Monday, September 29, 2008

Kenneth Branagh To Direct Thor?

Ok, this is pretty cool.  We're at a place in time when comic book movies are huge.  Iron Man, Spiderman, Batman.  And they pick Kenneth Branagh, he of Hamlet and Henry V, to do Thor?  That should be downright fascinating.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Seven Ages Of Man, Style

Maybe a writer was pressed for ideas, but I like it.  The usual "Top N List" form of articles in this case breaks down Shakespeare's seven ages of man from As You Like it.  And, of course, makes witty comments.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Midsummer, The Not For Kids Version

So I'm sitting here watching pro-wrestling as I tend to do on Monday nights, and during some silly skit they're doing I'm reminded that Playboy magazine hosts a party every summer called A Midsummer Night's Dream.  Pictures are relatively safe (no nudity - Playboy don't be giving it away for free, after all), but not exactly for the whole family.

I can't figure out if it ever had any Shakespeare connection, ever, or if they just liked the name.  But who cares!

Hello, My Name Is Inigo Montoya,0,6567319.story

You a Mandy Patinkin fan?  Geeks have loved him ever since The Princess Bride, well before Criminal Minds and even Chicago Hope.  Bonus points if you remember him under the makeup in Alien Nation.  (I did NOT remember Dr. Jeffrey Geiger, his Chicago Hope character, doing a guest spot on Picket Fences???)

Anyway, if you're wondering what he's been up to, he's doing Prospero in New York.  The review of the production itself doesn't seem very good, but the reviewer's got love for Mr. Patinkin.  Apparently he sings, too.  I'm trying to remember when I first heard him sing.  I think that David Letterman used to get him to do something with the band whenever he was a guest on the late show.  He's got an excellent voice for Broadway.

Crazy Nonsense

Apparently Adam Buckman of the NY Post doesn't like the new season of Heroes. The heroes aren't doing anything heroic, he says.  "Instead, this show, which was once so thrilling and fun, has become full of itself, its characters spouting crazy nonsense."

He then goes on to cite some of the crazy nonsense, noting that Malcolm McDowell "should win an Emmy for keeping a straight face while reciting these lines."

Oh, the lines?

There's a divinity that shapes our ends - rough hew them how we will.

Yeah, that crazy nonsense is Hamlet.

Screw that.  I'm watching My Name Is Earl.

"Unusual" Facts about Mr. Shakespeare

I get a kick out of posting lists like this because it's fun to look at how many a) are common knowledge and b) are not facts at all. 

Like when it says "Few people realize...that Shakespeare acted in his own works."  Really?  I'd be willing to wager that actually most people know that :).

Was Henry VI Part 1 really Shakespeare's first play? I always thought that Comedy of Errors had that honor.

Is Oberon A Bad Guy?

So I've been going back and forth of A Midsummer Night's Dream lately, as I think it will be the next play I introduce the kids to.  There's something about the ending that bothers me.  Oberon's angry with Titania because he wants the changeling boy.  Titania clearly has a stronger claim on the child, what with the whole "his mother was one of my followers" thing.  Oberon's only claim seems to be "because I'm the king and I said so."

So he puts her under a magic spell, and then, while brainwashed, says "Give me the child", which she does.

Now that he's got what he wants, he releases her from the spell and they all go off on their happy way.

Umm....does that make him a nice guy?  Are we supposed to like him for that?  At what point does Titania say, "Wait a minute...I had a changeling boy around here somewhere....where did he ..... Oberon!!!!!"

As I ponder how to relate this story to the kids, I'm figuring on changing the ending so that Oberon feels bad for what he's doing to Titania and decides to her keep the boy.  (My 6yr old daughter, who apparently has too many friends of divorced parents already at her age, and who only knows that Oberon and Titania are fighting over a little human boy who came to live with the fairies, suggested "Maybe one week the boy can stay with the king, and then the next week he can stay with the queen, and then back to the king....")

I know that some people put Dream up there in the ranks with Hamlet as one of Shakespeare's best.  I don't have that level of experience with the play, and have always viewed it more as "The one the local school kids always put on because you can never have too many fairies."   So somebody enlighten me about the deep meaning that I'm missing. 

Coffee With Shakespeare

Coworker this morning tells me, "Hey, saw a Shakespeare book over the weekend, thought of you."

"Which one?" I ask.  "I probably know it."

"It was called Coffee with Shakespeare."

"I don't know that one."

"It was this tiny little thing, looked like the idea was that the author goes back in time and has coffee with Shakespeare.  It was part of a series, there was a whole bunch of them."

"Coffee with Descartes, Coffee with Mark Twain, and so on?"

"Yeah.  Seemed cheesy."


I go hunting around anyway.  Turns out this particular "cheesy" book is edited by Stanley Wells, one of the foremost Shakespeare authorities in the business today.  It's also got a forward by Joseph Fiennes, the guy who played Shakespeare in Shakespeare in Love.

I relay this information to my coworker, who responds, "Yeah, that's the one. It was the forward by Fiennes that made me not pick it up."

Know Why? Because Shakespeare Was Awesome

From a blog called "Will In The World", some Shakespeare love where you may not have first expected it.

Shakespeare Geeklet

"Daddy, that's the Shakespeare book that Santa gave me.  He knows I can read it myself.  If food"

    "Play on..."

"I know, Daddy.  I was thinking the words in my head, and trying to figure out if that makes any sense."


My daughter is 6.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Fault, Dear Kenneth, Apparently Lies In Your Stars

Ever found yourself with an interest in Kenneth Branagh's astrological chart? Here you go.

Zombie Shakespeare

No, really. :)  We won't pick on the fact that he's buried inside the church, not out in a yard someplace. :)

The Last Lear

The chances I'll ever see this Bollywood movie are about zero, but it looks pretty neat.  I love this line about Amitabh Bachchan, playing a reclusive stage actor who quotes Shakespeare with relish and is making his movie debut at an old age:

" one scene, Bachnan chases a reporter out of his house for misspelling the name of Oberon, the king of the fairies in A Midsummer Night's Dream."

Sounds like my kinda guy.

Monday, September 15, 2008


This is kind of cute.  Folding paper toys, one a day for a year.  Shakespeare is #38.

[Found via]

Shakespeare Cryptograms

That's right, *crypto*grams, not the anagrams.  By the time you get to this post all 10 may have been answered, but I'm linking because it's a new blog (to me) and I'm not sure how often they post Shakespeare stuff.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Brooks' (And Others) Dream, On Video

Hey now, this is neat.  A special on the staging of Dream, including video from the famous Brooks version.  Note that this is only one of three parts, so be sure to follow through all three of them.

I like how they talk about the little details - should the fairies have wings?  If they have wings, should they fly?  Great stuff!

Author of "Infinite Jest" Found Dead

I was unfamiliar with the work of David Foster Wallace, professor of English at Pomona College who was apparently best known for the 1000 page novel "Infinite Jest."  I suppose comparing someone to Thomas Pynchon is intended to be complimentary, but I know I was never able to finish Gravity's Rainbow.  However, one reviewer refers to the overall effect as "something like a sleek Vonnegut chassis wrapped in layers of post-millennial Zola."  I'd be excited about that prospect if I knew anything about Zola.

The death appears to have been a suicide.  Anybody know more about the author, want to say a few words?

How Shakespeare Won The West

I may have seen this play mentioned in the local papers, but never thought twice about it.  Apparently that was the right move, as the reviews are not good.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Top 10 Shakespeare Villains
This list gets originality points for Iago coming in at #3, Claudius at #5 and Edmund #8.  Guess who #1 and # 2 are?

Spanking Shakespeare

Don't know what to make of this. 

Based on the debut work of Jake Wizner, the feature will tell the story of Shakespeare Shapiro, who chronicles his quest to get into college and find a girlfriend in his memoir, a writing project that every high school senior must complete.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

...Therefore I Am?

Today I'm wearing my Geek "mechanics" shirt, with the normal name patch over the left chest pocket reading "Geek."  At work I've always gotten amused compliments, entirely from people who obviously know me and get it.

Today I'm at the gas station filling up, and the attendant says, "Why does your shirt say Geek on it like that?" do you answer that, briefly?

I told him, "It's a computer thing."  I don't expect he cared for a longer philosophical debate.

UPDATE: Oops, I totally intended that post to go to my other, computer-specific blog.  I was going to delete this one for having no Shakespeare content, but then I figure it's got Geek content, so it half counts :)

Friday, September 05, 2008



I don't know much about Alexander Abela's Macbeth adaptation, Makibefo.  If I understand correctly, the director chose to make a silent film, focusing instead on the "language of pictures", attempting to capture the essence of Shakespeare's words entirely within the film's imagery.

He's also working on (completed?) an Othello adaptation as well.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Wait, She Wanted To Ban Which Shakespeare?

I'm familiar with the story of Sarah Palin, Republican VP nominee, wanting to ban books from the library (go ahead and reread that a few times :)).  I had not yet seen anybody suggest a list of books that she wanted banned.  As mentioned in the post there's no official confirmation that the included list is accurate, but it's all we've got.

Two Shakespeares show up on the list -- Merchant of Venice (an odd choice, given that she belongs to a church that thinks Jews deserve terrorism), and Twelfth Night.   Why Twelfth Night, you think?  It can't be  because of the cross dressing, as there's several others that would fit that bill as well.  Identical twins?  Nope, others have that.  Shipwreck?  Hmmm... Maybe it's the homo-erotic implications between Orsino and "Cesario".

Blah blah, politics, no proof, yadda yadda yadda, nutty democrats and leftwing liberals...  Fine.  I'll make it a general Shakespeare question -- if you were forging a list of books to ban, why would you pick Twelfth Night as one of them?

[I'm thinking, by the way, that this election has to present the opportunity for at least a few Taming of the Shrew jokes.  I'll keep an eye out...]


UPDATE:  Angela correctly points out that the list of books being circulated is bogus.  It is, in fact, a direct copy of the list at, which is not comprehensive by its own admission.  It's not to say that the "Palin tried to ban books" story has no truth, merely that the list in question is not accurate.

Japanese Shakespeare Spaghetti Western

Come on, how often do you expect to see all those words strung together? Doesn't seem at all interesting to me, but certainly something I couldn't miss linking.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Pronouncing Shakespeare’s-‘pronouncing-shakespeare’-website-goes-live/

Where does John get all the good scoops? I'm jealous.

Check out the audio sample from Romeo and Juliet.  It sounds...hmmmm...I hate to say "Scottish" but that's about as close as I can think to describe it.  It's not at all what I would have expected.

Hamlet on MST3K

If you never saw Mystery Science Theatre 3000, let me try to explain.  It's a rather zany concept about a man (a janitor, really) who was sent off in space by an evil scientist who is going to torture him by making him watch bad movies until he slowly goes insane.  To keep his sanity, the man (and his robot friends, whom he made from a gumball machine and lacrosse set) make fun of the movies.  The show ran a good 10 years, although in its later years with none of the original cast left it greatly suffered.  "Manos, The Hands Of Fate" gained fame on this show as people recognized it for the worst movie ever made.

Well.  In this particular episode, Mike (our human) wins a game with the evil scientist where he gets to pick his own movie.  "Just send me Hamlet," he says.  "It doesn't matter which one, they're all good."

Wrong!  Our mad scientist sends up a dubbed German version for him to suffer on.

As far as an MST3K episode goes, it's .... well, not good.  At all.  Most of their jokes fall incredibly flat, and they find almost no opportunity at all to riff on anything actually Shakespearean.  Lots of "Danish" jokes, stuff like that.

The movie is...equally bad.  For some strange reason, Gertrude looks like a space alien.  At one point they call her "Queen Dilbert's Boss" which might have been one of the funniest jokes of the episode (once you see her hair, you'll understand).  And the ghost as well looks very Martiany, with the big high plastic collar for no reason and the generic flowing robe.  Claudius' voice is done by Ricardo Montalban (and they do sneak in a "rich Corinthian leather" joke).  It's a rather odd combination, a German movie about Danes done with a Spanish accent.  Even more so when Hamlet is done with a German (Austrian?) accent.  Half way through the movie he started sounding like a young Arnold Schwarzenegger and I could barely stand it.

With any filmed Hamlet it's interesting to see what they skip and what they emphasize.  There is no ghost in the queen's bedroom, for instance.  And during the climactic final scene, Claudius voluntarily drinks the poison (granted, he's already been stabbed at that point).   There's a bunch of others but I watched it on my ipod and didn't take notes, so it's hard to remember every little thing.  They did do a whole big repeating joke on Laertes' line about cutting Hamlet's throat in a church, which really made me appreciate a line I'd never noticed before.  Hamlet has a chance to kill Claudius at prayer (arguably, "in a church") and does not take it.  When asked the lengths that he would go to avenge his father, Laertes uses that as the example of how far he'd go.  (Laertes, by the way, is particularly terrible.  He looks like a blonde Meatloaf and acts worse.)

Still, there were times when I actually liked the actor playing Hamlet -- Maximillian Schell, who seems like he should be familiar to me but I can't place where.  Anyway, I liked the whole "where is Polonius" scene, as well as the final blood bath.  Keep in mind that we're talking about a movie that gets a 2 out of 10, and I'd give Hamlet himself maybe a 4, so it's not like he's rivalling Brannagh here.  I'm just looking for something good to say.

If you're into the MST3K idea we can talk about better episodes.  But once I realized this one existed, I had to watch it and blog about it.  Too geeky to miss. :)

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

The Long (Long!) Overdue Story Of The Mobius Bracelet

I've owed you folks this story for quite some time, but I didn't want to post until I had pictures of the final product.  Which in itself turned out harder than expected, as I took a bunch (along with my daughter's 6th birthday party) and then lost the memory card :(.  But I've got them now, so on with the story!

image0 (1)  Background:  A long time ago I got it into my head to get my wife a "Moebius" bracelet.  You're perhaps seen them, it's a neat little physical ring with a simple twist that - technically - makes it an impossibility, as it becomes a three dimensional object with only one side.  I like to call it an "infinity bracelet."  When I found such bracelets with Sonnet 116 engraved (close to 300 characters!) I had to have one, but I wanted my own quote.  Ideally sonnet 17, the one used at my wedding.  I can't recap the entire story here, but the long and short of it is that I thought that a personally engraved infinity bracelet was an impossibility, until I found a vendor in Arizona who said that they would do one for me.  Deal!

image4 (1)  When last I updated everybody, my bracelet had "apparently" arrived because we were on vacation and when we returned there was a note at the door from the postman saying that a package was waiting for us.  This was displeasing to me as I told them to send it to my office - I planned to hide it until the end of September, for my wedding anniversary.  But when a random package shows up at the house, I'm not a good liar.

We sign the slip and put it out for the mailman the next day -- no package.  We call, and are told "You have to wait at least 2 days."

Next day?  Nothing.  I call the vendor and ask if there is any sort of tracking on the package so we can verify that it is not lost.

image3 (1)  The next day I get a call at work from the vendor in Arizona, saying "I just spoke to your local post office, and they have it for you.  They're waiting for you to go pick it up."  I said, "Lady I work in Boston, an hour away from the post office, I can't pick it up!"  Oy, vey!  I call the post office to see if my wife can pick it up.  They explain to me that it was misfiled in certified letters, and no they can't deliver it, someone has to come get it.  But yes, she can come and get it.

So she gets it, does not open it.  To complicate matters, are you ready for this?  THE CIRCUS IS IN TOWN.  We decide on the spur of the moment to take the kids to the circus, so I meet the family at a restaurant for dinner and head over there.  The package has waited this long, now it has to wait a few more hours.

At long last - maybe 10pm that night - I finally got to unveil it.  This is the first time I've seen it, as well.  I don't even get the opportunity to see if it came out good. 

image5 (1)  It came out *great*.  My wife loves it.  Totally doesn't understand it at first, but sits with me as I explain the whole gift:  She likes jewelry, I like Shakespeare, I wanted a gift that symbolized something that was important to both of us.  I could have gotten a canned, mass produced one with some generic sonnet, but I didn't want that, I wanted quotes that meant something to us, something that would make it unique in the universe.  It begins with, "If I could write the beauty in your eyes, and in fresh numbers number all your graces, the age to come would say This poet lies, such heavenly touches never touched earthly faces."  That's from our wedding, and that part represents the past.  Then we have, "I will swear I love thee infinitely," that's the present, that's how I live every moment of every day. I even verified with my experts that the character being quoted there means what he says, and I was told that they've got one of the best marriages in all of Shakespeare.  Lastly we have "We are such stuff as dreams are made on," from The Tempest, the first Shakespeare play that the kids understood.  That's the future.  Then it's signed, "Kerry and Duane, September 30, 2000", and it's back around to the beginning where it starts all over.  I call it an infinity bracelet.

I then had to say it all again, going over every character (something like 280 of them).   When we got to "We are such stuff as dreams are made on," she said, "That's not what it says."

"Excuse me?"

"It says a made on."

"Excuse me?"

"Right there, look.  We are such stuff as dreams a made on."

She's right.  There's a typo on my one in the universe hand made anniversary present for my wife I've been working on for two years.  OH I'M GONNA KILL SOMEBODY.

"You are so not returning this!" she said.  "I love it just like it is."

At this point I've spent so much time getting my hands on it that I have no plans to return it.  Still, it's a little upsetting.  I send a lovely note off to the vendor speaking of the typo, where I promise I used little profanity.  I dig through my archives, and I discover exactly where the problem occurred.  On the very last day we spoke, over the phone, I went over every character with her.  So I knew we had it right.  She then emailed me the final letter count and invoice, which I never checked, since I'd just spoken to her an hour ago.  And that email had the error.  So, whose fault?  Theirs for introducing it, or mine for not catching it?  The way I see it, it just adds to the story we tell :).

At this point that was...two months ago (my last post on the subject was June 30).  My wife has not taken the bracelet off yet, so I guess she likes it :).


Honestly, I'm very happy with the final product, and the vendor was nothing but nice for the entire process.  You have no idea how long it took me to customize this thing - from the individual infinity symbols between each quote, to lining up the spacing just right so the end of the last quote rolled right into the start of the first one.  They were perfectly patient and accomodating through the whole thing.  And the price was very reasonable!  They charge per character, with a pretty good discount the more characters you use.

The vendors are Marcia and John of  Tell them Duane the Shakespeare Geek sent you, and no hard feelings about the typo. :)

Monday, September 01, 2008

Citi Discontinues Sponsorship of Shakespeare On Boston Common

When my inlaws told me this news today, I was surprised I'd missed it.  But, there it is -- Citi will no longer sponsor Shakespeare in the Park for Boston.  The Shakespeare folks, however, say "The show will go on." 

Personally I hope it's a good thing.  Citi Group never seemed interested in Shakespeare, they merely inherited it when they bought the Wang Center.  As we all know they tried to cut us down to a single week, but people got pissed enough that it went back up to three weeks this year.  Maybe next season they can have a sponsor who doesn't whine and cry poor about it all season?