Tag Archives: English

The Holy Grail?

The cup of a carpenter? Not so much... O.O

The cup of a carpenter? Not so much… O.O

This week, someone stole into my classroom either before or after hours and left this beauty on my desk. I came in, unlocked the door, and there it was. My students are calling it the Holy Grail because we recently studied Arthur and the room is already a place of myth and legend. (I mean, I may have just knighted one of my students for a picture in the school yearbook…)

The goblet depicts Merlin (I assume you’re familiar if you’re on this blog) in three scenes: one with Arthur in the woods tutoring the Once and Future King, one in his study (which looks like an alchemist’s paradise), and one at Stonehenge. Having no divination powers of my own, I Googled the item’s make and model. This particular cup hasn’t been made in a couple of decades, though I did see it for auction.

There is also a curious phrase etched into the metal at the bottom of the cup, which I was unable to discern using a magnifying glass.

So I have myself a mystery. Even more so because no one has taken credit for the gift.

It’s possible that the goblet was given to me years ago and languished in a cabinet for some time, and that someone rifled through my room and simply placed the cup dead center on my desk. There is, after all, something familiar about it. But it couldn’t have come from the cabinet under my TV or the back cabinets, where most of my oddities are kept, because I was just in there digging through reference materials to help my kids with NaNoWriMo.

Curiouser and curiouser.

From there, the coincidences take a further turn for the strange. My daughters and I just finished watching the BBC series, Merlin, which we thoroughly enjoyed despite its many departures from lore due to being marketed as a family friendly retelling. (Which, for the most part, it was. Except for my mental commentary regarding Katie McGrath as Morgana…)

Season-5-merlin-on-bbc-32165619-3333-5000

Morgana, why do you have to be so mean…? x.x

Sure, there were some weird British comedy moments, and Merlin as a Dragonlord would have benefited from playing a little Skyrim, but overall, it was far better than I expected it to be. It didn’t hurt that Lancelot got the short end of the stick (finally!) and that the writers of the show seem to appreciate Gawain about as much as I do. In my not so humble opinion, Merlin was cancelled much earlier than it should have been. The world needs more of this:

MERLIN

Sunday afternoon in the park with buddies and broadswords!

And this…

merlin_682_580858a

Merlin: Great Dragon, you’re the best psychiatrist ever! Except when you baldfacedly lie…
GD: Ah, but young warlock, I am a dragon! I cannot grow a beard…

And maybe a little more Katie…

Morgana sword

I don’t even know what to say here besides d-a-m-n. O.O

Here, ladies, I’ll toss you a bone too…

Gwaine is hotter than me

Just 5 seasons, BBC? You suck. But I digress…

On top of all that, my latest passes at  teaching T.S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land” (which kind of got swept under the rug) and Le Morte d’Arthur left me fixated on the tale of the Fisher King and Arthur’s languishing in a similar stasis after Camelot is broken by Lancelot and Guinevere’s affair. The idea of Arthur, with whom I’ve always identified (but especially in times of adversity), needing a powerful relic like the Holy Grail (ironically a female symbol) in order to be reborn has definitely occupied my thoughts of late. And I’ve kept that to myself–which is kind of a big deal for me.

Yet here the chalice sits:

Merlin Gob 2

Drink me!

What do you do when someone breaks into your classroom and puts a goblet on your desk? Even if you’re me, you still consider things like poisoning, and you send missives (re: Facebook shout outs) to the universe inquiring as to who might be responsible for this. I lasted until about fourth hour laboring under such logic, which–again–is kind of big deal for me.

Then I filled the Holy Grail with Monster (hey, it’s me!) and pounded it. Am I reborn and the land with me? Well, I’ll let you know if it starts raining blossoms in Arizona.

I still don’t have any real answers to this mystery, but sometimes it isn’t answers we seek–merely a path forward. (Although I’d still like to know why the hell BBC cancelled Merlin! I’m suffering through Winx Club with my kids right now!)  

To whoever put the goblet on my desk, thank you. At the very least, I look pretty legit drinking from it while lecturing on Shakespeare. And, if you are an assassin, you now know that I’m immune to iocane powder.

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The Importance of Symbolism

Mjolnir

Whenever the term “symbolism” comes up in my English class, I hear a collective groan that is normally synonymous with detention or the suggestion of a looming research paper due date. My seniors tend to get over it once I force them to read a novel and create their own symbol to represent it, but in the meantime, getting “buy in” for this concept during a guided reading is like performing a root canal while deep sea diving the Mariana Trench. My classes can walk the grounds of Old Main, and I can point out different images that may signify something, but the effect is seldom much better.

If we watch a film together, however, the students instantly and innately grasp symbolism. I’m beginning to wonder if this visual-spacial requirement has to do with all the technology of our postmodern age, or if it smacks of this generation’s lack of connection with the self.

Or maybe they’re just hormonal teenagers that aren’t ready to consider that a tree entirely dead on just one side represents duality and dichotomy.

Half Dead Tree

Jumping to that conclusion is easy until I have the dream conversation with them. This usually happens after we’ve read Conrad or Hawthorne or have discussed Palahniuk. (Yes, I teach Palahniuk. Bite me.) Nearly everything we dream is symbolic, and as our dreams are the playground of our unconscious minds, symbolism must then be deeply couched in what makes us individuals. It’s only when we consider this connection that we can understand how grasping this “English trope” truly enhances and affects our lives.

  rain

This morning, after three days of rain (something we don’t get much of in my part of Arizona) and no sign of it letting up, I decided to go for a run (something I don’t usually do). This would just be insanity if I didn’t understand the rejuvenating aspects of water, or the concept of symbolic baptism that I’m always explaining when we discuss The Count of Monte Cristo. I was one with my body and nature, which is a pretty big deal for Captain Cyberspace here. None of the things that have been bothering me lately mattered.

I was clean, empty, free.

At least I was until I had to get into my car and realized that it looked like something from an episode of Hoarders. With symbolism in mind, I began to wonder if this cluttered death trap did not represent me in some way. They say a master of symbology can walk into a person’s bathroom, take a gander, and tell everything there is to know about him or her.

As someone who considers himself pretty adept at reading signs, I decided my car represented all the baggage, the proverbial “junk in the trunk” I’ve been carrying around. So I cleaned it all out. I had basically given up on it after the kids destroyed the upholstery, but it really isn’t so bad. Driving it like that had been getting me down, but it wasn’t until I realized that I was still connected to the rolling junkyard that I had the motivation to do something about it.

Sunrise

These sunrises I’ve come to take for granted living in the Southwest? They mean something too.

I want to say to my students that they’re living the most epic movie they will ever see–life. Each of them is a main character, and just because life isn’t scripted doesn’t mean that the images that dominate our lives don’t contain some deeper meaning. Reading literature isn’t just about literacy; it’s about learning how to live. I want to say these things, but this is what makes me “the eccentric weirdo”. Sometimes, especially lately with the Common Core Standards cramping my style, I feel like I’m surrounded by an army of Gertrude Steins. They chant their insipid mantra, “A rose is a rose is a rose is a rose! A rose is a rose is a rose is a rose!”

red_rose_flowers_wallpaper_hd-t2

Really? Is that all you see?

I see love, life, romance, vigor, the heart’s true bloom. I see passion and innocence juxtaposed within Nature, which enables us to understand human nature. I see something as delicate and evanescent as a dream. I see everything that makes life worth living.

I see beauty.

Keats wrote, “Beauty is truth, and truth beauty–that is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.”

When one understands symbolism, the beauty of the world is not merely skin deep. Decode, decode, decode! Smell the roses. Watch the sunrise. Dance in the rain. Clean your hoardermobile.

We could all use a little more beauty, a little more truth.

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Ron Beowulf: Counter Auditor (Part 1)

 Saxon_Sutton%20Hoo

Hwaet! Lo, do the Spear Danes sing of that great contender, Ron Beowulf, by blood rights a CEO, who with his portfolio did outshine his rivals as gold unto unburnished brass. Yet his heart was that of an auditor, and so he did wend from ivory tower to ivory tower and did do battle with all the shapes and incarnations of evil—the goblins of corporate collusion, the witches of interoffice sex scandals, the rancors of unpaid retirement benefits. The Internet did say that no man could match him, till came that foul harbinger of the pink slip, that fiend, Johannes Grinder, chief auditor of Grendel, Inc.

Grinder’s personal hygiene was such that he could not know God’s love, let alone a maiden’s. He made his home in the burbs, in a hell not hell but earth. T’was a call from Heorot’s corporate offices that summoned this great evil from its fell lair, a call catalyzed by an unattended iPhone playing gangsta rap that did ring loud in the aisles between cubicles.

Determined to prove a villain and to best the best of men, Grinder did stalk from cubicle to cubicle at Heorot Enterprises, his prosthetic arm clicking like the gears of Time, and came upon the men sleeping at their desks. Nine and twenty men, whilst at repose under the power of napping, did he dispatch with his terrible pink slips. Programmers, technicians, corporate bloggers—none were safe from his terrible claw, the rough-hewn stigma of his bitter exile from both the Westboro Baptist Church and the beds of maidens.

Hal Hrothgar, the CEO, pleaded for his men. Yet Grendel, Inc.’s onslaught continued unabated. Profits ran afoul. Stocks suffered. What employees remained went abroad seeking better beds and pension plans. Then, Heorot’s misery leaped the Internet. Social media sites lit up with tidings of this corporate massacre, but the board of trustees stood firm. Attrition was but a part of the process.

Hate had triumphed.

Beowulf himself was engaged in bitter contest at the country club when his Samsung Galaxy did ring. One of his brokers, Bob Brekka, had challenged him to a swimming contest, and while their strokes beat against the pool filter’s currents and Beowulf’s Journey ringtone did pound against concrete and Pebble Tec, a clutch of monsters, snot-nosed and belligerent, dove across the divider and did harry our hero.

Beowulf smote the first ankle-biter with his elbow; then, with great dexterity, did reverse his course and hurl the petulant asses with skinned knees back upon the pool side. Every sinew in his body tensed as he threw himself back into the race, yet he found Brekka victorious.

Brekka guffawed, raised his arms, and said this to Beowulf:

“Hey, Ron. You’ve got a missed call.”

“I’m on sabbatical. Besides, no one calls me unless they go through my secretary. It’s been that way since I brought down Enron.”

But Beowulf’s curiosity did smite him, and so he looked upon the screen to find a number well known to him, a number he had kept in his Contacts since its owner had rendered service unto his father, Edgetho, a golden parachute deal during his suit with the Wulfings, a wergild of a terrible price.

“Hal Hrothgar.” Beowulf knitted his brows, a reaction which his plastic surgeon had absolutely forbid. “I owe him big time.”

“Isn’t he the CEO that’s in all that trouble with Grendel, Inc.? There are web comics about that travesty. Are you sure you want to get your hands dirty? Besides, Ron, you’re an auditor, not an HR lawyer. Didn’t Grendel offer you a job last year?”

“And gave it to Johannes Grinder when I turned them down. Well, sometimes it takes a monster to slay a monster. I’ll just have to be–” and dramatic music (Brekka’s ringtone) did play in the background, “a counter auditor!”

Brekka sighed.

“Are you coming along?” Beowulf asked. “Lucky thirteen?”

“Yeah,” Brekka gave in. “I’ll phone the team. But I’m getting too old for this shit.”

***

And so after the thirteen warriors had assembled, Ron Beowulf, counter-auditor, did make this speech before the board of trustees at Heorot Enterprises:

“Hail Hrothgar! Higlac is my chief investor and my partner! At my firm I have ever been the sword! I have risen from the darkness of corporate audits, dripping with mine enemies’ trust funds! I have driven great giants into chains, Enron and MegaUpload, and for the right price would rid the earth of their kind! Too long has this high hall suffered the tyranny of lost profits whilst Grendel, that fiend, that Godless creature, claims that his wicked ways shall put Heorot back in the black! But no longer! Allow me to depose your auditor, and as I see my enemy’s scorn for the usual workplace weapons is so great that he neither needs nor fears them, nor shall I! No scandals or espionage shall I use, yet shall I meet him report for report, issue for issue, and purge this great company of his poison!”

And the board of trustees did fear Beowulf and his archaic verbiage, and vowed he do the same.

Beowulf’s men did fortify the office with Scentzies to nullify the monster’s stench, then did they take the lost employees’ places in their abandoned cubicles. When air was thick with beeswax and honeysuckle and the men hunched over their desks in swinish sleep—though all feigned—then did Beowulf hear a clicking nigh the elevator door, which opened to admit the fiend.

Gnashing his teeth and bearing high his horrible pink slips, Grinder came. He fell upon the first of Beowulf’s men and audited him. It was a thing terrible to behold. Then, his great, greedy stomach hot with the thought of more slaughter, came upon a wakeful sleeper—came upon Beowulf himself.

“Get your claws off me, you stinky freak!”

“No, no!” Grinder wailed. “What are you doing? Someone, help me!”

Beowulf grasped the prosthetic arm and locked with Grinder in a mortal struggle. Up and down the rows of cubicles they battled, displacing phones from receivers and spilling ergonomically correct seating into the aisles. Grinder gave a cry like a wounded Chihuahua as he tried to tear away, but the harder he struggled, the firmer Beowulf’s grip became. Piteous were the throes of that terrible creature as he was forced to meet arms with he, who of all on Earth, had the best personal trainer.

In the end, the prosthetic cracked. Beowulf tore it free from his shoulder and paraded it up and down the aisles. Soon his men and what employees remained joined him in a conga line, drinking malt liquor and singing of Beowulf’s courage.  As Grinder fled in defeat back to his hellish burb, the men celebrated the return of wastefulness and debauchery to the office—those very respites that make any job worth doing.

Hrothgar had the arm hung high above the cubicles where it eclipsed even the company banners. Commercials for Heorot Enterprises were again sang upon the Internet in a pure, clear voice. The board broke their contract with Grendel, Inc. Profits and professionals returned.

But what Hrothgrar and Beowulf did not know was that Grendel, Inc. had a parent company…

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