Archive for the 'Birthday' Category

To Unpathed Waters, Undreamed Shores

Saturday, April 23rd, 2016

Another April 23 is now upon us. Each year, on this day, we celebrate Shakespeare’s birthday, acknowledging occasionally that he also died on this date. But as this year marks the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, focus has shifted to the more morbid milestone. And since it was Shakespeare who taught us, in many ways, what it means to us as humans to face our mortality, it seems only fitting to celebrate his legacy on the anniversary of his death.

Celebrity Cruises is marking the occasion with a ten-day Shakespeare-themed cruise, and they have invited me to serve as the resident expert on all things Shakespearean. I’ll be giving a series of four talks onboard the ship, moderating a round-table discussion, and escorting a shore excursion to Kronberg Castle, the real-life inspiration for Hamlet’s Elsinore.

Naturally, I’m extremely excited about the opportunity. I’m not generally one to seek out opportunities to travel, but the chance to geek out on Shakespeare for ten days with some like-minded fellow passengers will be a unique experience. And so, I am resurrecting the blog, so I have a place to chronicle my journey.

I’m writing this from London, and the cruise will embark this evening from Southampton. We will be visiting Norway, Denmark, and Sweden, ending up in Amsterdam on May 2. I’ll post updates here when I can. For example, here is a picture of me at the British Museum last night.

I’ll post more updates when time allows. Till then, unto Southampton do we shift our scene.

Blog Log

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011

Last week, I participated in a blogging project sponsored by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, who encouraged bloggers to post about the influence Shakespeare has had on our lives. They’ve linked up all of our contributions on one page, and it’s worth checking out. Whether you’re a fan of Shakespeare or not, it’s exciting to read people who are passionate about something writing about how they became passionate about it.

Also, be sure to check out this fantastic song parody from Bardfilm. I missed it among all the birthday excitement, but found again via a nod from the Shakespeare Geek.

In post-birthday blogging news, I’ve been asked to write a monthly post on using data for school improvement for both the company I work for and our partner organization. If you want to get a glimpse into what I actually do for a living – anagramming passages from Shakespeare doesn’t pay what it should – check out my first installment here or here.

Under the Influence

Saturday, April 23rd, 2011

I’ve been asked by the good folks at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust to participate in a project with other bloggers in honor of Shakespeare’s birthday. The idea is to describe in a blog post how Shakespeare has influenced my life. My first impulse was to decline. First of all, it would require providing a name and bio, and I blog anonymously. Though I’ve linked to it several times, I’ve never posted my full name on the blog. More importantly, Shakespeare’s influence is an aspect of my life I don’t usually like to talk about. But perhaps this is an opportunity. By speaking out now, I can help others avoid the nightmare I have lived through. Because you see, my friends, Shakespeare has completely destroyed my life.

As a high school student, I showed a modicum of potential to become a productive member of society. I went into college as an undeclared major, with an array of exciting career options ahead of me. I took classes in a variety of disciplines, with the naive hope of discovering my passions. I took an acting class on a whim, and the professor suggested that I audition for her play. I was ready to do it, until I found that the play was by Shakespeare. Now, I was always taught to stay away from Shakespeare, but the professor was persuasive and I figured there wouldn’t be any harm in trying it just that once.

I was cast as Sebastian in Twelfth Night. I memorized my difficult lines by rote and went through the rehearsal process. One night, while I was waiting backstage and listening to the play, a single line caught in my ear and made me smile. “Hey, that’s pretty clever,” I admitted. A bit later, another line stuck in my head. “I see what he’s doing there.” Like popcorn popping, the revelations began to gradually speed up. Each weave of imagery, each implied metaphor, each beat of the iamb was like a jolt of adrenaline to my young brain. I was converted into a card-carrying Shakespeare fan.

I continued with acting as well, and in my junior year I had the opportunity to play Bottom in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. That was the experience that first sent me down the rabbit hole. No longer just a casual Shakespeare fan, I had become a full-blown addict. And of course the comedies proved to be merely a gateway drug to the harder stuff. My senior year, I discovered Hamlet, and what should have been a year of personal exploration and maturation was completely lost to that play. I would read it over and over, fascinated by the experience of making new discoveries every time, no matter how many times I had read it. Any thoughts I may have ever had of doing anything else were drowned in that play.

I needed more… Masters degree… Ph.D… My dissertation was on teaching Shakespeare to elementary school students. No longer content to be merely a user, I had become a dealer. A pusher. Could I decrease my own misery by dragging down others with me? I was determined to find out. I started teaching graduate-level Shakespeare courses at NYU – first a beginner, than an advanced class. I was completely out of control. I founded a Shakespeare reading group. I started a Shakespeare-themed blog. I taught for the Folger’s summer Teaching Shakespeare Institute for teachers. Conferences. Lectures. Seminars. Nothing was ever enough. When life threw me a curve ball, I went looking for answers at the bottom of a Riverside Complete Works anthology. I re-read Midsummer, and hit Bottom.

And what has it all gotten me? I am forty years old, and I have never held a full-time job. I support myself by working part-time, training teachers, administrators, school-based data teams, graduate students… anyone, as long as it will pay for that next Caedmon audio production of As You Like It. Had I never discovered Shakespeare, never developed that unquenchable thirst, who knows where I’d be today? But I know where I’ll be tonight. There’s an off-off-Broadway production of Measure for Measure in the West Village. Picture it. I walk the mean streets of Manhattan, desperate for a fix. I turn down a dark alley where I see a non-descript door propped open with a piece of plywood. I slip twenty dollars to a kid with purple hair who hands me a program and waves me in. And I know that, tonight, I will get what I need. And for a junkie, tonight is all that matters.

My name is Bill Heller. And I am a Shakespeare addict.

Thursday Morning Riddle

Thursday, September 2nd, 2010

I’m the list of top songs that have charted the best;
From a bottle of malt, the amount you ingest;
I’m the third point in tennis; the winks in a rest;
And a hint is below if you haven’t yet guessed.

What am I?

* * * * *

UPDATE: Riddle solved by Asher. See comments for answer.

Friday Evening Apology

Friday, May 1st, 2009

Well, I blew it.

For the first time since the feature debuted in January 2007, I flaked on the Thursday Morning Riddle. Sure, there was that one time in August 2007 where I knew I’d be away and I posted a riddle-laden puzzle on Wednesday. I also didn’t riddle during my recent blogging hiatus. But those were deliberate. Yesterday, it just slipped my mind.

And it wouldn’t be so bad if the blog were brimming with fresh anagrams, discussion topics, puzzles, and reflections on the teaching of a certain writer whose name I am too ashamed to mention since I also missed blogging on his birthday. But lately, it’s been an all-riddle show, and yesterday it wasn’t even that. My apologies to all of the visitors who were let down. I’m grateful for all of the readers who – with almost unlimited options – choose to visit this site on a regular basis. Even with the lack of activity lately, this site is still one of the top 202,115 blogs on the Internet, and I don’t take that for granted.

I especially want to thank all of the readers who took the time to leave comments like “Hi! It’s good blog!” on this post from March 2008. I appreciate the thought, as well as the links you included. Please don’t take offense that I deleted those comments, but I just haven’t been feeling it lately. It’s not good blog, and it hasn’t been for some time.

So here’s what I’m going to do. I made a commitment to blog every day in November 2008, and I did it. So I now commit to blog every day in May 2009. And yes, this post counts.

The Shakespeare Teacher is in.


Wednesday, April 23rd, 2008

Today is Shakespeare’s 444th birthday.

This means that if Shakespeare were alive today, he would be the world’s oldest human. In fact, he would be the oldest human who ever lived.

The number 444 makes me think of the Iran Hostage Crisis. The hostages were held for 444 days.

444 is a Harshad number. It is also a palindrome.

The year 444 AD was precisely 1564 years ago. What year was Shakespeare born? 1564. Believe it or not!

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, January 1st, 2008

It’s a new year, and the first birthday for the blog. I haven’t been posting much lately, but now that I’m back home, you can expect to see more activity here. I also have some ideas about where I want to take the site this year, but more on that later. Watch this space!

May your 2008 be filled with success and happiness.

To Have My Cake and Eat It Too

Monday, September 3rd, 2007

Yesterday, I hosted a reading of King Lear. It happened to be my birthday, so I wanted to get a cake. But since it was a King Lear reading and not a birthday party, I wanted to get a cake that would be King Lear appropriate. Here’s what I came up with:

Fortunately, my friends have a more traditional sense of birthday practice, and surprised me with a proper birthday cake:

Chocolate cake, vanilla cake, friends, and a King Lear reading: who could ask for a better birthday?


Monday, April 23rd, 2007

Today is Shakespeare’s birthday. I didn’t want to go to bed without acknowledging that.

And it’s the big 443. That’s a rough one. That’s when you wake up and realize you’re more than halfway to 884. And 884 is old. That’s Eleanor of Aquitane old. And then you start wondering “Yes, I’m universally considered the greatest writer in the English language. But what have I really accomplished?” And then you write a sonnet about time.

You’re not actually still reading this, are you? I’m off to bed.

ShakespeareTeacher for my Father

Sunday, April 22nd, 2007

I haven’t blogged much about my father because, well, it’s not really that kind of blog. But we lost him to cancer about a year and a half ago. He was 60 years old.

I think he would have enjoyed this blog. He was the type of person who was interested in engaging in many different topics, whether they were in his area or not. I guess I inherited that from him. He’d have loved this blog. And even if he didn’t, he’d have read it anyway, because it was my blog and he was proud of me.

He would have left comments, too, I’m sure, and they would have made us see things in ways we hadn’t before. He could do that. He would have signed his comments Larry instead of Dad because he wouldn’t have wanted to embarrass me. But then I’d respond and call him Dad so everyone would see what a clever father I had.

Happy Birthday, Dad. We still miss you terribly.