Tag Archives: music

Danny Kaye

Archive photo from the Los Angeles Times

Archive photo from the Los Angeles Times

My childhood was shaped by television events like the annual showing of The Wizard of Oz and classic movies on Friday nights when I was allowed to stay up past my bedtime to watch the whole thing.  I have told you before how much I loved the comedy of Red Skelton.  Another comedian who shaped who I am through his wondrously manic movie performances was Danny Kaye.

One of those Friday movie classics that really struck home was the wonderful, kid-friendly movie Hans Christian Andersen.

1952 movie poster from Wikipedia

1952 movie poster from Wikipedia

The movie was about a storyteller from a previous century and embroidered his biographical story with his famous children’s stories in the form of songs.  And Danny Kaye could trip through multi-syllabic, fast-paced musical numbers like no other rubber-faced clown I have ever seen.   I wanted to be such a story-teller from a very early age.  I even wanted to write the kind of stories that could be made into songs.  Let me show you a few of the bits that amazed me and killed me with laughter.

This song from the Inspector General was doubly engaging because the corrupt businessmen were trying to poison the character Danny played with the wine he was supposed to drink during the drinking song.

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The movies Danny Kaye was in were mostly about the musical comedy.  But sometimes they were just about the music.  He appeared in musicals like White Christmas with Bing Crosby and stage musicals like Lady in the Dark which won him awards on Broadway.  He made movies about music like The Five Pennies and A Song is Born.  He always said he couldn’t read music, but he demonstrated perfect pitch and scored a number one hit with The Woody Woodpecker Song recorded for the animated cartoons of Walter Lantz.  How cool is that?

And you already know that The Wizard of Oz is my favorite movie of all time.  In 1964 Danny became the host for CBS’s annual showing of the film.  He was able to do funny songs that made you snort your hot cocoa through your nose from laughing, and he could also do beautiful ballads like these.

I will always take the opportunity to watch a Danny Kaye movie one more time, whether it comes on YouTube or a Netflix oldie or a $5 DVD from the bin at the front of the Walmart Superstore.  And I will always think of him in his role as Hans Christian Anderson.

Oh, and he was a very funny comedian too when he wasn’t singing, as in The Court Jester and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.

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For the Love of Korngold

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When I was in Cow College at Iowa State University I spent most of my study time listening to KLYF Radio in Des Moines.  They would eventually transform into an easy-listening music station, but the time I truly lived a K-LYFe was when they played classical music.  And it was there that I first fell deeply in love with the Saturday Matinee stylings of  Erich Wolfgang Korngold, the first incarnation of John Williams of Star Wars fame.  Yes, movie music.  Classical movie music.  And it seemed, mostly movie music for Errol Flynn movies.

 

 

 

My sister was always a lover of Errol Flynn movies, and when KGLO TV Channel 3 would play one on the Saturday Movie Matinee in the early afternoon, we would have to watch it, the whole thing, no matter how many times we were repeating the same four movies.  Nancy would memorize the lines from the Olivia deHavilland love scenes.  I would memorize the sword fight scenes with Errol and Evil Basil Rathbone (Good Basil was Sherlock Holmes, and we had to watch those too.)  Early evenings on those Saturdays were all about playing pirate and Captain Blood adventures.  Or better yet, Robin Hood.

 

 

 

But the music of adventure was by the composer Erich Wolfgang Korngold.  He did the sound tracks for Captain Blood, Robin Hood, and the Sea Hawk.

I sincerely love the corny old movie matinee music because it was not only genius-level mood music and story-telling in a classical music instrumental masterpiece, but because even now it takes me back to the boy I was at twelve years old, playing pirate on Grandpa Aldrich’s farm.   Making Robin Hood bows out of thin tree branches and arrows out of dried ragweed stalks.  Sword fighting to the death with sticks with my cousin Bob, who was always Basil Rathbone in my mind. while I’m sure I was Basil Rathbone in his mind.

To be honest, there is much more to Korngold than I have relentlessly gushed about here like a hopeless nerdling fan-boy in the throws of a geeky movie passion.  He was a musical child prodigy like Mozart.  He wrote a ballet called Der Schneemann (the Snow Man) when he was only eleven, and became the talk of the town in Vienna, Austria in 1908.  He became the conductor of the Hamburg Opera by 1921.  He wrote some very fine classical music in the 20’s that still rings through orchestra halls to this day before coming to America in the early 30’s with film director Max Reinhardt.  He scored his first film in 1935, adding music to Reinhardt’s Midsummer Night’s Dream.  He was fortunate to escape Europe just as the Nazis were coming to power in Germany, and also at the right time to team up with new movie star sensation, Errol Flynn.  He won his first Oscar for the musical score of the movie Anthony Adverse in 1936 and he won his second for The Adventures of Robin Hood in 1938.  He died in 1957, a year after I was born.  But I promise, I didn’t kill him.  I was in college in the 1970’s when his music underwent a revival, complete with renewed popularity.

Ad-RobinHood7

His music was pure gold to listen to in the fields of corn in Iowa in the 1970’s.  It was just as good as that last pun was terrible.  So, in other words, really, really, spectacularly good.  It was the music that scored my childhood fantasy adventures.

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Filed under artists I admire, autobiography, classical music, heroes, humor, review of music, strange and wonderful ideas about life

Synesthesia (Part Two; The Color of Music)

Okay, so on the synesthesia tests I didn’t score as a synesthete on the music/color test.  But I was extremely synesthetic on the tests for color/months/days of the week.  I was a little over the mark on letter/number/colors synesthesia too, but it was more a problem with manipulating the color-selector device when I don’t have a mouse to use on my laptop.  The test for music did not test the way I see colors with music.  They wanted me to respond to what color each individual note seemed to be, and that isn’t even close to the way I experience it.  For me, the perfect description of how synesthesia works for me is Bach’s Tocata and Fugue in D minor as it is depicted in Fantasia.

I was shocked when I first saw it.  The colors are wrong for this piece, but the visual experience is almost exactly how I experience music, especially wordless instrumental music.  The only problem with this piece is that the overall color schemes are wrong.  But this comes about because every synesthete sees the colors differently.  And I have no doubt that at least one of the artists who created this had synesthesia.  If there were more reds, yellows, and magenta in the opening and more indigo contrasted with silver later, this interpretation would be perfect.

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Music synesthetically works in two directions for me.  The picture above, called The Wings of Imagination, makes me think of La Mer by Claude Debussy.

If you listen to the piece, don’t look at the YouTube illustration, look at my picture if you want to see the music the way I do.  The following song, Don’t Worry, Be Happy, is a multicolored song that I can best express with the colors in the picture I call Rainbow Peacock.

Rainbow peacock

The full range of primary colors together in one picture, or one song, always means completeness, fullness, and happiness to me.  If there is absence of one or more of the basic colors from the color wheel, the mood and emotion present in the song or picture is altered to something other than happiness.  The Firebird Suite by Igor Stravinsky goes from the indigo and navy blue of fear and confusion to instances of angry red and feverish orange.  It would look something like this in the theater of my imagination;

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And one of my favorite instrumental pieces of all times, Prelude to the Afternoon of the Faun by Claude Debussy, is full of melancholy and sexual tension, deeply felt vibrations in the depths of my stomach, and would look like my picture Sleeping Beauty with its teal and blue melancholia juxtaposed with candle-lit yellows and wood brown mixed feelings of joy and anxiety.

Beauty

Now, if you have waded through all of this goofy color-and-music analysis from a source whose sanity is questionable at best, you probably have no earthly idea what any of it has to do with anything.  But if you have that aha!-moment and see it all clearly too, then I suspect you probably are a synesthete too.  Poor you.  It is not a treatable condition.  But it is also not a burden.  Learn to enjoy it.  It resonates in your very soul.

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Clowns Complete

4clowns

Clowns in Color

    Clowns Complete

          Clowns with Smelly,

                    Great Big Feet!

The picture I have been working on of the clowns of Sing Sad Songs is now finished.

These are the clowns;

  • Mr. Dickens (Boz) the clown of character
  • Mr. Shakespeare (the Bard) the clown of creativity
  • Mr. Disney (Diz) the clown of comedy
  • Mr. Poe (with his pet raven Nevermore) the clown of consequences

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For the Love of Korngold

hqdefault (1)

When I was in Cow College at Iowa State University I spent most of my study time listening to KLYF Radio in Des Moines.  They would eventually transform into an easy-listening music station, but the time I truly lived a K-LYFe was when they played classical music.  And it was there that I first fell deeply in love with the Saturday Matinee stylings of  Erich Wolfgang Korngold, the first incarnation of John Williams of Star Wars fame.  Yes, movie music.  Classical movie music.  And it seemed, mostly movie music for Errol Flynn movies.

 

 

 

My sister was always a lover of Errol Flynn movies, and when KGLO TV Channel 3 would play one on the Saturday Movie Matinee in the early afternoon, we would have to watch it, the whole thing, no matter how many times we were repeating the same four movies.  Nancy would memorize the lines from the Olivia deHavilland love scenes.  I would memorize the sword fight scenes with Errol and Evil Basil Rathbone (Good Basil was Sherlock Holmes, and we had to watch those too.)  Early evenings on those Saturdays were all about playing pirate and Captain Blood adventures.  Or better yet, Robin Hood.

 

 

 

But the music of adventure was by the composer Erich Wolfgang Korngold.  He did the sound tracks for Captain Blood, Robin Hood, and the Sea Hawk.

I sincerely love the corny old movie matinee music because it was not only genius-level mood music and story-telling in a classical music instrumental masterpiece, but because even now it takes me back to the boy I was at twelve years old, playing pirate on Grandpa Aldrich’s farm.   Making Robin Hood bows out of thin tree branches and arrows out of dried ragweed stalks.  Sword fighting to the death with sticks with my cousin Bob, who was always Basil Rathbone in my mind. while I’m sure I was Basil Rathbone in his mind.

To be honest, there is much more to Korngold than I have relentlessly gushed about here like a hopeless nerdling fan-boy in the throws of a geeky movie passion.  He was a musical child prodigy like Mozart.  He wrote a ballet called Der Schneemann (the Snow Man) when he was only eleven, and became the talk of the town in Vienna, Austria in 1908.  He became the conductor of the Hamburg Opera by 1921.  He wrote some very fine classical music in the 20’s that still rings through orchestra halls to this day before coming to America in the early 30’s with film director Max Reinhardt.  He scored his first film in 1935, adding music to Reinhardt’s Midsummer Night’s Dream.  He was fortunate to escape Europe just as the Nazis were coming to power in Germany, and also at the right time to team up with new movie star sensation, Errol Flynn.  He won his first Oscar for the musical score of the movie Anthony Adverse in 1936 and he won his second for The Adventures of Robin Hood in 1938.  He died in 1957, a year after I was born.  But I promise, I didn’t kill him.  I was in college in the 1970’s when his music underwent a revival, complete with renewed popularity.

Ad-RobinHood7

His music was pure gold to listen to in the fields of corn in Iowa in the 1970’s.  It was just as good as that last pun was terrible.  So, in other words, really, really, spectacularly good.  It was the music that scored my childhood fantasy adventures.

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Filed under artists I admire, autobiography, classical music, heroes, humor, review of music, strange and wonderful ideas about life

Stardusters… Canto 64

galtorr-primex-1

Canto Sixty-Four – The Ruins of Tanith and Davalon’s Nesting Quarters

Farbick led his small band of rebels into the gaping hole the forward stabilizer arm of the Bonehead had cut into the side of the bio dome.  The wreckage inside the building was pretty extensive.

“You really think we can stop the Senator?” Stabharh asked Farbick from directly behind the Telleron leader of the rebels.

“We can if we can convince more of his crew to join us in resisting his mad planetary death wish.”

“That’s going to be pretty hard.  Senator Tedhkruhz is extremely evil and his men are mostly very weak minded.”  Slahshrack was a real ray of sunshine in the gloom of the situation.

“We have to try,” said Starbright, “otherwise your species and your planet will be extinct.”

“Wait a minute, what’s this?” Farbick said, hearing a moan in a rubble pile and noticing a slight movement amidst the shattered concrete shards.

With Stabharh’s help he and Starbright began un-piling the stones, and soon two small Telleron bodies were revealed.

“Davalon!  And is that Tanith with you?”

Davalon was holding Tanith tightly in his arms.  The tadpoles were both bruised and bloodied, but technically still breathing.

“Can either of you still talk?” Starbright asked.

“A… a little…”  Davalon was obviously wearied by the effort.

“What are you doing here?” Farbick asked. “You tadpoles should all be safe on board the mother ship.  Why would Xiar send you here?”

“He… ah, didn’t.  We took a wing without permission and came to help this world survive.”

“We… ah, didn’t know we were doing that last part when we… ak, set off on the adventure,” Tanith said with a painful wince.

“You both have extensive injuries.  We have to get you both to someplace safe where you can hibernate and recuperate,” Starbright said.

“Do you know what this place is?” Farbick asked, since the tadpoles had apparently been in the place for a while.

“Yes… ouch… it’s a science facility where they are trying to restore the atmosphere of the planet and create new viable… ahg!…food sources.”  Davalon was in quite a lot of pain.

“So scientists survived?” asked Stabharh, quite surprised.

“One,” answered Tanith.  “A little Galtorrian girl named Sizzahl.  But she’s… oof!… a very intelligent little girl.”

“She’ll be the reason Tedhkruhz came here,” said Stabharh.  “He means to slay anyone and everyone who might be smart enough to bring this planet back to life.”

“We have to stop him,” Farbick said.  “Where do you suppose he is now?”

“I don’t know,” said Stabharh, “and I have no idea how to find him.”

“When I was a little lizard,” said Slahshrack, “I would turn to the last chapter of the book and read ahead to find the answer.”

“We can’t do that here, stupid,” said Stabharh.  “This is real life, not some idiot fiction book!”

“Yeah, too bad about that, huh.”

*****

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The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto (a book review)

 

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The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto: A Novel
by Mitch Albom (Goodreads Author)

Michael Beyer‘s review

Jul 23, 2017

 

It was amazing!

This book is a miracle. It makes words into music and fills your imagination with some of the most beautiful guitar music ever played. It introduces you not only to a very convincing portrait of a fictional musician and Rock and Roll icon, but a vast array of very real musicians and show people who agreed to be used as a part of the story, approved the sections about them, and even helped Mitch Albom to compose it. These include notable music makers like Lyle Lovett, Darlene Love, Tony Bennett, Paul Stanley, and Burt Bacharach. The story itself transcends its fictional form, giving us a look at a musical history whose scope goes from the Spanish Civil War of the 1930’s to Woodstock, and on to the present day. It even gives us glimpses into the distant musical past, framing the story with the song Lágrima by the classical guitarist Francisco Tárrega. And all this music the book fills your mind with is actually performed only in your imagination and memory. Albom proves again with this book how his mastery of language makes him an absolute master story-teller.

 

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And now, here is me trying to make sense out of a reading experience that made my figurative heart grow wings and soar into the clouds in ways brought forth only by the strains of a sweet, classical Spanish guitar.

Stories like this one make a unique music in the mind, and though it is all fiction, occurring silently in the theater of your mind, you hear the music in your heart.  This story elicited the music of Rodrigo’s Adagio throughout, a piece I know intimately.  I myself have never written a musical book the way this fiction book was written.  But I know now that I have to try.  Poetry becomes song lyrics, right?  There is a connection between a good archetypal story about life and love and laughter, and the bittersweet strains of music on a Spanish guitar.

I truly and utterly fell in love with this beautiful book.  Mitch Albom is a genius… for a Detroit Tigers baseball fan.  And I would not risk telling you anything that might spoil such a beautiful story.  All I can say is, don’t read it… listen to it as you would a piece of beautiful music.  Listen to it and love it.

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Surviving the Reign of the Monkey King

Monkey king

So the head monkey has fired the giraffe in charge of looking into the Russian banana pilfering that has everyone questioning his fitness to rule.  Rule?  Heck!  I question his continued right to own bananas!

But this post is supposed to be a reflection on surviving, not another angry animal metaphor about things that can’t be cured until the next election, or until the elephants that put the monkey in charge do something about their own addiction to bananas and work up the necessary human emotion and moral outrage to remove him as head of the zoo.

Math Monkey

                                                                        Steve Bannon, the idea-monkey of the Monkey Kingdom

So let me enumerate some of the thoughts that give me peace in the midst of this insane monkey-house cacophony.  (Cacophony is a good word to use around the topic of the monkey king because it has both the words “caca” and “phony” in it.)

  • Bannon is a very scary chimpanzee, but he is apparently on the outs in the court of the monkey king.  He got in a verbal kerfuffle with Orangutan Junior Kushner, and the monkey king has not recently crayoned his signature on the  poison-in-executive-order-form that Bannon cares most about.
  • Orangutan Junior Kushner is now in charge of everything under the sun.  All bananas now grow by his doings, and he can’t possibly run everywhere and poo everywhere to properly fertilize all the banana trees.  And considering the toxic qualities of the monkey king’s banana trees, we probably don’t really want them to grow anyway.
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Orangutan Junior Kushner has taken to wearing Trump-style hair.

  • The Russian banana pilfering has put all other monkey initiatives on hold.  The monkey king was planning to create monkey laws with the elephants that would prevent most other animals from having any hope of health care.  It made its way successfully through the Elephant House and was supposed to move on to the Elephant Senate to be officially stamped with the notion that providing the other animals with mythical “access” to health care wasn’t just a way to make animals pay all their money to insurance piranhas and still not be able to afford any real health care.   Now they are forced instead to talk about other banana-related things.
  •  And on the subject of bananas, the monkeys and the elephants actually have them all already.  So we don’t have to worry about having bananas.  We probably never will.  All they have left for us are the peanuts.  But they like to take and eat our peanuts too.  The good part of this is that peanuts are a healthy food for diabetics.  And, of course, you can’t die of over-eating if you cannot buy food.

So, the long and the short of it is this.  It is not hard to see the end of this struggle to survive the monkey king’s rule.  I, for one, will probably not survive.  But cutting the legs out from under the giraffe investigating the Russian banana pilfering was probably the beginning of the end of the monkey king himself.  The lions, wherever they have been hiding, will now come out and eat him.

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Filed under angry rant, feeling sorry for myself, goofy thoughts, grumpiness, humor, Paffooney, pessimism, politics

What the Heck is this Blog About?

I read a lot of other people’s blogs for a lot of reasons.  As an old writing teacher and retired Grammar Nazi, I love to see where writers are on the talent spectrum.  I have read everything from the philosophy of Camus and Kant to the beginning writing of ESL kids who are illiterate in two languages.  I view it like a vast flower garden of varied posies where even the weeds can be considered beautiful.  And like rare species of flower, I notice that many of the best blossoms out there in the blogosphere are consistent with their coloring and patterns.  In other words, they have a theme.

Fox logic

So, do I have an over-all theme for my blog?  It isn’t purely poetical like some of the poetry blogs I like to read.  I really only write comically bad poetry.  It has photos in it, but it isn’t anything like some of the photography blogs I follow.  They actually know how to photograph stuff and make it look perfect and pretty.  It is not strictly an art blog.  I do a lot of drawing and cartooning and inflict it upon you in this blog.  But I am not a professional artist and can’t hold a candle to some of the painters and artists I follow and sometimes even post about.  I enjoy calling Trump President Pumpkinhead, but I can’t say that my blog is a political humor blog, or that I am even passable as a humorous political commentator.

One thing that I can definitely say is that I was once a teacher.  I was one of those organizers and explainers who stand in front of diverse groups of kids five days a week for six shows a day and try to make them understand a little something.  Something wise.  Something wonderful.  Something new.  Look at the video above if you haven’t already watched it.  Not only does it give you a sense of the power of holding the big pencil, it teaches you something you probably didn’t realize before with so much more than mere words.

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But can I say this is an education blog?  No.  It is far too silly and pointless to be that.  If you want a real education blog, you have to look for someone like Diane Ravitch’s blog.  Education is a more serious and sober topic than Mickey.

By the way, were you worried about the poor bunny in that first cartoon getting eaten by the fox and the bear?  Well, maybe this point from that conversation can put your mind at ease.

Fox logic 2

Mickey is tricky and gets good mileage out of his cartoons.

You may have gotten the idea that I like Bobby McFerrin by this point in my post.  It is true.  Pure genius and raw creative talent fascinate me.  Is that the end point of my journey to an answer about what the heck this blog is about?  Perhaps.  As good an answer as any.  But I think the question is still open for debate.  It is the journey from thought through many thoughts to theme that make it all fun.  And I don’t anticipate that journey actually ending anytime soon.

 

 

 

 

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Green and Fuzzy Blue Brainwork

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There is reason to believe I have to reroute some of the back roads on the road map of my thinking parts.  I have been spending a lot of time in Elizabethan England lately due to my obsession with who I think Shakespeare really was.   There are a lot of dark alleys to be plumbed on that section of the map.  I really admire the Roland Emmerich film Anonymous about Edward deVere, the Earl of Oxford being the real writer behind the works of Shakespeare, but I do recognize that it is a work a fiction, and an altered-history work of fantasy fiction at that.    So I find myself not yet ready to tackle that particular essay in the Shakespeare series as yet.  More think time and creative-mixing time is needed.  I need to stop at one of the quaint little mental inns on that particular Elizabethan back road and get some much needed rest for my Elizabethan conspiracy muscles.

Meanwhile back in the real world, Trumpzilla has been busy wrecking the world I live in with a bleak inauguration speech written by Steve Bannon that works its fire-breathing magic to blacken the hearts and perceptions of people I love and care about who also happen to be staunch conservatives.  My Facebook feed is up in arms about how many people actually attended the inauguration ceremony and how unfair the media is for trying to make it seem like Trump’s celebration parade was a deserted wasteland when in reality it was… well…  what’s a synonym for deserted wasteland that won’t offend conservatives who will bend or break any truth to defend Trumpzilla’s turkey-tweets?

trumpasaurus

But then, as I was going to QT for my morning caffeine-addict’s fix of Diet Coke, I heard Lionel Richie’s song “Say You, Say Me” playing on the radio.  Ah, the perfect metaphor.  It is a song used as the theme song from the 1986 movie White Nights about a Russian ballet star who has defected to the US during the Cold War and then was in a plane accident-incident that put him back in the Russians’ clutches.  The movie stars Mikhail Baryshnikov, an actual Russian ballet star turned defector, and Gregory Hines, the American tap dancer.  It is a beautiful movie that features amazing dance sequences, Russian conflict of interests because the dancer wants to be free and yet misses his homeland and culture, and a resolution involving intrigue and escape.  In many ways, the plot, centered around a Russian threat and dark days in a place where the sun doesn’t set, is exactly what we are going through with Trumpzilla.  But the song is about two people communicating and eventually “coming together, naturally”.

It started me thinking about the purpose of this blog.  I mean, you obviously know that this blog is really about me talking to myself about myself, if you are one of those crazy few who actually read this far through a goopy blog post like this.  I use this blog to think about myself, the world around me, and even sometimes, like now, to think about thinking.  Yet, I have a duty to the reader to reach that point where our thinking comes together, naturally.  If not, then why bother to post and publish at all?

So here’s what I think about the Shakespeare question, written in the tavern room at the inn on parchment… with a quill pen.  The real Shakespeare was a writer just like me, writing for himself.  And he discovered through the play-writing process that he had to share that writing for himself with the great wide world, because the Prospero’s magic of it could change the world for everybody.  That is the real purpose of Shakespeare’s existence, no matter who he really was.  And that is the real purpose of my existence as well, even if I turn out to be nothing more than one of the top hundred best writers that no one ever actually read.

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