Archive for May, 2013

Smartass Response to a Philosopher #14

Thursday, May 23rd, 2013

“No one doubts but that we imagine time from the very fact that we imagine other bodies to be moved slower or faster or equally fast. We are accustomed to determine duration by the aid of some measure of motion.” – Spinoza

Duh… like the second hand on your watch?

UPG Guestpert: Geoff Klock, part 2

Tuesday, May 21st, 2013

In February 2012, we interviewed Professor Geoff Klock about his epic video Hamlet mash-up.

Well, it just got more epic-er. Whereas his first mash-up included 65 clips from film and television which tell the story of Shakespeare’s Danish Prince, the new incarnation includes a staggering 198 clips, all 4.5 seconds or less.

We don’t even know where to begin in describing it, so we’ll let Geoff do the talking.

UPG: Tell us a bit about this new Hamlet mash-up.

GK: Nearly 200 clips from different movies and TV shows in under 15 minutes! And I somehow got 12,000 people to view a 15 minute video about Shakespeare on YouTube so that is pretty good!

UPG: Your first Hamlet mash-up was quite thorough and presumably a huge amount of work to put together. What prompted you to do it again?

GK: I thought I was done the first time with the 65 clips. But after the first version launched people kept sending me stuff – especially Kevin Maher, one of my biggest supporters, who found my favorite clip: Fonzie admitting thoughts of suicide (?!). I found more stuff and it got out of control. I did not decide to do it again. I was continually updating it. I thought for like a year I was three clips from having a complete set. But every time I got those three there were always three more in front of me. And there still were even when this one went up.

But I realized that if I kept waiting for those three more clips no one would ever see it. And now that this new one is up people have pointed out literally 15-20 more that I missed! They keep apologizing, but I feel like it is super fun. I am going to update this every year.

UPG: Did you find that you learned something new about Shakespeare’s play and/or its place in contemporary culture through working on this project?

GK: Mostly that Hamlet is impossible to escape. Literally when I thought I was done the first non-Hamlet-related DVD that came from Netflix was Savages, and guess what — it had a Hamlet reference in the first 5 minutes!

UPG: What surprises did you find in compiling this massive collection of clips?

GK: Christopher Plummer said To Be or Not To Be as a young actor in 1964 playing Hamlet on TV, then again as a Klingon. There were three incarnations of Addams family and they all quote Hamlet! I was able to end three major speeches of Hamlet with someone saying they were sick of the speech, and I found three clips of people leaving a performance of Hamlet just as To Be Or Not To Be began.

UPG: As a professor, do you find this to be a potential teaching tool? Or were you just creating it for your own satisfaction?

GK: Like a lot of things I pretend to intellectual reasons but really? It just makes me laugh.

UPG: What’s next? Are you done with mash-ups for the time being?

GK: I think I am done for a while. I have another major project starting I hope to announce soon!

You can see the mash-up in all its glory here:


And Now for Something Completely Different

Wednesday, May 15th, 2013

We are thrilled to announce that this summer we will be releasing a collection of Monty Python products. We’re huge fans and it’s been a delight for our designers to work with the Python imagery. We also think that UPG and Monty Python are a natural fit.

We’re making a watch, sticky notes, mints, a wallet, and a mug. We’ll post here once they’re available.

Arbitrary Pie of the Day

Monday, May 13th, 2013

Plum pie.


Smartass Response to a Philosopher #13

Thursday, May 9th, 2013

“Those whose hearts are fixed on Reality itself deserve the title of Philosophers.” –Plato

Hear that, producers of reality shows?

Shakespeare and Pals: Who Really Wrote What?

Tuesday, May 7th, 2013

This is part 6 in a series of entries about playwrights other than Shakespeare during the “Shakespearean” era.

The Elizabethan theater world was highly collaborative. There was not a sense of copyright or ownership of creative material like there is today. Writers shared, borrowed, and stole from each other on a regular basis. They wrote scenes for each other’s plays, they wrote entire plays together, and they acted in each other’s plays.

Shakespeare started his career working with other writers. Titus Andronicus, one of the most popular of Shakespeare’s plays in his lifetime, is considered to have been written with George Peele. And Peele and Thomas Nashe probably also worked on Henry VI, Part 1 and may have written as much of this play as Shakespeare did.

Later in life, Shakespeare collaborated with the younger playwright John Fletcher on Henry VIIIThe Two Noble Kinsmen and the lost play Cardenio.

Shakespeare’s As You Like It was based on Thomas Lodge’s play Rosalynde. And his Winter’s Tale was most likely inspired by Robert Greene’s play Pandosto.

Know that line from Macbeth: “double, double, toil and trouble?” Probably written by Thomas Middleton.

Shakespeare acted in Ben Jonson’s breakout play Every Man in His Humour.

Thomas Kydd and Christopher Marlowe were roommates.

Frances Beaumont and John Fletcher wrote exclusively together for several years and were known to share everything – even women.

John Fletcher wrote a highly regarded sequel to Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew called The Tamer Tamed.

Thomas Dekker and John Webster wrote the successful satire Westward Ho. Not to be outdone, George Chapman, Ben Jonson, and John Marston responded with their own satire called Eastward Ho. Webster and Dekker replied with Northward Ho.

We’re used to studying writers in contrast to one another. But the act of writing in Shakespeare’s time was much more flexible. Elizabethan and Jacobean playwrights were dedicated to creating exciting and moving plays for their patrons and the general public, and doing so required a lot of hands. Shakespeare wasn’t a lonely man in a room with a bunch of parchment and a quill pen, like the way we tend to imagine our classic writers. He became Shakespeare through his engagement with this vibrant and active culture.

Shakespeare and Pals: Shakespeare’s Greatest Rivals

Thursday, May 2nd, 2013

This is part 5 in a series of entries about playwrights other than Shakespeare during the “Shakespearean” era.

There were many great playwriting talents besides Shakespeare in Shakespeare’s day, but two are often mentioned more than others: Christopher Marlowe and Ben Jonson.

These two playwrights are intimately associated with Shakespeare, and were of such talent that many Shakespeare deniers claim that one or the other of them was the true author of Shakespeare’s plays.


Christopher Marlowe was born the same year as Shakespeare, but his career as a playwright preceded the Bard’s. Marlowe was the preeminent playwright in London when Shakespeare began his theatrical career. By the quality of his limited output, it is possible that Marlowe, had he not died at the young age of 29, would have gone on to be an even greater playwright than Shakespeare. Marlowe was one of the first English playwrights to write in blank verse, and many of his plays, such as Edward II and Doctor Faustus continue to be some of the more commonly-performed non-Shakespeare plays from the period.

Marlowe was also one of the more fascinating of the Elizabethan playwrights, and they were a uniformly fascinating bunch. Marlowe was an avowed atheist, which was a very dangerous position to take at that time. Marlowe’s roommate, the playwright Thomas Kyd, was in fact tortured by the police over some heretical tracts found in their lodgings, which Kyd claimed belonged to Marlowe. Marlowe is also believed to have been a homosexual, although sexual mores of the time were more elastic than ours are. Most interestingly, Marlowe may have been government spy, and his murder, which according to the coroner’s report, was the result of an argument over a bar bill, could in fact have been a political assassination. What is definite is that for some reason his killer was allowed to walk free.

NPG 2752; Benjamin JonsonBen Jonson was eight years younger than Shakespeare and was highly regarded during the heyday of Shakespeare’s career and beyond – he survived the older playwright by 21 years.

Jonson’s great achievements were in comedy, especially the subgenre of city comedy, in which he satirized contemporary London life. Satire was a dangerous business in England at the time; censorship was rife, and besides having some of his plays banned, Jonson was jailed for “lewd and mutinous behavior” for having written the play The Isle of Dogs. The censors did their job very well in this case, since no copies of this play have been found to exist.

Like his contemporary Marlowe, Jonson was no stranger to violence and shocking behavior. Jonson was kicked out of the royal court for unruly behavior, and killed a fellow actor, Gabriel Spencer, in a duel. He escaped execution by pleading benefit of clergy, in which he gained leniency by reciting a bible verse, forfeiting his goods, and being branded as a felon on his thumb.

William Shakespeare and Ben Jonson had a great rivalry, and were known to denigrate each other’s work. They must have eventually reconciled though, because Shakespeare became the godfather of Jonson’s son and the two ate and drank together at Shakespeare’s house a few days before Shakespeare’s death in 1619. And Jonson was instrumental in publishing the first folio of Shakespeare’s plays in 1623, and wrote its loving introductory poem, To the Memory of My Beloved the Author, Mr. William Shakespeare, and What He Hath Left Us.