goth/punk/rock star based on my appearance, I don’t have any ink. It’s not because I’m squeamish around needles. And it’s certainly not because I find them unappealing; an excellent, tasteful tattoo can be really attractive. For me, it always seemed like a huge step in an unusual (though not bad) direction. Some corporate workplaces don’t encourage it, at least if the art is visible. There’s this bizarre, persisting belief that professionalism and tattoos don’t mix, as if they affect an individual’s competency. Considering how companies are supposedly pushing for more individuality, diversity, and creativity, the assumptions about tattoos are paradoxical, if not outright hypocritical. One of the most competent, business-savvy people I ever worked under had ink on her legs, but had to wear tights every workday because visible tattoos were forbidden. Social perspectives are starting to shift in favor of competency over personal appearance, but its extent is anyone’s guess.

My family’s attitude, however, isn’t going to going to change anytime soon. You should’ve seen the ruckus that got stirred up when I decided to grow my hair out. My mother was incredulous. Some of my relatives nicknamed me the CDL: Colombian Drug Lord. I’ve never done drugs, and nor been to South America. I still get half-joking threats of someone sneaking in and cutting my hair in my sleep….But I’ll save those shenanigans for another post. Tattoos are a personal thing; it’s ultimately up to the person, not the family, to choose responsibly. My hang-up is with my general appearance. I’m in much better shape than I was in college – I still hike and wander the city regularly – but I’ve got nothing worth showing off. I’m definitely not Calvin Klein model; I’ve got maybe a one-and-a-half pack on my best days. If I’m that average, would a tattoo really look that good on me?

I don’t know.

What I do know are the kinds of tattoos I’d get if I had the nerve. My favorite animal is the octopus. It’s one of the most intelligent and crafty members of the animal kingdom. Most people associate wisdom with owls due to their connection with Athena. However, octopi excel at stealth, dextrous tool-use, spatial memory, and navigation. They look weird, but undeniably awesome. It’d be cool to get a huge, detailed one spanning across one shoulder, with tentacles going down my arms, back, or chest. But since I’m huge literature geek, I’d probably go with a specific cephalopod: Cthulhu. Forget Davy Jones in the Pirates of the Caribbean; I want to have H.P. Lovecraft’s god of insanity on me.

But if I’m going with a literary-themed one, it’d probably be a famous passage drawn on my back. Maybe Hamlet’s soliloquy. An excerpt from Tennyson’s Ulysses, perhaps. The openings to Moby-Dick or A Tale of Two Cities. There’s a cavalcade of literary quotes I could use. Or maybe I could just have a huge stack of of my favorite books along my spine. Or maybe I should stick to paintings, like Van Gogh’s The Starry Night or Raphael’s The School of Athens. A Scorpio-themed one would be fitting, but kind of bland. Or I could get a video-game themed one, like Akuma’s Sky/Heaven symbol, the Triforce or Amaterasu. Samus Aran, Chun-Li, or Big Boss would all be serious contenders as well.

But if I wanted to go really esoteric, it’d have to be an astronomy one. Maybe the Pillars of Creation or the entirety of the Eagle Nebula. That probably wouldn’t translate well to ink and skin, though…

Yeah, I should stop. I’m going spend like an hour looking up cool/geeky tattoos that I’ll probably never get. But I can still imagine.

Daily Prompt: Keeping up with the Jones’, Or: A Wishful Space Odyssey

Hey, folks. Today’s Daily Prompt is about coveting. That one utterly irresistible, yet completely unfeasible/irresponsible thing you desire. It’s a pretty apt topic for Black Friday. I could write a novella on what a dehumanizing farce that little post-Thanksgiving romp has become, but I’ll save it for a later post. This prompt is just about the new cool/shiny/ridiculously expensive thing I want. And to be honest…I don’t really have one. I’ve always been the kind of type that tries to get the most out of what I’ve got; my laptop and cell phone are both pretty dated. I own only four pairs of shoes: tennis/walking, business, bath slippers, and sandals. Does that make me cheap? Well yeah, but I don’t care. If it works and I’m comfortable, then that’s just fine. Most of my “crazy” wants are pretty geeky/artsy/tame. A Gutenberg Bible, maybe. A first edition of Don Quixote. A legit First Folio. Monet’s San Giorgio Maggiore at Dusk. A Playstation 4 would’ve been nice, but I (and everyone else I know) certainly can’t afford one. The point is that I don’t need any of that. I don’t derive the same kind of satisfaction that I’d get from going somewhere and experiencing something new. As long as I can live comfortably and explore, then I’ll have the essentials covered.

If I had unlimited funding and resources, however, I’d use them to exactly to that end. Space tourism is in its infancy, but I’ve always found the concept fascinating. I don’t think I’ll ever be cut out for NASA, but I’d still love to see space. Can you imagine it? Leaving the ground and all the worries upon it behind, breaking through the atmosphere at a gut-wrenching, exhilarating velocity. Those tense, shaky moments when you’re not sure if you’re going to make it, and the sheer relief when you do. Watching the weather patterns drift and swirl in mesmerizing patterns. Going on a spacewalk, floating forth and pondering your detachment from the world. Seeing the sunrise against the curvature of the Earth, the intensity of its light awe-inspiring and terrifying in its magnitude. There are no borders out there; you see the planet and its inhabitants bared full in all of its wonderful, tragic beauty. The entirety of human civilization, the centuries of bloodshed and progress, all contained within this one blue speck

Sigh.

Maybe there will come a time when space travel won’t be limited to the super-wealthy. It probably won’t happen for decades, but it’d make quite a retirement gift. Oh, and for the runner-up ideas? Climbing Mt. Everest and exploring the Mariana Trench. I may like to live simply, but I like my adventures epic.

To Build, Or Not To Build?

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To Build, Or Not To Build?

That is not a hard question at all:
Whether ’tis Nobler in the mind to suffer
The Sets and Pieces of outrageous Fortune
Or to take Fingers against a Pile of bricks,
And by connecting end them: to build, to design
No more; and by a design, to say we end
The Heart-ache, and the thousand Natural shocks
That LEGO is heir to? ‘Tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wished. To build, to design,
To design, perchance to Imagine; Aye, there’s the brick tub,
For in that design of death, what ideas may come,
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause. There’s the respect
That makes Creativity of so long child-life:
For who would bear the Bricks and Pieces of time,
The Oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s Contumely,
The pangs of despised memories, the Nostalgia’s delay,
The insolence of Office, and the Spurns
That patient merit of the unworthy takes,
When he himself might his Quietus make
With a bare Brick Separator? Who would Box Sets bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after completion,
The undiscovered Country, from whose bourn
No Builder returns, Puzzles the will,
And makes us rather bear the joy we have,
Than fly to other toys that we know not of.
Thus LEGOs doth make Creators of us all,
And thus the Native hue of Inspiration
Is brightened o’er, with the brilliant cast of Thought,
And enterprises of great pitch and moment,
With this regard their Currents go forth,
And lose the name of Boredom. Soft you now,
The fair Ophelia? Nymph, in thy Blog
Be all my ideas remembered