Shakespeare’s Beehive, Birthday and Bitching

Today is Shakespeare’s 450th birthday. To celebrate, let’s contemplate the alleged discovery of the playwright’s dictionary. Perhaps we could use it to look up “big whoop.”
Apparently, a pair of New York-based antiquarian booksellers bought ye olde dictionary off eBay in 2008 and have since taken pains to authenticate it. Though Shakespeare’s name isn’t written anywhere within its pages (obviously, these were the days before our tradition of exes making off with one’s books when moving out), the booksellers make their case for its ownership in their new book, Shakespeare’s Beehive.

Why isn’t their book titled Shakespeare’s Dictionary you ask? I looked it up. The contested reference (which should never have been removed from the library in the first place) was originally published by 16th century scholar John Baret as “An alvearie or quadruple dictionarie, containing foure sundrie tongues: namelie, English, Latine, Greeke, and French; newlie enriched with varietie of wordes, phrases, proverbs, and divers lightsome observations of grammar.”

Shakespeare's BirthdayBeyond its spelling being up for grabs, the title was too long, so scholars truncated it to “Alvearie,” which is a synonym for beehive. Still confused? I think it’s a metaphor – Baret’s lexicological effort is the result of sending his student drones out to the collect “word nectar,” which they returned to the hive and converted into sweet dictionary honey. Baret, I’m assuming, was the queen bee. Also, there’s a beehive illustration on the title page. Moreover, I submit that this is where the term “spelling bee” comes from. And yes, I’m the first to connect those dots.

Six years ago, Daniel Wechsler and George Koppelman placed their fateful bid of $4300 on eBay for the “Alvearie” and scored it for $250 less. Their claims that the dictionary was once Shakespeare’s are predicated on thousands of handwritten annotations made throughout its pages and at least eight examples of the initials W and S randomly scrawled hither and yon.

To some Shakespeare scholars, Wechsler and Koppelman’s means of authentication is tantamount to finding an old Yellow Pages in the freebies section of Craigslist and, upon finding the pages for “alcohol” and “firearms” dogeared, declaring it as Hemingway’s. Other scholars of the bard are more sanguine, not least of which because it affords them the opportunity to write more papers, sell more MFAs and generally stay in business.

The Shakespeare racket had been in decline since the ubiquitous authorship debate hath been clawed in the clutch of Age. Also, the 20th anniversary of Keanu Reeves’ critically-lambasted appearance in Much Ado About Nothing received nary a nod from anyone last year. Except me (I did my usual ritual with the flaming pentagram, etc.).

Should Shakespeare’s Beehive indeed be found authentic it will likely spawn an industry of literary Indiana Joneses combing through the online backwaters searching for Shakespeare’s laundry lists. Someday, we may herald the discovery of a scrap of parchment on which is written in Shakespeare’s hand, “2 doublets, 2 breeches, 3 collars, no starch.” Then we’ll see a raft of papers and scholarly tomes explaining how the dirty laundry may have informed Ophelia’s observation of “Lord Hamlet, with his doublet all unbraced…” Methinks he spilled some mead.

What no one has mentioned throughout this Shakespeare’s beehive business is the fact that, even if Shakespeare had used the dictionary in question, he apparently found it lacking. Over the course of his career, Shakespeare contributed 1,700 words to the English language, none of which were in Baret’s book. What he really needed was a thesaurus, which will probably show up on eBay soon.

That said, if Shakespeare did have a thesaurus, he might not have made up the word “puking,” which is useful for describing what he’d do if he knew about some of the scholarship that goes on in his name. Happy Birthday, Will.

Funny Bunny: Chocolate Bunny Melting & More

Of the many chocolate bunny torture-porn videos available on YouTube (and be assured, there are many), by far the most aesthetically realized is How to Kill a Chocolate Bunny. With no fewer than three leporidae-cacao executions (each achieved with heat-generating household appliances), How to Kill a Chocolate Bunny might be the Bambi vs. Godzilla of its time.

Hare today.

Chocolate bunny humor isn’t only an online video venture. The fine minds as SnorgTees, a popular online t-shirt concern that proffers illustrated puns and pop culture references on “100% Super Soft Cotton American Apparel Jersey,” are nibbling at the market with their own comedic confection (above). But, the grandfather of chocolate bunny humor is, of course, ectomorphic comedian Emo Philips, whose early 80s standup routine included a gag in which a chocolate bunny is used as a means of psychological assessment:

“And [the psychologist] gives me a chocolate Easter bunny. And this shows how tricky those guys are. I eat the chocolate and I think, wait a second… this isn’t around Easter. “Was this a test?” He said, “Yes.” “And what does it mean?” He said, “Well, had you eaten the ears first you would have been normal; had you eaten the feet first you would have had an inferiority complex; had you eaten the tail first you would have had latent homosexual tendencies; and had you eaten the breasts first you would have had a latent oedipal complex.” I said, “Well, go on. What does it mean when you bite out the eyes and scream, ‘Stop staring at me!’?'” He says, “It shows you’ve a tendency towards self-destruction.” I said, “What do you recommend?” He says, “Go for it!”

From Wretch to Fringe: Templeton’s Wretch Like Me On Way to Edinburgh

For some, the 1970s were a hurly burly of hot tubs and hedonism. For playwright, performer and local journalist David Templeton, it was puppets and Christian Fundamentalism. He eventually outgrew both and shares the life lessons learned along the way with comedy and heart in his one-man show, “Wretch Like Me, or How I Was Saved from Being Saved.”
Templeton performs the show, one night only, this Monday evening at the Sonoma Community Center.

Monday’s performance is a fundraiser to mount a two-week run of the show at the prestigious Edinburgh Festival Fringe (colloquially known as the Fringe Fest), hosted annually in Scotland, to which Templeton and a skeleton crew have been invited to bring the production. He is also running a concurrent campaign on IndieGoGo to raise the $10,000 (at least!) necessary to make his Aug. 1 curtain call at the the Surgeon’s Hall at the Royal Academy of Surgeons Museum in Edinburgh.

Wretch Like Me

“With all the cutting I had to do with script, it’s appropriate to perform in a place that’s also seen its share of blood,” Templeton says drolly.

The lanky, bearded and bespectacled poly-hyphenate, who many will know from his theater reviews in the North Bay Bohemian, has performed the show more than 75 times throughout the Bay Area where it first hit the boards in 2009. He’s since honed it into a lean, mean theatrical machine, full of poignant laughs and life lessons that are relatable beyond the scope of the religious experience that inspired it.

“It’s about my childhood and teenage years, which were typical in that I had to have a lot of crap thrown at me before I figured out who I was and what I wanted to do,” says Templeton, who’s proven adept at finding the universal in personal experience in this and other works that draw inspiration from his autobiography. “It was unusual in that, in my case, it happened in the crazy running-away-to-the-circus vibe of Christian fundamentalism in the ’70s of Southern California.”

Templeton recounts how the “Jesus Movement” he joined evolved from a community born of the idealism of “surfing hippies,” and started moving toward the religious right, which was contrary to his own tolerant beliefs. Suddenly, the “Jesus Club,” which accepted nerdy guys (Templeton had a puppet ministry – enough said) became something he needed to escape.

“I had to have this ‘coming-of-age’ where I had to leave the only community I ever felt safe in. I no longer felt like I was a part of it,” recounts Templeton, who, a few decades hence, used the experience to craft “Wretch Like Me.” He succinctly sums the plot as, “Boy finds Jesus. Boy loses Jesus. Boy finds himself.”

Fringe Festival

From its inception, Templeton’s goal was to bring “Wretch” to the Fringe Fest, which is to theater professionals what the Sundance Film Festival was once to filmmakers – a place to launch one’s work onto the world’s stage.

“From the beginning, we announced that that was the goal,” says Templeton. “That’s where shows get found. Where they get a chance to tour, see London or New York, get publishing opportunities. All kinds of things happen there.”

To get there, however, Templeton needs to raise the funds. At present writing, he’s raised more than $2,000. With his crowd-funding deadline hovering at a minute before midnight on May 22, he has 35 days to go to raise the rest.

As explained on the production’s IndieGoGo page, “Team Wretch must raise a minimum of $10,000 dollars. That amount will fund the remaining rental, insurance and licensing fees, plus travel and lodging costs for a basic skeleton crew. Were the Team to raise $15,000, it would allow David to pay for advertising in the published Fringe program … and to bring his full crew to Edinburgh, all of which will help ‘Wretch’ have its best chance of success in Scotland.”

Until then, it’s all about Monday’s performance and the comedy and catharsis that Templeton ably brings to the stage.

“There’s always people in the audience that I realize have had the same experience, because they’re laughing in a very knowing way, or they’re sobbing in the moment I have to make the break and I think, ‘they’ve been through the same thing,’” says Templeton. “That happens at least once in nearly every show. I’m confessing a lot of stuff that most people would be embarrassed to confess but that allows people to reach out and bond with me a little bit, which makes what happens in the story all the more powerful.”

• • •

David Templeton performs “Wretch Like Me” at 7:30 p.m., Monday, April 21 at the Andrews Hall, Sonoma Community Center, 276 E. Napa St., Sonoma. Tickets are $15. For more information, visit

Via SonomaNews

Remains of Titanic Iceberg Defend Innocence

Nearly two years after centenary observances of the RMS Titanic and its tragic sinking, a former iceberg has come forward to defend itself against allegations that it caused the fateful collision.
At a press conference in Newfoundland, four hundred miles north of the site of the mid-Atlantic disaster that became a watery grave for over 1500 voyagers, the iceberg, now a fraction of its once gargantuan size, expressed remorse for the loss of life but maintained that the accident was not its fault.

“Not to put too fine a point on it –– but the boat hit me,” emphasized the iceberg. It added that since the accident it has suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and the diminishing effects of climate change.

The iceberg has spent much of the past 100 years since the maritime disaster “just drifting” but expressed hope in finding work in punch bowl or an ice chest and believes coming forward will help his cause.

“I still have a lot left to give,” he said. “There’s a lot of me you can’t see.”