I’ve got an idea for how to make money from a First Folio. Whenever something physically big needs to be sold, what do they do? A building or something. Do they say “Hey, anybody want this building? Million bucks.” No, they break it into pieces and sell those. I’m from Boston, and the “Cheers” bar recently went through this when it closed. Could you buy the whole bar? No. But you could buy the glasses. And the stools. And the signs. And so on. So now there’s hundreds of Cheers fans around the country who can point to a collector’s item and say “Like that stool? That’s from Cheers.”
So you see where I’m going with this. I still kind of feel like it’s sacrilege to even suggest it, but take a First Folio and sell it one page at a time. How much you think we could get? There’s only so many people in the world with $10 million. And then what do they do with it? Sometimes it just goes into a private collection, never to be seen again. Sometimes, best case, it goes on display somewhere so you have to travel to see it, if you’re lucky because it’s only on display sometimes.
But there’s plenty of people willing to drop a few thousand dollars on an important collector’s item. And then there’s hundreds of households all around the world with a framed piece of Shakespeare on their wall for people to admire and ask about and learn about.
I know it’s a silly idea, you don’t destroy a copy of a book when there’s only a few hundred copies of that book in existence. Besides, the math doesn’t work. At around 900 pages you’d still need to average over $10k per page to approach that $10 million mark.
Show of hands, who knows what Slack is? As somebody whose day job requires that I live within its walls I just kind of took this question for granted, but literally everybody that’s taken part so far asked me, “What’s Slack?” So as we continue, I thought I’d start there. If you do know what Slack is, you can skip down a bit.
Slack is an online collaboration space. It’s not really in the “social media” bucket because it’s not public, companies and organizations create their own, invitation-only space. Other than that, though, it’s very much like social media. You ask questions, you answer questions, you post media, you share files.
Imagine Facebook, only everybody on it is talking about one subject (or works for one company). There’s channels so you can organize the conversation and decide which ones you want to join (or not). There’s persistence so you can scroll back in the conversation (and search!) in case you don’t want to monitor all the time (like Twitter requires). There’s emojis, there’s private notifications, there’s direct private messages. There’s multiple ways to access it – web, desktop app, mobile app.
You’d think I work for Slack at this point. I do not. But, like I said, I am so used to having it open all the time that I got to wondering whether I couldn’t put it to good use. See where this is going?
We have a Shakespeare Geek slack!
Right now there’s less than a dozen of us breaking it in, working the kinks out. Generally introducing ourselves and telling our “What’s Shakespeare mean to me?” stories. I asked for volunteers on Twitter a few times to get us started.
But many of you out there aren’t on Twitter. Maybe you found this like on Facebook, or on the mailing list. I want to make sure you’re invited to the party!
The whole idea of this experiment is to have a giant Shakespeare-themed cocktail party. Pleasant, on topic conversation. This isn’t Reddit or Twitter, it’s a private party. No spamming, no disruptive nonsense, no authorship debates. I have to unfortunately reserve the right to revoke the access of anyone at any time, and hope never to use that right.
I have no idea how many responses I’ll get to this so I can’t promise to immediately respond to all of them. I will openly admit to being partial to those that are not entirely anonymous to me, so if we have any sort of existing relationship (have corresponded in the past, or if I know you by another social media name…) you’ll be higher on the list (so make sure to mention it). And if we don’t, introduce yourself! That’s what you do at a party, you start by saying hello to the host. 🙂
If that sounds interesting, I look forward to hearing from you!
I’m out at the pharmacy wearing my “A plague on neither of your houses” mask, waiting in line, doing the social distancing thing.
I’m called next, he asks me the patient’s name, and I tell him as I’m approaching to my safe distance. He leans forward and squints. I think he’s misunderstood my mumble through the mask, so I repeat it.
“No,” he says, “I was trying to read your mask. A plague on neither of your houses. Huh. Hmmm. Date of birth?”
I tell him and he goes looking for the medicine. I wonder when I’ll have the opportunity to explain.
He brings back the medicine and, after ringing me up and while I’m doing the credit card thing, he seems to have figured it out. He says, “I like that. Kind of like, good will toward everybody? Wishing nobody gets sick?”
“It’s from Shakespeare,” I told him. He looks curious. “Romeo and Juliet? There’s a famous line that goes, A plague on both your houses. So, we’re in a pandemic, we’re wearing masks so nobody gets sick …?”
“Oh!” he says. “Ok, I see, very good. Thank you for the education.”
I realized at that moment that I’d always assumed “A plague on both your houses” was as recognizable as “To be or not to be”. Apparently not! Thank you, pharmacy man, for the education!
Ok, this is a fun one. Is it a geeklet story if the geeklets aren’t actually in it?
Ever since I’ve had Shakespeare Geek merchandise, I’ve jokingly said that “the goal” is to bump into a stranger wearing my merchandise. That’s when I’ll know I’ve made it. You see where this story is going.
My daughter’s off to college. Perusing Facebook one night I see a group for parents of students at that college, and send a request to join. It gets approved, followed by a message. Which I assume is just an automatic “Your request has been accepted” type of thing. Nope!
“I am!” I reply, “Though I’m sure by now there are a number of knockoffs, but yes, that is definitely one of my designs.” The nature of Amazon is that brain dead “sellers” with no ideas of their own will just steal the originality of others. We deal with it, and we move on. It’s definitely not winning the game if you bump into somebody wearing a knock off of one of your shirts. That’s negative points.
“Yup it’s you!” she replied, posting an image of the shirt. Turns out her daughter’s in the college’s Shakespeare group. I concede that while I’d love that, I know my daughter’s a math/space geek and wouldn’t want her to feel forced to follow in my footsteps.
But, still! Maybe this doesn’t count as me randomly bumping into somebody with my merch. But my daughter might! Now I’ve got this whole vision in my head where this woman’s daughter has one of my shirts, and all the other people in her club are all, “Oh, whoa, where’d you get that? I must have it!” so there’s really dozens of people wandering around my daughter’s college wearing Shakespeare Geek merchandise, and one day she’s going to stroll out onto the quad and be surrounded :). I can’t wait for that phone call!
Once upon a time, when my kids were still young, I searched the bookstore Shakespeare baby books, not expecting to find any, but still hopeful. Never did. Yeah, there was the brief “Baby Mozart / Baby Shakespeare” craze, but we don’t speak of that.
This is the story of one young William Shakespeare, who opens his window one morning and words (“To thine own self be true”) just come flying in. Well, he thinks, if that’s not just the coolest thing in the whole wide world. I must have those words. He starts chasing them, but they’re slippery little devils, tumbling down the stairs and out the door. So begins the adventure of the story as he chases an ever growing string of words through town.
Every page is decorated in enough Shakespeare quotes to keep geeks like us happy. Over the years, when I have found books similar to this that claim to include Shakespeare’s words, they usually don’t go much beyond “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day” and “Wherefore art thou Romeo?” But here we’ve got “Boldness be my friend” and “Words without thoughts never to heaven go” and that’s just on page 3.
The illustrations are big and colorful, making the story obvious as young Shakespeare adventures through town, bumping into interesting new characters, while still leaving plenty of room for the wonderful words to decorate the pages. I have to wonder if the font may prove a challenge for children attempting to read, though. The story itself is told is standard text, but the decorative Shakespearean in the scenes is often scattered randomly, and most likely going to be read by an adult pointing out words with their finger to young readers. But hey, if that helps the kids jump more quickly into a world where the letters don’t always have to be the same size, or in a straight horizontal line? That works, too!
The author has also included a simple “life of William Shakespeare” bio page, as well as citations for all of the quotes included. I love that. I don’t know the exact age that’s going to be the audience for this book, it’s been too long for me. But if the kids are old enough to wonder where the quotes came from? There’s a great opportunity to do so, especially if the parent doesn’t immediately recognize all of them.
Overall there’s a word that came to me while I was reading this book, and that word is wistful. This book catapults me back in time sixteen years to those days of wandering the children’s section of the bookstore with my wife, pregnant with our second and shopping for our first, me scanning the shelves for Shakespeare references like a child racing to the toy department. And, just like that child among those toys, I’d see a book like this, my eyes would go wide, I’d grab it and flip through it and hug it to my chest and wheel around to my wife with my biggest puppy dog eyes and “Please can we get this?” face. Then we’d head home and I’d read it to my daughter over and over again over the days and weeks to come (sorry Dr. Seuss!), pointing out the quotes, asking her to repeat them when she’d heard it enough times to memorize, following up with ridiculously advanced questions like “And what play is that from?” that she couldn’t possibly answer (she’s two years old for heaven’s sake) but patiently waiting for the day when she does answer, because I know that Shakespeare is going to make her life better.
I, we, didn’t get that. Because books like this one didn’t exist yet. Now it does, and now others do get that experience. Lucky. To steal a phrase from my oldest daughter (via Schitt’s Creek), “Love that for them.”
Now I look forward to the future, when someday I’m a grandfather (“Grampy”, in my family), and I get to open this book again and read, “One morning, William opened his window and the words flew in …”