Friday, October 31, 2014

Rosencrantz and Ethernet

As a lifelong computer geek, and a student of the history of my industry, I am disappointed in myself that I've never heard this story.  Credit to Walter Isaacson's Innovators for setting me straight.

Once upon a time (1989 to be precise), the inventors of the internet got together and threw a party. I'm not talking about Al Gore and the other talking heads of what the modern generation knows about the net, I'm talking about the academic, government and military minds working under the covers to build the protocols that went into allowing the net to exist in the first place.

You know what these guys did when they partied? They read poetry. Because once upon a time, the smartest people in the world thought that they were creating technology in order to help them pursue the humanities. I think I would have liked these guys.

Anyway, Vint Cerf (who went on to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005) got up a read a poem.  What he read, was this:

         Vint Cerf
All the world's a net!  And all the data in it merely packets
come to store-and-forward in the queues a while and then are
heard no more.  'Tis a network waiting to be switched!

To switch or not to switch?  That is the question.  Whether
'tis wiser in the net to suffer the store and forward of
stochastic networks or to raise up circuits against a sea
of packets and, by dedication, serve them.

To net, to switch.  To switch, perchance to slip!
Aye, there's the rub.  For in that choice of switch,
what loops may lurk, when we have shuffled through
this Banyan net?  Puzzles the will, initiates symposia,
stirs endless debate and gives rise to uncontrolled
flights of poetry beyond recompense!

You probably have to be a computer geek to get most of that, but when I heard it come through my headphones I knew I had to post it!

Dreaming in Shakespeare

The following post contains insights into my subconscious that could be considered TMI.  You have been warned.

I love it when I dream in Shakespeare, if even a little bit. The annoying thing about my dreams, though - and this goes way way back to when I was a kid - I can't *do* anything. Whenever a situation arises that would normally have me thinking, "Yup, I got this" something equivalent to that "running through molasses while being chased" feeling kicks in and I can't accomplish what I thought I could. When I was in high school I studied karate for a long time, but whenever karate came up in a dream and I thought "Ok I'm going to crush this with my best side kick" I'd end up moving in slow motion and glancing my target. You know that feeling? The same thing happens with reading and writing. I can pick up a book in my dream where I know the book, but when I try to read it my brain goes all "nope, you have no memory of these pages". It's not that they are blank, or blurry, it's that I literally am conscious of thinking, "Why am I unable to read this book?"

I'm not sure where we were.  It was a job interview, or a contest of some sort. There was me and another guy, and somebody who was clearly a host/announcer of some sort that made me think maybe this was a game show. But we were back stage, competing for who got to go on.  The category was Shakespeare, and I remember thinking "I got this", thinking that there'd be some sort of identify the play or where the quote came from question coming next.

The question was, in that garbled sort of dream speak where you only get bits and pieces, "In the following quote,  "...and the hey and the ho and the holly" what mistake needs to be corrected? Is it a) there is a word missing, b) the H's need to be capitalized or c) the quote is correct."

Yikes. I recognize the quote, it's the song from As You Like It, but of course this being a dream it never goes easy for me and I don't have to identify it, I have to remember it perfectly? And yes, he really did read a quote out loud and then ask about capitalized words. This no doubt comes from helping my elementary school children with their homework and seeing how often a word is marked wrong because they should have used a capital letter, and didn't.

My dream self goes for capital letters, B.  Why, I can't exactly remember. It's wrong of course, but technically they're all wrong.

The actual quote is, "then heigh-ho, the holly." Depending on who you ask, apparently, it's also pronounced "hi" rather than "hey". I'm not sure which is correct, I just know that the dwarf song from the Snow White movie is officially called "Heigh-ho" even though they clearly sing "hi".

By the way, I know why it was that quote, too.  Check out this snippet of IM conversation with Bardfilm from ... 10 days ago:

10:29:06 AM ShakespeareGeek:  WTH is this madness?  Shakespeare's christmas poem?
10:30:40 AM ShakespeareGeek: so they just helped themselves to a song from as you like it? i don't understand this/
10:33:43 AM bardfilm: Hang on . . .
10:34:04 AM bardfilm: Oh—the holly?
10:34:10 AM ShakespeareGeek: yeah
10:34:19 AM ShakespeareGeek: never really heard it just snipped out and appropriated as a christmas song before
10:34:23 AM bardfilm: Let’s see . . . Arden edition . . . 
10:35:39 AM bardfilm: “The evergreen holly was venerated and bought o have some connection with the word ‘holy.’  Cf. the carol, ‘The Holly and the Ivy.’”

So apparently my subconscious chews on stuff for around 10 days before it pops back up again in my dreams.

That's it. Had to share this brief glimpse into my psyche.  Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Alternate Forms for Sonnet 18

Adam Bertocci, who brought us Two Gentlemen of Lebowski, just blew my mind. He didn't just write half a dozen alternate versions of Shakespeare's most famous sonnet, he wrote 22 of them.

Can you even *name* 22 different styles of poetry? I couldn't.

Haiku version? Check.   Limerick? Of course. Petrarchan and Spenserian variations on the form? No problem.

How about one written in Abecedarian? That's when you write your words in a____ b___ c___ sequence, and yes you include Q, X and Z, and stop at Z.

Or what about Pilish?  That's a three letter word followed by a one letter word, then four, then one, then five... following the digits of pi (3.1415...)

Now realize that I've only named 6 of them. He wrote 22. Enjoy.  Very impressive, Adam!

Bad Reasons to Read Shakespeare

If you had to read that headline twice, don't worry, so did I. I appreciate the acknowledgement that there are already so many reasons to read Shakespeare, but I had no idea that some of the reasons themselves might be bad.

The article first cites the whole "Shakespeare's unusual word choice and structure makes your brain work harder" argument that came up a few years ago as the first of the bad reasons.  You want to know why it's a bad reason?  Here, let me quote the article for you:

There are easier and quicker ways, I’m sure, to boost your neural activity if that’s what you really want to do.
I love the "I'm sure" thrown into it.  Is this your graduate thesis?  They love it when that expression comes up.  "Well no, I don't actually have any evidence to support my case, but you know, I'm sure there is some." Cite counter evidence or GTFO, as they say in the forums.

Second is the "easier and quicker ways" argument. I have no doubt that there are.  Not everybody evaluates their educational path by asking "What's the quickest and easiest way for me to get there?"

The second bad reason is that reading great literature makes us more empathetic, compassionate, better people. At least, so says the 2013 paper she references.  But ha!  That paper is obviously ridiculous because there's counter evidence ... published in 1963.  Methinks the time-traveller doth protest too much.

Let me rephrase the second half of the article:  "This dude Copernicus says that the sun is the center of the universe, but I mean duh, come on, really, Ptolemy already proved that the Earth is the center of the universe, like, a thousand years ago."

I'm all for scientific research, and if somebody publishes something that says one thing, it's the job of those reading it to try and debunk it. I just don't think this article does a good job.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Predictions for Julie Taymor's Dream?

It looks like Julie Taymor has completed filming her upcoming A Midsummer Night's Dream. I wasn't a big fan of her Tempest and I've only seen pieces of her Titus, so I guess I'm not really into her directorial style.  But! I'm a big fan of Shakespeare on film so I'm always interested in new versions that will get some amount of distribution.

There's not a lot of content in the article about what she plans, except for one thing.  A bed. She says that's the "essential image" of this play.

My question is, what do you think she's going to do with it? Is a bed supposed to work with the whole "dream" thing, or is it symbolic of some of the more sexual elements of the play?

I'm pretty sure this is just a filmed version of a stage production she directed. Has anyone seen that one?

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

This Story Shall The Good Man Teach His Son ( A Geeklet in the Morning Story)

I haven't done one of these in awhile. Bear with me as I tell the whole thing, it's worth it.

My oldest, in middle school, gets up first to catch the bus. So she's having breakfast and my wife says, "Who wants to take the garbage out?"

I suggest that perhaps Sarah might like to do it.

My daughter's name is not Sarah. Neither of them get my joke. Sigh.

I fire up YouTube and begin playing Shel Silverstein's classic Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout, would not take the garbage out. The only hint of recognition I get is when my daughter complains to my wife, "I'm trying to get out the door for the bus and daddy's at the computer spicing hams."

So off she goes, and soon the younger two come down for their breakfast. Because of the timing they have a much lower key breakfast, longer time to hang out and do silly things. So soon my Shel Silverstein playlist turns into Alan Sherman, which turns into Dr. Demento, and soon we're listing to "Please Mr. Custer".

I'm loving this, because the first record album (that's right, I said record album) I ever ordered on my own, with my own money, from a tv commercial no less, was "Goofy Gold" that had all this great novelty stuff on it.

Anyway, my kids have no idea who General Custer is, so I explain.  In short, "He took his men out to fight the indians but when he got there, there was like a thousand times more indians than he thought there was, and they all got killed. This song is a joke about the night before the battle and how his soldiers don't want to go."

My son, who is eight, asks if we can see the Shakespeare one about the Americans.  I've got no idea what he's talking about, but he's asking about Shakespeare and I'm not about to let that opportunity go to waste.  He tells me, "The one where the guys have to go into battle but the other guys have more guys than they do and they think they're gonna lose but they win."

Oh!  He's talking about Henry V St. Crispin's Day Speech. Happy to oblige!  Where he got Americans I have no idea, I'm assuming he uses "English" and "American" interchangeably. He's also actually remembered enough about this scene that a description of Custer's Last Stand has him making the connection. I like it.

After the video he asks for the details of how much they were outnumbered and we google it.  He asks me if it would be possible for one army to just have one guy, and still win.

I paused, not believing my luck, and told him, "Actually that's a different play. That's called Coriolanus."

So we start watching Tom Hiddleston's Coriolanus. Actually I just fast forward to the scene before Corioli and explain, "He's trying to get them riled up to storm into the city, but they're all afraid to follow him, so he says forget you guys and goes all by himself. By the way, does he look familiar?"  I'm figuring that he might recognize Loki from the Avengers movie.

"Is that Adam Levine?"  From Maroon 5?  No, but great guess! :)

Tom is gone so I continue my summary, "Now all the soldiers think that they're safe, they think that their leader is pretty much dead at this point, they can't believe he was so stupid that he just walked into the enemy's city all by himself.  Some of the general's friends come in who think that maybe they should go after him and try to save him before he gets killed. Now watch."

Enter Tom, looking like Walking Dead.  I've not seen this before, I had no idea he was covered in so much blood.  "See? He comes back and tell them ok you bunch of sissies, now I softened them up for you, *now* do you want to follow me?"

Eventually we have to walk to school, where I continue trying to explain Coriolanus to them. How awesome is it going to be months from now when some other random thing occurs and my eight year old references a Shakespearean tragedy that most adults don't even know exists?