Thursday, January 31, 2013


Willm Shackper

That's one of the ways he signed his name.

Rash statements are my speciality. Consistency in the rashness is less obvious. One exception: I have always said that I would do a deal with the Devil in order to spend just one day with Shakespeare when he was alive and writing. I would gladly trade all the rest of my days for just one in his company. Just give me a week to get my things in order and then I'm definitely up for it.

Why? He was just the most incredible of writing geniuses. I would like to know how he did it. I would like to try to understand how anyone could so consistently produce genius, seemingly at the drop of a hat. It still awes and amazes me every time I consider it.

It was not always so. At the age of 15 my introduction to the Bard was both late and uninspiring. In the 60's studying Shakespeare was based on the text; and, as I am very keen to point out to modern students, not very satisfying, imaginative or interesting.

Studying like that was, and is, boring and almost guaranteed to put you off for life. What “saved” me was the play chosen for study - Julius Caesar.

I have always been interested in Rome and Roman history, so Caesar was a natural for me. I like history (in the 8th grade I won five dollars in the Daughters of the American Revolution history contest – I got 49 out of 50 questions correct I missed the one about Teddy Roosevelt, I knew that FDR was a Democrat so I guessed that Teddy was one as well – no – he was a Republican and a Progressive – damn Ol Teddy he cost me another 5 bucks and the first place glory).

Caesar in the dark ages – i.e. before video tape, cd's, dvd's – was a challenge for pupils and teachers alike. Why?

Simple. I told pupils why for more than 30 years. Skakespeare wrote plays, not books. Plays are meant to be acted on a stage (or as a movie). They are not meant to be read, either out loud or silently to yourself. To make sense of what is going on you have to see it!

Witness (and slip in a real good moan at the same time) the BBC – a venerable and mercenary broadcaster. Between 1978 and 1985 the Beeb commisioned and screened all 37 plays. They are quite truly wonderful, as they featured some of the most expert and famous actors of the day.

Then in a feat of the most uninspiring and possibly criminal opportunism and shameless exploitation of the long-suffering license-payer the BBC steadfastly has refused to air them again – as soon, and if you think this is co-incidental you need professional help, as video recorders became generally available. You can of course see these marvellous productions provided you buy the video from the BBC – and they are not cheap.

So much for inspiring a new generation of Bard fans. Thanks Auntie.

I do have a collection of plays that were aired co-incidental with modern technology and I used them extensively during the 90's and noughties.

Thus Shakespeare became a joy to teach. The language came alive and pupils suddenly “got it”. Fantastic.

After Caesar I moved on to Richard III. I say moved on but it was more like struggled on really.

Firstly, a rather attractive girl I knew invited me to spend the weekend at her Granny's farm. Could I say no? Not likely. As luck would have it, my weekend was promised to reading Richard III as well. Now truly it was a “winter of discontent” even though it was May.

My amorous adventures turned out to be non-existent, but I made little progress with Richard either. Why? This may be Shakespeare's most difficult play, though it was, apparently, very popular in his time. Why so?

Simple. It's a soap opera. And just like Eastenders if you don't know who the characters are and how they are related to each other you have little chance of making sense of it.

When I taught it for A level, I always spent a week (figuratively that is) in the 1480's. Unless you understand how society worked then you have little chance of understanding Richard III.

I need another blog to move the story on. I promise to do it soon.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Chiefs EoS Report - A New Reid?

Chiefs EoS Report – A New Reid in the Oboe to Play a Better Tune?

Where to start? From the pre-season predictions (and not just mine!), this should have been a play-off season.

The record speaks for itself. Two and Fourteen. League leaders in almost every negative statistic you can name. No offense and precious little defense. No special teams. More turnovers than touchdowns? Wouldn't surprise me. It was a train wreck.

Whose fault? The coaches and the GM have paid the price. They're gone. Coach Reid treks in from Philly to see what can be done. He is greeted like the Messiah. Even the KC Star is fulsome in its praise.

Let's hold on a moment. The task is now immense. Four or five years have been wasted. From the day Pioli was allowed to choose Matt Cassel as his QB for the future, all the eggs were in one basket. And, there was a hole in the bottom of that basket through which the franchise fell.

A more honorable man would have fallen on his sword. The Chiefs faithful will not forget and Scott will have to grow a long, white beard before he is welcome in KC again. But we have to move on.

Fact - every coach who lost their job at the end of the season had one thing in common – their quarterback was just not good enough.

Contrast this with the Luck and Manning story. Each took a mediocre (at best) team into the playoffs. Peyton's days are numbered (old age) but Luck will probably win a Super Bowl in the next 5-6 years, if he stays healthy.

Why? Because he is already an NFL QB and will only get better, plus the Colts can now concentrate on upgrading the personnel around him either through the draft of free agency. Bet on the Colts if he stays healthy.

The Chiefs are, on the other hand, technically screwed. Let the new coach explain: “I have looked at the roster and there are some good football players on this team. I look to add to that, I think that’s important. We can all get better – me included. The quarterback position, I will dig in and look at that and we will build it. We will see how that works out, we need to spend some time on that – I need to find the next Len Dawson. It might be right here, it might not. I have to dig in, and I need a little time on that.”

Ok, Andy, you are preaching to the converted. He goes on to say he will evaluate the QB's he has on roster. Sorry, Andy, the NFL has already done that. They are just not good enough. (I leave out Stanzl who has never taken a snap – but I'd be very surprised if coach Reid thinks he's a world-beater.)

Where do we go from here?

We get the number one pick in the draft. Consensus now is that there is not a top QB coming out of college this year. Just our luck. We either trade the top pick for a QB or find one somewhere else.

The prospects are not good.

What about the pathetic defense?

Reid again: “In regards to the 4-3, 3-4, I’m evaluating that right now. I understand the values in both. I’ve been a 4-3 guy, and I’ve played against a 3-4 so I got it and understand it. There has been an effort to bring in players that work in the 3-4, so I will look at that first and go from there.” So, my wasted 5 years theory is reiterated by Reid. I could cry.

I would like to get positive but it''s looking like another “rebuilding” job.

My solution. I'd tout Jamal Charles for a real NFL QB. Trouble is good running backs are not in short supply.

Unless Reid is a miracle worker it looks like another 40 years to the next Super Bowl.