Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween! (Costume pics inside!)

For years we've discussed Shakespeare Halloween costumes, and I've never done one myself.  This year I decided to change that, and hit on the idea earlier this month when I spotted one of those "evil Jester" costumes.  "Perfect!" I thought, "I'll write up a nametag referring to myself as a fellow of infinite jest, and hang a stuffed Piglet from my back to represent Hamlet, whom I hath borne upon my back a thousand times.  I'll be Yorick!"

Mission accomplished.

"...a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy."
"he hath born me on his back a thousand times...."

Piglet, Prince of Denmark

How'd it go?  I didn't expect too many people to get it, of course.  I got a lot of "Joker" and "Evil Jester."

A few people read my nametags and just smiled and said, "Oh, ok!" but I don't think that helped them.

One lady did in fact guess it! She turns to her husband and says, "He's Hamlet's friend, you know, the court jester, the guy whose skull he finds in the cemetary and he talks to it?"

What I did not expect was that my costume could end up insulting.  Picture this, a random somebody comes up to me and says, "Ok, so, what are you supposed to be? Why is Piglet hanging from your back?"  So then I say, "You know that scene in Hamlet where he picks up the skull and says 'Alas, poor Yorick...' and this poor schmoe looks at me and says, ""  Awkward!  Then he inevitably turns to one of the other guys in the crowd and says, "Guess I was absent that day," and get a laugh.  Wrong crowd. :)

I did tell people repeatedly, "I don't expect anybody to get it, I did this for the fans of my web site."  Hope y'all dig it!

P.S. - I know that when I wrote up the idea originally I said that the costume had a harlequin pattern, but when I got it home it was what you see above.  I think the costume comes in two different styles because at my kids' Halloween party I definitely saw diamond harlequin pattern version.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Contested Will

Simon and Schuster recently sent me the paperback edition of James Shapiro's Contested Will, which addresses the very timely authorship question. 

Since I clearly have not had time to read it, I'm reporting long-time contributor Carl Atkins' guest review that he did for us back in December 2010:

I was actually pleasantly surprised. It was much more readable than I expected. I had read his "1599: A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare" and found it to be rambling, disjointed, and filled with conjecture, so I was not expecting good things from a book about such a difficult subject. Yet "Contested Will" is, for the most part, tightly written, well structured, straightforward, factual without being too dry, and absorbing. It details the history of the authorship controversy, interestingly laying the blame on one of the most renowned Shakespeare scholars, Edmond Malone. He notes that Malone, frustrated at being unable to uncover any documents to help flesh out the biography he hoped to write about Shakespeare, began to look to the plays for biographical references. This opened the door for anti-Stratfordians to launch their only means of attack.

If the book has any fault it is only in spending a bit too much time detailing the course of the Oxfordian cause. I found myself getting a bit bored by the end of that section. But only a bit.

It is a testament to Shapiro's cool-headedness that he spends two-thirds of the book discussing the (circumstantial) evidence against Shakespeare's authorship and ends with 27 pages debunking it.

What is most impressive is that Shapiro does not come across as someone with an axe to grind, or as a scornful elitist. He actually sounds like someone who is presenting the evidence for all to see. He makes no pretense about what side he is on, but he makes the evidence very clear.

I did not think I would like a book about the authorship question because I do not think it is an important question. But this book is more about understanding the history of the authorship question than about resolving the controversy. That is a more interesting topic. This is a book I would recommend to all interested in Shakespeare. It is fun to read.

Our Position on "Anonymous"

A month ago I asked, How should we deal with Anonymous?  In general, other than some assorted Twitter chats, I've not said much.

But today it opens, and it's come to my attention that people (students in particular) may show up here looking for a counter argument.  So I wanted to use this space not necessarily just to present my own position, but to give you readers the opportunity to offer yours as well.

This is a movie, made for entertainment value, made not by academics for the purpose of proving an academic theory, but my moviemakers for the purposes of entertaining you enough to make money.  In this sense it is exactly the same as Shakespeare in Love.

The primary difference is that one movie was made by people who know, love and respect Shakespeare and his works, and were completely open with the fact that their movie was pure fiction. Anonymous wants you to believe that some of it is real.

Personally I don't think that anybody involved with the actual making of the movie cares one way or the other about Oxfordian theory.  I think that any statements Roland Emmerich (the director) or others make to the press are just glorified trolls, drumming up interest in their project.  I think that the minute the movie is out of the theatres, no one will ever speak of it again.

What troubles me is the idea that there are classrooms where teachers are presenting this movie to their students as if it has any academic merit at all.  If you are a student and your teacher wants you to see this movie, you are almost certainly in one of the following situations, so act accordingly:

* Your teacher actually believes this theory and is trying to convert you.  This is a very dangerous place for a teacher, and is the exact same kind of thinking that would have you learning that we didn't land on the moon, or that cavemen rode dinosaurs. The freedom to question things does not in any way legitimize the alternate theory you may come up with.

* Your teacher is working off of free educational materials that were distributed along with the movie.  Think about that.  The company that made the movie sent out "educational" materials hyping their movie. Because that couldn't possibly be a biased source.  So head home and tell your parents *that*.  "My teacher is telling us exactly what the movie company told her to say! Next month we're learning about the historical accuracy of Shrek's friends the talking donkey and the sword-fighting kitty."

* Your teacher wants to teach you the value of questioning "established" fact, and make up your own mind.  I can live with this, this is a good thing to teach.  This is not a good WAY TO TEACH IT, since it's been made pretty obvious that the motivation here is to make an entertaining movie and not to tell an accurate story.  If you want to teach about the existence of the authorship question, there are many other documentary films to use.

For the record, I don't think that Shakespeare was a god among men who wrote perfect plays every time he picked up a pen. I'm quite happy with the theory of collaboration, and have no problem with the idea that there's plenty of Fletcher and Middleton and others mixed in with his work.  That's not what the authorship question is about.  The authorship question starts with the idea that Shakespeare could *not* have written the works, because of who he was. And then goes about trying to find candidates to fit who they feel earned the right to be considered for authorship.

In conclusion?  If your teacher is trying to teach you to question authority and to consider alternate theories, I can't argue against that. It's a good thing.  If your teacher is trying to argue that this particular theory *is* true, because of what this movie says? Then you are being taught poorly, and your teacher is precisely the authority that you should question. Make up your own mind, but be sure that you've got good sources for your information first.

For more information from people who *do* have the academic cred to speak intelligently on the topic, I'll point you to Blogging Shakespeare, the site run by the Stratford Birthplace Trust.  They've put out a free e-book on the subject. Look around the site while you're there, you'll also find the 60 interviews that they did with experts in the field.

Ok, I'll let someone else talk.  This is not the post for debating my position - if you have a different one, post it.  I'd like anyone who comes here to read a variety of opinions.  I'll disclaim right up front saying that I WILL REMOVE ANYTHING WITH PERSONAL ATTACKS OR OTHER FLAME-WAR GENERATING COMMENTS.  Post your opinion and let it stand for itself. Links allowed.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Ask Your Joss Whedon Much Ado Questions HERE!

Ok, so, this has the potential to be highly exciting. Through the magic of Twitter I crossed paths last night with Brian McElhaney, who is part of the cast Joss Whedon's Much Ado : The Movie and one half of the comedy duo BriTANicK.  (The other half being Nick Kocher, who is also in the movie.)

"Can I interview you?" I immediately asked.

"Joss said yes, so yes!" he wrote back.

Wicked awesome.  (It just dawned on me that I'm now one step away from Joss Whedon. I wonder what that makes my Kevin Bacon number? ;) )

So, hit me with your questions!  I'll compile and send them over for both Nick and Brian to answer.  What do you want to know?  The faster we can make this happen the more of a scoop we get ;).

UPDATE - Please note!  We are asking questions of Brian and Nick, not Joss.  I see some questions directed at, well, the director.  Unless Brian and Nick have a direct line to the man and plan on funneling some questions over, you'll need to keep questions in the realm of what they themselves can answer.

UPDATED -- Questions closed!  I've batched up and reformatted questions as best I can, and sent them off to Brian and Nick.  If you want to make sure you see their answers the best way is to either follow us on Twitter or Facebook.

A Chip Off The Old Uncle Claudius

Here's a random thought that came to me while waiting for my wife's car at the shop (yes, again - don't buy a VW Routan.)

Of the few things we know about old King Hamlet, we know that he fought Old Fortinbras in honorable one-on-one combat.  True?

Claudius, on the other hand, is a sneaky backstabber who poisons King Hamlet in his sleep, and then later not only tries to pawn off his dirty work on England, but when that fails, he manipulates Laertes into doing it.  Claudius isn't much for facing his enemies.

So, then, where does Hamlet fall on that family tree?

Thinking Claudius to be behind the arras, he doesn't exactly say "Come out and face me," now does he? He blindly runs him through and hopes for the best.

Then, later? When he finds out about Rosencrantz and Guildenstern's secret mission to have him killed (a mission they didn't even know about), does he do them in? Nope - a little trickier with the note and he, too, lets England do his dirty work.

It is only in his final rage (panic?) that he murders Claudius in front of everybody.  An unarmed Claudius, mind you.  Granted, Claudius didn't exactly deserve a fair fight after everything he did, but still. You'd like to think that the good guy at least attempts to win a fair fight (I'm thinking Romeo/Tybalt - Romeo didn't sneak up on him, he came straight at him).

Kind of makes you wonder whether Hamlet's more like his dad's brother, than his dad.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Lady, You Picked The Wrong Parent

So today we had parent teacher conferences for all three of my kids. If you don't know the drill, basically you sit down in your 15 minute window and the teacher tries to calm all your fears, say nice things, and generally keep optimistic.

So, I find out that my middle child (7yrs old) is off the charts on her reading skills.  "126 words per minute with 97% accuracy," the teacher says, "Normally at this level we expect to see 50 word per minute and 70% accuracy."  The topic turns to coming up with challenging books for her, and the difference between "reads a lot" and "can read complex things."

The teacher explains that she's not a fan of challenging kids to the point of making them hate reading, and that she'd rather then tear through books that are easy, yet fun, rather than harder for them but boring.  Then she hits me with it.  "It's not like I'm going to assign them Shakespeare," she says.  "I hated Shakespeare in school, it was so hard and so boring and I just hated it."

"Funny you should mention him," I say with an ear-to-ear smirk.

"Why," she asks, "Are you a Shakespeare fan?"

"This is his thing," my wife jumps in with, "He does Shakespeare on the internet."

"Oh, really? How interesting!"

"I run a bunch of sites about Shakespeare, yes," I say.  "My kids have been raised on Shakespeare.  Go ahead and ask Elizabeth about the subject, see what she says."

"She could probably teach me!" laughs the teacher.

She probably could :).

"He could be one of your guest readers," my wife suggests.

Long story short? I may end up teaching a unit on Shakespeare to my daughter's second grade class.  Good times!

Long-time readers will remember that this is not my first rodeo -- I went into my oldest daughter's first grade class and tried reading them The Tempest. I think this time would go better.  Not only is it an older class, and not only am I more experienced at this game, but this time would be more about getting butts out of the seats and having *them* act it out, rather than trying to keep their attention while I read it.

I'll keep everybody updated on where that plan goes.

UPDATE! Much Ado About Joss Whedon

UPDATE!  There's a press release. Either that is new, or it was hidden or something because I didn't see anybody mention it a few hours ago.

Looks like this is the real deal - contains the cast breakdown and everything.  Shot in black and white in just a couple of weeks, by a new studio that's going to focus on exactly this kind of festival-friendly indie film.  Should be completed in the spring.  Awesome!

Geeks of all types are abuzz this morning about the news that Joss Whedon has managed to crank out a Shakespeare movie in secret, in his spare time:  Much Ado, The Movie

Whedon is legend among the geeky set for his work on Buffy, Angel, and Firefly, and if this movie is the real deal he brings with him his regular cast of players including Nathan Fillion, Sean Maher, Tom Lenk and Amy Acker.

Here's the thing, though.  Everybody's wondering if it's the real thing, or an elaborate joke.  Some points to consider:

* The man's in the middle of The Avengers, the biggest comic book movie in a generation of comic book movies.  And he managed to sneak in a Shakespeare movie in his spare time?

* He did it entirely in secret.  Who does that these days? How does a cast of characters like that manage to evade all of the gossip rags for however long it took, without word getting out?

* The only evidence that we have is a screen shot (which, obviously, could be fake), and the cast all tweeting "It's real!" which, of course, they would do if they were in on the joke.

* The screen shot, if you didn't notice, never mentions Shakespeare.  It just says "Based on a play."  So either that's a very low key "Look at us, we're doing Shakespeare!" or it's part of the joke and this is not a Shakespeare project.

* Interesting choice of play.  The title itself could be the joke, no?  The world gets all excited about what they think is a Shakespeare movie, and it turns out to be something completely different?  Much Ado About Nothing, no?

One curious point -- back on Oct 9 I spotted Nathan Fillion making Shakespeare references on Twitter.  That clearly came and went with no buzz (unlike last night), so maybe that wasn't part of the joke, maybe that was real?  But if so, what the heck?  He's reciting Shakespeare on 10/9 and by 10/23 filming is complete?  Does it really happen that quickly?

Here's my guess, for the record - I think it is real. I think that it's probably going to be a web project, like their Dr. Horrible from a few years back.  I think that, as a bunch of friends, they all basically got together in Whedon's back yard (figuratively speaking) and banged it out.  That way it's quick, it's among friends - easy to keep it a secret and do it during downtime.  No one said it was a *big* project.

Let's see how I do.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Shakespearean Movie Quotes (Guest Post)

The more Shakespeare you learn, the more you see, and that is delightful—most of the time; however, as the brain becomes more and more filled with Shakespeare, the Shakespeare tends to get mixed up with everything else. As an example, Bardfilm has compiled a list of the Shakespearean’s most frequently misquoted movie quotes. Enjoy!

Love means never having to say you're sorry. It also means drinking the poison right before your true love, the one you thought was dead, wakes up.

Is this a dagger that I see before me, the handle toward my hand, or are you just happy to see me?

You’ve got to ask yourself one question: “Do I feel lucky?” Well, do you, Puck?

I'm going to make him an offer he can't refuse: A pound of flesh for 3,000 ducats.

Hamlet: "Hello. My name is Hamlet of Elsinore. You killed my father. Prepare to die." Claudius: "Stop saying that!"

What we’ve got here, Yorick, is a failure to communicate.

Frankly, my dear, I don’t give an incestuous, murderous, damnèd Dane.

I’m as mad as Lear, and I’m not going to take it any more!

I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Then again, I thought that about Iago.

Show me the ducats!

Back to Milan, eh—with all this lot? You’re gonna need a bigger boat.

I see dead people. You know, the ghost of Lady Anne, the ghost of Hastings, the ghosts of the princes, the ghost of Buckingham—that kind of thing.

You had me at “Forsooth.”

Keep your Iagos close; but keep your Cassios closer.

“Open the pod bay doors, Hal.” “Shut up, Falstaff.”

Demetrius, I’ve got a feeling we’re not in Athens anymore.

[Singing wistfully] Nothing comes from nothing; nothing ever could. / But somewhere in her youth or childhood, / I must have smacked Cordelia good.

Striker: “S’blood, you can’t be serious!” Rumack: “I am serious . . . and don't call me S’blood.”

“What is between you, Ophelia? Give me up the truth.” “The truth? You can’t handle the truth!”

Horses? We ain't got no horses! We don't need no horses! I don't have to show you any stinking horses! So keep your lousy kingdom, which seems to be in a right shambles in any case.

Get your stinking paws off me, you incestuous, murderous, damnèd dirty Dane!

Of all the taverns in all the streets in all Eastcheap, she walks into mine.

Gertrude: [Flails about in agony, dies.] Claudius: I'll have what she's having.
Our thanks for this guest post to kj, the author of Bardfilm. Bardfilm is a blog that comments on films, plays, and other matters related to Shakespeare.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Nothing Personal, Duncan

We don't discuss interpretation of the text enough these days. I really should make more progress in R3, but that's a different story :).

The other day I answered somebody's question on Macbeth, asking what this quote means:

I have no spur To prick the sides of my intent

I pointed out that this quote is only partial, and when you look at the rest it makes more sense:

I have no spur
To prick the sides of my intent
, but only
Vaulting ambition, which o'erleaps itself

And falls on the other.
This quote comes from Macbeth himself, trying to pump up for the bloody deed he's about do (namely, kill the king).  My best summary for this particular passage was, "Nothing personal, Duncan.  I don't have to do this because of anything that you did.  You're just in the wrong place at the wrong time.  I want to be king, and that means you gotta go."

I know that's a gross over simplification, but sometimes that's all these kids want.  When I think of "translating Shakespeare into modern speech" this is what I think of.

Anybody want to help flesh out (or correct) that answer?  The next time somebody googles for the meaning of that quote I'd love for them to land here and see some interesting discussion about what that passage means.

Emery Battis, Veteran Shakespeare Actor, Dead at 96

I can't say I know much about Dr. Battis, but his resume is impressive to say the least and I felt that his contributions to our beloved playwright deserved a little recognition. Dr. Battis died this past weekend due to complications from bladder cancer.

Read the whole obituary to get the full span of this man's achievements - I'll list only a few here:

  • He played more than 90 characters in Shakespearean plays and, he often noted, had only one onstage kiss in his life.
  • He worked at Baltimore’s Centerstage before moving in 1984 to Washington, where he appeared in almost 70 productions of the Shakespeare Theatre. He received a Helen Hayes Award for his lifetime contributions to Washington theater in 2002.
  • Dr. Battis acted in all but one of Shakespeare’s 37 plays — the lone exception was “Cymbeline” — and gave his final performance as Marcade in a 2006 production of “Love’s Labour’s Lost” in the Bard’s home town of Stratford-upon-Avon in England
  • Battis’s Falstaff, one critic wrote, “was all that Shakespeare wrote the character to be: braggart, glutton, coward, liar, obscene buffoon, yet blessed with an indomitable spirit and an ability to laugh at himself.”
  • After a 1967 performance in Ohio, the Cleveland Plain Dealer proclaimed Dr. Battis’s interpretation “the best Lear of our generation.”
Sounds like we lost one of the good ones. Anybody out there happen to know his work, and can share any stories/experiences?

Flights of angels, Dr. Battis.  RIP.

First Coriolanus, Now Antony + Cleopatra?

"It's a long way down the line," but director Ralph Fiennes wouldn't mind following up his Coriolanus with a shot at Antony and Cleopatra.

I hope that his Coriolanus does well, and that this represents a new trend in Shakespeare movies - away from our yearly versions of Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet and Macbeth, and starting to show more love toward these other great plays that, really, are as good as lost to a modern audience. 

What plays would you love to see on Fiennes' list?  I'd love to see him do something with the histories, ala Welles' Chimes at Midnight. Not that exact story, but that idea -- tell a large chunk of the history plays while at the same time telling your own story.

I've also heard praise for Timon of Athens, so I'm waiting for somebody to breathe some life into that one as well.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Curse of Iago

I can't find the original reference, but Friday on Twitter I saw somebody say something like "by that logic Iago would be 408 years old."

And I thought, "You know, Iago never actually dies at the end of the play. They just take him away to be tortured.  How cool would it be if he was in fact immortal?"

The plot of a horror movie formed in my brain.  Bunch of college kids over in Italy (American kids studying abroad, of course), working on Othello.  Over study group they have the "Iago didn't die" conversation.   "You know this is based on a true story, right?" one of the kids says.  "And it took place not too far from here..." It's only a matter of time before they're crawling around centuries-old tunnels, until they reach the very chamber where Iago was brought so long ago...

...what happens next?  And where my screenwriters at? Make it happen!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Instant Shakespeare

This article from The Idler on Shakespeare movie adaptations doesn't cover the same old ground that everybody else does. Rarely do you see mention of Edward II or Middleton's Revengers Tragedy amid the praise for Heath Ledger's work in 10 Things I Hate About You.

I'm linking the article for the list at the bottom - the author has gone into Netflix and made a list of all the Shakespeare adaptations that are available for instant streaming.  I've often browsed the listings myself, stumbling across items such as Jarman's 1979 Tempest (Mentioned in the article) or James Earl Jones' King Lear. I wonder how complete her list is?  That would be a great resource if it was kept up to date somewhere.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Unrehearsed Shakespeare

(This story comes to us by way of JCKibbey, on Twitter.)

I'd not heard of "unrehearsed Shakespeare" when JC Kibbey mentioned it to me over the weekend, but I have to say that I think I get it, and I think I like it.

Let me see if I can do it justice.  Start with a group of actors who have at least some degree of training in Shakespeare - how to read a First Folio, paying attention to punctuation cues and whatever stage directions might be at hand.

Now, hand them cue scripts - where they see only their lines, not the entire play. I don't know how much time they get to learn their part, or if we're literally talking about a performance where the cast is still "on book".  But, regardless....action!  The cast and the audience alike get to watch the play unfold, not knowing what's coming next.

This is supposed to mimic original practice, according to proponents of the style.  Costume and props are minimal, and the audience is encouraged to be just as ... lively? ... as they would have been in Shakespeare's day.  Audience participation and interaction is encouraged.

Sounds like a neat idea.  I have to admit that, as an audience member, I'd never even consider sitting down to a Shakespeare play without having read it.  So the "cast and audience watch the play unfold together" thing would be lost on me.  But, obviously, original audiences did not often have that luxury.

Thoughts? Surely the emphasis alone on First Folio text, and using punctuation as your director, makes this an effort worthy of some respect.

George R.R Martin's Song of Fire And ... Richard III?

It seems that George R.R. Martin's Song of Fire and Ice books are very popular these days (something to do with an HBO series?).  I don't know much about them, but thought that this crowd might appreciate a writeup showing that it's basically the story of Richard III.

Anybody out there familiar enough with both to comment on the similarities?

Saturday, October 08, 2011

I Did Not Anticipate the "Anonymous" Spam

I'm going to attribute it to bad PR/marketing and not Oxfordian conspiracy, but for the last few days I've had a steady stream of commenters who say nothing but "Hey have you heard about the new Anonymous movie?" along with a link to the Youtube trailer.  This is clearly not coincidence.  I expect that whoever is doing the marketing for the movie went onto Amazon's Mechanical Turk (or some other service where you can pay people 50 cents for a simple task) and told them, "Go drive up interest in this movie."

Dear marketing folks,

I watch all comments on this blog.  When I think they're spam, I delete them.  If someone's entire contribution to any given thread is to link your movie? It's spam. So you're wasting your time.

Have a nice day,


Friday, October 07, 2011

Halloween Costume Achieved

So for the past couple of years I've been talking about Shakespeare Halloween costumes, but never pulled the trigger on any of them.  I don't want to get some generic "Romeo" costume from a store, but I don't want to do something that nobody other than you folks would recognize, either.  (Amusing trivia -- google "Romeo costume", "Hamlet costume" and "Shakespeare costume" and the *same* costumes will show up again and again.  Argh!)

This year I had Hamlet on my brain.  I figured, "Black pants, black shirt with at least some kind of Renaissancy thing going on.  Fencing sword.  Carry around a skull.  Done."  Harder to find than it looks.  I didn't want to look like Steve Jobs talking to a skull.  Too soon.

Then, today in the costume store, it hit me - instead of going as Hamlet, I could go as .... Yorick.

There it stood, one of those "scary court jester" costumes, with the checkerboard pattern (what is the name of that?), the funny hat with bells, and a skull for a face.  Perfectoroonie.

If I can swing it, I'm going to get a stuffed Piglet doll and velcro him to my shoulders.  Get it?  He hath borne me on his back a thousand times? Piglet as Hamlet?  That's funny, like, a dozen different ways.

I'm torn on whether to give myself a name tag that reads "A fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy", or to actually carry around a copy of Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace.  I'm thinking the nametag, though, because a) I'd likely put the book down at some point, and b) I've never read that book so I wouldn't want people to think I want to discuss it. :)

Bonus Achievement #1: Dress up like this as I go around trick or treating with my children.  Print up the entire speech, sign it, and hand it out to anybody that says "Who are you supposed to be?"  Drive up some free publicity, *and* appreciation of Shakespeare.

Bonus Achievement #2:  My wife's already decided to break out her old "Renaissance maiden" costume from a previous Halloween, which if I'd pulled off Romeo, I was going to call Juliet.  But I'm thinking if I can convince her to carry a basket of weeds and maybe stick some seaweed in her hair we can call her Ophelia.  Nobody but me would appreciate the awesomeness of dead Ophelia and dead Yorick as a couple, but I'll see what I can arrange.

I will take and post pictures of the final result!

EDIT : If I can't figure out a way to make Piglet stay on my shoulders, I shall print out a big 8x10 of David Tennant (or Kenneth Branagh or Mel Gibson or Laurence Olivier...) and tape him to my back.  Same idea. :)

Shakespeare Aloud

You want to see somebody read Shakespeare's entire works, while traveling the world?  Here you go!

What made this a must post for me is that the dude was in Boston, just a week or two ago!  I was walking those very places just last week for my anniversary.  I know that horse!
I'll have to check around and see whether he's doing any sort of schedule ahead of time, I think it would be great to see him develop a Forrest Gump-like following that grows and grows with each passing day.

You Never Know Who's Quoting You

So, those of you that follow us on Twitter probably saw at least some of the Steve Jobs tributes pouring in over the last few days. As a lifelong techie, I was certainly part of that.  I wrote a bunch of stuff.  What's interesting is that one of them got me quoted in the Christian Science Monitor, which I guess is a good thing. But...which quote?

Let's play a game.  Here's a bunch of stuff I wrote on the subject of Jobs' passing.  You tell me which one got the most "retweets", and which one got quoted in the CS Monitor.
No fair peeking at the link!

  1. "If you've got a second, take a moment to report every single spammer camping on a Steve Jobs keyword. Bastards."
  2. "It's in Apple's DNA that technology alone is not enough. That it's technology married with liberal arts ...that makes our hearts sing." #iSad
  3. Steve Jobs' Dream and "Gonzo Shakespeare"  (link to previous story)
  4. Cry God for Harry, Apple and Steve Jobs!  (link to an old comic)
  5. Steve Jobs was better than Santa Claus, because he'd show up once a year and offer us toys that we'd never even imagined could exist. #iSad
  6. Rip, mix, Bard.  #iSad
  7. We know Jobs didn't invent or build anything alone. The point is that without him out there to preach it, the world wouldn't have changed.
  8. The transition was made, the company is in capable hands, but does anybody really think Apple will ever be the same again? #RIPSteveJobs
  9. On an uplifting note, Jobs was a practicing Buddhist, so rest easy in the belief that his energy is still out there to be absorbed again.
  10. I'd really hoped, when he stepped down, that he was going to be able to live in peace, quiet and happiness for a little while. #iSad
  11. Ok...just saw someone refer to Jobs as our generation's JFK. Let's not go crazy. An assassinated president, he was not.
  12. The NeXT computer, also a Jobs invention, used to ship with Shakespeare's Complete Works built in. RIP Steve Jobs
  13. I don't have anything special to say, I just like this hashtag: #iSad
  14. Even if you don't have a Mac, an iPod or an've seen a Pixar movie. That was Jobs at work, too. #ripstevejobs
  15. Extra special bonus points to Bill Gates for referring to his friendship with Jobs as an "insanely great" honor. #ripstevejobs
  16. He was a man, take him for all in all, We shall not look upon his like again. #ripstevejobs
  17. 1984: Got to play with an original Mac. Tried to type, was told to move the mouse instead. I declared it stupid. Guess I was wrong. :)
  18. Flights of angels sing thee sweetly to thy rest, Mr. Jobs. #SteveJobs #RIP

Got your guesses?

The most RT'd line, if Twitter's reporting is to be believed, was #5 (the Santa Claus) line.  Twitter stops reporting at "100+" RTs so I have no idea how much it circulated, but it was substantially more than any of the others.

As to which one got me quoted in the CS Monitor, well, go check that link now to see if you guessed right :).

(* On a related note, I was surprised to see that such a link did not get me a big bump in Twitter followers, but then I noticed that the author does not link back to the people he quoted.  That's bad form, sir! No cookie for you!)

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Shakespeare Slam for Guy Fawkes' Day

I went to this event last year, and they're doing it again - November 5, just in time for you-know-who's day.

What is it?  Shakespeare, Open Mic.  If you've got something to perform, put your name on the list and get up and do it! 

I didn't love it last year, but that was mostly due to the circumstances.  I'd brought the kids, but it's not really a kid-friendly place (practically standing room only, and getting food in the bar's backroom where it was held proved pretty tricky).  Plus I had no idea what to expect, and what I saw looked to me like a bunch of people who already knew each other, getting up and doing set pieces.  I wasn't sure where the open part was coming from.

But I spoke with the organizer after the event (that's what that second link is, up there), and he told me that while yes, they did deliberately schedule some "anchor acts" to make sure that the night had some structure, most of the acts were indeed just individuals who'd signed up and gotten up. 

If you're in the neighborhood (Somerville, MA), go check it out!  Don't bring the kids. 

My Sonnet

(From the archives - August, 2005)

I think that many (most?) of you probably weren't hanging around back in 2005, just a few short months after I started this blog.  So I think that very few people saw this.  Today I was helping out over on Yahoo! Answers, talking about sonnets, and was reminded of my own venture into this world. Thought I'd share a bit of a walk down memory lane...


A Gift for My Daughter

Ok, here goes nothing. When my daughter Katherine was born I wrote her a baby diary detailing every day of Kerry's pregnancy. One of those, "It's not something she'll understand now, but maybe when she gets older she'll appreciate it" gifts.

When Kerry was pregnant with Elizabeth I knew that I'd have to do something similar, but not the same. It hasn't been easy, and I haven't been doing a very good job of trying. Her first birthday is next week and I owe her this special gift.

So, I present a sonnet. I hope it's good.

She looks at me and all my cares of mind
Dissolve like fleeting clouds from sun-warm'd skies.
Halt, Time! Preserve this wonder that I find
When I behold the heavens in her eyes.

But would the echoes of her laughter fade,
A cold eternal silence in their wake?
What dreams left unfulfilled, what bliss delayed,
If I should all of her tomorrows take?

Her future's yet to come, mine lies unfurl'd:
'Tis not for me alone that she exists.
For no imagination in the world
Could e'er conceive of beauty such as this.

So put your hand in mine and walk with me,
And know that all my life, I live for thee.

Updated 8/22: Changed a few words around.

I have no idea if it's any good, but I think the most important thing right now has been to finish it. Being the geek I am I did my best to get the Elizabethan form down. It helps that my daughter's name is Elizabeth, because that makes it all the more geeky :), even if I'm the only one in my family gets the joke.

I'm hoping to print it, frame it, and stick it on a wall until she's about 15 years old or so, in high school, and learns what a sonnet is. Then I can point to it and see what she thinks.

Her birthday is Wednesday so I still have a few ideas to futz over it and tweak a word here and there, this is really just the first complete draft. But, again, I want to commit myself to it so that I finish the fool thing and don't put it on the shelf with all the other great ideas.
File this one as complete, by the way - a matted, framed version hangs from her bedroom wall.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Is Lion King supposed to be Hamlet? Answered.

When I first saw Lion King, I never recognized it as a Hamlet story. In fact, I've never really bought it as a deliberate Hamlet story - I always thought that the similarities were coincidental at best.  Not every "Uncle kills the father, son avenges" story is Hamlet.

Well now, with the new 3D release of the movie, we can confirm the answer (courtesy of The Hamlet Weblog):

When we first pitched the revised outline of the movie to Michael Eisner, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Peter Schneider and Tom Schumacher, someone in the room announced that Hamlet was similar in its themes and relationships. Everyone responded favorably to the idea that we were doing something Shakespearean and so we continued to look for ways to model our film on that all time classic.
This may or may not be the answer you were looking for. It was not written to be Hamlet.  How many "ways to model" their film they found, we don't know.