Monday, April 30, 2007

OS X vs Vista : Now That's Geeky,39030785,49289872-1,00.htm

Talk about pinging high on ye olde Shakespeare Geek meter!  Over on CNet UK we have a comparison of OS X (the Mac operating system, for those who are more Shakespeare and less geek :)) versus Vista, the latest offering from Microsoft.  The catch is that they've done it up as an "Elizabethan duel", and by that they mean literally with actors and everything.  Their task is to "win the hand of the fair Maiden Mainstream, played as in olden times by the hairy bloke in the dress."

The comparison between the two is fairly light, focusing on security, performance and usability.  Who wins?  It doesn't really matter, does it?  If you're a fan of either operating system and your champion loses, you'll cry foul.  But it's still a fun, different way to do the review.  Especially for this crowd.


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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

'Speare : Shakespeare Meets the Aliens

When I heard about a Shakespeare video game, naturally my ears went up.  It seems that the fine folks at University of Guelph have created 'Speare, a video game designed to teach Shakespeare's work.  Here's the hook, though - it's a Space Invaders game, with a Shakespeare storyline.  The game itself is a 2D vertical scrolling shooter, and you get to blast things and collect things.  (Remember the rules:  If it moves, shoot it.  If it doesn't move, shoot it anyway.  If it's still there when the dust clears, pick it up, it's treasure.)  The storyline is all about how the "Prosperean" universe is all about peace, love and poetry until the bad guys come around and, having something to do with the Montagues and Capulets, steal Romeo and Juliet?  I got lost somewhere laong the line because I'm at work and I was trying to get through as much as I could before I got caught.

I'm actually quite intrigued.  It sounds like a dumb idea at first, but if you look at it the other way -- "videogame with Shakespeare in it", instead of "Shakespeare via videogame", then why not?  All good shooters need a story.  If this story happens to teach you something about Shakespeare, all the better.

You can play the demo online at the link above (you do have to register), and I'm anxious to get through it.  They want $20 for the full version, which I might do (they take PayPal, and I always keep a few bucks online for just such an occasion) to help support such projects.


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Saturday, April 21, 2007

Shakespeare Pen

No, not Shakespeare's pen.  A Shakespeare Pen.  Fancy pen created by someone I'm presuming is an artist named Conway Stewart.  It is hand painted with a scene of Romeo and Juliet on the barrel, and Shakespeare himself on the cap.

It's $2450, though.  Looks like I won't be putting that on my Amazon Wishlist for my birthday :).


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Friday, April 20, 2007

Forget Cliff's Notes, Just Read KPhoebe

Sometimes reading LiveJournal references to Shakespeare can be annoying.  More often than not they're just trivial references from kids in school talking to each other and then saying "yeah, I should work on that Shakespeare paper tonight."  Like you really needed to tag your post as Shakespeare for that.

But every now and then you find gold.  Go read KPhoebe's Shakespeare Summaries right now.  Funniest thing I've read in a long time, and actually very useful!  She's not the first person to whittle down Shakespeare to his essence and try to be funny at it, but unlike other cruder attempts (where Romeo and Juliet is always reduced to "Hi, wanna do me?  Argh, I'm dying!  Me too!  The end."), these summaries actually cover the entire play and leave you with the feeling that you pretty much got the plot and were entertained in the process:

A snippet from her Much Ado....

Claudio: Hero, you’re a whore!
Hero: I am not!
Prince: Are too! Wedding's off. To me, my X-men Claudio!
Friar: Let’s pretend Hero is dead while we work to clear her name, and then Claudio will be sorry. But no pretend-death sleeping potions, because this is a comedy.
Benedick: Hey, Beatrice. I love you.
Beatrice: I love you too. Wanna kill Claudio?
Benedick: Oh, man! He’s my bank account best friend! Still, anything for the lady… Claudio, Hero’s dead, and I challenge you.
Claudio: O rly?
Benedick: Ys rly.
Claudio: No wai!
Benedick: But first I will try my hand at poetry.


And a little All's Well...

Countess: My husband has died and I’m sad.
Helena: My father has died, and I’m sad.
Bertram: I am the Countess’s son and I am also sad. But also WOO WAR. *goes to Marseilles*

Countess: Do you love my son, girl-who-I-regard-as-a-daughter-even-though-she-is-lower-class?
Helena: Yes, though I am totally not worthy of his awesomeness because I am lower class.
Countess: Aw, but you are pretty awesome yourself. Even though you are lower class.
Helena: Thanks. Hey, you know how the King is really sick and my dad just happened to be a famous doctor? I have a recipe for a possible cure!
Countess: Well, move your ass, honey!
King: Woe, woe, I am dying. Oh, hey, who’s this lower class cutie?
Helena: I have a cure! And I am so confident that it’ll work that I will wager my life on it.
King: Iiiiinteresting. And what will you take if it works?
Helena: How about my choice of husband?


Yes, Karen, you are indeed funny.  Do Taming of the Shrew!  Do Taming of the Shrew!!  Actually I'm already pretty familiar with that one.  Do Winter's Tale!  Do Winter's Tale!!


Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Shakespeare Writing Assignments

ShakespeareTeacher's got a good post up about some writing assignments that he just handed out.  He's looking for input on more ideas for such assignments.  I like the "write something in iambic pentameter" one, and think it could go even farther.  A while back I wrote an Elizabethan sonnet for my daughter's first birthday, and it was fun to meet the structural requirements on all levels, not just the rhyme scheme but the overall theme as well.  I'm not a big fan of "translate Shakespeare's words today's language" because it always means "get the plot, lose the poetry".  It's like for someone to say that "I have of late but wherefore I know not lost all my mirth" really means "I'm bummed out and I don't know why."  True, but man, it loses something.

Argh, reasons to hate MySpace

So I'm cruising through my backlog of Shakespeare blog posts and find an entry where somebody is memorizing the sonnets.  Good for him, it's a good thing to do.  He then includes the ones that he has memorized, along with a translation.  Fine. But dear God, his translation of Sonnet 18 can be summed up as "You're pretty now, but eventually you're going to get old and not be pretty any more so I'll write you a poem so you remember how pretty you used to be."

And then without being logged in to myspace, I can't comment on it.

Perhaps that's for the best? :)


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Stumble Upon Some Shakespeare

I always try to poke through the search engine / aggregator / bookmark sites when I find them, looking for new Shakespeare stuff.  When I realized that I'd been stumbled upon recently (thanks Bill!), I naturally poked around to discover what other goodness they have in their Shakespeare category.  I'm disappointed to see only 10 sites, of which 3 are "Shakespearean insulter."  Why does everybody love that site so much?

There appears to be a group, which is apparently for discussion, but it's basically empty.  Oh well.



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Shakespeare's Birthday

I'm actually going to be travelling on Monday, so I thought I'd post something now.  Shakespeare's birthday is widely considered to be April 23, which happens to coincide with the day that he died(*).  The only similar occurence of which I'm familiar is the famous Mark Twain / Halley's Comet connection, where he "came in and went out with it", in Twain's own words.  It wasn't the same day, though.  But still a neat bit of trivia.  While I'm on Twain I might as well link to Is Shakespeare Dead? by Mr. Twain himself.

Anyway, back to the Bard.  I wish I lived someplace where they celebrate his birthday with parades!

(*) Records indicate his baptism as April 26, and at the time Christenings were done 3 days after the birth.  So April 23 is a convenient guess, like much of his biography.

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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

2BR02B ("To Be R Naught To Be")

In tribute to Kurt Vonnegut, TimeTravelerShow podcast has an audio of this Vonnegut story about "population control."  Posting here because of the obvious Shakespeare reference, and because Vonnegut was awesome.  So it goes.

[Found via]


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Access My Library : The Thomson Gale Shakespeare Collection, FREE

I've been contacted by the marketing agency for, a "library advocacy site featuring the Thomson Gale's online content."  I have no idea what this means, but when he said "The Shakespeare Collection" my ears went up.  It's National Library Week (April 15-21) and they're highlighting this "free search engine that is all Shakespeare, all the time."    You do have to register, but you can just put in random characters for email and phone, it won't check.

I did cruise around briefly, and I wish I had more time to take this sort of stuff in.  I browsed through a prompt book from Romeo and Juliet circa 1841.  Those are always neat, since you get to see handwritten notes about the actual production.  This one included diagrams of how the scenes would be staged.

The only caveat I can find is that I'm not fully sure what parts are free all the time, and which parts are going to stop being free after National Library Week.  It does say that the Shakespeare collection is free all the time, so that's good.


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But Glorious! What light through yonder action figure breaks?

Well it's different, I'll give it that. Remember MadLibs, where you fill in the nouns, verbs and adjectives and get back a goofy version of the original?  I'm surprised I never saw this before, but somebody thought to do it with Shakespeare.  Here's my entry, although I confess to just hitting the "fill with random words" button since I barely have time to post these things much less be all creative about it.


Mad:)Glibs - free online Mad Libs
Shakespeare`s Romeo and Juliet?
But glorious! What light through yonder action figure breaks?
It is the East, and Juliet is the chord!
Arise, fair sun, and lodge the envious moon,
Who is already sick and few with grief
That thou her boy art far more fair than she.
Be not her boy, since she is envious.
Her vestal livery is but sick and green,
And none but fools do communicate it. Cast it off.
It is my lady; O, it is my robber!
O that she knew she were!
She sings, yet she says nothing. What of that?
Her foreheads discourses; I will answer it.
I am too troubled; `tis not to me she sings.
Two of the fairest stars in all the Boston, MA,
Having some business, do entreat her foreheads
To shoot in their trapezoids till they return.
What if her foreheads were there, they in her head?
The clock of her cheek would shame those stars
As daylight doth a lamp; her foreheads in Boston, MA
Would through the airy criterion stream so bright
That Ermines would sing and think it were not night.
See how she leans her cheek upon her curriculum!
O that I were a glove upon that curriculum,
That I might touch that cheek!
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Thursday, April 12, 2007

And now, "toolish" last lines of Shakespeare

So I just did famous last words.  It's only appropriate (I wonder if this person saw the same post I did?) then to look at cases where the last words of a figure weren't exactly something to write home about.  Last lines that, in the author's opinion, end up making the character sound like a tool.

I think he cheaps out with the Pyramus reference, since that wasn't a real character death.  But I agree with Paris, he was a bit flowery for me, even when dying.


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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Famous Last Words

If there's one thing you can say about Shakespearean tragic heroes, it's that they certainly get to say what's on their mind before they kick it.  Wikiquote, offshoot of Wikipedia, actually has a whole page dedicated to Shakespearean last words.  The most obvious ones (Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, etc...) are in there, but also Titus, Richard II, King John, and a number of others.  I'm not really sure if there's a system to figuring out just how much context to put on "last words".  After all, somebody recently told me that a NY Times crossword clue recently was Romeo's last words and the answer they wanted ended up being just the last four letters (I won't spoil it if you're looking for the answer - that's on the Romeo page). This is about as poetic as his last word being "Arrrghhhh." (Thanks to Monty Python for that joke.)

If you're into lists of Shakespeare quotes, don't leave without checking out the Top 5 Best Things To Say Before Killing Somebody.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Shakespeare Meme

There's a meme going around (mostly LiveJournal) that says "When you see a Shakespeare quote, post one of your own."  I'm not in the mood to play that, since I can quote Shakespeare whenever I want :).  But I thought it would be fun to see what people are quoting.  So I blog searched for "shakespeare meme" and "quote shakespeare" over the last few days and tallied the results.  Guess who wins?

Quoted Once :  Julius Caesar, Othello, As You Like It, Comedy of Errors, Venus and Adonis, Richard II.  I'm a little disappointed that Julius Caesar didn't get more love.  But can I just say bravo to whoever threw Comedy of Errors in there?  Nobody thinks to quote that one :).  Although you would have gotten even more points for Pericles, Prince of Tyre.

Quoted Twice : The Tempest, Taming of the Shrew, Romeo and Juliet, Twelth Night, King Lear, Macbeth.  I think that if I kept looking I would have found more for all of these, they seemed like logical choices and very quotable.

Quoted Three Times : Any of the Sonnets.  I suppose this is misleading since there are lots of sonnets to choose from, but most people probably never even thought that the sonnets counted.  I'd have to go back and look but I'm pretty sure none of the three quotes I found was "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day", either.  That's good.

Runners Up, Quoted Four Times : Hamlet,  Henry V, Midsummer Night's Dream. 

And the Winner, Quoted Seven Times : Much Ado About Nothing 

So does that mean that the dialogue between Beatrice and Benedick is the most popular stuff Shakespeare ever wrote?  Is it a coincidence that Kenneth Brannagh has made popular movies of three out of the top four quoted plays?


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Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Thrice Fresh : Ariel

First it was Prospero, and now Ariel is getting the animated treatment.  I had to contact Ted Lange at Thrice Fresh to see what he's up to.  If he's doing The Tempest as a graphic novel, I want to get in line.

Here's the email I got back in response (I hope he doesn't mind me publishing it):

As far as the project I'm working on, it's a graphic novel that re-intreprets characters from classical mythology. Along the way a few characters from The Tempest got thrown into the mix. Prospero and his familiars are so cool that I had to incorporate them into my story.

It'd be great to get feedback from the Shakespeare folks that regularly hit up your blog. I'm a big fan of Shakespeare but I'm not an expert in any way. I just sort of pick out the elements that resonate with me and  run with them.

I'm looking forward to his Caliban.


The First 35 Lines of King Lear

Not what you think.  "Kellogg Bloggin'" has a post up about getting a Shakespeare class to teachh and asks comments, "it was really fun looking at the opening thirty-five or so lines of "King Lear" and see how much of the whole play of Lear is in those opening lines."

I thought I'd throw in a link in case anybody wants to get in on that discussion.

For the curious, these are the lines before King Lear enters.  The play opens on a discussion between Kent and Gloucester (who do mention the dividing of the kingdom), and the introduction of Edmund.


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Top Five Favorite Shakespeare Plays

Ooooo, blog High Fidelity has a post on Top Five Favorite Shakespeare Plays, so you just know I'm gonna play.  I don't really like to do the favorite thing, since it's not like most people read every single play equally (myself included), but it's fun to play.

5) Much Ado About Nothing - I really used to love Midsummer, but it just gets performed so frickin much, I'm sick of it.  Much Ado doesn't really have any depth to it (I mean, come on, the worst the villain can do is ruin a wedding?) but Beatrice / Benedick make good characters.  Quite frankly most of the other comedies are barely on the radar compared to these more well established ones.

4)Macbeth - I'm tempted to rate this higher but I couldn't decide what to bump.  Outstanding ghost story, one of the best jobs Shakespeare did of setting the mood.  And perhaps the best ending for any of his tragic heroes.   The entire final act plays out like an action movie.  I sit through the entire show just to get to Macbeth's "I shall not yield" speech.  That can carry the whole thing for me.  Great stuff.

3) Tempest - I'll admit that I don't understand aspects of this play to nearly the extent that I do with some of the others.  I like this one because it is a nice happy ending fairy tale that I could (and have) read to my kids.  I like the whole "stranded on a deserted island over which I am lord and master" thing that Prospero brings to the stage.   Just how much of the action did he control?  Did he know Ferdinand was on the ship, and did he basically manipulate his daughter into falling in love with him?  Or was he playing it by ear, interested more in dispatching his enemies, until his daughter stood up to him and made him change the plan?

2) Romeo and Juliet - I put Romeo and Juliet this high not because it's the best thing Shakespeare ever wrote, but because it's the most approachable.  Everybody knows this play.  Pretty much everybody has something in this play that they can relate to.  It's about two stupid kids (well, a stupid Romeo and a too smart for her own good Juliet) who fall in love and think that killing themselves is the only alternative to not being together.  Depending on the mood you're in that's either the most romantic thing ever, or the dumbest.  Either way, I appreciate any play of Shakespeare's that can put the butts in the seats.

1) Hamlet - Hey, I'm a fanboy, what can I say. Hamlet's got that great quality that (except for a handful of specific and well-known instances) you can open up to any random passage and rebuild entire story from there.  Who's this guy Fortinbras and why is he in the play?  Well you see, Fortinbras' dad was killed by Hamlet's dad. Even though it was a fair battle, Fortinbras is out for revenge.  It's a parallel, you see, to what's going on at Elisnore where Hamlet's dad was also murdered, and Hamlet is supposed to avenge him as well.  Fortinbras mobilizes an army. Hamlet...thinks about lots of stuff.   

I said above that everybody can related to Romeo and Juliet (everybody was a stupid kid once, and just about everybody's done the unrequited love thing, or wished they had).  Hamlet's a bit different, but not so much as you'd think.  Hamlet's dad is out of the picture and he's got a stepdad that he doesn't like.  That's a familiar scenario these days.  What's his relationship to his parents?  What's yours?  What's it like to watch your mom do something that makes you just disgusted to look at her?  What sort of conflict does that create inside a son?  

I could go on all day.


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