Sunday, October 5, 2008

Richard Tyler Files

I pulled The Complete Works of William Shakespeare off my shelf and counted the number of plays he wrote. If the edition I own is halfway decent, it looks like Shakespeare wrote about 37 plays that are still extant today. Has anyone read two of them? Three? Four? All of them?

Early this year a professor of mine introduced me to the personal files/notes of Richard Tyler, a former professor of Spanish. While Shakespeare was writing plays in the late sixteenth century and early seventeenth century, Spanish playwrights and artists became a part of the most extraordinary period of artistic and literary genius in Spanish history--the Golden Age. Richard Tyler not only read more comedias/plays from the time period than anyone I know about, but he also wrote plot summaries for many of them. I spent a good part of the summer scanning thousands of 5 in. by 8 in. cards on which he had typed summaries with his typewriter.

For those of you who are not familiar with Spanish comedias, I will briefly summarize them for you. In general they are fairly lighthearted with all sorts of twists, turns, and coincidences. Often they address topics such as honor and nobility. Okay, so that was comedias in a really, really small nutshell. Richard Tyler also wrote summaries to tragicomedias, essentially a play in which the protagonist or protagonists face a dreaded outcome either because of their own actions, because of fate, or because of their conniving rivals.

So just how many Spanish plays from the time period did Richard Tyler summarize?
Answer: about 1,700.

About how many lines do each of the plays contain?
Answer: about 3,000

Are the plays written in prose or poetry?
Answer: poetry

How many five inch by seven inch cards are in this collection of plot summaries?
Answer: approximately 7,950

How many playwrights are represented by these plot summaries?
Answer: about 190 playwrights can be identified by name; however, many of the works are from an anonymous playwright or of doubtful origin.

What playwright is most represented by this collection of plot summaries?
Answer: Lope de Vega--the collection contains OVER 300 summaries of plays written by or attributed to the "monstruo de la naturaleza" ("monster of nature"--this is a title that Miguel de Cervantes, the author of Don Quixote, gave to Lope de Vega because of the inordinate amount of works that Lope generated)

So if these plays are in Spanish, why should I care if some professor wrote all these plot summaries?
Answer: Richard Tyler wrote these plot summaries in English. Therefore, they are a great resource for a wide variety of people. They can be used for comparative studies. They can be used for someone trying to find the next play they want to study. Sometimes Richard Tyler read a less-used version than the one that you get in your Spanish class. Consequently, some of his plot summaries may slightly differ from the "canonical" version used today or may even have an additional character or two. For those of you don't care to do research, you can simply read them for the fun of it...well, when I manage to make them more widely available. I think you will find that the summary alone is fun to read and shows just how creative and colorful these playwrights were. I am including a random example from among the plot summaries. It is not really a "canonical" work by any means, but it gives you an idea of the twists and turns you can expect. NOTE: Take a little time and try to get all the names straight! Amor secreto hasta celos by Lope de Vega

Did Richard Tyler do anything but read comedias and write plot summaries?
Answer: If 1,700 plot summaries weren't enough, Richard Tyler also kept a prodigious number of cards with bibliographic information related to specific playwrights and topics--well over the number of cards used for plot summaries. While we can get bibliographic information at the click of a mouse on the internet, all he had to do was sit down at his card file. It is difficult to find other references to some of the works mentioned in this file on the internet or elsewhere. Additionally, Richard Tyler also has "idea files". These files contain cards with a word or a phrase on them as well as the bibliographic information for the comedia from which they originated. For instance, numerous cards address how comedias refer to "eyes". Sometimes eyes are used as darts or cupids arrows. Other times they send out venom, etc. etc. etc.

What other fascinating things can you tell me about Richard Tyler's life work?
Answer: You don't have the time, so let's just leave it at that!!!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Remodelling by an amateur

For some time Deb has been trying to get me to put in a ceiling fan in our living room. A few weeks ago I ran out of excuses, so I scraped away all the popcorn texturing in our living room, which we were happy to be rid of. Then came the painstaking tasks of learning how to create the type of knockdown texture that we wanted, fish wire through the walls, etc., etc., etc.

Unfortunately, we forgot to get some before pictures, but here are some pictures mid-project along with some of the end result. A project that would take an experienced person a few days took me weeks since I wanted to make sure I did everything right the first time. There's nothing like spending hours on something just to realize you not only have to do it differently, but also fix the problem that you created by doing it wrong the first time. It's amazing what a project like this can do for your confidence. I started out thinking I would need to get help from more experienced friends, but when I realized they didn't have much time to offer, I decided I'd just have to find out how to do most everything using the internet and books. Well, it worked, and I learned a lot in the process. Now all I can hope is that the next project goes a little faster!

Picture 1: Holes in the wall/ceiling to fish the electrical wiring to the center of the room--plus the mess of the living room.

Picture 2: A close-up of some of the holes and wiring before adding nail plates to protect the wiring.

Picture 3: The walls and ceiling after patching everything up and painting.

Picture 4: The newly installed ceiling fan.

Picture 5: The room after finishing!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Setting Traps for Thy Neighbor...or Two...or Three...or Four

No, I'm not trying to ensnare my neighbors, but I am setting traps for their benefit as well as our own. Two weeks ago we set some mouse traps next to the fence that separates our back yard from our neighbors back yard. We had noticed a few mice coming over from the neighbor's yard and nibbling on some of our garden plants. I was somewhat lackadaisical about resetting them or putting fresh bait on them after we caught a mouse. Consequently, we only caught five mice that week.

At the start of this week I thought we would only have five or six mice left, so I decided to wage an all-day war against them and rid ourselves from the small infestation creeping in from next door. I grabbed a particular food--which I won't mention here--from the fridge and baited four traps. When I checked them, there was a lizard and three mice in the traps. I began to wonder if indeed we were halfway if I had caught three mice that quickly, so I baited and set the traps again...and again...and again. For a while I was able to just stand back about twenty feet and watch as the mice crawled over from our neighbor's back yard. Some of the mice were so small that they stood on the bait without springing the trap, which I must admit, frustrated me to no end. Fortunately in some cases an adult mouse would come and eat and it would catch the two simultaneously. All told we caught fifteen mice this last Monday.

After I had caught nine, I went over to our neighbor and told her how I had been watching mouse after mouse meander into our yard from her side of the fence. I'm not exactly sure why she acted so surprised because her back yard is absolutely filthy, but she assured me that she would notify her husband as soon as he got home from work. The following day we caught five more mice and we have caught a few since then. All told we have caught about thirty mice in less than two weeks. As you surely can imagine, I have had a hard time eating the particular food I used to bait the traps after all that carnage. Additionally, there is no "mouse talk" during mealtime. Who could have possibly imagined catching thirty mice using the old-fashioned traps. If I had it to do over again, I probably would have put a barrier up and set up some bait so the mice would eat it and then have to go right back to the neighbor's back yard to die.

I have been told that mothballs work well at holding mice at bay, but I would love to hear other suggestions since the mice breeding ground next door seems to have no supply shortage.

P.S. Don't mention this to my daughters! A few weeks ago we watched Ratatouille. I'm sure you can imagine the rest! One evening my youngest daughter came out with me while I was watering the garden. She saw a mouse going for one of the traps and started trying to coax him over to her by saying "Here mousy, mousy. Here mousy, mousy." Meanwhile, she had the palm of her hand facing downward as she used her fingers to signal that she wanted the mouse to come to her. I discretely made enough of a disturbance to scare the mouse away from the trap. Imagine that, I set up all those traps just to find myself obligated to shoo one away from an almost certain death!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Games Our Sisters Play with Us

When I was younger, my five older sisters must have had a blast playing all sorts of games with me. Fortunately, there is little photographic evidence of their escapades. However, one time when I was two, they decided to dress me up as Prince Phillip (according to the captions in my picture book), and as you can see, the camera was out.

For them to get a mustache and a goatee looking like that, I must have been a very willing accomplice, but I also must have thought I could improve upon their artistic efforts. When they finished, my sisters left the mascara within my reach, leaving no limits to the expression of my artistic genius.

Fast forward twenty-six years. My son is just two and a half months old and only has two older sisters. Little, however, has changed. Just this last week they managed to get him to hold a tea cup while they pretended to pour him tea. At first, he didn't seem to know how to respond, but before long and with his mother's help, he was thrusting out the cup for more.

It was probably the same day that my wife and I happened to look over to where our son was sitting. His sisters had decided to make him a patron saint. Forget about recording and authenticating specific miracles performed by the saint-in-waiting. No, they decided to cut through all the red tape and just declare him to be a saint based on his angelic appearance.

Could you dispute their case? Besides, who needs all the paperwork to be considered a saint!?

On second thought, perhaps it would have been nice to see some more photographic evidence of the creative things my sisters used to do and thus recapture some of the innocent creativity and ingenuity of our own childhood. Oh to be young again!

Thanks, sisters, for all the games and fun!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Jumping the Gun

As anyone that ever looks at this blog knows, I hardly ever update my blog. That's probably because I write a weekly e-mail to my family giving them more information about what is going on in our lives than they could ever care to know about. Today I got halfway through it when I had to go do things related to my church calling. I told my wife to write her part of the e-mail and I would finish it when I got home. However, when I got home, she had jumped the gun and already sent the message. That should save our families from having to read everything, but I figured they would at least want to see some of the pictures we took at the Pima County Fair this last Monday. Both Gabs and Bells got to go on two rides. They both rode the carousel to start...and loved it!

Gabs then rode in the tea cups...and loved it.

Bells still had one ride left, which didn't go over too well with Gabs, who had used up her quota of two rides already. Here's a look at her from the carousel.

The good thing about kids is that while they have amazing memories, they get over things quickly. Once the carousel started going and Bells started waving enthusiastically every time it went around, Gabs started to get over her tantrum. We then went to see the animals and they had about as much fun with that as they did with the rides themselves.

As you can see, I love to share pictures of my wife and kids, but aside from sharing a few pictures and stating the simple fact that we went to the county fair, I thought I'd share some of the things I observed and learned from the evening. My wife and I rode the carousel, but not on the horses, etc. Instead, we stood alongside the mounts our children rode (for free) to make sure they didn't fall off. As a kid, I don't think I could have ever understood being able to go to the fair and being able to enjoy watching other people enjoy their rides. On a student budget, our kids only got to go on a few rides themselves, and if we had gone on any rides ourselves, we would have been taking rides away from them. We didn't buy any hot dogs, cotton candy, or ice cream. We didn't buy any trinkets or toys or visit the booth asking whether or not we would be "saved". Instead, we just watched our kids enjoy their rides. Having said that, I think we enjoyed the fair just about as much as they did. In fact, if we had turned the camera on ourselves, maybe you would have seen the same expression on our face as our kids had--sorry the pictures of them don't do it justice. I am still trying to figure out my wife's camera (I'll have to start carrying mine around a little more).

After the rides and after our budget for the fair was spent, we went to the animal barns to see the llamas, goats, sheep, chickens, cows, etc. Our daughters were chattering non-stop about each of the animals we passed. Gabs quickly forgot that her sister had the last ride. Looking at them, you'd think they were on another ride. As a parent, it's tough to top moments like that. So why as adults and as a society do we forget to enjoy the simple things? Why are we getting so caught up in ourselves and our professions that we forget our families? Why are kids seen as a burden? Why do some people think young couples who have several children could have enjoyed their lives more if they would have put off having children for several years? My theory: we as a society are too selfish and self-centered to look outward. Instead, we opt to ask how such and such can benefit me rather than how it can benefit others. I have my wife to thank for getting me away from my work for a few hours for a Monday night with the family to remind me about the things that are truly important in my life.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Sleeping Quarters

During the last few months of 2007, my wife kept prodding me to make the girls a bunk bed. Finally, in mid-December I started on it and continued to work on it with my father-in-law when he and his wife came to visit over the Christmas break. We wanted to have it done before our little boy was born in early March, but it was not to be. During the month of February, Bells, our youngest child--(at the time as my sister so aptly notes in a comment for this post), refused to sleep in her bed anymore, so we let her sleep with Gabs in her toddler bed. That didn't work very long since they started to constantly blame each other for keeping them awake.

One of our final solutions in the days leading up to our putting the bunk bed together was to lay their two mattresses close together on the floor. As you can see; and with due cause, we had doubts that they would be able to stay on their new bed without bars or a side rail to keep them in. This picture was taken about a week after their brother was born. A few days after this picture was taken, we got the bunk bed set up and ready for the two to sleep in. Fortunately, Gabs' top bunk has a side rail and she hasn't fallen off yet! The same can't be said for Bells on her bottom bunk.

Saturday, March 8, 2008


After two days I finally have a few minutes to sit down at a computer. At 11:10.35 a.m. on March 6, 2008, our first son was born. He tipped the scale at a hefty 8 lbs. 15 ozs. and measured 20 inches. I understand that's the information I have to give out first, so people can just skip to the pictures after getting the measurements.

On the morning of the sixth, we got to the hospital at 6:30 a.m. so Debra could be induced before the baby got any bigger. We had a talkative, but great nurse and everything went smoothly--perhaps even more so than with our two daughters. My mother-in-law was in town and has been a great help--allowing me to spend most the day at the hospital with my wife and newborn. In the evening I came home to sleep before heading back to the hospital in the early hours of Friday. With the exception of a couple hours I spent biking to the university and going to a meeting for my teaching position, I was at the hospital for the entire day again. However, this time I stayed the night to allow my wife to get a little rest. Apparently she didn't get any sleep the night before because of our hungry, vociferous boy. Over the previous two days I hadn't got a lot of sleep, so by 3:00 a.m. this morning I was beginning to understand my wife's exhaustion. Fortunately, our son slept for a little bit after that and the nurses took him for a few quick tests, which allowed me to immediately fall asleep on the hard reclining chair by my wife's bed. Despite the accommodations, I haven't slept so soundly in a long time. It ended up being a short night, but at least we all got a little sleep.

As far as positioning the images is concerned, I'm still learning, so bear with me!

Our son doesn't seem to have any problem
with his vocal cords.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Remembering a Prophet

Yesterday I sat in our office at home with my wife and daughters to watch the funeral of our beloved prophet, Gordon B. Hinckley. For thirteen years he has inspired us to "stand a little taller" and be a little better. I watched with a little bit of envy the thousands in attendance--thousands united to honor the passing of a prophet of God. But the minor pang of sadness at not being present in person to wave farewell with a white handkerchief was replaced with the knowledge that he is with his wife again. What a blessing it has been to have a prophet to guide us in these troubling times. What a blessing it is to know that God has not forgotten his children, that he has restored his gospel in its fullness in these latter days. As in days of old, his church is led by a prophet, and as in days of old, he leads us through the wilderness, he stands on the watchtower to warn of impending spiritual dangers that seek to destroy the very fabric of our society--the family. This said, Proclamation to the World on the Family couldn't have been revealed at a more appropriate time. While we have lost the company of a dear friend and prophet for a season, the Lord will continue to lead his church through a prophet. Our prayers should be full of thanks for the prophetic guidance that our Heavenly Father proffers us.