That was the question I posed at the last meeting of my Shakespeare class at UNCW OLLI. I was startled to hear from more than one member who answered “Yes”.

Not in my view.

Lear’s acts of dividing his kingdom and rejecting Cordelia are recklessly headstrong. They unleash a chaotic torrent of evil and destruction on Lear, Cordelia, Kent and more. But Lear does not create that evil.

Is there any cause in nature for these hard hearts?

We talked a good bit in the class about tragic action and how it’s not enough for bad things to happen to the hero. If that’s all it is, it’s melodrama, not tragedy. The hero must do something that causes the deadly consequences.

But bearing responsibility and deserving what happens are different things. To say that Lear deserves his fate is to put yourself in the party of Goneril and Regan, of Cornwall and Edmund. No; give me Cordelia, the Fool, Kent and Gloucester, who love Lear in spite of his folly. In class we also read these lines from Hamlet:

Use every man after his desert, and who shall ‘scape whipping?

Just so.

320px-IPad_2_Black_FrontMac guy that I am, it took me a long time to get around to buying an iPad, but I finally did so in late 2012 — a refurbished iPad 2 that works great. I wasn’t sure, but I had hoped to be able to use it for presentations. Yes, you can buy an adapter to go from the iPad to a VGA cable. But, you’re tethered to the system and I really liked the idea of being able to walk around untethered.

It can be done, but figuring it out was much harder than it should have been. So here’s a primer if you’re interested, combining several Google searches and two trips to Apple stores, in Raleigh, NC and Charleston, SC (there’s not one here in Wilmington, NC, alas) and to the AT&T store in Wilmington. I’m assuming you have an iPad and want to go to a standard VGA projector lacking either wireless connectivity or an HDMI input.

Update 2/10/13: One cool feature by using the iPad is the ability to switch between applications using Multitasking Gestures (in Settings). Much better than using ESC on a laptop and then hunting around for another application.

1) Does the iPad have AirPlay?

You need AirPlay to export video. It’s part of the iPad 2 and later. But Apple’s website is surprisingly unhelpful about this. I didn’t see any such icon on my screen and couldn’t find anything to download from the App Store. Here’s how you find it:

  • Click the Home Button twice, quickly. You’ll see a list of recently-used apps on the bottom (this trick also took me a while to glom onto).
  • Slide the apps to the right until you see a group of Play/Pause icons. The AirPlay icon is a rectangular box with a small triangle at the bottom, like this:


  • You’ll need to return to this later.

2) Get an Apple TV

320px-AppleTV_top2OK, this is another $99 + tax. But you’ll probably like it for all the stuff it can get onto your HDTV (see below) — Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, podcasts, etc., with typical Apple elegance. For our purposes the point is that this is how you’ll get your video signal to a TV or projector:

  • Set up the Apple TV (relatively easy).
  • Make sure you and the iPad are on a Wi-Fi network.
  • On your iPad, locate the AirPlay icon as above.
  • Select your Apple TV icon and Mirroring.
  • If your TV has an HDMI connection, you’re nearly all set. Your TV will be mirroring your iPad screen.

3) Get the Apple TV signal to a projector

If the projector has an HDMI input, just hook up the Apple TV to it and proceed as above. But many projectors don’t have HDMI (digital)  connections, just VGA analog inputs. You’ll need a converter an HDMI to VGA converter. I found one on Amazon for about $35 which had minimal documentation but seems to work OK.

  • Connect the Apple TV to the converter with the HDMI cable.
  • Connect the converter to the projector with a VGA cable (for video).
  • If you want audio, connect the converter to the projector’s audio inputs with RCA audio cables.
  • Turn on AirPlay and select Apple TV, as above.

4) Special problem #1: the picture is distorted

The first time I set this up, the picture was squished horizontally on both the TV and projector I connected it to. You’re trying to put a 16:9 aspect picture into a system accustomed to 4:3. For both, I had to fool around with the picture settings until I got it right. So if you’re doing a presentation, take some time beforehand to make sure everything’s copasetic.

5) Special problem #2: no Wi-Fi where you’ll be projecting

Cell phones to the rescue! Thanks to my new buddy Chris at the AT&T store, I modified my cell plan to allow me to use the phone as a Wi-Fi hotspot that will link the iPad and Apple TV. I’ll be taking this along just in case.

  • Here’s a great tip, also from Chris: choose a name for your cell phone hotspot that is identical with your home Wi-Fi network and use the same password. Your Apple TV and iPad will automatically log in, as if you were at home.

6) A final tip

Get to the place you’ll be presenting early and make sure that everything is working.

7) How this would all be easier

  • If every TV and projector had an HDMI input. Or:
  • If every projected had a wireless connection.

Good luck!

hollow-sqCameron Art Museum and WHQR Public Radio present
a traditional

Sacred Harp Singing

in Wilmington, NC:

  • Saturday, APRIL 6, 2013
  • Cameron Art Museum, 3201 South 17th Street, Wilmington
  • Workshop at 10:00 am led by Jesse Pearlman Karlsberg of Emory University’s Institute of Liberal Arts
  • Singing to follow until 3:30 pm, with a break for lunch
  • Admission: donation

[download a flyer for this singing]

What is Sacred Harp Singing?

This dynamic form of a cappella social singing dates back to Colonial America, using a modern reprint of an 1844 songbook called The Sacred Harp. Sacred Harp and related shape-note styles are the oldest continuous singing traditions in the United States. Surviving as a living tradition in parts of the South, notably Georgia and Alabama, Sacred Harp music has been discovered by new generations of singers who have spread the heritage across North America and to Australia and Europe.

The music is loud, vigorous and intense. It is meant to be sung, not just observed. Veteran singer and song leader Jesse Pearlman Karlsberg will guide beginners and others in a singing workshop at 10 am. No previous experience is necessary, and loaner books are provided.

Learn more about Sacred Harp singing at fasola.org

pg11bThanks to all who attended this event on March 28th:

Screening: “Awake, My Soul: The Story of the Sacred Harp”

The acclaimed 2008 documentary by Matt and Erica Hinton has aired on many PBS stations in recent years. It will be introduced by Cleve Callison, Station Manager of WHQR and producer of Sacred Harp Singers, an award-winning radio documentary on Sacred Harp singing for NPR.

We recorded the 1953 musical Gentlemen Prefer Blondes on TCM a while back and watched it last night for the first time. It was more enjoyable than I expected, lit up by an incandescent performance by Marilyn Monroe.

Purely as a story, it’s kind of tawdry. In real life the Charles Coburn character in pursuit of Monroe’s Lorelei would be a combination of pathetic fool and dirty old man. But Coburn portrays him as a sweetly genial bumbler. And Lorelei would be a pure gold digger, after any man young or old, married or not, as long as he’s rich — and generous.

But Marilyn’s frankness and unself-conscious awareness (if there is such a thing) sweep away all scruples. Almost 60 years later, she just fills up the screen — as she does her dresses. It’s really a rich performance. She’s a star, no doubt about it, but a gifted comic actress as well.

The eye-popping Technicolor alone is worth seeing, let alone the ridiculously enjoyable musical numbers. Jane Russell is a surprisingly (to me) effective pal to Lorelei, and pretty funny when she does her Lorelei impersonation. The weakest spot is Elliott Reid as Russell’s love interest. He’s a character actor, not a leading man — much better suited to the kind of annoyingly neurotic nerdy guy he plays in most of his films.

Definitely worth a look.

3 musings on TV shows

1) We’ve watched just about all of Awake, the new series on NBC. It’s an intriguing concept and generally well-done: a detective awakens after a car crash to find his lift shattered into two realities, each seeming to be a dream of the other. In one his son survives the crash; in the other, his wife does. Clues from one reality help him solve cases in another. Which one is real — or both — or neither?

Besides the estimable Jason Isaacs (Harry Potter‘s Lucius Malfoy), the pilot at least got the concept right: it’s all based on his subjective reality. Subsequent episodes have had scenes with events taking place outside his character’s presence, which not only messes up the dream logic but undermines the whole premise of the show. And some have been introducing elements to suggest a darker conspiracy against him. That makes me fear that if it’s a success, the show will become another convoluted Lost. Or, the ultimate cop-out, that both realities are just dreams. Don’t need that.

2) The new Sherlock on PBS is great, great fun. Benedict Cumberbatch is a worthy successor to Jeremy Brett, and the updating of typical Holmesian tropes to the age of smartphones and Google is very well done — very much in the spirit of Arthur Conan Doyle. I’m not a Holmes fanatic, but those who are have pointed out that there are many hidden references to the canonical Holmes scattered throughout the series. For example, a reference to a “geek interpreter” in the May 6th, 2012 episode is a glance at The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter. And the really obscure “Victorian cameos” is even more arcane — a case referred to by Watson, but not one written by Doyle.

I don’t want it to wear out its welcome, but if this series can maintain this level of quality, I hope it comes back every year.

3) Speaking of Sherlock — wouldn’t it be great for The Big Bang Theory to riff on that? They do all sorts of geeky things about comic books and old sci-fi TV series. Sheldon would be a natural for Sherlock — with

  • Leonard as Watson
  • Penny as Watson’s wife Mary
  • Howard as Inspector Lestrade
  • Wil Wheaton as Dr. Moriarty
  • Amy Farrah Fowler as Irene Adler
  • Raj as Mrs. Hudson

Thomas Cranmer, 1489-1556 (from Wikimedia Commons)

St. Paul’s Cathedral in London recently celebrated the 350th anniversary of the Book of Common Prayer. Initially I thought that date was a mistake, since Thomas Cranmer wrote it (or compiled, if you prefer) in the 16th, not the 17th century.

But 1662 was pivotal. The Prayer Book as revised that year remains the “doctrinal standard” of the Church of England, though other churches in the Anglican Communion, like the Episcopal Church in the U.S., have issued their own versions.

Cranmer’s language has influenced and enriched English almost as much as Shakespeare and the King James Bible:

  • “till death us do part”
  • “earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust”
  • “speak now, or forever hold your peace”
  • “the devices and desires of our own hearts”

From the 1979 Episcopal Prayer Book, here’s a prayer I especially like, given my profession (“For those who Influence Public Opinion”):

Almighty God, you proclaim your truth in every age by many voices: Direct, in our time, we pray, those who speak where many listen and write what many read; that they may do their part in making the heart of this people wise, its mind sound, and its will righteous; to the honor of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

I read in today’s New York Times about publication of the final volume of DARE, the Dictionary of American Regional English. This project was started at the University of Wisconsin by Prof. Frederic G. Cassidy, who passed away in 2000.

I had the great pleasure of studying with Prof. Cassidy, who was one of the readers of my Ph.D. dissertation on 9th-centry Anglo-Saxon sermons. He was a true gentleman and scholar. I’m sorry that he did not live to see the completion of the project, but it certainly stands as his monument.

And gladly wolde he lerne, and gladly teche …

Never hope in any other

Tallis, from Wikimedia Commons

Lots of driving this weekend resulted in multiple listenings to Thomas Tallis’s great motet “Spem in alium”. Calling for a minimum of 40 singers, it’s considered a pinnacle of Renaissance polyphonic choral music (which as far as I’m concerned is already a pinnacle).

I wish the dial on the car radio would go up to 11. As it was I was afraid I would blow out my speakers, not to mention my eardrums. Tallis (1505-1585) was possibly a recusant Catholic, a dangerous critter to be in Elizabethan England. But thank goodness she must not have objected to setting Latin texts, and so we have this work for 8 choirs of 5 voices each – soprano, alto, tenor, baritone and bass in modern arrangements.

I have recordings by the Tallis Scholars and King’s College Cambridge. Based on a rave review in the Gramophone, I bought a recording by the group Magnificat. Here’s a link to possibly the largest performance in history — over 700 singers in Bridgewater Hall, Manchester, recorded by the BBC in 2006. What’s missing, at least on my laptop, is a sense of the extraordinary effects big stereo speakers can bring. But it’s fun to watch, and now there are even flash mobs performing it.

Man, would I love to see that. It will be performed on March 28th at St. Ignatius Loyola in New York.

Spem in alium nunquam habui praeter in te
Deus Israel
qui irasceris
et propitius eris
et omnia peccata hominum in tribulatione dimittis
Domine Deus
Creator coeli et terrae
respice humilitatem nostram
I have never put my hope in any other but in You,
O God of Israel
who can show both anger
and graciousness,
and who absolves all the sins of suffering man
Lord God,
Creator of Heaven and Earth
be mindful of our lowliness
(original and translation from Wikipedia)

The Peachoid

Li’l Gaffney, SC, my home town, has unexpectedly found itself in the thick of the Republican primaries. Opponents of Mitt Romney are focusing on the closure of a photo scrapbook factory in 1992. It closed with 150 jobs lost after being acquired by Bain Capital, the private equity firm headed by Romney. But according to the New York Times, most people in Gaffney hardly remember the plant and are rather embarrassed by all the attention it has drawn.

Here’s a link to the Times article, and here’s their slideshow of Gaffney. I haven’t lived in Gaffney for many years and since my parents are no longer alive, I only get back occasionally for Vassy family reunions and Gaffney High School reunions. But I certainly know Henry Jolly and Cody Sossamon, who are in the slideshow, and I keep up with some old Gaffney pals via Facebook.

The photo is of the Peachoid, the world’s largest water tower in the shape of a peach, and a landmark to anyone traveling along I-85 in South Carolina. I took it on a GHS class reunion trip.

Merry Christmas, 2011

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, everyone, from Cleve and Jenny. We’re at Litchfield Beach, SC, enjoying a mini-family reunion. Here’s a slide show.

Our annual Christmas letter is on the page tabbed above.

Have a wonderful holiday season and Happy New Year!