It Was The Year Without a Shakespeare Geek

So, how’d you spend your Shakespeare Day 2019?  In the past I have gone on marathon posting binges, posting upwards of two dozen stories. Last year I wrote a Twitter bot that spent the day revisiting the archives.  It’s a big day in my life, a huge day.  My own personal holiday, that I look forward to more than my own birthday.

This year I did … nothing. And I feel like that merits an explanation.

Just before St. Patrick’s Day this year I injured myself – tore my Achilles tendon. For the majority of folks who have not had that misfortune, allow me to sum it up — surgery, and then staying off your feet for over six weeks.  There’s more to it than that (time in a splint, time in a cast, time in a boot…) but the end result is a complete disruption of your life for almost two months. I couldn’t even drive to work – luckily I sit behind a computer all day and my day job has been very understanding about me becoming a remote employee.

My first reaction when they told me was, “Woohoo! All day long at home?  I’ll get *so much* done!”  Yeah … no.  You don’t realize how much you can’t do when you have to stand on one foot, and your hands are occupied by crutches. Even simple acts like going to the refrigerator (or the bathroom!) become a real chore. Sitting on the couch all day sounds like fun until you realize that you’re being forced to do that, even when you don’t want to.

And thus the chain reaction begins. Crutching around all day takes more energy out of you than just plain walking, so you’re more tired than normal.  It will take more energy to actually do the things you need to do, so you end up with more inertia about staying right where you are. Then you feel guilty about the work that’s piling up that you’re not doing. Then you start looking forward and thinking, “Everything will go back to normal when I get my feet back, but until then everything’s basically on pause.”

As I read that back it sounds very “woe is me” and I do realize that there are probably people reading who’ve had the same injury saying, “What? No. I was back in the gym two days later.”  I’m not saying I’ve had the greatest recovery.  I was 50 years old and not in the greatest shape before I got literally swept off my feet.  So maybe I took it harder than others might have. I’m just being honest here, because that’s part of why you’re all still reading after fourteen years of me doing this.

What’s it all got to do with Shakespeare? If I’m sitting on the couch anyway, already with the laptop ready to go, why am I not banging out the posts?  My last real post to the blog was March 14, basically right before everything happened. During those first couple of weeks of recovery there was actual downtime, actual pain, actual painkillers. That wasn’t fun. Every day I’d say, “I should write something on the blog,” but then I wouldn’t, and then I’d feel guilty. The longer I waited, the more I’d think, “When I start posting again it has to be something good, not just glorified retweeting.”

Before I knew it, Shakespeare Day was upon me. Actually I totally knew – my most recent doctor’s appointment to remove my cast and switch me over to a “walking boot” was scheduled for April 23. So that was the big event of my yesterday, a milestone in my return to normal.  I just was not in the right frame of mind to do something awesome for Shakespeare Day, and if I wasn’t going to do something awesome, I didn’t want to do anything.

So that’s my excuse.  I do have a story to tell, which is coming in the next post. My Shakespeare Day was not without Shakespeare, fear not.  I hope this post represents my return to regular posting. I’ve missed you all.

 

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Friends, Romans, Countrymen…I Need A Favor

Hello!  Terribly sorry for my absence of late, things are happening that are making life complicated. Your regularly scheduled Shakespeare should resume soon.

This post doesn’t contain much Shakespeare, let’s get that out of the way right now. I don’t like to misuse my audience.  But it does have a father (me) and a daughter (mine) so at the end if we want to discuss which of Shakespeare’s play our relationship most resembles, we can see where that goes.

My younger daughter wants to be a writer.  She recently entered a short story competition with a small piece that she literally crafted out of thin air when she said, “I need a noun” and my wife said, “Balloon.”  We entered the story and she rocketed up to the #4 spot (out of almost 300 entries) and became a finalist for the Community Vote!

For the finals, the votes are cleared and a new round begins. Right now she’s sitting in second place, which isn’t too shabby.  But I’ve learned that the person in first place is an existing contributor to that site with nearly 100 other submissions. His bio says he’s been writing poetry since 2004 – which would be the same year my daughter was born.  He’s got about 4000 followers on the site who are shooting him to the top of all the charts (in the first round he had 3x the votes of the next closest entry).

Well, I’ve got over 20,000 followers. No, none of this is Shakespeare. But I’m a father trying to make his daughter happy.  It doesn’t matter to me if she wins. It matters that when she refreshes her vote count and it doesn’t go up, she’s sad – but when it does, she’s happy.  So I want it to go up every time she looks, and I’m unapologetically going to use every means at my disposal to make that happen.

If you’ve read this far and would like to help contribute to the cause, thank you!  Here’s the link:

Read and Vote for “The Life of a Balloon” by Elizabeth!

If you saw my earlier posts on FB and Twitter and have already voted, please note that this is the finals, this is a new round!  So you can come back and vote again!

Thanks so much for your time.  Have we decided which play we most resemble?  I’ve been thinking about it while I write.  How about Prospero? I went through my vengeful phase, snooping around to see if there might be a way to get the first place guy disqualified ….. but ultimately it’s more about my daughter’s happiness, and the number of reads and votes can do that much more than a couple of bucks of prize money.   Now go vote!

 

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[Admin] Is There A Travel Agent In The House?

So, the good news is that my upcoming trip to London / Stratford Upon Avon is starting to come together. The first thing I did was to book a nice AirBNB in SUA.  The plan is to arrive there on Monday, stay until Thursday, when we’ll head into London and spend about a week before returning to the US. I haven’t booked the flight yet but I’ve been assuming we’ll fly into Heathrow.

Here’s the catch. I knew that London and SUA were “about 2-3 hours apart”, which is the primary reason we’re splitting up the trip.  But now I’m hearing things like “switch trains 3 times” and “takes over 4 hours”, not to mention train tickets costing over $100 each.  I had not anticipated this little wrinkle.

The good folks on Twitter have been trying to help, offering all manner of suggestions “you could go here here and here, or you could go here, switch, then go here…” and honestly it’s all Greek to me.

What I’m hoping is that some of my readers are local and familiar with the area and the options and can say, for a family of five who’ll be traveling with luggage and just gotten off a red-eye flight from the US (figure arriving in London around 11 am, judging by the flight scheduled), what’s the best way to get to SUA?  Renting my own car is not an option, I’ve never been out of the US and won’t give myself a crash (ha!) course in driving on the other side of the road. But can we hire a car?  Is that something Uber (or equivalent) could handle?  Is there a bus? Where would I make reservations for these things?

Thanks for the help!  I’m putting faith in the universe that everything works out and we have the trip of a lifetime, but I’ve got to make sure that the details like this get worked out.  I can’t relax and plan the fun stuff until the necessary stuff is taken care of — get to country (flight), get to hotel 1 (SUA), get to hotel 2 (London), get home.

 

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Review : Pop-Up Shakespeare

A long, long time ago, when my kids were still in single digits, I had a pop-up book featuring Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. I used to take it in to their classrooms as a prop.  I knew it had made an impact when a few months ago, my oldest daughter – who is now driving, and looking at colleges – came to me and said, “Do we still have that pop up book? I want to bring it in to class.”

So when I heard about Candlewick Press’ Pop-Up Shakespeare (by Jennie Maizels and the Reduced Shakespeare Company) I reached out to see if I could review it. They were happy to oblige!

I admit that it’s been a little while since I’ve purchased pop up books for my kids, but I have to say that this is one of the best I’ve seen. Let’s start with the amount of information provided. It covers everything (*). I learned things. We get some bio on Shakespeare himself, we get all the plays – including the questionable authorship plays – and we get the long poems.

Surely for a book with that much information it must be densely packed, right? Right. In a fascinating way. Much of the book is “lift the flap” style, and each spread is dominated by a huge, two-page pop up feature. But ready for the twist? The text is on both sides of the pop up, rotated accordingly. It’s hard to explain, but the best way is to think of this as a book to put down on the table and have the kids gather around from all angles and take turns reading what they see, because there’s stuff about Shakespeare just literally all over the place.

This would have been a great prop for me back in my volunteering days. If you’re still in that place, where you’ve got an audience that will enthusiastically gather around to start exploring things that pop up and looking for flaps to lift, I think this one is an excellent choice. I really do love that they covered everything everything. It would have been so easy to consider the audience for a book like this as not being old enough for Titus Andronicus or Timon of Athens, and spend all of its time on Midsummer or Romeo and Juliet. If you believe that you’re never too young to learn about the whole breadth of Shakespeare’s work, these authors are on your side.

(*) “The gift is small, the will is all: Alexander Aspinall.”  I may have heard that once upon a time? But it was definitely a surprise to see it referenced in this book. Gives you just a little idea of how much information is hiding under those flaps.

POP-UP SHAKESPEARE. Text copyright © 2017 by Reed Martin and Austin Tichenor. Illustrations copyright © 2017 by Jennie Maizels. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA on behalf of Walker Books, London.
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The Return of Some Guy From New York

You know, it’s easy to forget how long I’ve been doing this.  Going all the way back to 2006 I linked to a podcast called Some Guy From New York. The gimmick was that he’d been sentenced to community service teaching Shakespeare, and he was working his way through the sonnets, analyzing each one.

That was a long time ago, and his is not the first Shakespeare podcast to come and go. But a funny thing happened this time.  Several different people over the years found their way to that post and asked if there was any way to get in touch with the creator.

I do love a challenge.  I was able to contact Jason Pomerantz, the original Some Guy From New York, and asked if he’d like me to re-host the original podcast files for him.

So, I am very happy to present the new home for the original 48 episodes of the Some Guy From New York podcast! Here’s to a whole new audience rediscovering Jason’s excellent work.  Who knows, maybe he’ll be motivated to come out of retirement?

(Still gotta do something about that Yankees hat, though….)

 

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