The More You Know...

Making Shakespeare understandable with common household items, a tabletop, and good storytelling

Reading Shakespeare is torture. He wrote in verse, in 16th-century English, for a 16th-century audience whose only other entertainment options were bear-baiting and public executions.

Cover of CliffsNotes for MacbethThat’s why there’s an entire industry devoted to deciphering his Elizabethan gibberish. Having gone to high school in Toronto, my fellow students — which included Keanu Reeves, who was a couple of years ahead of me — relied on Coles Notes, the Canadian equivalent of CliffsNotes.

Today’s high school students have it a little easier. Each of his plays has at least a dozen performances on YouTube (an example: Titus Andronicus, performed by the Seoul Shakespeare Company — and yes, that’s Seoul as in South Korea) and dozens of explainer pages.

Because you are a reader of this blog, you are an erudite, sophisticated person, and recognized this scene immediately.

One of the newer Shakespeare resources to appear is ForcedEntertainment, a group of six artists based in Sheffield. They’ve decided to tell the stories in all of Shakepeare’s plays, aided only by household items on their tabletops.

So far, they’ve done:

One of the “Dating Game” scenes from this play.

The next plays in their series will be:

The closing scene.

I’ll be teaching programming for the rest of the year, and may have to steal a few tricks from these people.

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The “Two beers and a puppy” test

Tap to view at full size.

Here’s a page from Ross McCammon’s book, Works Well with Others: An Outsider’s Guide to Shaking Hands, Shutting Up, Handling Jerks, and Other Crucial Skills in Business That No One Ever Teaches You.

Find as many “Two beers and a puppy” friends as you can, and better yet, strive to be one yourself.


Here’s the full text:

“Two Beers and and a puppy” is a test I developed while working on the Esquire story on the American “son of a bitch.” The test is: In order to find out how you actually feel about someone, ask yourself: “Would I have two beers with this person?” And: “Would I allow this person to look after my puppy over a weekend?”

Some people are no and no. These people are to be avoided at all costs. Some people are yes and no. These people are two be cautiously trusted. Some people are no and yes. These people are no fun but they make the world a better place — for puppies, especially. And some people are yes and yes. These people are wonderful people and your life and work are better for having them in your life. Seek them out. Collaborate with them. Enjoy their company.

[ Found via Ryan Rossman. ]

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Technically, a “buttload” is an actual unit of measure

For more information:

Internet Finds The Current Situation The More You Know...

Midweek memes, part 3: The truth about so-called “cancel culture”

Screenshot of tweet: Berrak Sarikaya (@BerrakBiz): It’s only cancel culture if it originates in the Cancelle region of France. Otherwise, it’s just sparkling consequences.
Tap to see the original tweet.

And in case you need to be reminded:

Comic: xkcd’s “Free Speech”. “Public Service Announcement: The right to free speech means the government can}t arrest you for what you say. It doesn’t mean that anyone else has to listen to your bullshit or host you while you share it. The 1st amendment doesn’t shield you from criticism or consequences. If you’re yelled at, boycotted, have your show cancelled, or get banned from an internet community, your free speech rights aren’t being violated. It’s just that the people listening think you’re an asshole, and they’re showing you the door.”
“Free Speech” by xkcd. Tap to see the source.
Food It Happened to Me The More You Know...

Last night’s side dish: “Layogenic” curried cauliflower

For the next five weeks, I’m teaching an online Python class from 6:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays. That means that on those days, I eat dinner a little earlier, which in turn means that I’ve got to have it prepped earlier.

Luckily, I have all sorts of tricks for this sort of schedule, one of which is the mid-afternoon veggie roast: Cut up some vegetables, drizzle with oil and seasonings, roast in the oven or turbo broiler for 45 minutes. It doesn’t take long to put together, and it doesn’t need to be attended to while in the over, allowing me to continue working.

Last night’s vegetable was a whole head of cauliflower in curry powder (I used Badia’s “Jamaican style” curry), truffle salt, and ghee.

While tasty, it doesn’t look pretty close up. It’s layogenic (pronounced “LIE-o-jennic”), a Filipino/English hybrid term that was BBC’s “Word of the Day” back in January. It means “attractive from a distance, but not close up,” — the “layo” part comes from the Filipino word for “far” or “distance”.

It Happened to Me The More You Know...

Cheapass handyman hint of the day: Yea, though I walk through the valley of hex-wrench shelving, I shall fear no assembly…

Photo: Allen key duct taped to a screwdriver, in my hand.

…for I studied physics, and I have duct tape.

Here’s the story: I was assembling a set of shelves for our front hallway, and I was having trouble driving in its screws with the allen key provided. So I duct-taped the allen key to a screwdriver, which provided the necessary torque to finish the job.

The Current Situation The More You Know...

Terrible People Tuesday, part three: Atlas Grifted (or: The Ayn Rand Institute took a government PPP handout)

Among the organizations to accept a loan from the government-run, taxpayer-funded Paycheck Protection Program (a.k.a. the PPP) is none other than the Ayn Rand Institute. These loans have an  ultra-low interest rate of 1% and mature over either 2 years (if issued before June 5, 2020) or 5 years (if issued after June 5, 2020).

Given that Rand herself was a rabidly anti-government, anti-social services, anti-altruism crank who nevertheless spent her twilight years on that government handout program called social security, the Ayn Rand Institute’s use of the PPP is actually on-brand.

Of course, the Ayn Rand Institute wouldn’t have done this without coming up with some kind of excuse, no matter how weak. Here it is:

“It would be a terrible injustice for pro-capitalists to step aside and leave the funds to those indifferent or actively hostile to capitalism,” Ayn Rand Institute board member Harry Binswanger argued in May, stating that the organization would “take any relief money offered us.”

Recommended viewing: All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace – Episode 1: Love and Power

I’ve joked that Ayn Rand’s novels were popular with people who majored in business and computer science — the former because she appeals to their greed, the latter because she appeals to their revenge fantasies.

Rand’s shadow still looms large over Silicon Valley and its wanna-bes, and it gave rise to awful things such as the Californian ideology, Peter Thiel, tech bros, and the general dickery that is an unfortunate part of American tech culture. It’s captured quite well in the first episode of a 2011 BBC documentary series called All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace.

Recommended reading

  • Ayn Rand’s entry in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, which includes this gem: “Conspicuous by their absence from Rand’s list of virtues are the ‘virtues of benevolence,’ such as kindness, charity, generosity, and forgiveness.”
  • RationalWiki’s entry for Ayn Rand’s philosophy, objectivism. They’re not fans of it, either, despite the fact that objectivism’s supposed highest virtue is supposed to be rationality (little hint: it’s not).
  • Blogger John Rogers on Ayn Rand’s writing: “There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.”