Random Thursday: Writerly Soaps and Struggles (and Shakespeare)

Random Thursday (ˈrandəm ˈTHərzdā): the day on which Sarah plunks down all the odd bits and pieces she’s been sent by friends or has otherwise stumbled upon this week in an effort to avoid writing a real post, the assembly of which usually ends up taking twice as much time as sitting down and creating actual content.

The readers in my life were happy this week.

The writers, not so much.

Some of them are the same people . . .


What Time is It?

Time for Book

 Our Reference Department is now in charge of reshelving the New Book section,
so we can assist patrons in finding the latest titles
and also help keep an eye on titles that should be moved to the regular collection
to make room for new releases.

Since we’ve started doing this,
our circulation stats have skyrocketed.

Because anyone who shelves New Books
goes home with at least two of ’em.
From each cart . . .

(thanks, caitlin!)


 I could teach these . . .

Writers WorkshopClick the images and follow Mr. Gauld on Twitter.

You will be well rewarded.

(thanks, Dee!)


Shakespeare’s Swag

 I can’t tell you how tickled I am that
one of my favorite playwrights is responsible
for naming one of my favorite cookies.

Two great obsessions that go great together, they are.


Yes, the Book is Going Very Well . . .

Creative Process Timeline

  . . . could you please pass the tissues?


I’m surprised it isn’t fifty shades of sparkling gray

The Whiskey River Soap Company
heard that writers can get into a real lather if they get blocked.

And someone said, “Hey!”

writer's block soap

According to the website, it smells like cheap whiskey.

if you want to get fancy,
Fitzgerald and Hemingway.

If that scent doesn’t bring all the plotbunnies to your yard,
browse through their soaps and candles
for something that’s more . . . you
and check out their About Us page
and see how creativity is done.

(Thanks, caitlin!)


That is the Question

“Yeah, it is.”

Part Two of Brian Cox’s Masterclass with Theo is here.

You know you want to
(for a minute or two to two).


Random Thursday: Random Ranting Iambic

Random Thursday (ˈrandəm ˈTHərzdā): the day on which Sarah plunks down all the odd bits and pieces she’s been sent by friends or has otherwise stumbled upon this week in an effort to avoid writing a real post, the assembly of which usually ends up taking twice as much time as sitting down and creating actual content.

It’s only fair: I did one on Bacon.


Fitzgerald Monkeys

I was going to make some kind of parallel
with the perils of downsizing without adjusting one’s expectations,
but that’s sort of the definition of Fitzgerald, so . . .

(Thanks for the reassurance, Andy!  Ook Eek!)


Beautifully Written, but Still Statutory

Romeo and Juliet for Reals

I feel the same way about Romeo & Juliet that I do about The Giving Tree.

Since that little nerve is already starting to tick in my left eyelid,
I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.

(Thanks, Kev–I needed that!)


Who’s in Primary?

Lay on, Mr. Leibowitz.

And damned be him that first cries, “I’ve heard enough!”

(My husband sent me this to celebrate baseball season.  Huzzah?)


If He Had . . .

Shakespeare makes it up

. . . .we’d be using it right now.

Kind of frightening, right?


If you ever encounter someone who wonders aloud why Shakespeare isn’t translated into modern English so people can understand it
inform them that Shakespeare actually wrote in modern English
and slap a copy of the Canterbury Tales into their hands.

After they ask you why you’ve given them a Dutch doorstop,
take another big linguistic step back
and hit ’em upside the head with a untranslated copy of Beowulf
and send ’em to the theater to see Midsummer Night’s Dream.

(I might be a little testy today . . .)


To Edit or Not to Edit

You have to wonder . . .

“Bums in seats.”

Well . . . yeah.

Poetry Wednesday: Shakespeare Made Crystal Clear

Let’s see if I remember how to do one of these . . .

I know I’ve voiced opinions about Shakespeare around here before—hard to avoid it, really—though looking at past posts, I’ve mostly just complained about how it seems like every member of the Association of Gorgeously Voiced British Actors appears to be contractually obligated to recite the same five summers-day-beauty-is-in-the-eye-of-the-besotted sonnets, which completely ignores the other hundred and a half.*

What’s worse, it seems to me that even when someone’s secretary accidentally transposes numbers and an AGVBA member records a surprise (#103, anyone?), it still tends to sound the same: carefully pronounced and enunciated in exactly the same sonorous, soothing way, Modern English rhyme clunkers and all.**


You could argue that while Shakespeare’s plays are meant to be performed to be fully understood—which is why high school students can have such a tough time slogging through a reading of Hamlet—the sonnets aren’t, unless one is pitching woo at a potential lover who has the fortitude to be the focus of a point-blank recitation of #18 without gigglesnorting  or the self-esteem to be compared, falsely or otherwise, to the subject of #130 without being vaguely insulted.***

But just as watching a performance of a Shakespearean play doesn’t magically grant understanding of every line, reading Shakespeare’s poetry silently to oneself doesn’t fix those rhyme clunkers—or solve my little ennui problem.

Luckily, linguist David Crystal and his son, actor and writer Ben Crystal, have at least a partial solution.

According to them, it’s all in the pronunciation:

How cool is that?

It doesn’t solve all the cultural references, of course but it does clear a lot of the contextual static; all those fuzzy puns and definitions, all those off-kilter rhyme schemes and scansions suddenly start harmonizing just by tuning one’s inner ear to a different key.

And to this lover of language and staunch defender of Chaucer, it’s a fascinating key.

For those language nuts among us who want to know more about of Original Pronunciation, or for those who just want to hear more of Ben Crystal’s voice in its OP register,^ he gave a terrific lecture on the subject (and in that pronunciation) a few years ago. It’s an hour and a half long, but Mr. Crystal is a wonderful speaker and likes to make his audience laugh, so it’s well worth it.

If you need a little more convincing to spend that much time on historical accents, however earthy, here’s a teaser:

I don’t know about y’all, but the next time I encounter a Shakespearean sonnet, I’m gonna read it in pirate.^^


*Which isn’t to say that I wouldn’t welcome any member of AGVBA  to visit any time they like and recite anything they wish in my living room for as long as I can keep the doors lock and the duct tape secure they see fit.

** Sonnet #116 has several of ’em:

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no; it is an ever-fixed mark,
That looks on tempests, and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

***Don’t start with that one, gentlemen—it’s not as reassuring as you’ve been told it is.

^Which totally makes him eligible for the AGVBA—who’s with me?

^^Though I’m sure my favorite performance of the St. Crispin’s Day speech (Henry V) will always be in pure, unapologetic Bronx:

Poetry Wednesday: Boreas Bites

Baby, it’s cold outside and I’ve been sneezing so hard I’m amazed I still have mucus membranes or windows.  I’m sure most of you Poetry Wednesday Lurkers—I know you’re out there, ’cause stats don’t lie*—already know how I feel about winter weather, but I haven’t run out of poems that express those feelings, so here are a few more.

You know, the more I read Shakespeare’s poetry, the more I admire the breadths and depths of his sarcasm. This is another one of his I like to growl through my teeth while stumping along in LL Bean waterproof shoes which aren’t laced quite high enough for the to keep the snow out of my socks, as the wind chill laughs through my wool coat.

Blow, Blow, Thou Winter Wind
(William Shakespeare)

Blow, blow, thou winter wind,
Thou art not so unkind
As man’s ingratitude;
Thy tooth is not so keen,
Because thou art not seen,
Although thy breath be rude.
Heigh-ho! sing, heigh-ho! unto the green holly:
Most friendship is feigning, most loving mere folly:
Then, heigh-ho, the holly!
Winter--called it!This life is most jolly.

Freeze, freeze, thou bitter sky,
That dost not bite so nigh
As benefits forgot:
Though thou the waters warp,
Thy sting is not so sharp
As friend remembered not.
Heigh-ho! sing, heigh-ho! unto the green holly:
Most friendship is feigning, most loving mere folly:
Then, heigh-ho, the holly!
This life is most jolly.

Of course, an Englishman can’t hold a parka to a Scot when it comes to a thorough understanding of winter weather.

I’m absolutely sure there’s a metaphor for hope in the darkness and life in death and the cycle of seasons or whatever, but I’m too busy shivering, so one of you Floridians or Australians or Central Americans or Singaporeans or Guamanians can do it, since you’re all so nice and warm.

You know, come to think of it, Even Glaswegians are warmer than we Midwestern Americans are right now—at least on the outside.  That’s just wrong.**

A Winter Night
(Robert Burns)

When biting Boreas, fell and doure,
Sharp shivers thro’ the leafless bow’r;
When Phoebus gies a short-liv’d glow’r,
Far south the lift,
Dim-dark’ning thro’ the flaky show’r,
Or whirling drift:

Ae night the storm the steeples rocked,Dust of Snow
Poor Labour sweet in sleep was locked,
While burns, wi’ snawy wreeths upchoked,
Wild-eddying swirl,
Or thro’ the mining outlet bocked,
Down headlong hurl.

List’ning, the doors an’ winnocks rattle,
I thought me on the ourie cattle,
Or silly sheep, wha bide this brattle
O’ winter war,
And thro’ the drift, deep-lairing, sprattle,
Beneath a scar.

Ilk happing bird, wee, helpless thing!
That, in the merry months o’ spring,
Delighted me to hear thee sing,
What comes o’ thee?
Whare wilt thou cow’r thy chittering wing
An’ close thy e’e?

Ev’n you on murd’ring errands toil’d,
Lone from your savage homes exil’d,
The blood-stain’d roost, and sheep-cote spoil’d
My heart forgets,
While pityless the tempest wild
Sore on you beats.

But it’s William Blake who really nails the worst parts of winter, like an ice pick through one’s sinuses—which is exactly how I felt through most of yesterday.  And yes, I know this poem isn’t really about winter, and that I’m making light of a brutal account of the whirlwind descent of sanity into irrevocable despair, but if we can’t misinterpret poems to suit our own immediate needs, then what the hell are they for?***

Mad Song
(William Blake)

The wild winds weep,
And the night is a-cold;
Come hither, Sleep,
And my griefs infold:
But lo! the morning peeps
Over the eastern steeps,Polar Vortex (Saturn)
And the rustling birds of dawn
The earth do scorn.

Lo! to the vault
Of paved heaven,
With sorrow fraught
My notes are driven:
They strike the ear of night,
Make weep the eyes of day;
They make mad the roaring winds,
And with tempests play.

Like a fiend in a cloud
With howling woe,
After night I do croud,
And with night will go;
I turn my back to the east,
From whence comforts have increas’d;
For light doth seize my brain
With frantic pain.

Keep warm and safe, everyone, and away from those rattling winnocks—you’ll put your e’e out.


*I can’t imagine there are fewer than five of you hitting refresh all day just to humor me—thanks for that, by the way.

**Hear that sound?  That’s the sound of patronizing laughter.  It appears to be coming from Canada . . . .

**The image isn’t from Earth, either, by the way, as Saturn apparently has more dramatic Polar Vortexes.  Who knew?

Random Thursday: Shakespeare, a Beaver-Duck, and the Fastest Turtle on Earth

Random Thursday (ˈrandəm ˈTHərzdā): the day on which Sarah plunks down all the odd bits and pieces she’s been sent by friends or has otherwise stumbled upon this week in an effort to avoid writing a real post, the assembly of which usually ends up taking twice as much time as sitting down and creating actual content.

Thanks for all the Shakespeare stuff—and the turtles—y’all sent me over the last two days!

It made me feel much better.

So you can stop, now . . .


God match me with a good dancer
(Much Ado About Nothing, Act 2)

hokiest pokey

Mr. Jeff Breslin won The Washington Post’s 2003 In the Style of Contest with this one.

(Thanks, George!)


Your abilities are too infant-like for doing much alone.
(Coriolanus, Act 2)

Shakespeare Served




Because a week can’t go by without someone sending me a turtletachment or two.

(not that I mind—thanks, liligriff!)

This one is from the Double Clicks, a musical group who has vowed to write a song a week for a year,
with somewhat random results.

If turtles aren’t your thing, try “Wonder (The Wonder Woman Song).”

It’s beautiful.


To Nom or Not to Nom

(Omelet, Course 3)


The Comedy of Two Well-Measured Gentlemen Lost in the Merry Wives of Venice on a Midsummer’s Twelfth Night in Winter
Cymbeline Taming Pericles the Merchant in the Tempest of Love as Much as you like it for Nothing
Four Weddings and a Transvestite

as compacted and performed by the Reduced Shakespeare Company:

(Thanks, Vonnie—I needed that)


Glorious Summer my Calypigian Derrière

Discount Tent

(Richard III, Act 1 . . . Sort of)

(I’m not sharing the other one, Kev—you know why)


The Cutest Widdle Beaver-Duck

This baby platypus girl made Watson squee. You have been warned.