Raleigh, Pass House Bill 13 Because All The World’s A Stage

globe theatre

O for a Muse of fire, that would ascend
The brightest heaven of invention,
A kingdom for a stage, princes to act
And monarchs to behold the swelling scene! Henry V, Prologue.

North Carolina House Bill 13, which would grant local school districts flexibility to combat class size limits imposed by last year’s short-sighted budget, is currently stalled in Raleigh.

It is like the scripts are in revision and the players are ready to rehearse. But production has been halted.

It seems there are too many directors behind the scenes too busy worrying about how much money they will net rather than what will actually need to transpire on that stage.

The thought that local school districts are being kept in limbo (and in what some might call a hostage situation) concerning programs like the arts is more than disconcerting. To stay aligned with state law, school districts will have to lower class sizes and for elementary schools that could mean a variety of things. One scenario is to do away with specialties like arts and physical education. Or, sadly, it could be that they lay off some of the players in the acting troupe.

From the Winston-Salem Journal this past Friday in an article entitled “Schools could cut assistants to hire more teachers, meet class size requirements,”

The Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools district has started contingency planning in case the N.C. General Assembly doesn’t pass a bill that would give schools relief from impending class size reductions.

The district will keep any teacher assistants hired from now until the end of the school year on temporary employee rolls in an effort to avoid layoffs over the summer. If the state mandate on smaller class sizes kicks in, district leaders say they might be forced to cut some teacher assistant positions for next school year in order to keep offering art, music and physical education classes (http://www.journalnow.com/news/local/schools-could-cut-assistants-to-hire-more-teachers-meet-class/article_9440fea2-c230-5128-8cff-270cefb7d83b.html) .

“We currently have legislation … that, when passed, overlooked the fact that regular teacher allotments do not separate out art, music, PE,” said Superintendent Beverly Emory. “Our board agreed and we’ve said from the get-go that we’re not laying off teachers; we’re not doing away with those programs.”

Cutting some teacher assistants next school year is one strategy the district is considering, Emory said, to deal with the class size reduction that would require the district to hire “as many as 200 additional teaching positions… with no additional funding.”

Either way, the production of what happens on the stage of school will be altered by a set of directors (lawmakers) whose parsimonious eyes on the bottom lines seem to contradict the bragging about what a great state (wait for the pun) our state’s economy is in with surpluses and all.

On March 31st, I was fortunate to see a production at Wake Forest University of Macbeth, the infamous Scottish Shakespearean play of greed and ambition. I never pass on a chance to visit my alma mater and did so with two erudite friends who value the intrinsic worth of art like it is the currency of life.

Go see it if you have a chance. It’s at the Tedford theatre, named after a Wake legend whose daughter happens to be a legend herself.

macbeth

http://events.wfu.edu/event/macbeth_1588#.WN-gCvnyu00

And it was fabulous. Students less than half my age grappling with a cautionary tale to remind us that what resides in us as humans has so much power over not just us as individuals but society as a whole (oftentimes in a negative fashion).

Macbeth is driven by ambition and greed, and however you want to interpret the role of the witches and the supernatural, you cannot mistake the parallels between Shakespeare and the modern world or even modern North Carolina. It teaches us what happens when those who are corrupted by power become “poor players.”

Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing. Macbeth, V, v.

Oddly enough, the audience for a Shakespearean play when it would have originally been produced would have spanned all socio-economic backgrounds. The peddler, the merchant, the midwife, the prostitute, the clergyman, the nobleman, and sometimes members of royalty would have all been housed together to see what transpired on a stage to soak in social commentary and be a part of the fiber of being.

That’s what the art produced on the stage allowed for. Do we have anything that does that with American society today which can speak across social barriers besides money?

Yes. Art.

We all are affected by it especially the lack of it. One of Shakespeare’s most famous soliloquies is from the comedy As You Like It metaphorically explaines that. Spoken by Jaques, it begins,

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts… As You Like It, II, vii.

During last night’s production, I thought of all of the focus that the past McCrory administration and current NC General Assembly placed upon STEM education, steering funds and emphasis away from a well-rounded curriculum that celebrated multiple intelligences. Yes, we need to pay attention to an ever-changing global economy that demands a more highly technically skilled workforce. Yes, we need to build bigger, better, more elaborate, more multi-functional stages.

But what productions will be shown on those stages?

Wake Forest University is beginning to introduce more engineering and more bio-medical programs on its campuses. But the Deacons have not forgotten their liberal arts. Even the city where Wake resides, Winston-Salem, has the reputation as the “City of Arts and Innovation.”

To force school systems to take away arts programs would be like settling for a well-built stage and having no shows performed on it – a nice empty venue without substance, without memories, without meaning. It would be foolish. It would be tragic.

When we are born, we cry that we are come
To this great stage of fools. King Lear, IV, vi.

The very stage that originally housed the first production of Macbeth is gone. But the art of the play still lives and grows and takes new meaning and even provides clarity to new times.

It you want to see a thriving high school, more often than not it has a highly involved drama and music programs that serve as outlets for students with creative intelligences. They not only build sets; they produce art on stage.

What we remember from those performances was not necessarily how well the stage was built. We remember what was done on them. Whether that stage was in an auditorium, on a canvas, on a football field or basketball court, or electronically created, the production is what makes the stage come alive. Not vice versa.

Lawmakers in Raleigh should strongly pursue passing HB13. Then they should start fully funding schools.

If not, many will walk around as the melancholic Antonio, the Merchant of Venice.

I hold the world but as the world, Gratiano,
A stage where every man must play a part,
And mine a sad one. Merchant of Venice, I, i.

Good thing Antonio has a happy ending thanks to a cross-dressing woman.

Shakespeare and “That” Billboard

shakepeare-winkingbillboard

In the second installment of the mystery that is the I-40 billboard, another pseudo-cryptic message was given by our anonymous source.

Apparently the source is making fun of the backlash that the original billboard received. And I am glad that the source gave us an explanation that requires yet another explanation.

If anything, it gives me another opportunity to come to the defense of one person who would surely be offended by the seond billboard. And that person is William Shakespeare.

If someone uses the idiom/phrase “much ado about nothing,” then most people would surely think of the title of one of the more famous comedies created by the Bard.

Some linguists think that the phrase originated in the 1500’s and the meaning of the idiom seems rather universal:

“a lot of trouble and excitement about something which is not important”Cambridge Idioms Dictionary, 2nd ed. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2006.

Making the idiom the title of the billboard would further verify that it is a direct reference to the Shakespeare play.

But if you’re going to use Shakespeare’s title, should you not at least try and use his style and language? It doesn’t have to be in iambic pentameter. Shakespeare wrote a lot of his dialogue in prose.

Here’s the text of the original new billboard as seen now on I-40.

“Much Ado About Nothing
A social experiment that brought forth those so immersed in their own insecurity that in the mirror they could only see an angry victim of their incorrect interpretation of a silly billboard — Bless their hearts”

Imagine that in Shakespearean English. You could try one of many “Shakespeare Translation” websites. Schmoop has one that is used here.

Magically what is created is not only a reference to Shakespeare, but keeps the spirit of Shakespeare. It makes you feel moere intelligent for reading it as if you were above a social experiment.

“Much Ado About Nothing
A social experiment that hath brought forth those so immersed in their own insecurity that in the mirror those gents could only see an fell victim of their incorrect interpretation of a fartuous billboard — Bless their hearts ”

But a man of Shakespeare’s wit and ability to pinpoint human nature as well as inject humor and social satire in the same words may have actually said something different in reference to the first billboard.

Consider:

“Much Ado About Nothing
We hath spent wage anonymously to maketh a provocative billboard to stir up a little controversy so that we could findeth a reason to bless thy hearts “

Or,

“Much Ado About Nothing
We hath made a billboard so that those who comment on news articles can maketh excit’ment of others who art offended by t by telling those folk that those gents should just receiveth ov’r t while those gents themselves wenteth out of their way to giveth longer comments about how those gents wast not affected by the billboard”

Maybe,

“Much Ado About Nothing
We bethought twas comical that so many wast offended by the sexist message of the first one that we referenced a playeth that would not has’t originally allowed women to beest cast in female roles”

Possibly,

“Much Ado About Nothing
We actually didst not bethink that people would readeth this billboard because if ‘t be true hath too much text and no graphics and trying to readeth ti while driving would maketh either a wreck or a phantom traffic jam, or both”

Perhaps,

“Much Ado About Nothing
A social experiment about not using proper grammar should only beest hath followed by a longer billboard message that doesn’t useth proper mechanics of English convention”

Even this,

“Much Ado About Nothing
A social experiment about showing how so many people art immersed in their own insecurities conducted by people who art too insecure to identify themselves”

And maybe this,

“Much Ado About Nothing
A social experiment that should has’t shown the creators that if ‘t be true those gents hath taken incredible backlash from the original message tis not incorrect interpretation as much as tis incorrect presentation”

But definitely Shakespeare was a man who loved free speech and would fight to the death so that others may speak freely, even if what was said is, well you know:

“Much Ado About Nothing
A social experiment that showeth we all has’t freedom of speech coequal if ‘t be true what we sayeth is asinine”

Roundball , Round Earth – Shakespeare, Bugs Bunny and the Astrophysical Acumen of Kyrie Irving

The Taming of The Shrew – the lost astrophysical scene

PETRUCHIO
Come on, i’ God’s name; once more toward our father’s.
Good Lord, how bright and goodly shines the moon!
KATHARINA
The moon! the sun: it is not moonlight now.
PETRUCHIO
I say it is the moon that shines so bright.
KATHARINA
I know it is the sun that shines so bright.
KYRIE IRVING
The Earth is flat. The Earth is flat. … It’s right in front of our faces. I’m telling you, it’s right in front of our faces. They lie to us.
COACH K
Kyrie, the Earth is not flat. You went to Duke for goodness sake’s.
KYRIE IRVING
I was a one-and-done remember? Academics was the last thing on my mind.
KATHARINA
Who the hell are you guys?
PETRUCHIO
And get out of our play!

Kyrie Irving’s assertion that the Earth is flat last week made lots of headlines. Consider he stated the following from espn.com (http://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/18710759/kyrie-irving-cleveland-cavaliers-believes-earth-flat) :

“The Earth is flat. The Earth is flat. … It’s right in front of our faces. I’m telling you, it’s right in front of our faces. They lie to us.”

“You know, I know the science, I know everything possible — not everything possible — but the fact that that actually could be real news, that people are actually asking me that — ‘It’s a social phenomenon. What do you think about it? Are you going to try to protect your image?’ I mean, it really doesn’t matter. It really doesn’t matter. The fact that it’s a conversation? I’m glad that it got people talking like this: ‘Kyrie actually thinks the world is flat.'”

It is true that others have made the same assertion likethe King of Spain when he supposedly told Christopher Columbus that he might sail off the edge of the world.

A lot of people in the Middle Ages thought the world was flat, but they also thought the Earth was the center of the universe.

Even People magazine talked about some almost famous people who think that the Earth is flat like Tia Tequila and B.o.B. (http://people.com/celebrity/flat-earth-celebrities-world-not-round/).

And yes, there is a “Flat Earth Society” that exists.

Even Thomas Friedman had a best-selling book called The World is Flat. Actually he meant it in a metaphorical, figurative way.

world-is-flat

But it is interesting that a man who plays “roundball” for a living and has traveled the earth as a pro basketball player believes that the Earth is flat when science does nothing but scream the contrary.

Sure, he plays in a flat surface and sometimes his shot seems a little flat but I would simply ask Irving to witness a lunar eclipse, think about time zones, trust that the pictures taken from space are not just a hoax, or listen to Neil deGRasse Tyson.

You could ask Kyrie Irving if he actually did go to class at Duke, a prestigious university which offers a Ph.D. in astrophysics with courses in astronomy. Then I would tell you that Kyrie did not go to Duke for the academics.

But at least we have Bugs Bunny. In seven short minutes, he pretty much taught us all that the earth really is round. You can watch it here:http://www.cartoonsonnet.com/bugs-bunny-hare-we-go.html.

And he does it with a baseball. Maybe Kyrie is in the wrong sport.

bugs-bunny

Verbal Iocane – What The Princess Bride Can Teach Us Besides Turning Archetypes Upside Down

Everyone should see the Princess Bride at some time in their lives.

There’s that kid from the Wonder Years, Andre the Giant, the minister, Jenny from Forrest Gump, and the guy who tries to take Tom Cruise’s sponsorship in Days of Thunder.

“Inconceivable!”

In it there is the encounter that Westley (as the Dread Pirate Roberts) and Vizzini ( a cerebral guy) have that is eventually settled with a “battle of wits.”

Man in Black: “What you do not smell is called iocane powder. It is odorless, tasteless, dissolves instantly in liquid, and is among the more deadlier poisons known to man. All right. Where is the poison? The battle of wits has begun. It ends when you decide and we both drink, and find out who is right… and who is dead.”

princess-bride-1

Westley wins and Princess Buttercup inquires as to how he won.

Man in Black: “They were both poisoned. I spent the last few years building up an immunity to iocane powder.”

Words. Just like Hamlet says in Act II when he begins his descent into feigned and/or real madness,

“Words, words, words.”

But these words come with ominous imagery.

Words used to paint an unrealistic landscape in such a way that you see it without any single cue.

Like ill-fated, cacophonous, dystopian words that can be poison, except in this case they are still tasteless, dissolve instantly in the ears, but maintain a certain stench if you keep your senses together.

But you don’t ever want to build an immunity to them.

You want to hear them and listen to what they say.

And make a decision whether to believe them or not.

Donald Trump’s inaugural speech cast a shadow over an America that I don’t entirely agree exists exclusively from so many positives that we have. He does identify some elements that are truthful, but in the speech he used some words that if repeated enough will become so common to our lexicon of how we describe our country that we will become almost immune from the shock of hearing them.

The text of his inauguration speech is at the end of this post for reference and I will highlight some words that Trump uses to help maybe “poison” our minds to how we view our country.

Philip Bump wrote a very interesting post in “The Fix” blog run by The Washington Post on January 20th entitled “Trump’s inaugural address was demonstrably bleak” (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2017/01/20/trumps-inaugural-address-was-demonstrably-bleak/?utm_term=.7ea9dd03391c).

This is the kind of article that begs to be talked about, especially in the scope of a lens that is called DIDLS – diction, imagery, details, language, and syntax.

I will quote from Bump,

“Earlier this week, we cataloged each of those prior addresses, building a tool allowing you to search them and see how the expressions the presidents used were in and out of vogue over time.

It also allows us to see which terms were used by Trump but not by any president prior. The words below constitute that list.

sprawl, ignored, windswept, overseas, tombstones, rusted-out, trapped, neighborhoods, landscape, flush, carnage, unrealized, robbed, stolen, likes, listening, hardships, transferring, politicians, reaped, stops, subsidized, disagreements, bedrock, Islamic, reinforce, solidarity, unstoppable, brown, mysteries, arrives, politicians, hire, infrastructure, trillions, depletion, allowing, disrepair, redistributed, tunnels, stealing, ravages, issuing, bleed

There have been variants on those words used in the past: politician (William Henry Harrison, 1841), ravage (Richard Nixon, 1969) or hardship (used in both of Barack Obama’s). Others, though, are totally unique to Trump.

“This American carnage stops right here and stops right now.”

“…rusted-out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation”

“Mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities…”

“…the crime and gangs and drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential.”

“whether we are black or brown or white, we all bleed the same red blood of patriots…”

“America’s infrastructure has fallen into disrepair and decay…”

And the speech was a constant dosage of this negativity without much to neutralize its power to people who simply believe what they hear without listening.

The fear I have is that more of us will become desensitized to the words so that they become so common place that any change in the dialogue in the future will automatically constitute growth and rejuvenation. And that’s something I personally believe Trump wants us to associate with him.

Simply paint a negative picture, dim the lights, and play ominous music to set the mood. We the people become desensitized and make it the wallpaper of our lives.

Then new brighter colors are used, the lights are turned up, and the music becomes happier and more upbeat. And who did that for us?

Possibly the person who painted the original picture.

If words can be like iocane powder, I hope that I never build an immunity to them. I hope the ear that hears them, the brain that interprets them, and the mind that listens to them will allow them to have as much power the thousandth time it is used as they have the first time.

Some already do.

“I love you.”

“Daddy.”

When I hear strong words used to describe something I want to be able to identify them.

“Iocane. I’d bet my life on it.”

Prince Humperdinck knows it when he senses it. And while he is a bit of an ass and an antagonist to the Princess Buttercup and Westley, he is keen enough to know what has happened.

princess-bride-2

If you become desensitized to the rhetoric then you might become “mostly dead” to what is good in this country. Don’t let something “inconceivable” block you from your “true wuv.”

And watch the other movies that have that six-fingered man in them. Waiting For Guffman and Best in Show are two of the greatest movies ever made.

Speech:

“Chief Justice Roberts, President Carter, President Clinton, President Bush, President Obama, fellow Americans and people of the world, thank you.

We, the citizens of America, are now joined in a great national effort to rebuild our country and restore its promise for all of our people. Together we will determine the course of America and the world for many, many years to come. We will face challenges. We will confront hardships, but we will get the job done. Every four years we gather on these steps to carry out the orderly and peaceful transfer of power and we are grateful to President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama for their gracious aid throughout this transition. They have been magnificent. Thank you.

Today’s ceremony, however, has very special meaning because, today, we are not merely transferring power from one administration to another or from one party to another, but we are transferring power from Washington, D.C., and giving it back to you, the people.

For too long, a small group in our nation’s capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have born the cost. Washington flourished, but the people did not share in its wealth. Politicians prospered, but the jobs left and the factories closed. The establishment protected itself, but not the citizens of our country. Their victories have not been your victories. Their triumphs have not been your triumphs and, while they celebrated in our nation’s capital, there was little to celebrate for struggling families all across our land.

That all changes starting right here and right now because this moment is your moment. It belongs to you. It belongs to everyone gathered here today and everyone watching all across America. This is your day. This is your celebration, and this, the United States of America, is your country.

What truly matters is not which party controls our government, but whether our government is controlled by the people. January 20th, 2017, will be remembered as the day the people became the rulers of this nation again. The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer.

Everyone is listening to you now. You came by the tens of millions to become part of an historic movement, the likes of which the world has never seen before. At the center of this movement is a crucial conviction that a nation exists to serve its citizens. Americans want great schools for their children, safe neighborhoods for their families, and good jobs for themselves. These are just and reasonable demands of righteous people and a righteous public, but for too many of our citizens, a different reality exists.

Mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities, rusted out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation, an education system flush with cash, but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of all knowledge and the crime and the gangs and the drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential. This American carnage stops right here and stops right now.

We are one nation and their pain is our pain. Their dreams are our dreams and their success will be our success. We share one heart, one home and one glorious destiny. The oath of office I take today is an oath of allegiance to all Americans. For many decades, we’ve enriched foreign industry at the expense of American industry, subsidized the armies of other countries, while allowing for the very sad depletion of our military.

We’ve defended other nations’ borders, while refusing to defend our own, and spent trillions and trillions of dollars overseas, while America’s infrastructure has fallen into disrepair and decay. We’ve made other countries rich while the wealth, strength and confidence of our country has dissipated over the horizon. One by one, the factories shuttered and left our shores with not even a thought about the millions and millions of American workers that were left behind. The wealth of our middle class has been ripped from their homes and then redistributed all across the world.

But, that is the past and now we are looking only to the future. We assembled here today, are issuing a new decree to be heard in every city, in every foreign capital, and in every hall of power. From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land. From this day forward, it’s going to be only America first. America first. Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs will be made to benefit American workers and American families.

We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our products, stealing our companies and destroying our jobs. Protection will lead to great prosperity and strength. I will fight for you with every breath in my body and I will never, ever let you down.

America will start winning again. Winning like never before. We will bring back our jobs. We will bring back our borders. We will bring back our wealth. And we will bring back our dreams. We will build new roads and highways and bridges and airports and tunnels and railways all across our wonderful nation. We will get our people off of welfare and back to work rebuilding our country with American hands and American labor. We will follow two simple rules: buy American and hire American. We will seek friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world, but we do so with the understanding that it is the right of all nations to put their own interests first.

We do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone, but rather to let it shine as an example. We will shine for everyone to follow. We will reinforce old alliances and form new ones and unite the civilized world against radical Islamic terrorism, which we will eradicate completely from the face of the earth. At the bedrock of our politics will be a total allegiance to the United States of America and, through our loyalty to our country, we will rediscover our loyalty to each other. When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice.

The bible tells us how good and pleasant it is when god’s people live together in unity. We must speak our minds openly, debate our disagreements honestly, but always pursue solidarity. When America is united, America is totally unstoppable. There should be no fear. We are protected and we will always be protected. We will be protected by the great men and women of our military and law enforcement and most importantly, we will be protected by God.

Finally, we must think big and dream even bigger. In America, we understand that a nation is only living as long as it is striving. We will no longer accept politicians who are all talk and no action constantly complaining, but never doing anything about it. The time for empty talk is over. Now arrives the hour of action. Do not allow anyone to tell you that it cannot be done. No challenge can match the heart and fight and spirit of America. We will not fail. Our country will thrive and prosper again.

We stand at the birth of a new millennium ready to unlock the histories of space, to free the earth from the miseries of disease and to harness the energies, industries, and technologies of tomorrow. A new national pride will lift our sights and heal our divisions. It’s time to remember that old wisdom our soldiers will never forget, that whether we are black or brown or white, we all bleed the same red blood of patriots. We all enjoy the same glorious freedoms, and we all salute the same great American flag.

And whether a child is born in the urban sprawl of Detroit or the windswept plains of Nebraska, they look up at the same night sky. They fill their heart with the same dreams and they are infused with the breath of life by the same almighty creator. So, to all Americans in every city near and far, small and large, from mountain to mountain, from ocean to ocean, hear these words: You will never be ignored again. Your voice, your hopes and your dreams will define our American destiny. And your courage and goodness and love will forever guide us along the way.

Together we will make America strong again. We will make America wealthy again. We will make America proud again. We will make America safe again. And, yes, together, we will make America great again. Thank you. God bless you and god bless America. Thank you. God bless America.”

Why Shakespeare Matters To People Who Don’t Think Shakespeare Matters

The following is courtesy of the venerable Bill Bryson in his book Shakespeare: The World as Stage. I share it in the beginning of the school year with my students in my Shakespeare 101 elective class. Some think it rather trivial, but as the class progresses, many begin to see that the scope of Shakespeare’s work is rather incredible.

shakespeare

  • Left 1 million words of text
  • Never signed his name the same way twice
  • 38 (some say 39) plays Shakespeare
  • 154 sonnets
  • 138,198 commas
  • 26794 colons
  • 15,785 question marks
  • 884, 647 words
  • 31,959 speeches
  • 118, 406 lines
  • 7000 works on Shakespeare alone in Library of Congress – it would take 20 continuous years of reading to finish
  • 1100 films
  • His average play was 2,700 lines – 2.5 hours
  • Comedy of Errors is shortest at 1800 lines
  • Hamlet is longest at 4000 plus lines
  • 70% of his plays are blank verse
  • 5% of plays arerhymed meter
  • 25% are prose
  • There are anatopisms (look it up) and anachronisms and horrible geography
  • 29,066 different words used in his works – 20,000 if you remove different forms (average person knows 50k words with all of the new nouns)
  • Coined 2,035 words (suffixes, prefixes) – over 1700 exclusive words

 

And then I share with them the theories that the man known as William Shakespeare may not have actually been the person who wrote the plays. Considering that only 14 words exist in his own hand and a will (no pun intended) that bequeaths to his wife the second best bed of the household, there is not much concrete evidence to ensure that the Bard is who we think is a man from Stratford-Upon-the river Avon is the writer of the world’s most well-known plays.

People like Mark Twain, Sigmund Freud, and modern “Oxfordians” have offered theories that Shakespeare’s work is actually the product of one Edward deVere, the Earl of Oxford. It is a story shown in the rather recent movie Anonymous, which is entertaining and does provide some insight into Elizabethan culture.

anonymous

I show that movie to the Shakespeare class for perspective.

Others theorize that maybe Christopher Marlowe wrote Shakespeare’s plays after his “murder” or that Francis Bacon wrote them in between his philosophical excursions.

But a recent article from The Guardian may just have set this whole thing to rest and let The Bard be The Bard.

It is entitled “How ‘Sherlock of the library’ cracked the case of Shakespeare’s identity.”  Here is the link – https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2017/jan/08/sherlock-holmes-of-the-library-cracks-shakespeare-identity.

For those of you who are Shakespeare enthusiasts, it is worth the read because it is worth the read. If you’ve read some James Shapiro or Stephen Greenblatt or Harold Bloom or even some Bill Bryson in addition to actual Shakespeare, then you can understand that there is a fascination with knowing a connection with the man and the creations for the stage.

But for those of you who do not like Shakespeare, then this article is just as important if not more. Because it shows us something that we all need to know.

Everyone has possibilities.

How can a country boy with an eight-grade education literally come to London and become the greatest writer the English speaking world would come to know? There are those who refused to believe that someone who could have not been of high breeding or have attended the best university (or even graduated high school) could go on and do great things in spite of those challenges.

Apparently Shakespeare did.

We need to know that there can be leaders, pioneers, inventors, voices, revolutionaries, and artists whose backgrounds defy the very logic of society and help us define how we see ourselves.

Literature is filled with them.

And the lists of people who write literature is filled with them as well.

Plus, I like country kids who revere books and words and dream fairly big.

 

Truth Will Out – The Reality of Fake News and The Need To Support Public Schools

“Political language… is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind. “
– George Orwell

“…, and the truth will set you free.”
– Jesus, John 8:32

“This above all: to thine own self be true.”
– Polonius, Hamlet, I, iii

In a society that craves logical fallacies, utilizes half-truths and white lies, and endorses double-speak and propaganda, it is easy to see how those who do not have the time and energy to actually investigate every claim that appears in their sensory range to fall prey to what they may perceive.

There is a need to check sources, but when so many claims are being thrown around, it is hard to put in the effort to validate them all.

If people do not possess enough natural filters to mesh ludicrous falsities from facts, then they can become victim to being hoodwinked, duped, deceived, misled, cheated, and deluded among other things. And if people repeat something that is incorrect enough times, then it can become belief making speculation become gospel.

Check out this video.

http://www.cnn.com/videos/politics/2016/12/01/cnn-anchor-stunned-trump-supporter-newday.cnn

Sorry. There is no substance to these people’s claims. But they live as those claims are truth and they based their decisions on them.

In America, we have many rights. We have the right to life, liberty, and happiness. We have the right to bear arms, vote, and gather.

We also have the right to be wrong.

But I think we also have the obligation to be diligent in looking for the truth. That means one does not need to automatically believe that what every snake oil salesman says is truth. And it reinforces the fact that we so need a strong public education system that not only prepares students with a knowledge/skill set, but allows them to be prepared to have those filters in place that allows them to sift the lies from something that may actually have validity.

Strong public education helps to curb society’s appetite for bullshit, and we certainly have had a smorgasbord of that very bullshit with the Fake news that has become a rather hot topic of late because of its role in the recent presidential election.

A November 24th report by Craig Timberg in the Washington Post, “Russian propaganda effort helped spread ‘fake news’ during election, experts say,” highlights how easy it seemed to be to allow falsities to become digested by an eager audience that did not have its filters in place.

“The flood of “fake news” this election season got support from a sophisticated Russian propaganda campaign that created and spread misleading articles online with the goal of punishing Democrat Hillary Clinton, helping Republican Donald Trump and undermining faith in American democracy, say independent researchers who tracked the operation.

Russia’s increasingly sophisticated propaganda machinery — including thousands of botnets, teams of paid human “trolls,” and networks of Web sites and social-media accounts — echoed and amplified right-wing sites across the Internet as they portrayed Clinton as a criminal hiding potentially fatal health problems and preparing to hand control of the nation to a shadowy cabal of global financiers. The effort also sought to heighten the appearance of international tensions and promote fear of looming hostilities with nuclear-armed Russia.

Two teams of independent researchers found that the Russians exploited American-made technology platforms to attack U.S. democracy at a particularly vulnerable moment, as an insurgent candidate harnessed a wide range of grievances to claim the White House. The sophistication of the Russian tactics may complicate efforts by Facebook and Google to crack down on “fake news,” as they have vowed to do after widespread complaints about the problem” (https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/russian-propaganda-effort-helped-spread-fake-news-during-election-experts-say/2016/11/24/793903b6-8a40-4ca9-b712-716af66098fe_story.html?hpid=hp_hp-top-table-main_propaganda-8pm%3Ahomepage%2Fstory)

Wow! And I am sharing this blog post on Facebook. And just this morning, there was this on CNN.com.

http://www.cnn.com/2016/12/02/politics/russia-fake-news-reality/index.html

Sure, you could claim that this is just “main-stream” media trying to douse the celebratory fires of Trump’s presidential victory, but where is the burden of proof?

If experts in a field are saying that something is happening, I am more apt to believe them because of their expertise. It’s a filter, so to speak. If 95+% of climate scientists say that global warming is happening, then I just might take their word for it. It’s just like what Tommy said in the iconic movie Tommy Boy: “You can stick your head up the bull’s ass yourself, but I’ll take the butcher’s word for it.” Therefore, if experts are saying that the use of fake news was prevalent in the 2016 election and had an effect on it, then I am apt to believe it.

tommyboy

The fact that fake news is a reality and actually dictates what many call the truth in and of itself is a strong indication that we need strong public schools Nothing screams more loudly for the need to have strong support for our public schools so that truth can be more easily obtained, more easily sensed, and more valued.

With the rise of technology, the sprawl of social media, and the exponential growth of knowledge, those in power have relegated our public schools into industrialized test-taking factories that simply measure how well students take tests. It has made critical thinking a national deficit. Nothing allows for the breeding of fake news more than that.

There’s nothing fake about the need for strong public schools.

And if you ever read Hamlet, you will realize that Polonius is an ass.

 

Aaron Burr Slays Another Politician and Lincoln Tweeted About It

Aaron Burr killed Alexander Hamilton.

Aaron Burr has now slayed Mike Pence.

After a performance of the musical Hamilton in New York, the man playing the role of Aaron Burr addressed a now-famous politician who was in the crowd – VP-Elect Mike Pence.

It was astounding.

The actor, Brandon Victor Dunn, is an African-American man playing a white historical politician. In fact, most of the cast is minority, a stark contrast to the cabinet that Trump and Pence have put together to start the new term in January.

Dunn said,

“We, sir — we — are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our planet, our children, our parents, or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights. We truly hope that this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and to work on behalf of all of us.”

Here’s a video.

http://nyti.ms/2fa1x2e

Again, astounding.

Here’s a man who is playing someone who was at one time a VP for Jefferson addressing a man who will be a VP. And he did it with words – kind, assertive words.

Hell, the real Aaron Burr wouldn’t have been that kind. He would have shot you.

Shakespeare would be so proud that once again the stage is where someone can “catch the conscious of the” man who wants to be king.

There’s even a meme going around on Facebook.

shakespeare

Not to be outdone, Trump had to tweet, demanding an apology.

trump-twitter-hamilton-2

Theaters are interesting places. When art can help to imitate life and add to our understanding of our word, then they become vital arenas to have discourse.

Theater and arts and writing and anything that involves expression has every right in this country to voice opinions. It’s called the First Amendment.

And what was said by Mr. Dunn was not harassment. It was a reminder that as POTUS and VP, you have a responsibility.

If Mike Pence is going to assume office for this country in this time as a man who does not believe in climate change, believes in conversion therapy, and dismisses evolution, then he should get used to people not being so nice to him when confronting social issues.

And if President Trump is going to demand apologies every time someone has a different opinion than he does, then he needs thicker skin.

Besides, I believe Abraham Lincoln has a greater claim to receive an apology from going to a theater.

lincoln

I just wish Jeff Sessions was there as well.

“Lord, What Fools These Mortals Be.” – What Shakespeare Teaches Us About Education Reform

400 years since he died. Four centuries. Multiple generations. New countries discovered.

And we still read his work and revere it as a mirror of human nature.

shakespeare

There is a bit of a revival taking place in some schools involving Shakespeare. The Common Core asks that student in each grade level come engage with Shakespeare in their English/Language Arts classes. Many high schools in North Carolina teach a Shakespeare elective (which is very popular in my own school).

But why does he still resonate with new generations? Simple. Shakespeare literally provides us with a blueprint for the human condition and the nature of men and women.

And I think the Bard would have much to say about our treatment of public education here in North Carolina, whose own capital was named for a man who was favored one time by the very woman who patronized Shakespeare.

In fact, he already has made statements very relevant to our state and, frankly, the entire nation.

“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.”

Cassius, he of the “lean and hungry” look, says this to Brutus in Julius Caesar. And while many may know that this gives rise to the title of the John Green book, it makes reference to the Elizabethan tendency to look at astrology and numerology for guidance.

It also talks of taking responsibility for your actions and how those actions may affect others.

Consider the effects of “re-forms” initiated by business groups, billionaires, and legislators like unregulated charter schools and vouchers that have siphoned public monies from the very students who rely upon traditional public schools. When will they learn that these initiatives do not work and have never worked? Will they take responsibility for their failures or blame the stars?

“Be not afraid of greatness. Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them.” 

These lines are from Twelfth Night spoken by Malvolio while reading a letter meant as a practical joke to feed his narcissism and fragile ego. However, there is so much truth in these words.

Think about how we as a society define “greatness,” yet remember that each person is free to interpret “greatness” in his/her own way. But the operative word in this quote is “achieve.” And there is no limit to what a student can achieve if our schools are properly funded and our teachers are supported by government officials. And just imagine how greatness would be defined.

“Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none.” 

The Countess in All’s Well That Ends Well says this to her son. If only our legislators and lawmakers all took this to heart. It would seem appropriate to also include Polonius’s words to his son Laertes in Hamlet, “To thine own self be true.” But Polonius’s motives throughout the play show that he really is nothing more than a government official bent on maintaining power and bending precedent.

“The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.” 

This is said by Touchstone, the court jester in the Arden Woods in As You Like It. What’s appropriate here is that it is the fool talking about a fool. It would be refreshing to think that those in power would even admit that their actions could actually be foolish and hurtful.

So many in Raleigh have been so dead set on their “solutions” (think Achievement School Districts) that they foolishly ignore what history has taught us.

“We know what we are, but not what we may be.”

As Ophelia’s madness starts to set in during the last part of Hamlet, she says this poignant quote to Claudius, who as a man in power has literally kept others from realizing their potential. Claudius is so busy with the past and the immediate present that he does not realize that he is sacrificing the future for all in his kingdom.

Sound familiar?

“If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?”

This is from Shylock’s astounding monologue from Merchant of Venice as he explains that he as a Jew is discriminated against and that as a human he not treated as equally as others.

Considering that we have private schools which take Opportunity Grant monies and have admissions policies that do not allow for equal opportunity and that we also have a law on the books called HB2, Shylock’s words are still so applicable.

“Go wisely and slowly. Those who rush stumble and fall.”

Friar Laurence, a man of great intentions doomed by the fact that he is in a tragic play (Romeo & Juliet), says this to Romeo trying to teach him that rushing into actions without proper vetting can lead to mistakes and irreparable damage.

Again, sound familiar?

“Ignorance is the curse of God; knowledge is the wing wherewith we fly to heaven.”

A character named Saye “says” this in Henry VI, Part 2 which is not read by many people but was a popular play of Shakespeare’s while he lived.

Think about how much could have been saved if our lawmakers really researched their “re-forming” efforts before rashly enacting them.

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

If you read Romeo & Juliet closely, you will see that Juliet is the intellectual one of the two. And she is right with this quote on so many levels. Calling NC’s “Opportunity Grants” as a road to provide quality education doesn’t change the fact that they are weak vouchers. Calling charter schools “public schools” doesn’t change that fact that they act under a different set of rules than traditional schools. Calling the new Achievement School District a means to fix failing schools doesn’t change the fact that it is a movement to privatize public education.

That “rose” still smells.

“Lord, what fools these mortals be.”

Robin Goodfellow, otherwise known as Puck, the henchman for the king of the fairies (Oberon), makes this poignant observation while watching the hilarious circus of humans in the forest during Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Makes you wonder how we will see these reform efforts and their effects when all of this is said and done.

But if you really understand Shakespeare, you know that his plays were so accessible to all Elizabethan people, especially those in the working classes and those who were not given opportunities to receive schooling. He spoke to all people.

Quality public schooling should be as accessible as Shakespeare was and still is.