So here we are at the beginning of a new year, and here I am sitting on a big pile of movies that I have to give away. Specifically I've got *9* copies of Julie Taymor's 2010 The Tempest, starring Helen Mirren. Remember this one? We certainly talked a lot about it.
It doesn't happen often enough for my taste, but I do like it when a Shakespeare movie comes along in the theatre and then you get to sit down with the DVD and get a second view. Who knows how my opinion might change? Maybe I'll have the kids watch it (or, parts of it) after all.
In all my giveaways and contests I've never had this many copies of a single item, and I'm not quite sure how I want to proceed. It seems boring to simply give them out randomly to 9 people who leave comments on this post. I mean, good for you all, given that the average post here nets less than 20 comments so you'd probably have a better than 50% chance of winning one. But where's the fun in that? :)
So here's my idea. I'll start by giving away *3* of them. To enter, all you've got to do is leave a comment on this post with an idea about what I should do with the rest of them. If somebody else beats you to an idea you can still add a comment saying "Yeah, do that" and be entered for this first round. For this first round I'll pick from all the commenters regardless of content, so don't be afraid your idea won't win versus somebody else's. Everybody who comments can be entered.
Let's say that everything needs to be in by end of day Friday (January 6). I'll randomly pick 3 winners over the weekend. Since we're doing this in the comments I will have to publicly announce winners (I won't have your email addresses), so remember to check back in early next week!
After we've given away the first 3 I'll see what sort of ideas got cooked up and look toward giving away the rest.
Got the idea? As usual, I have to limit the contest to continental US residents. I am shipping these on my own nickel. Sorry international folks. Then again I'm not sure whether these DVDs would work across regions anyway.
As far as I can tell I'm not required to do an online giveaway, either, so if you think that donating some copies to the local school or library would be the best option, let me hear it.
TL;DR - Got 9 copies of Tempest DVD, giving away 3 this weekend to US resident folks who suggest ideas, not necessarily online, about what to do with the rest.
Thanks very much to Lauren from BH Impact for hooking us up with the most generous giveaway yet!
(*) P.S. - Extra geek points for you if you recognize the Three Amigos quote from the title ;)
Friday, December 30, 2011
So here we are at the beginning of a new year, and here I am sitting on a big pile of movies that I have to give away. Specifically I've got *9* copies of Julie Taymor's 2010 The Tempest, starring Helen Mirren. Remember this one? We certainly talked a lot about it.
Thursday, December 29, 2011
How do you put a label on David Tennant? It seems unfair to categorize him solely in Dr. Who or Shakespeare terms. So instead of introducing somebody who needs no introduction I'll just point out that he's on the Nerdist podcast with Chris Hardwick this week.
I'll let you know up front, not a lot of Shakespeare. Much Ado gets some time, but mostly as it pertains to his schedule of doing other things. There's also a nod to Hamlet, and some very nice praise for Sir Patrick. Absolutely nothing at all on his methods for acting Shakespeare, favorite Shakespeare plays, anything like that at all. Almost the entire interview is divided up between Dr. Who and Fright Night, which is understandable when you realize where the Nerdist is coming from. They're firmly in that sci-fi / comic / movie culture.
The title of this post comes from an idea that Tennant drops that, were it to happen, would surely cause the internet to explode. Given that Hardwick had just had JJ Abrams (director of the new Star Trek movies) on his show and was planning to have Simon Pegg (a friend of Tennant's, and cast member of the new Star Trek movies), it seems as if the idea at least had some potential. It's only a brief mention, but it's certainly an attention grabber, innit? :)
at 9:06 AM
Wednesday, December 28, 2011
Last one in a series.
When I was at my aunt's funeral service and the priest mentioned William Shakespeare, I had no idea what he was going to say next. There's so much to choose from!
And with that, here's my question. You're attending the service of a family member. Let's say that you weren't terribly close to this person, not something where you're going to be overwhelmingly distraught. More one of those "obligations we all have to do" sorts of things. As a niece or a nephew or what have you, you're asked to say a few words. You want to bring some Shakespeare into it.
What do you bring?
The grief speech from King John is pretty powerful ("Grief fills the room up of my absent child, Lies in his bed, walks up and down with me,...") but it's also not terribly general purpose. It's pretty clearly a parent-child thing.
I'm a fan of sonnet 104 ("To me, fair Friend, you never can be old, For as you were when first your eye I eyed
Such seems your beauty still.") At least that opening passage. I think it's a pretty wonderful picture to paint, especially if you're talking about someone who's lived a long life and left many memories.
What else you got? I'd stay away from most of the Hamlet stuff, it's just gotten so cliched. Well, except one that I've come to cherish as my own personal meditation over those we've lost.
Rest in Peace, Aunt Catherine. Flights of Angels sing thee to thy rest.
at 10:43 AM
Continuing our series, here's question #2. To recap, the priest took the liberty of pulling Antony's "The evil that men do lives after them..." quote to offer up a sermon on the truth that the good you do really does matter, and that you should strive to have a good life because it really will live after you. I got his point, I think people appreciated the sermon, I'm not one to be trivial (not matter how much it grates on me when somebody says "Shakespeare was wrong." Even if you are a priest I will take you down.)
So the question is this - how do you feel about that? The "grab a quote and then make it mean what you want it to mean" thing, even if it turns out that you are drastically misinterpreting its original intent? I've seen people rant and rave about overuse of Polonius' "To thine own self be true" advice.
On the one hand I appreciate the exposure to Shakespeare. There's no doubt that people in that audience had never heard that quote, and got a quick lesson. The problem of course is that the lesson may have left them with a misunderstanding of Shakespeare that who knows what it will take to correct.
Where do you draw the line? How much of a purist are you about that sort of thing?
I'm torn. Obviously I'm documenting my experience pretty heavily here, but it's not like I felt obligated to gather everybody up and give them a lesson in Julius Caesar. Honestly I just don't think anybody left the service thinking about Shakespeare. They were thinking about what the priest said about living a good life. And I'm ok with that. If I'd heard anybody muttering about "Wow, Shakespeare was stupid" or "I can't believe Shakespeare wrote something ridiculous like that," then I might well have stepped in.
at 10:34 AM
As I mentioned here, the funeral service for my great aunt Catherine brought up a number of Shakespeare questions. The priest read Antony's line about "The evil that men do lives after them, the good is oft interred with their bones," and then went on to explain how Shakespeare was wrong, how you should strive to do good in your life because your good deeds will outlive you.
My question to you is, how would you "correct" this interpretation of the line? Why did Shakespeare have Antony say it? Imagine you've just bumped into somebody who was at that service (my aunt's, not Caesar's), who'd never heard this line before and now thinks that "Shakespeare was wrong." What would you say to correct this person's understanding of the passage, in context?
For example I tried to explain to my wife about the complexity of Antony's situation at that particular moment. He's been given permission to speak at Caesar's funeral by the guys that killed Caesar in the first place. It's not like he can get up there and say that Caesar was an awesome guy and it's a shame he died. He has to at least pretend that he agrees with them that Caesar was a bad dude.
at 10:25 AM
So over the holidays a family member passed away, and my wife and I drove down to attend the funeral. She was elderly and in failing health, so this was not a surprise.
I wasn't prepared for the Shakespeare sermon. When the priest said, "A long time ago, a man named William Shakespeare wrote...." and more than a few heads turned and looked at me :). I perked up, curious. Which Shakespeare would he be going with?
He continued, "Marc Antony spoke these words over the body of Julius Caesar..." Really? "The evil that men do lives after them, the good is oft interred with their bones. So let it be with Caesar." That's different. Great Aunt Catherine was not an assassinated potential dictator, after all. At least, that I know of.
He then went on to focus his sermon on how Shakespeare was wrong, and how the good that you do in your life does live after you, and it's the bad stuff that should be put to rest.
I get his point. He spotted a line that gave him a launching point for what he wanted to say, and he snipped it out of context. No matter how much the words "Shakespeare was wrong" grate on me, I'm not going to debate with the priest on what Antony's true feelings were toward Caesar.
That's what this forum is for. :)
I have at least three different questions coming out of that service, and I think it's only fair to post them separately so that conversations don't all stomp all over each other. Look for posts to follow shortly.
at 9:50 AM
Friday, December 16, 2011
Tough day yesterday all around.
I have a habit at my day job of wandering around and juggling when I need to get up from the desk. So I did so, wandering over to a coworker's desk as I often do.
"I've seen that trick," she says. "I feel like you should sing or something while you do that, step up the difficulty."
"Why would you want to hear me sing? You've not wronged me in any way, I wouldn't want to subject you to that," I reply.
"Then quote Shakespeare or something."
I'd like to think that I missed no beats before replying, "When it disgrace with fortune and men's eyes, I all alone beweep my outcast state. And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries and look upon myself and curse my fate...," all while still juggling.
"What does bootless mean?" she asks.
"I can't believe I picked up on the one word you don't know the definition for. I'm disappointed."
And with that, my Shakespeare cred took quite the hit and I looked stupid.
But, damnit, isn't it missing the point to pick out an individual word and say "Quick! define this out of context!" I'm not even sure what the right answer is to that. Bootless cries means what, exactly - "my cries that have nothing behind them"? "My cries that go unheard"? She wasn't asking for a translation of the text I'd just spoken, she zeroes in on one word. Besides, isn't that what the "deaf heaven" part is for? (The best translation that I've found says that I could have said "useless." Bootless cries are useless cries, because heaven's not listening.)
Between losing that cred with my coworkers, and learning that I won't get to teach the kids, it wasn't a great day I tell ya.
at 9:51 AM
Thursday, December 15, 2011
Just got the phone call that the school principal (who is most definitely NOT my pal) got wind of our Shakespeare project, decided that he too was uncomfortable with the potential content, and that since it is not part of the state curriculum, in short, we can't do it. Period.
Since my kids have to actually spend a few years in this school system I will limit my opinions on the subject, but I'm sure you all can gather what they may be.
I want to thank everybody who came flocking to my rescue, flooding me with no end of resources on how we might be able to make it work. We all know that the subject can be taught at this level, many of you have experience doing exactly that. And we all know that it is a *good* and *positive* thing. I just happen to have hit a dead end this time.
I'm temporarily down, but I'm very much not out. Watch this space for future efforts to climb back up that hill.
at 4:25 PM
Wednesday, December 14, 2011
My teaching debut gets more bowdlerized by the minute! I tried pitching a simplified version of the Mechanicals, and even still I was told "words like 'lover' and 'killed' are not acceptable, unless we had permission slips from all the parents." If you can't have Bottom kill himself, what's the point?
At this rate, there's pretty much no performance that we can do from Midsummer. I'm losing faith in this project rapidly.
With just a week to go before showtime, I don't even want to attempt getting a different play cleared, I just have to pitch the whole idea of doing any acting out of the text.
I really and truly don't want to just lecture on the subject, that will be so boring. I have some puzzles that I can give the kids as takeaways to do on their own, but I desperately need some interactive material or games that we can play. Help!
at 9:35 PM
Tuesday, December 13, 2011
On a recent episode of Science Friday that had the story of the scientist who claims to have found evidence of the mythical Kraken. His evidence is patterns found in a "midden", an undersea pile of bones. He argues that a creature of some intelligence organized the bones into patterns on purpose.
Debunkers of his evidence point to that bit of our brains that likes to find patterns in things. When you see a cloud that looks like a kitty, it's not because some magical being in charge of clouds shaped it like a kitty on purpose, it's simply because that particular random combination of particles made your brain think, "Kitty!" It is exactly the same as playing the lottery, watching "1 2 3 4 5 6" come out, and thinking, "Wow! What are the odds?!" Exactly the same as the numbers coming out 35 17 3 4 22 30, actually. We just don't attach any significance to that sequence like we do to the other one.
What's this got to do with Shakespeare? Well, what if everything that we've read into Shakespeare's work over the centuries is just that - stuff that we've read into it, rather than stuff that he deliberately put there? What if he was just a guy who was just cranking out whatever got him paid, and he really and truly had no insight into human nature at all?
I often wonder about that. It's a pretty safe bet that Shakespeare never sat at his quill and thought, "If I write this, people will still be talking about it four hundred years from now." But it's also unlikely that if he was just churning out the first thing that came to his mind that we *would* be talking about him 400 years later. So the answer is somewhere in the middle. But at which end?
at 4:37 PM
I got asked one of those "What one question would you ask Shakespeare?" questions the other day. I decided that I'd ask something along the lines of whether he was just writing one play at a time, just doing what the audience wanted, or if he really did have the idea of something bigger, writing something that would last as long as it has.
In the past I've pointed to Sonnet 18 as evidence that he had some clue about his own longevity, what with the fairly obvious "So long as men can breathe and eyes can see, so long lives this" line. Sounds like he's coming right out and saying "My work will last forever."
But then I thought, is he really? Or is the image more generic, making the simpler point that "Having written this down, it will now last forever." See what I mean? It's not that he's saying "My work will last forever because it is just that great," maybe he's simply saying "Stuff that's written down is basically timeless."
Thoughts? Are there other good examples that look like Shakespeare's hinting at knowledge of his own timelessness?
at 3:41 PM
Monday, December 12, 2011
As we celebrate the best lyricists in the music business over on Modern Shakespeares, I thought it only made sense to offer up a place to post the opposite end of the spectrum. Here's where you can post those lyrics that are so god-awfully bad that you can't imagine someone had the cahones to write them down in the first place, let alone put them to music and shell out good money to turn them into a consumer product.
Names left out to protect the guilty (and because I'm too lazy to format this all nice and neat), but I think that if you've heard any of this songs you know who you want to strangle:
And I was like...It's not even the mindless repetition on that one that really puts me over the edge, it's the casual "I was like.." at the beginning. It's bad enough that kids use it in casual rapidfire conversation, but to have sat down at a desk with all the time in the world and your entire vocabulary at your disposal, and to have selected that? Brutal.
Baby, baby, baby oooh
Like baby, baby, baby nooo
Like baby, baby, baby oooh
I thought you'd always be mine (mine)
Yesterday was Thursday, ThursdayThere are so many bad lyrics in that song it's hard to pick the worst. I think that "Yesterday was Thursday, today is Friday, tomorrow is Saturday and Sunday comes after...wards" has to win some sort of award, however.
Today i-is Friday, Friday (Partyin’)
We-we-we so excited
We so excited
We gonna have a ball today
Tomorrow is Saturday
And Sunday comes after...wards
I don’t want this weekend to end
I'm talking pedicures on our toes toesRemember kids, if you don't have enough beats in a line, just go ahead and repeat words as often as needed. I've heard that Ke$ha is actually a fairly intelligent student of music and knows full well that she's writing garbage, but she's doing so on purpose because she knows what gets radio play. I'm not sure I believe that. Or maybe I just don't want to.
Tryin on all our clothes clothes
Boys blowin up our phones phones
And a special reference to this one, because I know somebody's going to bring it up:
Hip Hop Marmalade spic And span,I really had to listen to the song for myself - the lyrics truly are that bad. He even manages to make that last one rhyme by calling them "sornets". I'm still trying to figure out what you take a sip of.
Met you one summer and it all began
You're the best girl that I ever did see,
The great Larry Bird Jersey 33
When you take a sip you buzz like a hornet
Billy Shakespeare wrote a whole bunch of sonnets
at 9:34 AM
Sunday, December 11, 2011
Follow any popular music artist long enough and eventually someone will call him (or her) a "modern Shakespeare." I use to rail against this, replying with "Contact me in 400 years and we'll see whether or not anybody's still listening to your guy. Then we can talk."
Recently I was adding music to my playlist (I only really listen to music while programming, and for that I have one very specific playlist) and running music through Pandora for suggestions. I laughed when Pandora told me that it had suggested a song because I like "intelligent lyrics."
That reminded me of the modern Shakespeare argument, so I decided to lighten up and have fun with it. Let's hear about some modern Shakespeares of yours. Specifically we're talking about lyrics. What lyrics of what song make you stop and listen and say, "Wow, that was very impressive writing."
I'll start off with two examples that show my very unusual taste in music. The first comes from Eminem's Lose Yourself:
Too much for me to wannaLook at that rhyming structure, where he somehow manages to combine "wanna" and "spot" into "monotony", and then rolls it right over into "gotten me." (I apologize from dropping in the curse word, but that's a reality of modern music. We don't censor our Shakespeare when we quote him.) Much of Eminem's music does a pretty good job of telling whatever story he wants to tell, which granted is often a variation on "Screw everybody that doesn't believe in me," but I'm still impressed by the variety he gets into his lyrics. Most songs of his that I enjoy walk that line between "I'm just talking to you, telling you a story" and "I happen to be speaking in rhyme when I do it." And he does it without getting so gutter so fast that I'm embarrassed to listen to it.
Stay in one spot, another day of monotony
Has gotten me to the point, I'm like a snail
I've got to formulate a plot or I end up in jail or shot
Success is my only motherf_cking option, failure's not
And now for something completely different, consider the hook from Adele's current hit Someone Like You:
Nevermind,If you've not heard the song, it is (in my interpretation) the story of a woman who never stopped loving her former flame, and tries to get back into his life in the hopes that he, too, never stopped loving her - but finds instead that he did indeed find someone else, got married, and is perfectly happy.
someone like you.
I wish nothing but the best, for you too.
Don't forget me, I beg, I remember you said:-
"Sometimes it lasts in love but sometimes it hurts instead"
"Nevermind I'll find" is a great hook (especially the way Adele belts it out), and for me it's the "never mind" that makes the song. Had it just been "I'll find someone else" then it would be a different song, it would have a positive "I'll get over this, I'll be ok" vibe to it. But instead it's "This is the world to me, I'm betting everything on you feeling the same way....oh, you don't feel the same way...oh, ok....never mind," and it's so clearly just this crushing moment for a woman who's accepting (unwillingly) the truth that the best she'll ever have is a shadow of who she wanted. Especially when you couple it with that "I wish nothing but the best for you." And that's all just what I get out of the story of the song, that's not even saying anything about that brilliant structure that starts out so short and memorable and then ends on those drawn out slow lines.
All right, there's your quick glance into my musical taste. It's worth mentioning that Eminem is in my programming playlist but Adele is not. While I like both songs, the potential random transition from one into the other is too distracting for me when I'm working.
What else have you got? I'm not looking for "Hey did you know that Sting wrote a bunch of literary references in his work?" Yes, yes I did. I want to hear about the songs that you think are impressive, not just interesting.
at 10:14 PM
Thursday, December 08, 2011
So, I passed in a draft of what I planned to work with the kids on. Basically, as I think I mentioned, it's all the Lysander/Hermia/Demetrius/Helena stuff. Plus some intro stuff on Shakespeare's life, sentence structure and vocabulary, and then if there's time the Insult game.
Here's what I got back.
* Absolutely no insult game. Against school bullying policies. Even if the game is in fun you have to assume that kids will take it out onto the playground and hurt feelings will ensue. Fine, I guess.
* Additionally, some bits in the script that deal with name-calling are also out. She called out Helena's "I am your dog, beat me, whip me, treat me as you wish" sequence as something she wouldn't want. I'm not sure yet if that means everything. The scene where Helena calls Hermia short is one of the funniest in the entire play.
* She did like the Shakespeare's life bits, and the poetry/sentence structure bits. But I don't want to do an hour on those. There's no performing in those.
I proposed a couple of things.
* First, that I'd bring with me a lengthy list of "backwards" sentences from Shakespeare and we could work with the kids on untangling them so they understand what the sentences mean. Examples like "I love thee not, so follow me not" is Shakespeare for "I don't love you, so stop following me."
* Second, that the teacher and I enact some No Fear style scenes, where we as the two adults perform a bit of the original text, and then we let the kids get up and perform a very modernized version of the exact same sequence. I am dead set against just having them perform a bunch of crap that I wrote from scratch and calling it Shakespeare. I might as well have them act out Gnomeo and Juliet if I'm going to do that.
Want to help me? I need examples for both games. For the first I need individual sentences from the text (preferably Dream) that mean that "this is backwards from how we'd normally say it" criteria. It helps if all the words are modern -- the "I have of late but wherefore I know not lost all my mirth" example is wonderful, but I have to explain "wherefore" and "mirth" to these kids.
Second, help me pick some snippets for the No Fear game. I need quick little exchanges that two adults could do without getting completely confused. So for example a Demetrius/Helena exchange.
If possible I'll also try to get in the initial rehearsal of Bottom and his crew, but I'm afraid that the teacher will tell me the whole Pyramus and Thisbe thing is just too complicated.
at 4:52 PM
Tuesday, December 06, 2011
I thought folks might like an update on my upcoming teaching debut. For those coming late to the party, I actually get to do an hour of Shakespeare with my daughter's 7yr old class, at the request of the teacher.
With literally no experience at doing this sort of thing in any structured way, I've been going a bit crazy trying to figure out how much to tackle without completely blowing it. I know that there are plenty of resources out there for this sort of thing and I've been doing my research (thank you to my regulars who dumped all their best links and documents on me), but at the end of the day I kind of want to find my own voice, you know? This has been something of a dream for me for, I don't know, forever. I don't want to just recite somebody else's script.
I've sent off my plans to the teacher (who asked for approval, to make sure that I wasn't going to do anything that might go so far over the kids' heads that I embarrass them). Here's the highlights:
* Some material on who Shakespeare was, put in context of what the kids have been taught. Mostly of the "After Christopher Columbus but before the Pilgrims" sort of stuff.
* A lesson on poetry and sentence structure. If I can nail this I think it goes a long way toward unlocking the dreaded "Why is Shakespeare so confusing??" question. I simply want to point out to the kids that in pursuit of poetry, you can rearrange the words in a sentence in unexpected ways. We'll use some of their dictation sentences as examples, maybe play a game and let them try it out ("Make the sentence work out so that 'game' is the last word).
* I've come up with highly edited versions of three scenes (which are, really, compilations of multiple scenes). One, for example, is all of the Lysander/Hermia/Demetrius/Helena sequences. We'll play a version of the "Woosh!" game, where every time a character enters the role will be played by whoever was the next student in line. This means boys playing girls, girls playing boys, and general silliness.
* My scripts are still almost entirely Shakespeare. I've swapped out some "thee" and "hath" to smooth things out, but never did I just scrap a line and go "modern translation". That's a big deal to me, and I wrote it in the notes to the teacher that I have faith the kids even at that age will be able to understand the text.
* For fun and depending on time filler, I'll bring along an interaction version of the Shakespeare Insult Generator where I'll let the kids pick words out of a hat and hurl their insults at fellow classmates.
That's the plan I'm focusing on. I'm trying very hard to keep the performance content high, while not starting something that we won't even get halfway through. If we can make it through all three of my scenes, great. I'd like to at least do 2. I think that with three scenes, the intro material and the insult game as filler, I can easily make it last an hour (maybe a little more) without feeling like I left too much out.
The big day is Thursday December 22. Getting closer!
at 10:12 PM
Monday, December 05, 2011
I particularly enjoy reality shows on the Food channels. Is anybody watching The Next Iron Chef? This happened last night:
(I am almost certainly going to spell some names wrong.)
Chef Anne Burrell has won the previous challenge, and her reward is that she will pick one of the "bottom two" chefs who will have to compete to stay on the program. She picks Chef Zakarian.
The other chef in the bottom two, judged by the quality of the dishes that they made, is....Chef Anne Burrell. Oops.
So they have a cook-off, and Anne Burrell loses and is kicked off the show. She had the advantage, and it bit her. In summing up, one of the other chefs, Chef Alex Guarnascelli(??), says "It was downright Shakespearean. Chef Burrell drew her sword, and then she fell on it."
That analogy may have worked better (though still been broken) if she'd at least said "...and then she tripped over it."
at 11:18 AM
And by that I mean the Midsummer Helena, not the All's Well Helena. While going through the play in prep for my teaching debut, I was reminded of what appears to be a rather silly plot point.
Recap - Lysander and Hermia love each other. Demetrius loves Hermia (who does not love him in return), but Demetrius is the one who has Hermia's father's permission to marry her. Helena, meanwhile, loves Demetrius, who does not love her in return (although we're led to believe that he did at one point). Lysander and Hermia plan to run away into the forest, and have told Helena their plan.
So, here's my question. Helena says:
I will go tell him of fair Hermia's flight:
Then to the wood will he to-morrow night
Pursue her; and for this intelligence
If I have thanks, it is a dear expense:
But herein mean I to enrich my pain,
To have his sight thither and back again.
She's going to tell Demetrius what's going on. I think that the first time I read through the play I thought her thinking went something like, "He will realize that Hermia is gone, and then he will love me again." But I noticed last night that she actually says "he will pursue her." So Helena knows that Demetrius is going to chase after Hermia, and she (Helena) is going to chase after him.
How exactly does she expect to end up with Demetrius, again? How does she see this plan working out? Is she so out of her head in love with Demetrius that all she's thinking is, "I will tell him this news and he will be happy with me! Yay!"
at 9:53 AM