Saturday, November 01, 2014

Hamlet, Put Down the Skull.

So I saw somebody carrying a skull as part of her Halloween costume, and of course I had to come up with some jokes about Yorick, being quite chap-fallen, could not enjoy the Reese's Pieces he did love so very much.  So of course I had to pull up Hamlet's speech to get my quotes right.  I go to the MIT (Moby) version, because it's the easiest to search:

And I thought, "Wait... there's a stage direction that tells him to put down the skull? That seems oddly specific for a play that rarely states stage directions beyond who enters, exits and dies."

So I go look it up in the First Folio, as you folks have taught me to do:

Nope! Not there. I'm not surprised, I get that various editions get conflated over the years.  But the thing is, I checked two quartos as well as Second and Third Folio, and I can't find it in any of those, either.

Anybody know when this got added?  And possibly the more interesting question, why? Was there an edition where somebody went in and really got specific about such things, for some reason? Maybe David Garrick kept forgetting to put down Yorick and would end up carrying him through the rest of the scene until a director got the idea to write it into the script :)

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.