Archive for November, 2007

Bring It!

Friday, November 30th, 2007

I can’t believe I’ve gone almost eleven months without a blogger feud. Let’s do this.

Nonny Nu (nonnynu dot blogspot dot com), a blogger who writes mainly about her cats, decides to throw some stones.

First, she uses a picture of my King Lear cake on a Happy Birthday posting on her blog, which is totally fine with me. But then she ends with this:

P.S. That isn’t the birthday cake. That’s just some photo I found on the web. But, can you believe some people are so serious and hoity toity as to quote Shakespeare on a birthday cake? No doubt, they will be having wine with it. *eyes*

Serious and hoity toity? I rather thought I was being whimsical and hoity toity. And what’s wrong with a little wine on your birthday?

That’s it, Crazy Cat Lady, I’m calling you out. Don’t you know it’s not nice to taunt a fellow blogger? Especially not one whom you have given temporary control over the image at the top of your blog? I just replaced it with this picture and you should just be glad I didn’t get all on you. (To my readers: If you don’t know what that is, just let it go.)

Let this be a warning to others. Rule number one: you do NOT mock the Shakespeare Teacher.

UPDATE: She’s got it fixed now, but for about eight hours today, her site looked like this.

UPDATE II: I just read through her comments, and she posted this image of a cake that has such a delicious self-referential paradox that even W.V.O. Quine would ask for seconds. (Who’s hoity toity now?) I think I’ll head over and offer a truce.

UPDATE III: The truce has been accepted, and what must be the shortest feud in Internet history has come to an end.

UPDATE IV: The one-day feud has now been immortalized in an anagram.

Six Degrees of Sir Francis Bacon: Washington Irving

Friday, November 30th, 2007

First, read the rules of the game.

This week’s challenge is Ichabod Crane creator Washington Irving.

I was able to link Washington Irving to Sir Francis Bacon in six degrees or fewer, though that shouldn’t stop you from posting a longer response, or looking for a shorter one. Entries will be accepted until midnight on Thursday, December 6.

Good luck!

And congratulations to Neel Mehta for winning the last challenge by linking John Edwards to Sir Francis Bacon in four degrees:

John Edwards > John Kerry > William Shakespeare > Francis Bacon

John Edwards was the running mate of John Kerry, who protested against the administration of Richard Nixon, who in high school showed a penchant for the writings of William Shakespeare, who is believed by some to be Sir Francis Bacon.

UPDATE: This game is no longer active. Neel Mehta posted an unbeatable entry: two degrees!

Thursday Morning Riddle

Thursday, November 29th, 2007

I’m a popular bird across martial arts styles;
Col. Hogan on TV, or Frasier and Niles;
I reach high at Home Depot when steered through the aisles;
And a lady in Psycho portrayed by Ms. Miles.

Who am I?

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

Is It Me or Is It WordPress?

Wednesday, November 28th, 2007

A reader and fellow blogger writes in to ask how much of this blog is me and how much is WordPress.

The content is all me. The WordPress team keeps sending me Shakespeare anagrams, but I have not published any yet. Frankly, they aren’t very good.

The tech is all them. Do you have any idea how hard it is to create and manage a MySQL database? Neither do I, and I don’t need to. There is some minor tech stuff you need to do to get set up, but I was fortunate to have veteran blogger Ro of Pensive Musings as a personal tutor, and was able to get it set up without a problem.

The design is a combination of me and them. WordPress uses a technology called Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) that allows you to use a pre-made design to format the information in your MySQL database. I used this one, though obviously I made a lot of modifications. I made the font bigger and darker, removed the buttons from the top, created a new title banner, changed the picture, changed the quote box, etc. A lot of this was trial and error, and thanks to readers who gave me feedback, and to my visually-gifted sister who checked the blog after each update and reported by phone how each change looked from remote.

But the credit for the real heart of this blog goes to you, the reader. To those of you who answer the Questions of the Week and the Thursday Morning Riddles. To the Conundrum solvers and the Francis Bacon linkers. To the silly and the serious, to the friends and strangers, and to the anonymous posters too. To DeLisa and Annalisa and Andrew and Brian and Neel Mehta and K-Lyn and UnixMan and Susan and Lee and Bronx Richie and DB and Duane and Kenneth W. Davis and Ro and to everyone else who has posted here. And to the those of you who read along silently too. Without all of your visits and contributions, there would be very little reason for me to continue to do this.

Shakespeare Teacher will turn eleven months on Saturday.

Question of the Week

Monday, November 26th, 2007

Today, the Nobel Prize winners are invited to the White House, which means that George W. Bush and Al Gore will meet face to face. Imagine that they have a private moment together.

What do they say? What should they say? What would you like to imagine that they say?

Feel free to answer as a one-liner, or to write a short dialogue.

BBC Shakespeare

Sunday, November 25th, 2007

Via UPI:

LONDON, Nov. 18 (UPI) — The BBC is embarking on an ambitious project to produce new versions of all 37 of Shakespeare’s plays over the next 12 years, employing an ensemble cast.

The BBC originally presented Shakespearean works 30 years ago in a widely heralded seven-year series.

This time around, the BBC enlisted Oscar-winner Sam Mendes to produce the entire series. Among the notable stars being called upon to act in the Bard’s plays are Judi Dench, Jude Law, Ian McKellen and Kate Winslet, The Sunday Telegraph reported Sunday.

“The moment I took the idea to the BBC, they grasped it with both hands, and in a sense they are the only people who could help pull it off,” Mendes said.

BBC is discussing a joint finance deal for the series with HBO.

This is incredibly exciting. I am a big fan of the original series, because sometimes I need a video of one of the more obscure plays, whether I’m teaching it, or I’m just in the mood to watch it. And it’s difficult to find a good production of, say, Measure for Measure at Blockbuster, so it’s nice to have access to a complete set.

But the prospect of another complete set, with modern-day actors and production values is even better. Plus, there will be the opportunity to compare the two versions, which always makes a good classroom activity.

But even forgetting all of that, we’re going to get 37 new BBC Shakespeare video productions over the next twelve years! I do hope HBO gets on board, or at least that there’s some way to see the videos in America (BBC-A?). I can’t wait to see another Pericles, another Measure for Measure, another King John, and another Cymbeline. And yes, another Hamlet and another King Lear and another Richard III too – there’s plenty to be excited about!

Perhaps we can even discuss the productions here, as they air.

Thursday Morning Riddle: Thanksgiving Edition

Thursday, November 22nd, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving all!

I’m heading out of town for a few days. Have a great holiday weekend. And since Thanksgiving happens to fall on a Thursday this year (what were the odds), here’s a special (silly) Thankgiving Day riddle. Enjoy!

I’m a country that’s trying a teenaged Berliner;
If you roll me in bowling you might be the winner;
When you’re quitting it cold without drawing it thinner;
And what most of you likely are having for dinner!

Who am I?

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

Conundrum: Five for Five

Tuesday, November 20th, 2007

Last week’s Conundrum about kings named Henry reminded me of a Shakespeare final I gave about five years ago. This was for an advanced graduate course on Shakespeare, and I actually decided to give the final exam as a takehome. What’s more, the first five questions were True or False. Surprisingly, only two students got all five questions right. Sounds like quite a Conundrum to me…


1. Twelfth Night is named after a holiday in December.

2. Gloucester (in King Lear) has two sons; the bastard one is named Edmund.

3. Katherine of Valois was wife to Henry V, mother to Henry VI, and grandmother to Henry VII.

4. Based on evidence in Hamlet, it is reasonable to assume that Shakespeare may have read at least some of the writings of Sigmund Freud.

5. The title of The Merchant of Venice refers to a Jewish merchant named Shylock.

I should point out that the five questions combined were ten percent of an exam that was ten percent of the final grade, so these questions alone were not enough to affect anyone’s final grade. I don’t believe in trying to trick students, but I felt that a takehome exam deserved a little extra bite. The rest of the exam was short answer and essay and was very straightforward.

Can anyone answer all five questions correctly?

Writing a Wrong

Tuesday, November 20th, 2007

My friend DeLisa White is the queen of telling me things I’d rather not know. Usually it leads to me no longer being able to use a particular product or patronize a particular business because they’re – I don’t know – torturing kittens in the rainforest or something. But I trust her, so I paid close attention when she included me in this e-mailing about the writers strike, reprinted here with permission from the author.

(By the way, when I told DeLisa I was going to put her writing online and not pay her for it, she said “Wow, I feel like an official Guild member!”)

Dear Friends,

The studios, networks and producers of The Office made $13.9 million dollars last year on iTunes downloads of the show alone.

Amount the writers, directors, and actors got of that?

Zero percent.

While among the Writers Guild’s 12,000 members there are television writer-producers like Shonda Rhimes, the creator of “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Private Practice,” who take home up to $5 million a year, on the other extreme are junior writers who – if they work at all – make $50,000 or less (just like the rest of Americans.) Furthermore, about 48 percent of West Coast members are unemployed, according to guild statistics, and rely on residuals to do things like, well, eat.

IMHO, I think this is a thoroughly just cause – I support the writers and their creative colleagues completely. I was sick at heart to discover that the shows and movies I’ve downloaded from iTunes did not compensate the people who created them, without whom my joy in them wouldn’t exist. This should have been automatically addressed by producers and studios. It’s egregiously unethical for them not to have done so and that they continue to resist is unconscionable to me.

I have just read and signed the online petition:

“In support of the WGA strike”

hosted on the web by, the free online petition service, at:

I personally agree with what this petition says, and I think you might agree, too. If you can spare a moment, please take a look, and consider signing yourself.

Very best wishes,

DeLisa :-)

I don’t think I need to belabour the point. After all, the people who come to this site are here because of their adoration and admiration for an individual writer, and his tremendous contribution to our culture and language. But enough about me.

Let’s do what we can to support the writers who have brought so much joy to our lives, and who deserve to benefit from the fruits of their talent and hard work.

The Saga Begins

Saturday, November 17th, 2007

Posting has been light this weekend, but I’ve been at the NCTE conference. Perhaps I’ll blog about the conference later in the week. For now, enjoy this video of Weird Al as Obi-Wan Kenobi recounting the entire plot of The Phantom Menace to the tune of American Pie by Don McLean.