Archive for February, 2012

Ask Philosophers – let them do the thinking for you!

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

Which is morally superior: ponies or kitties?

We patiently await the answers to these and other important philosophical queries:

(Note that there have been more responses than questions.  We’re not sure what that tells us about philosophers.)

Arbitrary Vegetable of the Day

Friday, February 24th, 2012

Swiss Chard.

Love of Chickens

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012

“Cluck to me but softly, oh, my hen.”
– some poet

What is the most beautiful chicken in the world?

Ask John Henderson of the Handy-Dandy Chicken Chart

(N.B. UPG would never ask “Why another chicken page.” Never!)

Admire the Silkie’s hairy plumage.

Applaud the Yokohama’s jaunty gait!

Gaze into the eyes of the rare and glorious Ameraucana, and speak admiring praises of her green eggs.

What is the most beautiful chicken in the world? Why, that one’s easy. It’s the chicken you love.

Psycho Donuts

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012

From the wilds of California comes PSYCHO DONUTS.

We don’t have anything to say about this.  Although perhaps they could use the services of a Freud Donut.

New Product – The Banned Book Mug

Monday, February 13th, 2012

The Unemployed Philosophers Guild proudly presents the Banned Book Mug, featuring 24 famous banned books all on a lovely mug with the word “banned” in relief in the middle.

This mug salutes the titles that were banned by so many prigs and prisses and self-appointed sentries of your intelligence and imagination.

Like Socrates and Mae West, banned books can be censored (or worse) for corrupting the morals of the youth — but the truth will out!

(If freedom of speech leaves you in need of some comforting, fill your Banned Book Mug with chamomile. MMMmmm chamomile.)

Discontinued Product Memory Lane: The Shakespeare Slippers

Friday, February 10th, 2012

Shortly after the launch of our top-selling Freudian Slippers, we expanded the line by introducing Shakespeare Slippers.  This cozy footwear is in the likeness of Shakespeare’s head with a cute moustache and goatee.

In addition, the Shakespeare Slippers had a neck cuff which served as a floor duster.  However, due to this the cuff tended to get dingy.  And the collar somehow made the slippers look uncomfortably like severed heads.  And while Freudian Slippers make conceptual sense because of their name, the Shakespeare slippers were a bit of a stretch.  So after a short run we discontinued them.

UPG fans celebrate Charles Dickens’ birthday

Thursday, February 9th, 2012

It was Charles Dickens’ 200th birthday on February 7th, and UPG fans marked the occasion with our Dickens finger puppet.  You can see one photo here.  It’s interesting to imagine what Dickens might have thought if he knew there’d be a magnetic finger puppet of his likeness next to his birthday Google doodle and an e-reader with one of his books 142 years after his death.  After someone explained tom him what the internet and an e-reader are of course.  And here he is with his contemporay Edgar Alan Poe, which links to an interesting post at the Poe Museum blog about the relationship between the two authors.

Espresso Nirvana

Tuesday, February 7th, 2012

Classical pianist and composer Gregg Kallor wanted to create a video to promote his new album. Tired of the standard performance video, filmmaker Alan McIntyre Smith decided to make a proper music video for Kallor’s piece Espresso Nirvana.  The resulting piece is a beautifully-presented battle between the sexes, over coffee and piano playing.  Let’s hope this starts a trend in classical music videos!  Check the video out below.

UPG Guestpert: Geoff Klock

Saturday, February 4th, 2012

Author and professor Geoff Klock has made his own mash-up of clips from adaptations or films and television episodes that reference Hamlet.  With clips from 65 sources, this was quite an undertaking.  We at the Guild chatted with Professor Klock about this project.  You can see the video embedded at the bottom of this post.

UPG: Hello Professor Klock!  We’d like to start with… um… why?

GK: I teach Hamlet. And I showed clips of different scenes (Gibson, Olivier, Branagh etc) so my students could see different staging. And I told my students how influential Hamlet was, showing a scene from Spiderman 3 as an example. But I don’t think they really believed me. As I taught Hamlet I kept bumping into scenes from movies that would quote it: True Romance, Nightmare before Christmas, Billy Madison. And my students would come to me with the same: Transformers: Beast Wars, and The Addams Family. So I started to collect clips to show in class — to SHOW rather than TELL them that it was everywhere. And after a while I had too many clips to show and I needed a format that would allow me to get through them quickly.

UPG: What is the fascination with Hamlet?  Is it mainly the ubiquitous reach of this particular play?

GK: Hollywood relies on shorthand. If you want to show that someone is a genius you show them being great a chess, even though I think the relation between chess and brilliance is slight. (You can be great a chess but in my experience it does not necessarily translate into intelligence in other areas, for example, being a criminal mastermind). Hamlet has become shorthand for “literary” so if you want to show someone is well read or cultured you have them quote Hamlet. Because of this it is ripe for irony — for example quoting Horatio’s beautiful parting words to Hamlet at the death of a giant robot.

UPG: How long did this project take you?

GK: It took me about 6 months, but it was a lot of wait and hurry up: wait for the disk from Netflix, wait to make a digital copy, wait to upload the digital clip to iMovie, and then of course all the trimming to get one line to flow into the next across two clips. It was only a few hours a week for many many weeks.

UPG: Are there any specific popular culture adaptations or uses of Hamlet that you find particularly powerful?

GK: The one from Clueless I find really wonderful. Paul Rudd’s pretentious friend says “It’s just like Hamlet said: to thine own self be true,” and Claire, who is supposed to be a ditz, corrects her, pointing out that Hamlet did not say that. “I think I remember Hamlet accurately,” the girl says but Claire does not back down: “I think I remember Mel Gibson accurately, and he didn’t say that, that Polonious guy did.” Pretentious people — people who are idiotically proud not to own a television, proud for some reason to have never seen Game of Thrones — think they know more than pop culture nerds. But in my experience pop culture nerds pay as much if not MORE attention to the things they love as the book nerds. I love the pop culture kid slamming the literary person on their own turf using pop culture knowledge.

And Hamlet 2, which is a very weak movie (it is a satire on the inspirational teacher movie that has very little to do with Hamlet) gets kind of amazing just at the end when you finally see bits of Hamlet 2: the idea that the characters need to forgive each other and the idea that they could all be saved from the tragedy (with a Time Machine!) has a kind of Christian beauty to it, even at its most ridiculous (e.g. Hamlet gives Ophelia CPR and when she coughs out the water asks her to marry him).

UPG: What’s the most ridiculous incorporation or adaptation of Hamlet that you’ve come across?

GK: The Mystery Science Theater devoted to Hamlet is generally considered to be a weaker installment by MST3K fans but it includes one of my favorite MST3K lines– over the closing credits they say “HAMLET WILL RETURN … IN THUNDERBALL.” Cracks me the fuck up.

UPG: Have you discovered that there were other adaptations or references you left out that you’d like to incorporate if you were to re-edit this?

GK: I am expanding it now and there are lots: Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (“something is rotten in Denver”), It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (“goodnight sweet prince” as they kick dirt on a crow in the woods), Downton Abbey (“he’s not the consummation devoutly to be wished”), Law and Order: SVU (“there’s the rub”), Dinosaurs, M*A*S*H, Anonymous, Comedy Bang Bang, Veggietales, Highlander 2.

UPG: Did you make any discoveries as you started lining these clips up together?

GK: In the expansion I discovered that Christopher Plummer was in a film version of Hamlet when it he was very young, and it made the clip from decades later, where he says “to be or not to be” in Klingon extra funny. Two people say “to be or not to be” before a large explosion, and in the expansion, coming soon, Kevin Klein and Robert Downey Jr. show up in two things each, and three people reach for the low hanging fruit of imagining Hamlet as a dog — because he is a Great Dane.

UPG: What do you think we can learn about Hamlet or popular culture by doing this kind of project?

GK: I should say that we can learn how influential Hamlet and Shakespeare are, but really I don’t think of it as being that educational in spite of the ostensible reason for its existence — I think if it as entertainment, for a particular kind of nerd (me). For some reason I have always found the smash of high culture and low to be super funny, so I just love it when, for example, we go from Ethan Hawke’s Hamlet to Olivier’s.

UPG: What’s next for you; do you have any other mash-ups in the works?

GK: I also teach Macbeth and Paradise Lost. I am working on a Macbeth Mash Up — featuring among other things The Chronicles of Riddick, V for Vendetta, Bugs Bunny, Dario Argento’s Opera, one appearance by Magneto, and appearances from both the younger and older Professor X.  For Paradise Lost I am preparing a Satan Mash Up because Satan in pop culture is far more influenced my Milton than either Dante or the Bible, and that should be fun. After that I am going to stop — although part of me thinks all three will continue to expand over the years. The more people that see them the more movies and tv shows I get pointed to.

Geoff Klock (D.Phil., Oxford University) is the author of two academic books, and is an assistant professor at BMCC, where he serves as composition coordinator. He is also on the Facebook, and the Twitter machine. 

This Day in UPG History

Thursday, February 2nd, 2012

On February 2, 1602, Guild member Josias “Fitzy” Fitzsimmons snuck into the Middle Temple in London (it was cold outside) and happened to come across the premiere of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night.  He was so impressed with the thrilling production that from that moment forth, we switched from selling Christopher Marlowe merchandise to William Shakespeare merchandise and haven’t looked back (though at the time our Ben Johnson products sold much better).