Sunday, May 29, 2011

Classical Composition: Rewriting Myths - Icarus

Our son had a great time in the Molding Your Pose course from

The assignments:

1. Retell a myth or folktale in 150 words or less
2. Retell the same story in 50 words or less.
3. Retell the story as a newspaper article. Less than 500 words.
4. Retell the story from the first person perspective. Less than 500 words.
5. Retell the story with attention to the sounds of words. Less than 500 words.
6. Retell the story with humor. Less than 500 words.
7. Free choice. Our son chose a courtroom drama.

Our son chose the myth of Icarus. This assignment is practice for Logic or Rhetoric students who should be analyzing, imitating, and

1. Icarus in 150 words or less

In ancient Greece, Daedalus the inventor built a large Labyrinth for King Minos of Crete. However, King Minos, in a fit of anger, trapped Daedalus and his son Icarus in a tower. To escape, Daedalus made wings of feathers and wax. Daedalus warned Icarus that flying too close to the Sun would make his wings melt. They flew from the tower. Icarus, excited by flying, flew towards the Sun. The Sun melted his wings, Icarus fell into the sea, and drowned. Daedalus mourned the loss of his son, and to this day the sea into which Icarus fell has been known as the Icarian Sea.

2. Icarus in 50 words or less.

A man is imprisoned in a tower with his son. To escape, he makes wings. He warns the wings could melt too close to the Sun. The two depart. The man's son, excited by flying, flies towards the Sun. His wings melt, and he falls and drowns. His father mourns.

3. Icars as a newspaper article. Less than 500 words.

By Androcles

In a daring escape attempt, Icarus, son of renowned craftsman Daedalus, has died after plunging nearly 250 feet into the Aegean Sea. The 16-year-old boy tried to fly with a pair of makeshift wings made of wax and feathers, but the wax was melted by the heat of the Sun, and Icarus fell into the sea.

Erasmus, a fisherman at the time of the incident, says, "I was sitting there, fishing, and then I heard a bloodcurdling shriek. I looked up, and saw what looked like an enormous hawk, feathers flying in every direction. It fell towards me and I saw it was a human being."

According to Daedalus, he and the boy were imprisoned in a tower by King Minos of Crete. Court watchers disagree on whether King Minos imprisoned the two because of Daedalus's role in creating the Labyrinth or for some other motive. Daedalus refused to elaborate. Daedalus and his son escaped by making wings from wax and bird feathers found in the tower. He warned Icarus not to fly too close to the Sun. Shortly after the two took off, Icarus flew up towards the Sun, despite his father's repeated warnings. As he flew higher, his flight patterns became erratic, and feathers started falling off. Within minutes, Icarus plunged into the sea and drowned.

Demetrius, Icarus's tutor, says, "Icarus was bold, he was daring, he took risks. He was the first man to fly near the Sun. He was a remarkable lad. All of Greece should be proud of him."

Services will be held at the Temple of Apollo at 2:30 PM next Monday.

4. Icarus from the first person perspective. Less than 500 words.

Our loyal subjects, your king has heard some slanderous rumors of the craftsman Daedalus and the death of his son. Daedalus and Icarus of Crete were traitors to our country and they showed contempt towards the gods. They should not be treated as heroes of Greece, but rather as villains whose memories should be scorned.
One year ago, the Labyrinth was built to hold our stepson, the Minotaur. Only the builder, Daedalus, knew how to leave the Labyrinth, and it was learned he betrayed the secret to the Athenians. As many of you know, an Athenian, Theseus, recently murdered our stepson. Our grief has been great.

We could have had Daedalus and his son put to death immediately, but instead we chose to spare their lives. Rather than being grateful for our mercy, they chose to injure one of our palace guards and defy Mount Olympus. As we were descending the stairs of the Great Tower, we heard scuffling above us. We returned to see Icarus and Daedalus leaping off one of the highest floors. They wore crudely-fashioned wings of feathers and wax stolen from the palace grounds. Daedalus was shouting at his son, who was soaring too close to the Sun. Lord Apollo himself was offended by this brazen display, and he struck Icarus down from the sky.

5. Retell Icarus with attention to the sounds of words. Less than 500 words.

In days of old, the inventor Daedalus held the key
To King Minos' most urgent plight.
The monstrous Minotaur, mighty man-bull,
Threatened all of Crete.

Minotaur feasted on human flesh
Snorting, slobbering, shredding
Bellowing, booming, baying.
The earth thundering under his hooves.
Walls, trees, and houses quaking with every rage.

Finally a magnificent Labyrinth was made.
A tangle of twisting paths,
Bewildering blind alleys
At last restrained the beast.

Cruel and corrupt,
Conceived a clever crime.
The inventor and his son were shackled
To keep the secret safe.

In a dank and grim prison tower
Daedalus and Icarus sat.
Dark, dismal, desperate.
Suddenly, a plan!
A flapping flurry of wings outside the window.
"I shall make some wings
So that we can escape this horrible place."

Daedalus and Icarus began to scrounge
For feathers from birds
Wax from the candle drippings left by the jailers.
Daedalus rubbed the wax roughly between his fingers.
At last they were finished.

Drawing close to his son,
Daedalus sternly warned,
"Do not fly too high. The Sun will melt your wings."
They squeezed through the bars of their cell.
They looked down at the green-blue ocean
With torrents of white foam crashing on the rocks below.
They were whipped by wild winds.

The two jumped off the edge.
Time stopped.
It looked as if they would plummet into the sea.
But they forced their wings together and swept up to the heavens.

Then Icarus felt a terrible change.
A drop on his shoulder.
He turned his head.
The wings were beginning to melt.
Suddenly feathers were flying off everywhere.

He silently screamed.
Daedalus saw his son plunge into the sea.

6. Retell Icarus with humor. Less than 500 words.

"Can I help you?"
"Sure. Where am I anyway?"
"In Tartarus."
"Tartarus?! What do you mean? I don't belong here!"

Icarus looked around. It was hard for him to see anything at first. A strong suffocating smell choked his lungs. Fire crackled around him. He was struggling to fly out of a river of tar with two wings strapped to his arms.

"I'm sorry, but I'm not in charge of the place. What happened to you, anyway?" a bearded old man asked, straining to push a giant boulder up a cliff.
"It was all Dad's fault. The King got mad at Dad so he put him in jail. I don't blame him; he always wants to be in charge. I guess it was because of that big maze he built. That was awesome. But the old king said he was 'a danger to the people of Crete' or something like that, which is crazy. I didn't do anything. I have no idea why he put me in jail."

Upon hearing the word "jail", the bearded man eyed Icarus suspiciously and said, "Well, I'm pretty busy. Excuse me, I have to get this boulder up the mountain."

"We were innocent!" Icarus shouted. "As I was saying, Pops and I were put in jail-- unfairly-- so he made some wings from some stuff around the room. My old man punched out some guards and the two of us flew away. I saw Dad was about to fly into a flock of seagulls, so I was trying to draw them away, but then all of a sudden my wings melted and I fell into the sea! Dad never warned me about that!"

After Icarus finished his story, the bearded man went back to pushing the boulder up the cliff.
"Er, weren't you supposed to help me?" Icarus asked. "Hello? I'm kinda stuck here. Help me? Please?"

Icarus sighed. There seemed to be no hope of getting out of this place.
Just then, the bearded old man came running down the side of the cliff and reached out towards Icarus.

Soon afterwards, the boulder rolled down the mountain and into the sea, where it landed on Icarus. While he struggled to get up, he heard the old man's voice shouting, "Sorry about that."

7. Retell Icarus as a courtroom drama.

The courtroom was hushed. Daedalus was on trial for his life. The prosecutor, Baltsaros, paced in front of the witness.

"Daedalus, is it true that you planned and commanded that the deceased, Icarus, use wax wings to flee the palace grounds at Crete?"
"Yes, but---"
"And is it true that the decision to use wax wings caused the untimely death of Icarus?"

Daedalus groaned. A member of the jury sighed in sympathy, to which the judge replied, " As jurors, be aware you are not to be swayed by sympathy."

Baltsaros continued.
"Did you realize that the wax in the wings you made would melt after intense exposure to the Sun?"
"Let it be known, gentlemen of the jury, that the immediate cause of Icarus' death was the melting of wax wings, resulting in his plunging to his death from a height of approximately 500 feet. No further questions, your honor."

Daedalus looked around anxiously. Daedalus's defense attorney, Adeipho, stood up. He was a tall, stately looking man, with dark hair and hollow cheeks.
"Daedalus, is it not true that you loved your son, and would never intentionally try to kill him?"
"Yes. We were trapped, and our lives were in danger. The experience was destroying Icarus from the inside out. There was no other way." By this point, Daedalus had broken into a cold sweat, which caused several members of the jury to look concerned.

"Daedalus, isn't it true that you made several attempts to warn Icarus about not flying too close to the Sun?"
"Yes. I told him. He knew it. I don't know why he flew so high. Maybe he lost track of how high he was flying. Maybe the winds pushed him up."
"Objection! This is pure speculation, your Honor," shouted Baltsaros.
"Objection sustained," the judge sternly replied, banging his gavel.
Daedalus looked relieved.

Adeipho looked up at the judge and said, "No further questions, your Honor."
"Baltsaros, would you like to cross-examine the witness?"
Baltsaros smirked and rose to his feet.
"Yes, your Honor. Daedalus, isn't it true that you knew Icarus had shown some rather rash judgment in the past?"
"No. What do you mean?"
"Isn't it true that Icarus jumped off the roof of the Temple of Apollo on a dare?"
"Yes, but--"
A gasp went up among the courtroom spectators.
"But he was just a young--"
"Just answer the question. Yes or no?"
"Gentlemen of the jury, even though Daedalus knew of Icarus' rash decisions in the past, he still decided to give him the instruments of his death. Therefore, you must find him guilty of involuntary manslaughter."
"Objection sustained."

The two attorneys made summary arguments to the jury. The jury recessed for hours. At last they returned.

"Members of the jury," asked the judge, "have you arrived at a decision?"
The foreman stood and shouted, "We find the defendant, Daedalus, innocent of all charges."

Daedalus cried tears of joy. He was free at last.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Progymnasmata, Logic / Rhetoric: Writing an Argument Like St. Thomas Aquinas

From our son's latest assignments from "Molding Your Argument" - We've posted his submissions pro and con for movie censorship. The assignment is to write like St. Thomas Aquinas. In Summa Theologica, Thomas Aquinas presents his arguments in articles that have a specific structure:

1. A specific yes-or-no question. "Whether..." (utrum)
2. List of objections that begin with "It seems that...". The objections should be apparent proofs to the opposite of the thesis (aka
the opposite of the debate) - and should be arguments, not opinions (supportable by evidence) (oportet)
3. Indicate own position - "On the contrary..." - (sed contra) usually argument from authority.
4. "I answer that.." (respondeo dicens)- Thomas proves his own case - provides more background explanations. Aquinas explains how each objection went wrong.

With his permission, our son agreed to let us post his assignments:

PRO: It seems that Hollywood movies should be censored.

Objection 1: There have been professional studies that would appear to indicate that media violence increases real-world violence.
Objection 2: Movies can have a powerful desensitizing effect on morality. Studies have confirmed that people who are repeatedly exposed to media violence tend to be less disturbed or physiologically aroused when they witness real world violence, and have less sympathy for its victims.
Objection 3: There have been many confirmed instances in which violent movies have had a direct role in inspiring people to inflict pain, suffering, and death on others. At least nine murders around the world have been directly linked to the slasher film Scream.

I answer that: The right for movies to be free from censorship should be protected. Our country is founded upon principles of freedom of expression, and freedom of expression is necessary for a thriving democracy to have differences of opinion freely discussed, debated, and considered. Censoring objectionable content cuts off free discussion of controversial issues, and it can stifle opposing political opinions.

Reply to Objection 1: As violent media is constantly produced, the rate of violence among children has actually gone down.
Reply to Objection 2: The standards of moral behavior differ between people, religions, and cultures; different people have different reactions to media violence.
Reply to Objection 3: Mentally-unstable people may have negative reactions to media violence, but one has to consider the intent of the director. Is he glorifying violence, or is he portraying it in a negative light?

CON: It seems that movies should not be censored.

Objection 1: Many claim that censorship is in opposition to freedom of expression, and that it is in direct opposition to the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, which reads, in part, "Congress shall make no law... abridging the freedom of speech." Prohibiting content cuts off discussion of controversial worldviews, they say, and it can stifle opposing political opinions.
Objection 2: Some have said that there is no evidence that media violence has a notable effect on the public at large. Violence and immorality have been ubiquitous since the time of Adam and Eve, and they cannot always be prevented by media regulation.
Objection 3: Censorship is difficult to successfully regulate. Different people and cultures have different standards of morality; it is difficult to decide on a single standard of morality by which to prohibit objectionable material.
I answer that: Movies should be censored because messages of extreme violence and overt sexuality are harmful to the mental well-being of viewers and, ultimately, to the community as a whole.

Research in the field of psychology has shown that violence in the media increases aggression. Also, in the cases of murder and other serious crimes inflicting pain and suffering, perpetrators have admitted that movies had a role in inspiring their actions. Finally, movies have a powerful desensitizing effect on morality so that extreme negative images of sexuality and hatred can be a corrupting influence on impressionable audiences.

Reply to Objection 1: The protection of freedom of speech was never meant to endanger the lives of others, as media violence does. The Constitution also grants people the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and media violence influences people to violate those unalienable rights.
Reply to Objection 2: Movie censorship might not prevent all immorality, but it would prevent some of the more severe instances. There have been several confirmed instances around the world of mass murderers being directly influenced by slasher films.
Reply to Objection 3: Our legislative and judicial system regulate morality all the time in terms of physical interaction and in terms of intention.

References: Peter Kreeft's excellent Summa of the Summa
Picture from Thomas Aquinas

Monday, July 12, 2010

Archeologists' Discovery May be King Arthur's Round Table

Archeologists believe they really may have found King Arthur's Round table in Chester. It's a 1000 seat amphitheatre and a wooden memorial to Christian martyrs. The monk Gildas wrote of Arthur, the City of Legions, and the martyrs' shrine.

King Arthur's Round Table in Chester
photo King Arthur's Round Table

p.s. Sorry, got busy and we have another book due in at the publishers. I fell off the wagon writing this blog, but this news seem pretty cool...

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Dickens at Christmas

On Christmases past, we've read A Christmas Carol together as a family, but this year we settled for watching the old classic Alastair Sim movie as we have to finish Pickwick papers read-together. It was interesting to discover here that Dickens commissioned the artist John Leech to produce 4 hand-colored etchings and 4 wood engravings for the volume. Leech had been forced to abandon his medical studies (he excelled at anatomical drawing) because of the bankruptcy of his family, but was able to support himself as an artist and became the chief cartoonist for Punch.

Recently for our son's Veritas Press Omnibus classs he had fun with the challenge of writing in Charles Dickens' maximalist style. The assignment was to expand a sentence in a Dickensian fashion (for those of you who are curious, Dickens was not infrequently paid by the number of words...)

The starter sentence: "Beebo Appleby walked into the room, looked out the window, and patted his jacket pocket. He heard his mother's footsteps approaching and turned to the door to greet her."

Our son's: "Beebo Horatius Appleby wheezed and puffed through his plump, pursed lips as he waddled his massive girth into the narrow parlor of his cozy country cottage. In the dim light cast by the fireplace, one might almost have mistaken him for a great bespectacled Christmas goose (a goose, by the way, ample enough to feed a very large, and very hungry family.) His chubby face was ruddy and moist with perspiration, but the haunted look in his sunken, squinting eyes suggested this was less a product of physical exertion than of some secret strain. As his inertia carried him over to the window and he absently gazed at the gently drifting snow, glowing eerily in the moonlight like a ghost-filled graveyard, his hand moved, almost unbidden, to his breastpocket. In it was his father's last will and testament, which he realized, much to his discomfort, that he would have to discuss with his grieving mother. All of a sudden, he heard a rap-tap-tapping coming down the hall in his direction. He steeled himself in preparation for what he was about to endure, and turned towards the door."

Merry Christmas everyone!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Getting Ready for Christmas - Virtual Volunteering to Help a Christian Homeless Ministry

We're getting ready for Christmas, and we had been talking with our teen son about taking on a volunteer experience to 'give back' some of his blessings that have come his way. We also had talked about making a choice that might build on what we thought some of our personal gifts might be. As a result of this discussion, he searched the options for volunteering at and decided to sign up as a web ministry intern with Hoskins Park Ministry, a ministry to the homeless in Charlotte, North Carolina. If you would like to support the homeless this Christmas season, consider donating to their cause. Theirs is really a mustard seed ministry, coming along side individual men, women, and families, helping bridge the gap between emergency shelters and independent living. They help provide safe homes, Christian fellowship, and practical living, medical, and other assistance that helps people get out of the cycle of poverty and abuse. There are limits that people can stay in emergency housing, and especially with the grim outlook on jobs, without places like Hoskins Park, the previously-homeless have a hard time getting back on track, holding down jobs, and being able to afford rent and utilities.

He's only just started working with Hoskins Park (first trying to improve the website design, but also search engine optimization), but we've had family meetings together trying to help with suggestions, and its already been a blessing...and hopefully we can offer some help to them. If you haven't thought engaging in a volunteer work as a family, we highly recommend it. Right now we just have great plans. Maybe later in the upcoming year, we'll be able to update with what we've been able to accomplish.

Previous Latin Sayings of the Week

"Soli deo gloria." - For the glory of God alone.

Christus resurrexit! Vere resurrexit! - Christ is Risen! He is risen, indeed!

"Lex malla, lex nulla." - St. Thomas Aquinas
(A bad law is no law.)

"Cantantes licet usque (minus via laedit) eamus. " - Let us go singing as far as we go: the road will be less tedious.

"Caelitus mihi vires." - My strength is from heaven.

"Magnificat anima mea Dominum, et exsultavit spiritus meus in Deo Salvatore meo" - My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior (Luke 1:45)

In Omnibus Ipse Primatum Tenens “That in all things He (Christ) might have the preeminence.” (Colossians 1:16-18)

"Qui bene cantat bis orat." - He who sings well, prays twice - (St Augustine)

"Nos fecisti ad te et inquietum est cor nostrum donec requiescat in te." -
Thou hast made us for Thyself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee. (St Augustine)

"Caelitus mihi vires
." - My strength is from heaven.

"Ubi caritas et amor Deus ibi est." - Where there is charity and love, God is there.

"Nisi credideritis, non intelligetis ."

Unless you will have believed, you will not understand. - St Augustine

"Deo vindice" - With God as Protector

"Credite amori vera dicenti." - Believe love speaking the truth. (St. Jerome)

De vitiis nostris scalam nobis facimus, si vitia ipsa calcamus." - If we tread our vices under feet, we make them a ladder to rise to higher things. (St. Augustine)

Dei gratia - By the grace of God

Verbum Domini Manet in Aeternum. - The Word of the Lord Endures Forever.

"Est autem fides credere quod nondum vides; cuius fidei merces est videre quod credis." - Faith is to believe what you do not see; the reward of this faith is to see what you believe. (St. Augustine)

"Deo iuvante" - with God's help

"Ut In Omnibus Glorificetur Deus." - That God may be glorified in all things

"Pax vobiscum." Peace be with you.

"Jubilate Deo." Be joyful in the Lord.

"Ille vir, haud magna cum re, sed plenus fidei." He is a man, not of ample means, but full of good faith.

"Facit enim mihi magna qui potens est." - For He that is mighty does to me great things.

"Oremus semper pro invicem." - Let us ever pray for each other.

"Distrahit animum librorum multitudo." - Seneca
A multitude of books distracts the mind.

"Nullam est nunc dictum, quod sit non dictum prius." - Terence
There is nothing said now, that has not been said before.

"Nosce te ipsum." - Plato
Know thyself.

"Non mihi, non tibi, sed nobis" - Not for you, not for me, but for us.

"Primum non nocere." - First, do no harm (Hippocrates)

"Est autem fides credere quod nondum vides; cuius fidei merces est videre quod credis." - Faith is to believe what you do not see; the reward of this faith is to see what you believe. (St. Augustine)

"Deo iuvante" - with God's help

"Ut In Omnibus Glorificetur Deus." - That God may be glorified in all things

"Pax vobiscum." Peace be with you.

"Jubilate Deo." Be joyful in the Lord.

"Ille vir, haud magna cum re, sed plenus fidei." He is a man, not of ample means, but full of good faith.

"Facit enim mihi magna qui potens est." - For He that is mighty does to me great things.

"Oremus semper pro invicem." - Let us ever pray for each other.

"Distrahit animum librorum multitudo." - Seneca
A multitude of books distracts the mind.

"Nullam est nunc dictum, quod sit non dictum prius." - Terence
There is nothing said now, that has not been said before.

"Nosce te ipsum." - Plato
Know thyself.

"Non mihi, non tibi, sed nobis" - Not for you, not for me, but for us.

"Primum non nocere." - First, do no harm (Hippocrates)

"Dei plena sunt omnia." - Cicero (All things are full of God.)