Quasimodo turns 20!

The Hunchback of Notre Dame novel cover

Cover for Victor Hugo’s novel.

Okay, actually, Quasimodo is 185 years old seeing as how Victor Hugo wrote The Hunchback of Notre Dame in 1831.

I, however, am alluding to Disney’s animated adaptation of Hugo’s brilliant novel, which turned twenty years old two days ago. It was released into theaters on June 21, 1996. This movie is a part of the Disney Renaissance era, but of the films from that time period of 1989-1999, it is quite possibly the most underrated. It certainly is not as celebrated or well-remembered as other Disney Renaissance films such as The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and The Lion King.

And yet, while my favorite animated Disney film of all time is The Lion King, The Hunchback of Notre Dame comes in as a very close second. The plot, though deviating some from the novel here and there, is still just as solid as TLK and the characters just as memorable and relatable. In fact, this is one of the few movies where the villain is not my favorite. Hunchback’s villain, Claude Frollo, is my second favorite, because I absolutely love Clopin.

And the music: wow! Think about the music of The Lion King—incredible, right?



In my opinion, however, as much as I love The Lion King and its music, it is rivaled by the music of Hunchback. “Circle of Life” is not only a great song, but ranked among one of Disney’s best opening songs. But take a listen to Hunchback’s opening song, “The Bells of Notre Dame”, and chances are that you will either think that it is just as good as “Circle of Life”, or even better.

So if the music, the story, and the characters are all so great, then why is the movie itself not remembered as one of Disney’s greatest films? It’s hard to say, really.

Perhaps because of its dark undertones that had never before, nor ever since, been explored in Disney animation. Hunchback has the classic love story and happily ever after ending, but it also has themes of death, oppression, and lust. The last pertaining to Judge Claude Frollo, a man of the cloth, who lusts after the gypsy, Esmeralda. And he does not hide, nor attempt to hide his feelings about her either.

Esmeralda and Djahli-page0001

Esmeralda and her goat, Djali

Then there is the villain song, performed by Frollo, called “Hellfire”, which sparked controversy when the film was initially released, based on these lyrics:


Destroy Esmeralda
And let her taste the fires of Hell
Or else let her be mine and mine alone

Dark fire
                                                                            Now gypsy, it’s your turn
                                                                           Choose me or your pyre
                                                                           Be mine or you will burn

The entire song is about his desire for her and is proceeded and adjoined by a more light-hearted song called “Heaven’s Light”. This is sung by Quasimodo and talks about his love for her. This song then delves directly into the darker villain song. But I must say that it, as with all the other songs in the movie, is incredible and powerful. The lyrics, whether you find them offensive or not, fit in with the song, the music is dynamic, and the late Tony Jay, who voiced Frollo, was an excellent singer. And, to my mind, “Hellfire” is one of the best songs in this movie. Watching the song adds another level to the experience, the animation and the imagery, which is very creepy and even a little scary at some points, is wonderful.

Frollo also differs from other Disney villains in a couple of key aspects.



Most, though not all, of Disney’s villains, especially in the Renaissance era, had sidekicks. Frollo works solo. He is devious in his way of convincing Quasimodo that, were it not for Frollo himself, Quasi would have been drowned. He conveniently leaves out the part where he killed Quasi’s mother and almost drowned Quasi when he was an infant, only to be stopped by Notre Dame’s Archdeacon. He convinces Phoebus to work for him. And when Phoebus has finally had enough and refuses to burn a family alive in their home, Frollo nearly kills him. And he uses Quasimodo to discover the Court of Miracles, which is the secret hideout of Clopin, Esmeralda, and the other gypsies. Despite his lust for Esmeralda, he hates the gypsies, and wants nothing more than to rid Paris of the entire gypsy population. And he does all of his evil deeds on his own.

Also, Frollo’s motives for evil differ from other Disney villains. Other villains are ruthlessly evil as well, but they either don’t seem to know that they’re evil, or they know but either don’t care, or are insufferably proud of it.

Claude Frollo

Claude Frollo

Frollo does not think he is evil either, and he sees nothing wrong with his actions, because he believes that he is doing God’s bidding in every act that he commits. His motive throughout is his desire for Esmeralda fueled on by her refusal of him. Even as Frollo has Esmeralda tied to a stake with a torch in his hand, ready to burn her, he gives her one last chance, saying that if she agrees to be with him, he will spare her. Esmeralda spits in his face and proceeds to set fire to the stake, nearly killing her.

As I mentioned above, the movie deviates from the novel in some respects.

First off, Quasimodo is deaf in Hugo’s novel.

Next, Pierre Gringoire, a major character in the novel is completely absent in the film. In the book, Esmeralda agrees to marry Gringoire for four years to spare him from being killed by the gypsies. She cannot, however, marry a non-existent character in the movie, and at the end of the film, it is implied that she marries Phoebus. If you watch the sequel, they are married and have a son. Meanwhile, in the book, Phoebus marries Fleur-de-Lys de Gondelaurier, who is also absent from the movie.

Also, the novel introduces us to Sister Gudule, Esmeralda’s long-lost mother, who is not in the movie.

Clopin Trouillefou acts as a sort of narrator to the Disney film, but does not play this role in the book.


Captain Phoebus

Claude Frollo has a younger brother named Jehan Frollo, who—surprise!—is not in the movie. Also, as Claude Frollo plays the villain in the movie, so does he in the novel. The variation here is that in the book, Frollo may play a villain, but he has a much bigger heart. He loves his brother Jehan, and he genuinely cares for Quasimodo, taking him in after Quasi’s mother abandons him. His descent into black magic is brought upon due to three reasons:  his inability to properly raise Jehan, who joins the gypsies and is eventually killed by Quasimodo, his inability to properly educate Quasimodo due to Quasi’s deafness, and his lust for Esmeralda who constantly rejects him.

Speaking of Frollo, he dies in the movie, and his is the only death. In the novel, Frollo dies as well, but so do, Jehan, Esmeralda, Clopin, and Quasimodo.

And the Notre Dame Cathedral is sort of a character itself in Hugo’s version.

Oh yeah, and the novel makes no mention of talking gargoyles.


Victor, Hugo, and Laverne

If you’ve never read the novel, I highly recommend it. If you’ve never seen the Disney film, I highly recommend it. I suggest doing both, despite the differences between the two. If nothing else, at least listen to the songs. Buy or download the soundtrack, or watch the videos of the songs on YouTube. Below are a list of the songs, in order, followed by which character sings each one.


“The Bells of Notre Dame” (Clopin)

“Out There” (Frollo and Quasimodo)

“Topsy-Turvy” (Clopin)

“God Help the Outcasts” (Esmeralda)

“Heaven’s Light/Hellfire” (Quasimodo/Frollo)

“A Guy Like You” (Victor, Hugo, and Laverne, the gargoyles)

“The Court of Miracles” (Clopin)

“The Bells of Notre Dame reprise” (Clopin)

Other Disney characters in Hunchback

Above image shows Belle, Carpet, and Pumbaa as seen in “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”.

As is often done with Disney films, reference to other Disney movies are found in one scene of Hunchback. During Quasimodo’s song, “Out There”, one scene shows an aerial view of the street below. In this one scene, Belle from “Beauty and the Beast” can be spotted reading a book as she walks by, Carpet from “Aladdin” is being shook out by one of the men in the scene, and Pumbaa from “The Lion King” is tied upside down on a stick and being carried by two men.

There were of course, live action film versions of Hunchback before Disney’s animated movie. There was also a direct-to-video animated sequel, and a musical based on Disney’s film, which will finally be debuting near me in September.

If you haven’t already seen it, I strongly urge you to give this movie a try. Don’t be dissuaded by how underrated and unmentioned this film has been. The songs are powerful and the animation is beautiful. And today, it’s still just as great as it was twenty years ago.



Friday the 13th: Origins, Myths, and Beliefs

Friday 13 CalendarToday was Friday the Thirteenth.

A day that is deemed to be very unlucky to many people. And the superstition surrounding this day are anything but new; beliefs about the number thirteen can be traced back to 1700 B.C. Yet superstitions about Friday the Thirteenth cannot be found prior to the 19th century.

The first English reference ever recorded dates back to Henry Sutherland Edwards’ 1869 biography of Italian composer, Gioachino Rossini: “Rossini was

Gioachino Rossini


surrounded to the last by admiring and affectionate friends; Why Friday the 13th Is Unlucky.”

Then, there is Nathaniel Lachenmeyer, author of Thirteen: the story of the world’s most popular superstition. He suggests in his book that because references to Friday the 13th cannot be found before 1907, the superstition’s popularity must have come from thepublication of Thomas W. Lawson’s popular novel, Friday, the Thirteenth. In the novel, a stock broker takes advantage of the superstition to create a Wall Street panic on Friday the 13th.

And Wall Street itself fosters a decades-long fear of Friday the 13th. On Friday, October 13, 1989, Wall Street saw the second largest drop of the Dow Jones Industrial Average in history, at that time. The day was nicknamed the Friday-the-13th mini-crash.

Fear of the number and the day

Many people fear Friday the Thirteenth, refusing to do anything but stay in all day so as to avoid any potential bad luck by venturing outdoors. Several others fear the number itself, regardless of the situation or what day of the week it falls on.

Fear of the number thirteen is called triskaidekaphobia. Fear of Friday the Thirteenth actually has two names. One is friggatriskaidekaphobia, from Frigga-the Norse goddess for whom Friday is named, combined with the above-named term for fear of the number thirteen itself.

Fear of Friday the Thirteenth also goes by paraskevidekatriaphobia, from Paraskevi-Greek for Friday, plus dekatreis-Greek for thirteen.

But why the cause for all of this panic? I mean, why is the number thirteen considered an unlucky number, and why is Friday the Thirteenth considered an unlucky day?

Walking Under A LadderFor one thing, 12 is seen as a round, complete number, whereas 13…not so much. But consider the frequency of twelve: 12 months of the year, 12 gods of Olympus, 12 hours on the clock, 12 tribes of Israel, 12 Decedents of Muhammad Imams, and 12 Apostles of Jesus.

That last one is one of the many theories about why the number thirteen is thought to be unlucky It is linked to the Last Supper, where Jesus dined with twelve Apostles, for a total number of thirteen. And one of those Apostles, Judas, ended up betraying Jesus.

Also, in Norse mythology, Odin and eleven of his closest friends are dining together. These twelve people, however, are unexpectedly joined by the 13th person, who happens to be Loki, the god of evil and turmoil.

Both of these theories also harbor the myth that if any group of thirteen dine together, that one of these people will die within a year.

And remember back in 2012, when a lot of people thought that the world was going to end on December 21st? This was based on the end of the Mayan calendar’s thirteenth month, Baktun.

Now, as for Friday the Thirteenth, theories abound for this, too.

Friday in and of itself has been considered an unlucky day.

Friday is the day that Jesus was crucified.

In Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, Friday is considered as a day of misfortune and ill luck.Spilled Salt

And the order to arrest the Knights Templar was placed by King Phillip IV of France, on Friday, October 13, 1307. The majority of the Knights were tortured and killed. This event was also alluded to in Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code.

Publications of the 17th century, documented Friday the 13th as an unlucky day to take a trip, start a new project, or have a major life-changing event, such a birth, marriage, etc.

Frequency of Friday the 13th

Any month that starts on a Friday, will contain a Friday the 13th.

There is at least one Friday the 13th every calendar year.

Omissions of the number 13

The fear and superstition surrounding this number is not only limited to people. But many companies also, whether based on their own anxieties, or those of potential clients and customers, omit the number thirteen.

Many hotels will not have a room 13, 113, 213, and so on. So, for example, the rooms will go straight from 12 to 14.

Some hospitals don’t have a room 13.

Elevator Without 13th Floor

Elevator panel without a 13th floor.

On this note, many multilevel buildings that contain more than twelve floors, skip floor number thirteen, and go right on to floor fourteen.

Several cities do not have 13th Street, Avenue, etc.

Many airports do not have a gate 13.

And the ancient Babylon’s Code of Hammurabi, a collection of 282 laws enacted by the Babylonian King Hammurabi, who was in power from 1792-1750 B.C. Of those 282 laws, number 13 is omitted. The Code is inscribed on a seven-foot-tall stele that is now at the Louvre.

 The Thirteen Club

Organized in 1881, this club was begun in order to improve and protect the number’s reputation. There were 13 members, and the first meeting consisted of the members walking under ladders and spilling salt. Two things that are considered to cause bad luck, no matter what day they occur on. It is, however, said that the bad luck can be reversed in these two cases. If you walk under a ladder, and then, immediately walk under it again, but backwards, that should stop the bad luck. And if you spill some salt, pick up some of it, and throw it over your left shoulder, you stop the bad luck from occurring.

Whether you are supremely superstitious about Friday the 13th, or you think that the entire idea is nonsense, it is something that has been rooted into our collective human cultures now for thousands of years. Black Cat






The Seventh Age of Man-Shakespeare’s Character Deaths

Shakespeare“Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.”

-Jacques, As You Like It, Act II, Scene VII

This, of course, is the final part of the famous, “All the world’s a stage” speech, but I am highlighting this one specific part for a reason. Saturday, April 23rd was not only Shakespeare’s 452nd birthday, but it was also the 400th anniversary of his death.

The cause of Shakespeare’s death is a topic of some debate. This, however, did make me think about the deaths of so many of Shakespeare’s characters. So, rather than talk about the death of Shakespeare, I figured I would elaborate on the death of his characters.

Many of Shakespeare’s characters met with an untimely demise, particularly in his histories and tragedies, with three of his comedies also having character deaths; these deaths though, are more minor characters, and happen offstage.

Stabbing and poison tended to be the two most popular means by which a character died. Execution, (i.e. for a crime, etc), was also common. It would be safe to assume that, in Shakespeare’s day, anyone condemned to execution was probably either beheaded or hanged. And anyone who died in combat or a battle, was most likely stabbed. But as you will see below, almost nothing was off-limits. I will do my best to include all characters who die in a play, in the order that they die, including even the most minor characters, and the ones who die offstage or before the beginning of the play.

I’ll go by play and begin with the histories.

Shakespeare wrote these plays out of order. This is to say, that he did not write the histories in the order in which these events actually occurred. Nonetheless, with the exception of Henry VIII, when read in the correct order, one history play leads right into the next one. I will go through the histories chronologically.


The Life and Death of King John

Limoges, Duke of Austria:  Beheaded during battle by the Bastard. Austria was believed to have been the one responsible for the death of King Richard.


First page of King John in the 1623 First Folio edition of Shakespeare’s plays.

Arthur: Jumps off a wall, though it is unknown whether this was an act of suicide or an attempt to escape his English captors.

Melun: A Frenchman who is already dying when he warns the English nobles that King Louis plans to kill them following his victory. Melun is a very minor character, only appearing this one time, and cause of death unknown, but most likely wounded during the battle.

King John: As is common, the titular character of Shakespeare’s histories and tragedies usually meets his or her demise eventually. And for King John, it happens when a discontented monk poisons him.


The Life and Death of Richard II

John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster: Dies of an illness. Richard than immediately seizes all Gaunt’s land and money, that would rightfully belong to Gaunt’s temporarily exiled son, Bolingbroke. The latter, by the way, becomes King Henry IV.

Bushy and Green: Two faithful supporters of Richard, who are executed by Bolingbroke, to win over the Duke of the York and gain his support.

Duke of Aumerle’s co-conspirators: Bolingbroke has now crowned himself King Henry IV, and the Duke of Aumerle, along with a group of others plan to rebel against Henry. Henry executes Aumerle’s company, but spares Aumerle himself.

King Richard II: Executed by mistake when a nobleman, Exton, murders him, falsely believing that was King Henry’s wish.


King Henry IV, Part One

Harry Percy, Hotspur: Killed by Prince Hal in single combat.

Thomas Percy, Earl of Worcester: Captured during the Battle of Shrewsbury and sentenced to death by Henry.


King Henry IV, Part Two 

King Henry IV: Dies of an illness. His son, Prince Hal, becomes King Henry V.



Depiction of the Battle of Agincourt.

The Life of King Henry V “Once more unto the breach, dear friends.”


Earl of Cambridge, Lord Scrope, and Sir Thomas Grey: This trio plans to kill King Henry, and when Henry learns of their plot, he calls for their executions.

Sir John Falstaff: Falstaff’s death is not seen; we only hear about his passing. We learn that he died of a broken heart, after King Henry, who was one of Falstaff’s dearest friends when he was a prince, rejected him when he came to Henry’s castle and said that he never wanted to seem him again.


King Henry VI, Part One

King Henry V: He dies unexpectedly at the prime of his life, leaving England in turmoil, and his son to succeed him.

Duke of Bedford: Dies in France, following the Battle of Rouen.

Lord Talbot and his son, John Talbot: They become trapped by the French Army and then subsequently killed by them, when Lord Talbot’s request for reinforcements goes unanswered.

Joan la Pucelle, a.k.a. Joan of Arc: Burned to death by the Duke of York.


King Henry VI, Part Two  

Duke Humphrey of Gloucester: Accused of treason, Suffolk has Gloucester imprisoned and then executed before he can be tried.

Cardinal Beaufort, Bishop of Winchester: Contracts a fever and subsequently dies.

Wars of the Roses

The beginning of the Wars of the Roses in King Henry VI, Part 2.

William de la Pole, Duke of Suffolk: Killed by pirates while banished for his role in the death of Gloucester.

Jack Cade: Looking for food, Cade climbs into the garden of Alexander Iden and killed by Iden himself.

Duke of Somerset: Killed by Richard during a battle at St. Albans.

Lord Clifford: Killed by York during a battle at St. Albans.


King Henry VI, Part Three

Edmund Plantagenet, Earl of Rutland: During an attack on York’s castle, York’s son, twelve-year-old Rutland, is murdered by Clifford.

Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York: Stabbed to death by Clifford and Margaret, but not before they forced him to stand on a molehill and wipe his brow with a handkerchief smeared with the blood of his son, Rutland.

Earl of Warwick: Killed at the Battle of Barnet.

John Neville, Marquis of Montague: Warwick’s younger brother, also killed at the Battle of Barnet.

Father (Son Who Has Killed His Father): During the Battle of Barnet, a young man enters dragging the body of a man he has killed. He lifts the man’s helmet off and realizes that he unknowingly killed his own father.

Son (Father Who Has Killed His Son): Shortly thereafter, during the Battle of Barnet, a man enters dragging the body of a younger man that he has killed. When he lifts this young man’s helmet, the older man realizes that he unknowingly killed his own son. Henry witnesses both of these incidents.

Duke of Somerset: During the Battle of Tewkesbury, he is captured with three others, and sentenced to death.

Prince Edward: Also captured at the Battle of Tewkesbury, and stabbed to death by York’s three sons when Edward refused to recognize the House of York as the legitimate royal family.

King Henry VI: Henry was captured and imprisoned in the Tower of London. Richard goes there to kill him, and after an argument between the two, Richard stabs Henry in a rage. This is the Richard who goes on to become Richard III.



King Richard III.

The Life and Death of Richard III “Now is the winter of our discontent.”

George, Duke of Clarence: Sent to the Tower of London based on false accusations made to King Edward by Richard. Richard later orders two men to kill Clarence. Believing that Edward ordered his death, Clarence tells his murderers that his brother, Gloucester (Richard), will pay them more for his life than the king will for his death, and refuses to believe them when his murderers tell him that Gloucester ordered his death.

King Edward IV: King Edward is already ill, and Richard uses the news of Clarence’s death to bring about the King’s death quicker.

Rivers: With Clarence and Edward out of the way, Richard orders the murder Lord Rivers to isolate the Queen and prevent the immediate crowning of the Prince.

Lord Hastings, Lord Grey, and Sir Thomas Vaughan: Relatives of the Queen, who are arrested and then beheaded by Richard, as they accompany the young Prince en route to his coronation.

Edward, Prince of Wales and Richard, Duke of York: After being led to the Tower of London by Richard, the latter orders Buckingham to kill them. When Buckingham refuses, Richard hires Sir James Tyrell, who finishes the job.

Lady Anne Neville: Richard’s queen, yet he poisons her so that he can be free to woo his niece, and Edward’s remaining heir, Elizabeth of York.

Duke of Buckingham: After being Richard’s ally before, Buckingham later rebels against him, is captured and executed.

Sir Robert Brackenbury: It is announced that Sir Brackenbury has died fighting for Richard in The Battle of Bosworth Field.

King Richard III: At the climax of the Battle of Bosworth Field, Richard is unhorsed, (“A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse!”) and subsequently killed by Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond, who now becomes Henry VII.


The Life of King Henry VIII

Duke of Buckingham: Cardinal Wolsey falsely accuses Buckingham for treason and has him arrested. He is later executed.

Cardinal Wolsey: After his villainous scheming is discovered by the king, Wolsey quickly falls from grace. Now following the path of humility and honesty, Wolsey leaves the court for a monastery, where dies soon after.

And now, onto the tragedies.

I will do these in a certain order as well, from the least bloody play with the least amount of deaths, leading up to the bloodiest play with the most fatalities.


A scene from the final act of Coriolanus, where Volumnia pleads with her son to reconsider his attack on Rome.


The Tragedy of Coriolanus

Caius Marcius, Coriolanus: He is killed by Volscian conspirators for betraying them. He halted his attack on Rome and formed a peace treaty between the Volscians and the Romans, after he had told the Volscians that he would lead them to a victory against Rome.


Timon of Athens

Man: A junior officer of Alcibiades kills a man in “hot blood”. This man is a minor character, and this is all we know about his death.

Timon: He dies in the wilderness, having lost all money and means. His overt generosity and compassion has undone Timon, causing his friends to take advantage of him and ultimately betray him.


Troilus and Cressida

Patroclus: Killed by Hector during battle.

Hector: Captured by Achilles who then instructs the Myrmidons.



Othello and Iago.

Othello, the Moor of Venice

Rodrigo: Stabbed in secret by Iago, to stop Rodrigo from revealing their plot to kill Cassio.

Desdemona: Smothered to death by Othello, who thinks that Desdemona has been unfaithful to him.

Emilia: When she realizes Iago’s plan to make Othello think that Desdemona had been unfaithful, she exposes her husband to Othello, and Iago fatally stabs her for it.

Othello: Othello then realizes Desdemona’s innocence and overcome with grief and guilt over killing her, kills himself.


The Life and Death of Julius Caesar “Beware the ides of March”

Julius Caesar: Assassinated by Cassius, Marcus Brutus, Casca, Decius Brutus, Lucius Cinna, Metellus Cimber, Trebonius, and Caius Ligarius in the Capital.

Cinna: An innocent poet who, mistaken for the conspirator Lucius Cinna, is killed by a mob who has formed to drive Caesar’s murderers from Rome.

Portia: Brutus’s wife who, under the stress of his absence from Rome, committed suicide by swallowing hot coals.

Cassius: Asks his servant Pindarus, to kill him after hearing that his best friend Titinius has been captured.

Titinius: It turns out that he was not captured, but upon seeing Cassius’s corpse, kills himself.

Marcus Brutus: After losing his latest battle, he commits suicide by asking another soldier named Strato to hold his sword while Brutus runs onto it.


Romeo and Juliet

Mercutio: Tybalt challenges Romeo to a duel and when Romeo declines, his best friend, Mercutio, agrees to fight Tybalt instead. Tybalt ends up fatally stabbing Mercutio.

Tybalt: Stabbed by Romeo for killing Mercutio.

Count Paris: A suitor to Juliet. He is stabbed by Romeo when he startles the latter at Juliet’s gravesite.

Romeo: Believing that Juliet is dead, Romeo drinks poison and then lays down beside her.


Romeo and Juliet.

Juliet: Wakes up from the deep sleep she was in; the reason everyone thought she was dead. When she sees Romeo’s dead body beside her, she stabs herself with her dagger.

Lady Montague: Romeo’s mother, who we hear died from grief over the death of her son.


Antony and Cleopatra

Fulvia: Third wife of Mark Antony, who prior to the beginning of the play, had rebelled against Octavius and then died.

Enobarbus: He deserts Antony and goes to Octavius’s side. Antony sends Enobarbus his goods rather than confiscating them. Enobarbus is so overwhelmed that he dies from the shame of his disloyalty.

Eros: Antony asks Eros to kill him by running him through with a sword. Unable to do it, Eros kills himself.

Mark Antony: In an attempt at suicide, he manages to only wound himself. He is hoisted up to Cleopatra’s monument and dies in her arms.

Cleopatra: She refuses to surrender. Betrayed and captured by the Romans, Cleopatra learns that Octavius will parade her once he triumphs. She kills herself by getting bitten by an asp.

Iras and Charmian: Cleopatra’s serving-maids who kill themselves after Cleopatra dies.


The Tragedy of Macbeth “Double, double, toil and trouble.”

King Duncan: Stabbed by Macbeth, in order to fulfill the Witches’ prophecy that Macbeth will one day become king.

Two Guards: Framed for Duncan’s death by Lady Macbeth, Macbeth later kills them to keep them from professing their innocence.

Banquo: Killed by three assassins that were hired by Macbeth. They were supposed to kill Macbeth’s son, Fleance, as well, but he escapes. Macbeth arranges for the murder of Banquo and Fleance, because he fears a prophecy that says that Banquo will father a line of kings.

Lady Macduff and her son: When Macbeth learns that Macduff has fled to England, he demands that Macduff’s castle be seized and that he and his family be killed. Macduff is not at the castle when it is seized by his wife. Lady Macduff, and their young son, are killed.

Lady Macbeth: Overcome with guilt for the deeds that she and her husband have committed, Lady Macbeth goes mad and eventually kills herself.


Macbeth and Banquo encounter the three Witches (top) Hamlet and Horatio in the graveyard with Yorick’s skull (bottom).


Young Siward: Killed in combat by Macbeth.

Macbeth: Macbeth was told by the Witches that he cannot be killed by any man of woman born, so he does fear Macduff when he encounters him in battle. Macduff reveals that he was born, not naturally but, “from his mother’s womb, untimely ripp’d”, meaning that he was born by Caesarean section. He then beheads Macbeth, thus fulfilling the Witches’ final prophecy.


The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark “To be, or not to be. That is the question.”

King Hamlet: Hamlet’s father, who is killed before the play begins. It is said that he died of a snakebite, but his ghost comes to Hamlet and tells him that he actually died at the hands of his own brother, Hamlet’s uncle, Claudius, who poured poison into his ear. This way, Claudius could marry Gertrude and become the King.

Polonius: Stabbed by Hamlet, while hidden behind an arras. Hamlet kills Polonius, thinking that it is the king who is hidden there.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern: Hamlet’s friends who, at the King’s request, escort him to England. Unbeknownst to them, they carry a commandment from the King that orders Hamlet’s death. Hamlet figures out what’s going on and secretly switches the commandment for his death, with one that orders the deaths of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Hamlet escapes them when they are attacked by pirates. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern continue onto England and their fate. In the final scene of the play, we learn that indeed, “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead.”

Ophelia: Driven mad by the death of her father, Polonius, at the hands of Hamlet no less, she drowns herself in the nearby brook.

Queen Gertrude: The first of several deaths that occur in the final act. The King has poisoned a cup of wine that he intends to give to Hamlet if he survives his challenge with Laertes. When Hamlet gets a hit on Laertes, the Queen, not knowing that the cup is poisoned, raises the cup to him. The King tries to stop her, but she drinks from it anyhow and dies.

Laertes: He had conspired with the King to kill Hamlet, as he was angry with Hamlet for killing his father, Polonius. He envenomed the tip of his sword and cut Hamlet, there was then a skirmish, in which Laertes and Hamlet switched swords, and Hamlet cut Laertes with the poisoned tip. With his dying breath, he tells Hamlet that the King is to blame and offers peace between himself and Hamlet. He dies shortly after the King does.

King Claudius: Hamlet, enraged at Claudius for everything that he has done, stabs him with the poisoned sword and pours the poisoned wine between his lips, thus killing the King.

Hamlet: By now, the poison from Laertes’s sword is overtaking Hamlet. He calls Horatio to his side and proclaims Fortinbras as his successor, before dying and…”The rest is silence.”


King Lear

Duke of Cornwall: Killed by a servant of his who is enraged when he sees Cornwall and Regan gouging out Gloucester’s eyes.

Servant who killed Cornwall: Killed by Regan for killing her husband, the Duke of Cornwall.


King Lear and his Fool, as Lear madly rages at the wind.

Oswald: Killed by Edgar, when he tries, on Regan’s orders, to kill Edgar’s father, Gloucester.

Regan: Poisoned by her sister Goneril, when she learns that Regan planned to marry Edmund, who was wooing both sisters at the same time.

Edmund: Wounded by his brother, Edgar, in a trial by combat.

Earl of Gloucester: Edgar announces that Gloucester has died. He believed Edgar to be dead, and then died himself from the shock and joy of learning that Edgar was still alive, once Edgar revealed himself to him.

Goneril: Commits suicide when she realizes that all of her evil plans have failed.

Cordelia: Prior to his death, Edmund had sent Cordelia and Lear off with secret joint-orders from him and Goneril for the execution of Cordelia. As he dies, Edmund tries to stop the order for her death, but he is too late.

Executioner: Killed by Lear when he killed Cordelia.

King Lear: He dies from a combination of grief over Cordelia’s death and all of the hardships he has recently endured.


And yet, of these last three, neither Macbeth, Hamlet, nor King Lear is Shakespeare’s bloodiest play, nor the one with the most deaths.

That prestige goes too…

Titus Andronicus


Aaron cutting off Titus’s hand, as the handless Lavinia looks on.

Titus Andronicus is so rarely performed today because of its gory content. In fact, during the Victorian era in England, this play was banned. Understandable, as the play includes stabbings, beheadings, rape, loss of body parts, and a pie reminiscent of something that could have been served by Hannibal Lector.

Alarbus: Oldest son of Queen Tamora. Sacrificed by Titus in order to avenge the deaths of his own sons during the war.

Mutius: Accidentally killed in a scuffle by his own father, Titus.

Bassianus: On the advice of Aaron, Bassianus is killed by Demetrius and Chiron, so that they can rape Lavinia.

Martius and Quintus: Titus’s sons whom Aaron frames for the death of Bassianus. Enraged that they murdered his brother, Saturninus sentences them to death.  Aaron then falsely tells Titus, that Saturninus will spare Martius and Quintus. When Titus cuts off his hand and sends it to Saturninus, the latter sends him the severed heads of his sons along with Titus’s own severed hand.

Nurse: Tamora gives birth to a mixed-race baby fathered by the Moor, Aaron. To keep the race of the child a secret, Aaron kills the Nurse.

Demetrius and Chiron: Tamora’s sons who raped Lavinia and then cut off her hands and cut out her tongue so that she could not identify them. But she wrote their names in the dirt using a stick held with her mouth. Because of what they did to his daughter, Titus cuts their throats and drains their blood. He then says he will “play the cook.” He grinds their bones into a powder and bakes them into a pie that he later serves to their mother.

Clown: Titus encounters the Clown and asks him to deliver a message to Saturninus on his behalf for payment. The Clown agrees, but when he delivers the message to Saturninus, the latter has the Clown hanged, and it seems that there is no apparent reason for this.

Lavinia: Titus asks Saturninus if a father should kill his daughter if she has been raped. When Saturninus answers yes, Titus kills Lavinia and tells Saturninus what had happened to her.

Tamora: She did not know what had happened to her sons, Chiron and Demetrius. Titus serves her the pie that he baked her sons into, and she, not knowing of the ingredients, eats it. Once she is done, Titus tells Tamora that her sons had been baked into the pie that she was just eating. Titus then kills Tamora.

Titus Andronicus: Immediately after Titus kills Tamora, Saturninus, who was married to Tamora, kills Titus.

Saturninus: Right after Saturninus kills Titus, then he is killed by Titus’s son, Lucius.

Aaron: For all of his evil deeds and schemes, Aaron is buried chest-deep and left to die of thirst and starvation.

Last, but not least, the three comedies that included character deaths.


Cymbeline “Fear no more.”

Cloten: Guiderius meets Cloten outside of the cave where Guiderius lives with his two Faed_postumus_and_imogensons. Cloten does nothing but insult Guiderius which leads to a sword fight, that ends with Guiderius beheading Cloten.

Queen: She has been slowly wasting away because of the disappearance of her son, Cloten. It is later announced that she has died suddenly, and that, upon dying, she was unrepentant and that she confessed to villainous schemes against her husband and his throne.


Pericles, Prince of Tyre

Cleon and Dionyza: Cleon is the governor of Tarsus and Dionyza is his wife. When Pericles leaves to rule Tyre, he leaves Marina, his infant daughter, with the couple. As she grows, however, they realize that Marina is more beautiful than Philoten, the true daughter of Cleon and Dionyza, so the latter decides to murder Marina. Pirates soon kidnap Marina, and when Pericles arrives in Tarsus, Cleon and Dionyza falsely tell him that Marina has died. They are later killed by the people of Tarsus for their plot to kill Marina, and for lying about her fate.


The Winter’s Tale

Mamillius: Died of a wasting sickness and grief that was brought on by the imprisonment of his mother Hermione, by his father Leontes.

Wheatley, Francis, 1747-1801; 'The Winter's Tale', Act IV, Scene 3, Perdita, Florizel and Polixenes

Polixenes (seated), Perdita, and Florizel.

Antigonus: Exit, pursued by a bear. One of Shakespeare’s most famous stage directions, and while we don’t see or hear about Antigonus meeting his end, it tells us exactly how he died.

So, while the true cause of Shakespeare’s death may be uncertain, the fate of several of his characters most certainly is not.








It’s Veterans’ Day. Respect and remember those who serve our country.

Veterans HeadingToday is November 11th, and this means of course, that it is Veterans’ Day. And I think it’s essential to point out that Veterans’ Day is more than a day off and sales in just about any retail establishment. It is, most importantly, a day to remember fallen American heroes, and to acknowledge and thank those that are still with us, whether they are retired or actively serving.

I am sure that a lot of you out there have either been in the military, or know someone who has. For me, it’s the latter. And many of you also may have had several ancestors in the military too. This is true for me as well.

I had three ancestors who fought in the American Revolution: Samuel Allen, Thomas Lowry, and Amos Tinkham; because of Amos, I became a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, or DAR.  Unforutnately, except for Samuel Allen, I don’t know much about their service in the American Revolution, though I am constantly searching for more information. However, it’s difficult to learn much about the soldiers of that war unless it was documented somewhere at the time, such as in a pension application, diary, etc. Yet nonetheless, Amos Tinkham, Samuel Allen, Thomas Lowry, and countless others took part in the war that won us the independence that our brave men and women in uniform continue to fight for today.

Samuel Allen pension abstact

Samuel’s entry in the DAR’s book: Abstracts of Rev. War Pension Files.

I retrieved the following information about Samuel Allen from his Revolutionary War pension application: Samuel Allen playedan integral part in the capture of Major Ireland, a British major, so that they might have a British officer to exchange for Major Brush, an American major who was being held as a prisoner of war with the British. He and four others detached and crossed over to Long Island in the night. The following night, they captured Major Ireland and exchanged him for Major Brush. After the war, Samuel became a minuteman. He was also the owner of the first sire of the Morgan horse breed.

Henry J. Younger Civil War draft record

Henry’s Civil War draft record. He is the third one down.

Moving ahead to the Civil War, my third great-grandfather, Henry J. Younger, is listed in a draft record, as a Union soldier from Missouri. Prior to this Henry served as part of the Enrolled Military Militia, or E.M.M. The Enrolled Missouri Militia was a part-time Missouri militia organization; it was formed during the American Civil War in 1862. The E.M.M’s main purpose was to serve as garrison and infrastructure guards, to help enhance and supplement the Unionist Missouri State Militia in defense against raids. This freed up the Missouri State Militia for offensive procedures against Confederate guerillas and recruiters.

Younger and Allen WWI Records-page0001 (2)

WWI registration cards for my two great-grandfathers: Earl Ahi Younger (top) and Ervin Oscar Allen (bottom).

For WWI, I have records for my great-grandfather, (Henry’s great-great-grandson), Earl Ahi Younger. He was 28 at the time and working as a motorman. This was in Missouri as well; in St. Joseph to be exact. My other great-grandfather, Ervin Oscar Allen, also has a WWI record from Rosendale, Missouri. He was twenty-nine at the time. I have a couple of great-uncles as well: Earl Elmer Allen and Silas R.D. Allen, brothers to Ervin.  The Allens and Youngers are on my dad’s side of the family, and his family came from Missouri.

Nishinaka and Ichimachi WWI Registration

WWI registration cards for my great-grandfather, Masakichi Nishinaka (top) and my great-uncle Ichiji Ichimachi (bottom).

In WWI on my mom’s side, I have records for my great-grandfather, Masakichi Nishinaka. He was twenty-eight years old and living in San Pedro, California. Also, Ichji Ichimachi, who is my great-uncle. He was twenty-six years old and living in Portuguese Bend, California. It’s an area of San Pedro, where I currently live.

I don’t have any direct ancestors that were in WWII, but my aforementioned great-grandfather, Ervin Oscar Allen, he lost his life during WWII. He was not a soldier in the war, but he was among a group of forty construction workers from Missouri, who were headed to Bermuda for promised construction work on an American Naval Base. I went into this in greater depth in a previous blog post, so I won’t say too much about it here, but these men were aboard the S.S. Lady Hawkins along with members of the Royal Navy, civilians, and the crew who were mostly from Barbados and the West Indies. The Lady Hawkins was torpedoed by U-66 off the coast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina on January 19, 1942.  There was a total of 321 people onboard; 71 of them survived. Twenty-five of the Missouri men also lost their lives; Ervin was among them.

My father, William Howard Allen was also in the United States Army. He was never in any major battles or sent overseas, but he served nonetheless.

I’m proud to be descended from soldiers from all different eras in our country’s warfare history. However, were I not related to anyone who served, I would still feel the respect and gratitude toward those that lay their lives on the liHonoring Those Who Servedne day after day for my freedom and yours.

I believe it is important to observe Veterans’ Day. I don’t think any of us really forgets that men and women are risking theirlives everyday so that we can live free, but we tend to get busy, and we end up taking it for granted.  But when Veterans’ Day comes, it reminds us of the sacrifice of all past and present soldiers. We remember to honor them, and we remember how grateful and indebted we are to them.

It is important to honor our veterans year round. And once Veterans’ Day has passed, let’s each do our best to remember them every other day of the year too, and we can all do our part. Whether you make a donation to a worthy military or veteran establishment, help prepare care packages for our soldiers, or thank a veteran for his or her service every time you come across one, we can all do something to acknowledge our military men and women, and let them know that their loyal service to our country does not go by unnoticed or unappreciated.

Thank You, VeteransTo all veterans, whether you are now retired, in the reserves, currently serving, or you lost your life in defense of our country, a huge THANK YOU for your courage, your bravery, and your selflessness. Our country continues to be the great nation that it is because of your dedication to protecting America and her people.

OCD Awareness Week

OCD CycleYesterday marked the beginning of OCD Awareness Week, which runs October 11-17, 2015.

OCD stands for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. OCD is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain’s serotonin levels that causes the person to have, often irrational, obsessions. I have had OCD for more than ten years now. I wasn’t really sure what it was when I first started noticing my own obsessive-compulsive behaviors; I thought I was the only person who acted this way. And then one day, while in the library, I picked up a book about OCD and realized, “Wow, I do a lot of these things!”

OCD does have varying levels, and affects each sufferer differently. A lot of people may have a minor obsession or compulsion and think that it’s OCD. Are you obsessively neat? Everything on your desk, or your shelves, or in your drawers have to be in a certain order? Are you afraid of germs? These do not necessarily constitute a diagnosis of OCD.

Now, that’s not to say that people with OCD do not do nor feel these things, many do. It’s just that it goes to more of an extreme with those afflicted by OCD.

Let’s use the neat desk as an example. If you believe that the world will end if don’t keep three pens, lined up perfectly, to the right of your desk, the lamp turned at a ninety degree angle, and your computer perfectly aligned with the edge of your desk…then you may have OCD.  OCD Comparision

While this is somewhat of an exaggeration, I want to point out one of the things that cause the “odd” behaviors in the people afflicted with this disorder. We often feel, that if something isn’t done, or isn’t done correctly, than something bad will happen to us, or someone that we care about. While this is a usually irrational fear, and we often know this, it doesn’t help us or stop us from doing the things we do.

Another reason, especially for compulsive behaviors, is that we have to do it until it “feels right”. And I don’t know any better way to explain this. Being unable to participate in certain compulsive behaviors, will often fill us with a sense of discomfort, anxiety, and dread. OCD can take up a large portion of a person’s life. Some are so restrained by this disorder that they can barely function in the world. Some may refuse to leave their houses. Others may have a large portion of their life overtaken by OCD, but are not affected to the above extremes. I count myself in this category. I would say that ninety to ninety-five percent of my daily life is affected by OCD. And as I mentioned, OCD is a chemical imbalance in the brain, just as anxiety and depression are. Not every person with OCD suffers from one or both of these disorders as well, but a great majority do.

It’s easy for someone who doesn’t understand, to say something like, “Just stop doing that.” If it were that easy, we would. But it isn’t. And to those who don’t understand this disorder, or don’t know that a certain person is suffering from it, their compulsions, when done in public especially, seem weird, odd, strange. Possibly making some people believe that there is something wrong with person.

CDOHowie Mandel is possibly one of the most well-known celebrities with OCD. He has openly talked about it. He doesn’t shake hands with people and he doesn’t like others touching him because part of his obsession is a fear of germs.

Howard Hughes also suffered from OCD, and would use a special fork to sort peas by their size. He would also notice small, even trivial, details while directing a movie, and write extensive reports on how to remedy the situation. Hughes would also observe any dust or stains on another person’s clothes, and demand that they take care of it. After a near-fatal airplane crash, he decided that he would screen movies at a studio near his home. He stayed in there for four months, eating only chicken and chocolate, drinking only milk, and surrounded by several Kleenex boxes that he constantly arranged and rearranged. Towards the end of his life, due to OCD and other mental illness problems, Hughes was a recluse, and rarely seen in public.

Science-fiction author, Orson Scott Card, who wrote the Ender’s Game series, focuses on this disorder in his some of his books. And he understands this from a first-hand perspective as well. I attended a two-day workshop taught by Card a few years back, and had the chance to briefly discuss OCD with him. I explained to him that I had it as well, and that I appreciated his portrayal of the disorder in his novels.

The science-fiction books by Orson Scott Card, where OCD plays a major part are, Speaker For the Dead, Xenocide, and Children of the Mind. But be sure to read Ender’s Game first and then go in the above order for the other books, otherwise you won’t know what’s going on.

On a personal level, here are a few of my own OCD ticks; and ticks are often a part of OCD and something that I occasionally experience.Like being allergic to life

I have a major thing with numbers. This is to the point where I hate to have to even read or write anything with numbers because I know that it will take me a long time to get through it. And it doesn’t matter if the numbers are written numerically (3), or spelled out (three), nor does it matter if their Roman numerals or not (III), my compulsion with numbers haunts me on a daily basis. And it’s a few different things with numbers.

For one thing, I used the number three in my examples above, and I have an obsession with that number and its variables. Take the volume on a radio or TV for example. As you turn the volume up or down, the numbers go up and down accordingly. I have to, have to, leave the volume on 3, 6, 9, 12, 15, 18 and so on, or any combination of numbers that equal those numbers: 21, 33, 45, etc.

Now, (and I’m going to have fun writing this part; I already know that my OCD will do its best to hinder me here), my most aggravating number obsession, and the one that makes me dread having to read or write anything with numbers in it. In this case, ones and zeroes, have to equal two. What this means, and I will do my best to explain it, is that if I’m reading something, out loud or silently, and I come across a zero, I have to say to myself, “Plus two.” Because 0+2=2. If I come across a one, I have to say, “Plus one.” Because 1+1=2. Even if these numbers are part of another number. Let’s say I’m reading the year 2010. I have to read it this way, “Two-thousand (plus two), ten (plus one, plus two.)” And this if I’m reading these numbers, Used to have OCDwriting or typing these numbers, or speaking these numbers, zeroes and ones, in my obsessive-compulsive mind, have to equal two. It doesn’t matter if I say the plus twos and plus ones out loud or not, as long as I say it or think it. Even Roman numerals, as I mentioned above. For example, I like history, and I often read or write about WWI and WWII. I have to read it as WWI (plus one) and WWII (plus one, plus one). It’s irritating, it’s inconvenient, and if I don’t do it, it will eat away at my brain until I do.

As many people with OCD, I do have the fear of germs. I will shake people’s hands and such, but I always have Purell with me, I actively avoid or move away from people if I know their sick with something contagious, and I have a compulsive hand-washing ritual.

Now, many people without OCD will avoid sick people if they can, and a lot of people who don’t have OCD use Purell, but these behaviors in me come with obsessive, negative thoughts that I can’t get out of my mind. And the hand-washing ritual, it takes a lot of time, and again, I have to do this every time I wash my hands, which tends to be a lot. And if I’m interrupted during this ritual, I have to start over again from the beginning.

I will, on occasion, do the classic light switch thing that many OCD sufferers do. Where I turn the lights off, then on, then off, then on, off again, on again, until it “feels right”. There are certain words that, some for no apparent reason, invoke a negative image or feeling in me. And if I’m writing and hear one of these words while I’m writing, I have to erase the last part up to the point where I heard the word, and then rewrite it.

When I’m reading, and someone interrupts me, I have to finish the paragraph that I am currently on before I can respond to them. Otherwise I will have to start reading that paragraph again from the very beginning. Sometimes, I get stuck on a part of a sentence when I’m reading, and when I’m readingOCD is not a joke out loud, this can cause me to stutter a bit, as I try to get through the sentence. And I got stuck on it, either because it didn’t “feel right”, or I have this obsessive thought in my head that if I don’t read the sentence, or certain word or part of the sentence just right, then there will be negative consequences.

Things have to be perfectly straight and/or perfectly aligned with something else. If it’s even a little crooked, I must fix it. This will even happen to me in grocery stores, bookstores, and other establishments, where items may not be even, and I have to do my best to stop myself from fixing it. I will oftentimes just start straightening things, and I have to stop myself: an even harder feat than preventing myself from beginning in the first place.

There are times when I will have negative, obsessive images and/or thoughts that I can’t shake. Particularly when I, or someone I know is going through a difficult, trying time, my mind tries to show me and make me think about the worst possible outcome, making it difficult to remain optimistic, which is what I am trying to do during times like that.

And yes, it’s irrational, but many OCD behaviors are. I have the occasional bouts of anxiety and depression as well.

I wanted to write about OCD in general, as well as my own struggle with this affliction, to help spread awareness about something that affects thousands of people on a daily basis. It’s a disorder that you do not truly understand unless you are afflicted with it yourself, or you know someone who is. I also want to silence those who say that OCD isn’t real, that it’s a joke, that our compulsive behaviors are actually under our control and we’re only doing it for attention, and those who think that we’re strange or weird because we have this condition and we can’t always keep our obsessions and compulsions under control. We try to, and sometimes we do, but it isn’t always possible.

For more informationInternational OCD Foundation about this disorder, or to seek assistance with it, please visit the website for the International OCD Foundation at: https://iocdf.org

National Literacy Month

Language BooksSeptember is National Literacy Month, and September 8th is National Literacy Day. I would like to do what I can to spread awareness about literacy, by talking about my own path to becoming an ESL tutor for adults.

Two years ago, I became a volunteer tutor in English as a Second Language (ESL) for adults. This program is offered by the South Bay Literacy Council (SBLC), here in Southern California. The process to become a tutor did not cost anything, and teaching credentials or previous experience were not required. It began with an information meeting at the local library. This was mainly about the Council and the program, designed to help you decide if tutoring is indeed something that you would be interested in pursuing.

If you decided to do this, there was a tutoring workshop, that met twice a week for four weeks. These classes were very informative and a lot of fun. At the end of this workshop, you get your membership card for the SBLC, a certificate proving your completion of the workshop, and a list of students who are seeking a tutor. These students may sign up with the program for any number of reasons, to communicate better at work or school, to be able to read English better, or become US Citizens, to name a few examples. And some students have a need to focus on reading, writing, and speaking English, while others may find it necessary to focus more on only one or two of these.

When I first became interested in tutoring, I first planned on becoming a tutor for adults who spoke English, but couldn’t world-language-map-english-small (2)read. I wasn’t interested in ESL tutoring, only because, I figured that to teach ESL, you would have to speak, not only English, but also the student’s native language. The only other language that I can, somewhat, speak is Spanish. I say somewhat, because I can carry on a basic conversation in Spanish, but I don’t speak enough to tutor a course on learning English. However, the instructors of the workshop explained to us that it’s actually a little better if you don’t speak your student’s native language, because if you do, then it’s too easy to default to that language, and not focus on English.

My first student was from North Korea, and we met for a few months before a change in her work schedule wouldn’t allow her to continue, at least, not on the nights that I was available to tutor. After that, I got my current student who I have been with for nearly two years now. She is from South Korea, and actually has a pretty good grasp of the English language, we never have trouble communicating in English anyhow.

The SBLC suggests using a series of books called the Challenger series. These books have eight levels, with Level One being the most basic level for students who speak very little English, to Level Eight. They include articles and short stories, that the student reads aloud, as the instructor silently follows along. After each lesson, there are questions and exercises related to that article, that are designed to improve comprehensive skills.

Challenger 6

Challenger 6. The sixth of the eight levels in the Challenger Series.

You initially contact your student by phone to introduce yourself and ask them if they are still interested in finding a tutor. If they are, then you set up a date and time for an introductory meeting. Based on the phone call, you may be able to assess what level your future student will begin with. I found that the best way to do this is to let the student choose, because he or she would know best what is too easy for them and what is too challenging. If, based on speaking with your student over the phone, you think that he or she may be a Level 5 for example, then at the introductory meeting, bring Levels 4-6, and see what your student decides on. In the case of my current student, we started with Level 5, but about halfway through that book, she decided that the level was too easy for her, and we went up to Level 6, which we are nearly done with.

While the SBLC recommends the Challenger Series, depending on the student, other things may also be helpful. For example, my first student enjoyed reading magazines and newspapers, and one of her hobbies was hiking: so I would go to the library and pick up hiking and outdoor magazines. These included articles that my student enjoyed reading  while at the same time was improving her English skills.

My current student has been studying for a writing test that is a part of a job application. She will also occasionally need help for documents at her current job. And in a few months she will be eligible for US Citizenship, and when that time comes, I will help her study for the Citizenship test.

To some, ESL may seem to be a fairly recent idea. In fact, it began in 15th century England, as the English expanded their trade routes and it became necessary for them to be able to communicate with those with whom they traded. At first, English was a common language for all that traded with England. A few centuries later, however, the British Empire began sending English teachers overseas, and they continued to do this for the following two-hundred years. English was mainly taught to the upper-class citizens of these other countries, and their government officials. However, the English learned by them, would eventually influence the rest of the colonists, who would also learn English.

The English understood that foreigners would not want to give up on their native language, which was still necessary for Languages of the Worldthose in power to communicate with others in their respective countries, and also to gain their trust and respect. Thus, bilingualism was very much encouraged.

From the 19th-20th centuries, as opportunities in the United States increased and expanded, immigrants began flocking to the US, in pursuit of the American dream. At first, bi-lingual education was taught in public and private schools, depending on the dominant language of the schools in that area, such as Spanish being the main language that was spoken in Arizona and New Mexico.

By the late 19th century, the United States, in need of its own identity, proclaimed English as its national language. Not much later, in 1906, the Naturalization Act was passed. And by the 1920s, English-only instruction began in the schools. Therefore, the immigrant children were taught the English language, that their parents were struggling to learn.

After WWII, ESL became prominent in learning about foreign languages and cooperating with those who speak other languages. Many teaching methods were implemented over the next four decades, most of which are still used in ESL education to this day.

Why English Is Hard To LearnBeing an ESL tutor is a rewarding and fulfilling experience. It involves, in no small part, a certain amount of patience and understanding, but it is really something to witness the process of a student improve their English skills, and leading up to a satisfying result. And these students often want to learn more than just speaking and reading English, but they are interested in American culture as well. In turn, you will often learn  about their culture and customs, and how those customs identify with, and differ from, our own. I’ve also learned that my students are interested in learning American idioms. These idioms are rarely, if ever, literal. “It’s raining cats and dogs” for example, means that it’s pouring rain, not that dogs and cats are literally falling from the sky.

Becoming an ESL tutor is something to consider, if you have the time for it. It usually costs little to nothing. Even the books that the SBLC recommends don’t have to bought; these can be found in the library.

At the end of this post, I will include a link to the SBLC website. This is, of course, mainly for those who live in the South Bay area of Southern California, but if you live elsewhere, I can assure you that there are probably tutoring opportunities in your area. A quick Google search could turn up some potentially endless possibilities. And if you have the interest, time, and means to travel, you may even consider teaching English abroad. But regardless of the opportunity that you choose to seize, all of them are gratifying and enriching.

And you just may change someone’s life for the better!

SBLC Logo-page0001 (2)To learn more about volunteering as a tutor for the SBLC, and learn the dates and times of the upcoming information meetings, please visit: https://southbayliteracy.wordpress.com/tutors/

Oh, To Travel In Time

Keep Calm and Time TravelTime travel has long been an interest of humankind. And I think that we all wish we could go back in time; either to redo or correct something we’ve done in the past, or to a time before we were born to see an ancient civilization, meet a favorite historic figure, etc. Many people would probably love to travel forward as well, to behold the future of our planet and our species.

Globe Theatre

The Globe Theatre in London, England.

For myself, if I could travel backward in time, my first stop would be London, England, around 1590, to witness one of Shakespeare’s plays, starring Will and the rest of the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, in the Globe Theatre. Of course, I would also have a secondary motive of possibly meeting my literary hero, William Shakespeare himself. My second stop, would be Baltimore, Maryland, roughly three-hundred years later, to meet my second literary hero, Edgar Allan Poe. I would also love to meet Socrates, Abraham Lincoln, and several of my ancestors who could answer the genealogical questions that have me and other family members stumped.

The idea of time travel has always been an interest of mine, and being an avid science-fiction and fantasy reader, when it comes to the former, I tend to gravitate to the time travel stories. Don’t get me wrong, I have enjoyed many a great science-fiction story or novel that had nothing to do with time travel, but I have a special interest in the time travel stories. And as a science-fiction and fantasy writer, I have of course, incorporated this into a couple of my science-fiction short stories.

A Hundred Yards Over the Rim

A scene from “A Hundred Yards Over the Rim”. Chris Horn from 1847 enters a 1960s diner.

The same goes for television and movies. For one, I am a huge fan of The Twilight Zone television series; the original one from the 1960s. I wasn’t born yet when they originally aired, but I have bought the DVDs of all five seasons, and watched them time and time again. There are many episodes about time travel. My favorite episode of the entire series is “A Hundred Yards Over the Rim”. I won’t give anything away here, but in 1847, a train of covered wagons are traveling from Ohio, and  headed for California. Chris Horn is leading them, and as they are running out of food and water, Chris sets off over a nearby hill, (the rim), and ends up in 1961 New Mexico. I won’t say anything more about what happens, in case anybody wants to journey on over to YouTube or something to watch it.

Flight 33-Both Photos

Scenes from “The Odyssey of Flight 33”.

Another of my favorite episodes is called “The Odyssey of Flight 33”, and this is about a Global Airline flight in 1961 that, after experiencing increasing speed, severe turbulence, and and a flash of light, ends up way back in time. How far back? They look out the window and see a dinosaur. They try to enter the same jet stream as before, in an attempt to return to 1961. and end up at the 1939 New York World’s Fair. All I will say on this episode as well.

I have many favorite episodes, and most of them are about time travel, or, as I am also a US history buff, are about a historical event or figure.


The TARDIS from Doctor Who.

On the subject of TV shows, I am also a Whovian, and absolutely love Doctor Who.

As far as movies go, I also enjoy time travel movies, especially the Back To the Future series, the Terminator series, X-Men: Days of Future Past, (although I am a Marvel fan and enjoyed all the X-Men films), and being a Trekkie, I can’t leave out the three Star Trek time-travel movies; First Contact, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, and the Star Trek motion picture from 2009 and directed by J.J. Abrams.

Alexander Fomich Veltman

Alexander Fomich Veltman (1800-1870).

But what I would really like to find is an English copy of the 1836 Russian science-fiction novel, Predki Kalimerosa: Aleksandr Filippovich Makedonskii. English translation: The forebears of Kalimeros: Alexander, son of Philip of Macedon. Almost sixty years before H.G. Wells wrote The Time Machine, Alexander Fomich Veltman wrote the above-named book. And the reason that I would love to read it is because this was the first novel to use time travel; a feat that is accomplished by riding a hippogriff nonetheless. No offense meant to Wells of course, The Time Machine is not only a literary classic, it is also a terrific book. And speaking of great books about time travel, I can’t leave out Stephen King’s novella, The Langoliers, and the 1995 mini-series based on the novella. In addition, two of my all-time favorite books regarding traveling in time, are Domesday Book and To Say Nothing of the Dog, both by Connie Willis.

I do believe that one day, time travel will become possible. Sadly, this may not be during my lifetime; it may not be for another thousand years, but maybe one day. However, do let me introduce a paradox. If in fact, time travel does become possible in the future, whether it be tomorrow or the year 3000, people from the future would probably travel back in time to our present. They would have to blend in so as not to draw attention to themselves and thereby potentially alter their own present and future. They would use our modern vernacular and slang, dress the way we do, and only use technology that we already have now. Yes, you could be walking down the street and pass by someone from the future and you wouldn’t even know it.

Time Machine-from the movie

Illustration of the Time Machine used in the movie based on H.G. Wells’s novel.

Alas, since time travel is not yet a component of reality, I can still dream of it through the help of books, movies, and television shows that have me convinced that, even if I never see it, one day, someday, people will be able to climb into their time machines, (or their TARDIS, or aboard their hippogriffs), and travel back and forth in time to their hearts content.