The Borgias and Rhetoric and Catholicism: Truth or Drama?


The Borgias:  A Showtime Series

The Borgias: A Showtime Series

 

Let’s face it.  Drama is interesting.  It is!  Think of what our lives would be like without it?  With whom would we compare our lives?  How would the more insecure of us find substance in our little lives without having a lessor one with which to compare?  Drama makes us feel better about ourselves.  Drama adds excitement to the mundane.  Drama makes us feel alive.

I was watching The Borgias last night yes, I’m admitting to it and reveled at how truly enticing this series is to me.  It’s not just that The Borgias were the first Mafia family.  It’s not just that the characters are so beautiful well most of them.  It’s not just the time in which it is set.  (one of my favorite historical times)  But what TRULY makes it worth watching is how the writers blur the lines between true history and “drama”.  In grad school I had an advisor that loved to debate the merits of what makes a perfect story (i.e. book or movie or play) I loved hanging out with him when I was writing a paper (Big props to you Dr. Litton)  He and I would debate every Rhetorician/Philosopher’s idea from Aristotle to Freud from  E.M. Forster to Nietzsche as to what made the perfect story.  We both had big dreams of being writers. What we both agreed upon, and what I have always kept is that Rhetoric is not just style over substance.  It is not just drama over reality.  Rhetoric is not just, as Plato so ridiculously stated, “mere flattery”.  No, Rhetoric is the blending of the black and white.  Rhetoric has a substantive as well as stylistic genome….and a good story, like good bone structure is a gift.

For the sake of today’s argument, and to keep you reading, I won’t dissect or re-educate you on the five canons of Rhetoric.  What I will do is explain why I think drama is necessary in our lives using rhetoric as my argument and the Showtime Series The Borgias as my subject.  Using some of the rhetorical and philosophical thoughts of greater thinkers than me, I will try to convince you of my argument:  Drama is a necessary evil.   Yeah okay, I may just be showing off my grad degree in Rhetoric, but shouldn’t I? Sheesh, I’m still paying for it!  Since literary devices are so akin to rhetorical devices, those of you who are purists may want to argue later….to that I say, “Bring it” with a smile.

 

Let’s start with Kenneth Burke who stated:

The most characteristic concern of rhetoric [is] the manipulation of men’s beliefs for political ends….the basic function of rhetoric [is] the use of words by human agents to form attitudes or to induce actions in other human agents.

I don’t know much about the writers of The Borgias.  Are they Catholic?  Are they Jewish?  Are they Atheistic?  Or are they just hacks getting paid to write an almost semi-porn series with historical overtones?  In other words, what is their will for writing this series?  In watching it, and because I tend to be optimistic, I think they are truly attempting to appeal to the more educated viewer while also appealing to the “voyeur” viewer who really is just watching it for entertainment.  For instance, the Pope Rodrigo (Alexander VI) quotes Socrates while his son Cesare lustfully beds his daughter Lucrezia.  In skillfully blending the two appeals, the writers attract a larger audience through drama.  Personally, the show has made me want to know more about The House of Borgia in order to delineate between dramatic truth and manufactured drama.  Which leads me to the next definition of Rhetoric by Francis Bacon who wrote in (1561-1626): Advancement of Learning:

  The duty and office of rhetoric is to apply reason to imagination for the better moving of the will.

Using Bacon’s definition, this would mean the writers of The Borgias are forcing us, the viewers, to use our imagination to make willfull observations, right?  But are they for the better?  I am not Catholic, but I empathize with those who are in regards to this series.  Has the Catholic Church become the media darling of all things wrong with religion?  Is this series just another testament to the abuses of the Catholic Church?  As a Protestant, I have suffered and witnessed  the hypocrisy of those who feel their religious worldview is better than others. It just seems that the Catholic Church has a history of drama; from the Borgias to medieval relics to modern day pedophilic priests.   Has the Catholic Church publically asked for an apology from the writers for making their religion look like a God-ordained form of organized crime?  And would other religions react the same?  Or do the writers have a more noble, daresay, religious agenda by athey showing that though religious, we are all still sinners….and there is no sin greater than another? nota bene:  the Catholic Church DOES believe that some sins are greater than others and they are divided into mortal and venial sins. Just knowing that makes a difference in applying reason to imagination. So what indeed are the writers’ trying to persuade their audience to see or believe?  Which leads me to….Sappho who was far from being religious:

Persuasion is Aphrodite’s daughter: it is she who beguiles our mortal hearts (frg 90).

Good rhetoric, communication, poetry,  writing, film, and speech are designed to persuade someone to see the artist’s point of view.  I’m not always the most fun person to watch a movie with, and definitely not commercials.  I immediately try to pinpoint the persuasive element behind the words, images, sounds and actions of others.  This could also be a reason I have difficult times in relationships!  ssshh!!  What I do know, is that if you can beguile my mortal heart, you have my attention.  The writers of The Borgias have done that for me.  Though I don’t condone nudity and violence for the sake of shocking the viewer into watching more, I do appreciate the artful mixing of history and fantasy to tell a good story. And I also appreciate drama that has intellect.  And maybe that’s where I should end this, because in the end, The Borgias is just a dramatic television series meant to entertain.  Don’t you think?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sometimes, Most of the Time, Every Time


Break-Up

My daughter’s boyfriend called her two days before school was out and broke up with her.  I was so excited, because I really don’t like him! She is handling it semi-well.  For the last two days of school when she was around him, she would smile, talk to him nicely and act carefree.  Her friends were in awe of her strength, I mean, they had been dating since before Thanksgiving! And we all know that in teenaged minds, that’s an eternity! But at home she was morose and tearful.  She second-guessed herself.  She worried that she had done something wrong.  She just KNEW she would never have another boyfriend like him.   I told her to remember all the things she didn’t like about him and write them down because sometimes when we read things after experiencing them, it eases the pain and gives us insight into ourselves.  I even helped her when she forgot many of the things he did that upset her easy for me, each time he upset her  during their relationship, I wanted to butt-kick him to the next county!   So here’s what she wrote:

  1. He’s too emotionally detached.
  2. He doesn’t celebrate holidays, not even Christmas.
  3. He’s a big flirt.
  4. He’s too short.
  5. He has a bad relationship with his parents.
  6. He’s secretive.
  7. We never hang out except at school.
  8. He’s only been to my house twice.
  9. He’s a former drug user.
  10. He’s been to bed with former girlfriends……
  11. He didn’t take me to the dance.
  12. He’s always trying to get me to go to bed with him.
  13. He’s more interested in kissing and touching me than in talking and spending time together.
  14. He goes to concerts with his guy friends, but never asks me.
  15. He can’t drive, no driver’s license and doesn’t want one.
  16. He’s stingy.

Yeah, I didn’t even know some of these things….check the former italicized sentence.  I would now butt AND face kick him to New York!

So I explained to my lovely daughter that sometimes, we have preconceived notions of what is right for us and what isn’t.  Sometimes, we believe we can change a guy or that he will change for us.  Sometimes, we just overlook the bad because he gives us what we need at the time.  Sometimes, we just like being told we’re beautiful.

Most of the time we make excuses for him.  Most of the time we can be patient with behavior we don’t condone.  Most of the time we forget that we don’t have as many friends as we once had because we have him, though now we have his friends.

Every time he upsets us, a bit of the love dies because he does it again.  Every time.

But sometimes isn’t good.  Most of the time is better.  Every time is important in several situations…..every time is important because we can truly analyze character, respect and feeling.  If the every times are negative, then he needs to go and you are wasting your goodness on someone who doesn’t want it.  The key is to realize that you will have relationships with many people, and by using the sometimes, most of the time and every time equation, you can get a better grip on your mind when your emotion is carrying you away.

Freedom Extinction in America


UnfairLogo01

 

I’ve been meaning to blog this for a few weeks.   After a recent run-in with an employee at Starbucks, I knew I had to write this.  My friend from Colorado was visiting.  She has Cancer.  She also has a medical prescription for marijuana.  She was using a vaporizer in my car (she was on the passenger side) and while we were paying for our iced coffees that the barista with the affected voice for character got wrong ,said barista said pointedly to my bald friend, “Ma’am, I’m sorry, but you cannot smoke in the Starbucks line.” I started laughing, thinking it was a joke.  It wasn’t…read this.  (nota bene:  I got no contact high, and sent the iced coffees back)

The problem is, this subject runs me through a gauntlet of terrible feelings:  Getting older, becoming crotchety, feeling helpless, feeling like I haven’t done enough, blah blah blah….and then the neurosis sets in and I begin worrying about my children.  Am I teaching them how to protect their rights?  Am I teaching them to question their government?  Am I propagandizing  or am I sowing seeds of questioning in their minds?  The First World problems meme is often funny.  This one isn’t.  We truly DO have first world problems.  If American logic has become so denigrated that we must depend on our government to tell us what to do then we truly have problems.  Our freedom is becoming extinct and we are helping it happen!  We worry about losing the ozone.  We worry about pedophiles.  We worry about global warming.  Why aren’t we worrying about out freedom?  The liberties, freedoms, rights however you like to label them that I have seen become extinct in my lifetime are:

  • Wearing seatbelts
  • If living in New York, the extinction of the Big Gulp and soon salt.
  • Freely giving sensitive information to Google, Facebook, Skype, AOL, and YouTube then allowing them to sell said information for profit, espionage and “homeland security”.
  • Allowing over-taxation without protest.
  • Being told where, what and when to smoke while vices like texting and driving and alcohol abuse still run rampant.  Starbucks, are you listening?
  • Being told how many pets we can have while shelters are over-crowded.
  • The watchdog press. Except for “The Guardian”, they’re still trying.   The media has reverted to becoming pimps for whichever political party is in power as they write.  Sad, sad, sad.  Woodward and Bernstein where have you gone?
  • Riding motorcycles without helmets.
  • No longer honoring the right to allow someone to say something we don’t agree with: Freedom of Speech.
  • Paying Verizon, ATT, Sprint, T-Mobile and any other cell phone provider to GIVE our information to the government due to the US Patriot Act.
  • PRISM

The sad fact is, when we codify our freedom is lost.  The more we let government into our lives, the more they will take our rights and individualism away.  It’s the nature of the greedy beast.  Why can’t we all just be a little more logical, a little less greedy and a lot more verbose of what we will and won’t stand for?  Think I’ll be on some PRISM list for blogging this?  I don’t care!  List me!

Monday Musings…Parent Edition


motherhood

 

Those of you who know me know I’m neurotic.  I’m always second-guessing, worrying about things I have no control over and just, well, being me.  This lovely characteristic of mine makes me hard to live with at times.   When I found out that I was having a child in my late 30’s I worried how it would affect my daughter.  Then in my early 40’s when I became pregnant with my son, I was in worry overload.  After 17 years of parenting, I’m here to attest to any other parents that are like me out there….YOU WON’T HURT YOUR KIDS PSYCHES!

My last week has been a string of daily affirmations that I must be doing something right I’ll discuss all my wrongs in another post as a parent. If bragging parents get on your last nerve, you may want to quit reading here.   Indulge me, and let me bask for one more moment in the “I haven’t screwed my kids up yet” glory!

  • On Tuesday, my son was awarded for making the A honor roll all year.  ALL YEAR!
  • On Wednesday, my daughter was chosen to be the High School Television’s anchor AGAIN for her Senior year.
  • On Thursday, my son was again awarded with…wait for it….the Outstanding 7th Grader for his entire SCHOOL! he also won 2 teacher’s awards for Teen Leadership and PRE-AP Math.
  • On Friday, my son’s baseball team beat the team that has beat them all year long to win the City Championship.
  • On Saturday, my daughter took the SAT and didn’t freak out!
  • On Sunday, my son’s team won the Regional Championship and he batted in the winning run.

Yes, I can honestly say, for one shining week I have felt like a successful parent.  My kids aren’t hooked on drugs; my daughter isn’t a teenage pregnancy statistic; they aren’t wildly popular in school, they’re just normal; and the teachers love them both!  Even though their friends have labeled me a “hippie”.  Life is good!

The Sublimity of Techno-Communication


beach

Someone told me the other day that I’m more myself when I blog or write letters than I am when I tweet.  I suppose its the 140 character limit or maybe I’m just so verbose, I can get my point across better here sometimes!  Anyway, I just wanted to share a letter that I found very creative, very sweet and very thoughtful and edited for personal reasons!   I must admit, it was a bit of a corroboration as we had been discussing it for months.  But he beat me to it!  You have to click on the links to get the full effect, but I think it’s so sweet!   See what you think!  This is what I get for teasing someone about how little they say!  The links are underlined.

Dear Gayle,

I am so looking forward to our  vacation.  I’m so glad we are both enamored of the ocean and its music.   I know it will probably rain, but waves and rain are one of those communions you find romantic right? Wouldn’t it be nice  if we had thought of this years ago?  I just want you to know that I’m looking forward to that week more than a 40 day dream.  And since I know now what it really means to see, there are no more lies.  I want it that way.   And don’t worry, I still  find your BIG FIVE enticing but not as enticing as your green eyes!   Call me! xxooxx

I know, I’m a lucky person to have such creative people in my life aren’t I?  What do you think?

6 Sure Signs You’re a Sapiosexual


words

 

 

Urban Dictionary defines “sapiosexual” as ” (adj) A form of sexual orientation characterized by a strong attraction to intelligence in others, often regardless of gender and/or conventional attractiveness.”  Well, Urban Dictionary notwithstanding, a sapiosexual is someone who finds intelligence the most sexually attractive feature of another.   Since the brain is the largest sexual organ of both sexes yeah, I hear some of you snickering how size doesn’t matter a sapiosexual person isn’t as taken by visual stimuli as they are with intellect and wit.   This isn’t to say that sapiosexuals aren’t attracted to attractive people, but the attractive person MUST have a keen mind.   Still confused?  Here are 6 sure signs you’re a sapiosexual.

1. When playing Scrabble or Words with Friends, you know Sapiosexual isn’t a valid word but you’re impressed that they tried to use it any way. Words can be so damned sexy!

Here are some of my favorite words: hedonistic, cacophony, tempestuous, fervent, cognoscente, voluminous, indelible, enigmatic, serendipity, retronym, flourish, luminous, assiduous, poignant, impassioned, and contentious.  Funny, some of these words could describe my ideal man!

 

2.  You can spot a pseudo-sapiosexual which means if you can spot a fake one, you’re a real one,  by how they text, write letters or tweet.  They may want to impress with their vocabulary, but if they misspell, dangle participles unless its a measure of enticement or use words out of context, their intellectual virility may parallel their performance.  Well okay, with phone usage, you must build in a buffer for auto-correct mistakes.  For example, the following two sentences use uncommon words.  One is correct, the other isn’t.  Can you spot the sapiosexual sentence?

His braggadocio was acerbic in a pleasurable way.  His biting wit was at once tempting and revolting.  Her rationale knew better than to get involved with such a boorish character, but her hubris caused her to lucubrate during nights they weren’t together as to how to channel his discourse into intercourse.

or

Though he ruminated as to why he consistently chose women who were nymphatic, disingenuine and inane, he was happy he had a woman who could turn heads with her physique.

3.    Sapiosexuals actually LISTEN to lyrics of songs and will happily choose Leonard Cohen over Lil Wayne.  The brain must be stimulated and teased with feathery words, not shanked by “in your face” sexual terminology.

4.   A Sapiosexual understands that the best foreplay is a philosophical discussion.  Or a debate without anger but filled with respect for the other’s thoughts.  Or a union of words, emotions and thoughts made flesh.  Mind and flesh orgasms are the best!

5.   A Sapiosexual  will analyze before they finalize.  They are informed not just opinionated. They know what constitutes an impractical Utopian.

6.  A Sapiosexual is more impressed by the flexing of the intellect than the flexing of the biceps.

So….do any of these describe you?

 

In Memoriam–Taps to Honor the Dead of Unknown


Holidays - Memorial Day Poem, with Flag

Honoring The Dead Of Unknown

As Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. said in his Memorial Day address in 1884 at Keene, Memorial Day ‘celebrates and solemnly reaffirms from year to year a national act of enthusiasm and faith.’ With changing times, Memorial Day is more celebrated as a holiday than the glum occasion it was meant for. We must remember that the day means to honor of America’s defense personnel who lost their lives in various wars. Though, people used to honor the graves of the war dead even before the Civil War, the National Memorial Day holiday, originally known as ‘Decoration Day’ was first observed on May 30, 1868.

The concept originated in the mind of General John Alexander Logan, who dedicated this day to decorate the graves of the American Civil War dead. Later, it encompassed all those who sacrificed their lives for their nation, from the Revolutionary War to the present. May 30th every year was celebrated as the Memorial Day until 1971. Later, the federal government issued the orders of holding the Memorial Day on the last Monday of May. Alabama celebrates Confederate Memorial Day on the fourth Monday in April while the states of Mississippi and Georgia celebrate it on the last Monday of April.

Seeing the Memorial Day losing its importance in the minds of younger generations, the concept of the National Moment of Remembrance was hatched by a national humanitarian organizations known as the ‘No Greater Love, based in Washington, D.C. It was introduced in 1997 and is recognized by the President and Members of Congress. Since then, ‘Taps’ is at 3 p.m. throughout America to honor the contributions of our dead soldiers. All Americans are encouraged to pay respect to them by keeping silent for one minute in their memory at 3:00 p.m.