Shakespeare Sunday Pt. I

Hello World Wide Web,

Today’s a beautiful day for me to talk about my first reading assignment in my Shakespeare class that I’m taking this fall. So, as a friendly reminder, I have three majors: Biology, Outdoor Conservation, and English. As I’ve progressed further and further into my English degree I knew I would have to take a course on Shakespeare eventually, the famed playwright that I never fully understood or like because of my little exposure to his works in high school. This fall, my 6 classmates and I waited patiently for the syllabus of the course to be posted. I think most of us were expecting to read Romeo and Juliet or Hamlet – plays that most high schools shove down students’ throats. Instead, we showed up on the first day of class to find out we, as a class, would be picking out the plays to read on the basis that we had to cover the major categories of Shakespeare’s plays: tragedy, comedy, romance, race, etc. We were also told that there were a few pieces we didn’t get to choose and one of those is Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream – a play I’ve heard little about and have never read.

So, cut to the weekend after our first class, I begrudgingly open up my giant Shakespeare book, dreading the assumed cheesiness and clichés. I read through the character chart and took some notes so I could get a better visual of the connections between all the characters. Afterwards, I put on a brave face, much to the mockery of my boyfriend who knows this class is the one that I’ve been the most stressed about, and begin reading Act I. The assignment was to read only Acts I and II, so I will say that I have not read the play in its entirety, but man oh man was I in for a treat.

When I first started reading I had to take my time and try to translate the lines in my head so I could get a better understanding of what was happening. After a few lines I was able to get a better grasp of the emotion the characters were exuding and the tone they were speaking to one another in. Eventually, I got so wrapped up in the play I started tweeting about it because some lines and scenes were hysterical to me or I thought other people might have the same reactions. For instance, when Egeus first approaches Theseus to discuss his disdain for the suitor his daughter has picked, Lysander, versus the suitor he has picked, Demetrius. In the same lines, Demetrius essentially gives his daughter, Hermia, an ultimatum – she can either marry Demetrius or she can be killed. Hermia’s response, at least the way I read it, seemed like the way college students will jokingly say for a car to hit them when crossing the street – she could care less about the ultimatum or how much she’s sassed her father. As I finished reading Act II, I realized that I’m hooked and all of my assumptions of what this class would be are wrong. And I have to admit, I’m very glad I was wrong and can’t wait to see how the rest of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and this course pan out.

P.S. Puck had one job and I’m still angry that he messed it up.

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An Adventurer’s First Encounters with Role Playing Games (RPGs)

So, when I started this blog back in the winter of 2018, I mentioned that I would use it to detail my experiences with Dungeons and Dragons, commonly known as “DnD.” I started playing after being convinced by my friend, Chuck. We first started talking about it after I talked about my love for The Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones, eventually I realized DnD is just like Tolkien’s famous trilogy. Essentially, each Dungeon Master is like Tolkien – they write the story and create some fantastic lore and worlds for their players to explore. The players are much like Frodo and crew in the sense that each player doesn’t have to be the same race (hobbit, human, elf, etc.), class (wizard, bard, barbarian), etc. or share the same views when it comes to good vs. evil (one character can be Chaotic Neutral, another Neutral, etc.). One of the best parts about DnD is that you’re able to take a group of individuals (the players/adventurers) and get them to work together to beat the Dungeon Master’s campaign.

Sounds fun, right?

Well, it is. Dungeons and Dragons, while wacky at times, can help people hone their strategy skills and develop confidence (there’s quite a bit of role-playing involved so it forces you out of your comfort zone a bit). I’ve been playing DnD for about 8 months now and have loved every minute of it. Dungeon Masters can take crazy creatures, items, lore, and skill to create an entire universe for their players to explore. The best way to describe it would be if you could open a book and jump into the action – the next thing you know you’ve been in there for 5 hours and could go for more.

Since starting, I’ve been involved in several campaigns and have tried out different kinds of RPGs. I’ve gone from a person who needed a cheat sheet about the role of each dice to someone who can show another newcomer the ropes. The best part is that you can always improve; with each class comes a different set of skills that requires the players to understand the way different characteristics interact. For instance, the first character I played was a dwarf cleric whose background was sage, by the end of the campaign I loved the way these different aspects of my character interacted. That character was the first of many and not to toot my own horn, but I think I’ve improved a lot over the last 8 months and have a deeper understanding of what it means to create a character that can be flexible, strong, and sharp enough to survive the campaign.

I know Dungeons and Dragons sounds like one of the nerdiest things you could be apart of, but it’s completely worth it. For anyone who has a deep love for the fantasy/adventure genres it’s amazing to BE your own hero – not just to read about them. The experience of being able to create a heroic story with my friends is something I’ll always appreciate and is the main reason I recommend everyone try Dungeons and Dragons or another RPG – it gives you a chance to escape from reality for a while and write an entirely new reality.

Picture can be found here.

Picture this.

Picture this.

A 6 year-old is taking shelter

behind a desk.

It’s another drill.

It’s not a fire drill

It’s not a tornado drill

It’s an active shooter drill.

 

At 6 years old I associated guns with the good guys

But I never imagined I would have

to worry about a good guy going bad.

 

What did I do?

I came to school for a field trip today

My mom packed me a special lunch

I didn’t get to even read her note yet.

 

What did I do?

I went to bed early last night like mom told me to

I didn’t miss the school bus this morning

Maybe I should have missed the bus?

 

What did I do?

I was told a hero would come in

but the first thing I see is a brown desk turned into a shield

I can see my coat hanging in the cubby

I hope my mom knows I might be late to dinner…

Sun Spot

What do you want to be when you grow up?

“A firefighter”

“A doctor”

“An astronaut”

“Alive.”

A simple question and a simple answer

but there are hurdles and hoops you have to go through

to make sure you are alive

A man with a white face has been depicted as society’s hero

and while superman can stop bullets

children cannot

children should not

but children did.

A parent can no longer look at their child and promise them the world

because they can’t even promise them life

this is no fault of the parents

Parents are victims too

How many parents have seen the inside of a child-size coffin

and watched as their pride and joys were buried

right next to the thoughts and prayers that couldn’t save them?

Enough is enough.

Change doesn’t happen overnight

But when that sun comes up tomorrow

This world will see a fire burn so bright

and with such fierceness to melt down the very weapons that caused it.

The Snowy Landfill

“The worst thing that can happen – will happen – is not energy depletion, economic collapse, limited nuclear war, or conquest by a totalitarian government. As terrible as these catastrophes would be for us, they can be repaired within a few generations. The one process ongoing in the 1980s that will take millions of years to correct is the loss of genetic and species diversity by the destruction of natural habitats. This is the folly our descendants are least likely to forgive us.” (Wilson, 2006)*

The quotation from E.O. Wilson, a renowned ecologist, naturalist, and entomologist, was said over 30 years ago in Harvard Magazine. The quotation is powerful and terrifying all at the same time; it shows how bad the Earth’s situation is and the role humans have played in our planet’s fate as well. So, why does this quotation matter? Why did I start off a blog post with that quotation? The answer is simple – in the 30-year gap between Wilson’s interview and my blog post there has been little change in human behavior. There are still people who don’t believe in climate change and others who don’t believe we, humans, have played a key part in the acceleration of climate change.

Recently, my Global Environmental Issues class visited the local landfill and recycling facility and it was one of the most eye-opening experiences I have ever seen. The landfill was our first stop and I was surprised at what I saw – the aftermath of a few counties worth of trash. When we first entered the facility, I was taken aback by the classroom-like set up – there were some diagrams of the landfill hanging up along with some pictures kids had drawn and posted as well. The host explained to us how the landfill worked, the processes they take to ensure they are putting the “right kind of trash” in the landfill. Some of the items that are not meant to go in the landfill are lithium batteries which can be found in phones, laptops, or any other electronic device you see today. The lithium batteries can cause horrible fires inside the landfills that are difficult to control. As we walked towards the edge of the landfill, we stopped alongside a wall. The wall was about 4.5 feet tall and looked normal, until you looked over the edge. Behind that small wall was a small mountain trash that had piled up to be sorted, apparently, it’s not uncommon for people to throw things away that can be recycled or reused in some way. For instance, there was a section where televisions and laptops had piled up and the host said many of the devices worked properly, but the owners most likely threw them out to get a newer, better version. Towards the end of the trip, all of us got in our cars and made our way towards the perimeter of the actual landfill. As a feeling of sadness washed over me, I took a picture of what I saw.

IMG-1001This picture was taken at the end of January and while all the white in the background of the photo might look like snow, but it’s plastic shopping bags. In that same field there were birds scavenging for food and all I could think about was how many birds probably ate one of those bags in hopes of satisfying their hunger.

The following week we visited the local recycling plant, which I ignorantly thought would be better, spoiler alert: it wasn’t. The recycling plant, like the landfill, was filled with trash. Granted, the items were recyclable, but there is so much waste that could have been avoided. One of the main themes that has been discussed in class is the concept of over-consumption, the idea that human consume more than what our environment can give. I’m not saying that everyone needs to live a zero-waste lifestyle, but many of the items we saw at the recycling plant could have been avoided if more people bought in bulk or bought products that reused the same container. Recycling is a great thing, it’s an idea that has been preached to my generation since we were in elementary school with the saying, “Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.”, but people always forget about is the “reduce” and “reuse” parts. For instance, the amount of plastic water bottles people buy can be reduced by buying a reusable bottle. Now, there are areas on the planet where people need those bottles of water since they don’t have access to clean drinking water. But, in places like Cedar Rapids, we do have access to clean drinking water and it comes straight from your tap – you could even drink your own toilet water if you wanted! Going back to the amount of trash, I think when people put out their recycling and garbage bins I feel like they forget about it once it is picked up – they don’t see it and don’t have to think about it anymore. WELL, here is a picture of what happens when that trash leaves your curb and thought.

**To give you an idea of how tall the piles are, the students in the first photo are approximately 6 feet tall.**

Now, I think we have come a long way, at one point we didn’t bother with recycling or sorting through trash. But, I think we have a long way to go. I still have hope that humans will be able to change their consumption habits, mine included, to make ensure the survival of our planet and the creatures that live here. And I hope this post provided some insight as to why people like me can’t stop talking about climate change and the impact of our choices on the environment.

Thanks for reading, please leave some comments and feedback!

 

*Citations: Wilson, Edward O. Naturalist. Island Press/Shearwater Books, 2006.

What is The Plebeian Strain?

Hey Friends,  welcome to The Plebeian Strain!

You’re probably wondering, “what the heck this blog is supposed to be about?”, which is a great question and one I’ll hopefully be able to answer! For starters, I should probably formally introduce myself. My name is Alexus Minervini and I’m a junior at a small, liberal arts college in Iowa. I’m majoring in three fields – English, Biology, and Outdoor Conservation. Along with my three majors to keep me busy, I’m also a Resident Assistant (R.A.), executive officer in student government (S.G.A.), Founder and President of the club Nerds of the Round Table, and work 2 part-time jobs. My plate is pretty full and probably seems like I have zero free-time, but it’s surprisingly easy to manage. When I do have free time, I like to do fairly nerdy things. My definition of nerd is someone who is interested in shows/books/hobbies that are show cased at certain conventions – like Comic-Con. One of my nerdy interests is playing Dungeons and Dragons. Outside of my nerd stuff, I like listening to music, hanging out with my friends, procrastinating, and watching Netflix like most of my peers.

*taps microphone*

Are you still there? If so, this is the part where I’ll talk the topics you’ll probably see on here. The Plebeian Strain will focus on my adventures as a college student, nerd stuff, and reviews (of anime, shows, movies, literature, etc.). Some topics would be me discussing/responding to topics in my Global Environmental Issues course or me talking about my experiences as new adventurer in Dungeons and Dragons. So, my blog will have posts that cover a variety of topics.

Well, I feel like I should probably cut this short, if I tell you everything in this post I won’t have anything else to write about. Thanks for reading and I hope you come back for my next post! Please leave a comment, feedback is always helpful!