Reminder: as discussed here: The San Francisco meetup is now Zeitgeist, arriving between 7:30 and 8PM, Saturday 17th April. I'll also be meeting aphrael at ti couz a bit earlier.
Have a rare business trip next week: attending the Chirp Twitter Conference in San Francisco.
Feeling a bit underprepared. Wrote a very basic Twitter app which is churning out a few feeds, but that used the Twitterizer 1 .NET API, which Twitter is making obsolete in June. So I've spent a bit of time trying to get into the Tweetsharp API, but haven't got very far into it.
I find this Fluent Interface stuff a bit annoying: I keep finding the object I'm getting at the end isn't the class I'm expecting; and when something goes wrong it's hard to investigate because it's usually a different call five or ten lines back that's causing the problem.
Was hoping that the co-worker I'm going with would be more comfortable with it, but he's been slammed by a personal tragedy lately and I suspect he's spent even less time with it than me.
What I'm Reading
1599: A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare by James Shapiro.
Excellent book with an interesting angle, describing a critical year in the life of Shakespeare when the Globe Theatre was built; Julius Caesar, Henry V, As You Like It and Hamlet were first performed. Will Kemp. Shapiro thankfully and deliberately avoids the "must have" cliché of the sparsely-documented figure, describing what was going on in the outside world, and what we know and can guess Shakespeare was doing at the time.
One of the most interesting themes is how the contingencies around Shakespeare shaped his work. At the time a rebellion in Ireland had broken out, and the Earl of Essex was dispatched with an expeditionary force to put it down. Simultaneously London was wracked with rumours of an attack by Spain, later dubbed the Invisible Armada. Serious precautions were taken against an invasion of London, and large numbers of men were impressed into the army.
At home, Shakespeare and his fellow shareholders in the Lord Chamberlain's Men had essentially stolen the fabric of their last theatre from its owner, and re-erected it on a new site as the Globe. But building delays and increasing competition, particularly from the recreated Boys Company of St Pauls choir, threatened the business. Their popular clown Will Kemp had split with the company too, possibly after disagreements with the other Will, then taking off on his famous Nine Days Wonder.
In response to these challenges, Shakespeare had to take his work in new directions, moving from histories to tragedies; and adding more elements to the comedies. As You Like It has much more music than his previous comedies (Shapiro regards it as a proto-musical) and more than the traditional two women in the cast, as a way to compete with the Boys Companies. He also used the company-owned Globe to pioneer a kind of house style, and share jokes with the audience. When Polonius talks about playing Julius Caesar and being killed by Brutus; it's a reference to the actor, who played Julius Caesar, and was about to be killed by Richard Burbage yet again.
It's all very well done, thoughtful and well-researched. Shapiro manages to avoid all the usual traps. He seems to accept that Shakespeare's character is largely unknown, his contemporaries only reported that he was "not a company keeper". Shapiro in particular avoids the trap of assuming his works were somehow autobiographical. We do know that Shakespeare was a shrewd and effective businessman, prospering with malt dealings, and owning the second-largest house in Stratford.
Random tidbits. Like King Lear, the original source for Hamlet had a happy ending; the prince kills his wicked uncle and takes the throne. Again Shakespeare seems to have decided himself it would be a lot better if everyone died horribly instead. Shakespeare may have specialized in old man parts, like Adam in As You Like it. The Lord Chamberlain's men performed many other plays than Shakespeare's to fulfil the Elizabethan demand for novelty, so Shakespeare would have had to learn and play lines by many other playwrights.
I can't help wondering if that was responsible for Shakespeare's particular way of working: rarely starting from original ideas but endlessly improving and twisting and riffing and taking new angles on existing material. Shame that in the age of copyright no-one else could ever do the same.
What I'm Reading 2
Devoured the latest Dresden Files novel: Changes by Jim Butcher. Very good one. Starts out feeling a bit over-familiar: another urgent call to track down a missing person, though it's as action-packed as ever.
As the title suggests though, big changes happen. This is a pretty dark and dramatic one. Definitely worth reading, but you need to follow the series: no point starting here, start with books 2 or 3 instead.
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