Shakespeare Oxford Society

William Shakespeare was born on April 20, 1564, and died on April 22, 1616.  In his 52 years, he is alleged to have written some of the world’s greatest plays, tragedies, dramas, comedies and poetry.  As for me, I don’t buy it. 

For several years, I was a member of the Shakespeare Oxford Society — a 501(c)(3) that is dedicated to getting to the bottom of who actually wrote the works of Shakespeare.  The Society leans toward Edward de Vere – the 17th Earl of Oxford.  DeVere was born on April 12, 1550, and died on June 24, 1604.  It was de Vere who likely wrote the works of “William Shakespeare” — despite the fact that several plays were arguably (but disputably) written after his death. 

The real William Shakespeare’s personal details do not ring true to one annointed with the amazing literary gift ascribed to “Shakespeare.”  There was actually doubt about his authorship dating back to when the plays were first written(!).  De Vere (or “Oxford”) was in the mix of speculation from the very beginning. 

As a collector of historic manuscript material, there is another — significant — factor in this disputed attribution.  For a man who allegedly wrote thousands of pages of glorious literature, there is not one sentence of handwritten text penned by “Shakespeare” (or de Vere for that matter).  In fact, there are only six known examples of Shakespeare’s handwriting — and those are scratchy signatures on legal documents. 

In my post of August 18, 2011, I spoke of my interest in searching for a copy of the Gutenberg Bible (of some 200 sets printed, only 47 are known).  Another quest that I’m sure I would enjoy is a hunt for the handwritten proofs used for setting the type of Shakespeare’s works.   I’m sure there are manuscripts out there.  Somewhere.  Waiting.   Perhaps waiting for me. . . . .

Maybe I need a sabbatical.  🙂


What’s in Popi’s Pockets?

As soon as my granddaughter sees me, she has this big, wonderful, melting smile.  My heart goes pitter patter.  And then I pick her up.  She looks at me with her big baby Blues.  Big grin. 🙂  And then she goes to work.  

For some reason, my shirt pocket has become an object of intense and curious interest. Why? Because I usually have my shirt pocket filled with pens, 3″ x 5″ cards, credit card receipts, a comb and a Blackberry (Luddite that I am. . . . ).  She immediately begins grabbing things out of my pocket, giving them careful visual examination and then comes the taste test.  Everything goes in her mouth. Now mind you — I am right there and I do not let her put these “icky” things in her mouth. She tries. I take them back and repatriate them to my pocket. And the game begins again. This sometimes goes on for a half hour or more.

It occurred to me that from now on when I see her, I will have my shirt pocket filled with even more interesting things:  toy mouse, pictures, pacifier, spoon, large rubber band, etc.  That should really grab her attention!  I’ve thought about writing a children’s book – of this  alliterative title – where the child can pull a variety of amazing things out of “Popi’s” (that is my moniker) pocket.  

This is a game that never gets boring.  I can’t wait to play it again!        

Ahl al-Kitab

A question was raised about the status that Jews and Christians hold — according to the Muslim faith.  We (Christians and Jews) are considered Ahl al-Kitab — “People of the Book.”  This term is referenced in my last post “It’s never ‘Just a Ride.'” 

As I understand it, Islam accepts — and reveres — the Psalms and the Torah and the Old Testament (the Tanakh) to a lesser extent.  The Quran is considered to be the completion of these Scriptures.  Since Jews, Christians and Muslims all derive from the sons of Abraham (Isaac begat Christianity and Judaism and Ishmael begat Islam), “People of the Book” refers to those who share Abrahamic Scripture and believe in one God.  Sabians (who are mentioned three times in the Quran) are also considered Al al-Kitab

The Quran instructs tolerance toward the Ahl al-Kitab — especially in Surra 3 (“The Family of Imran”).  In Surra 5:69, the faithful are advised “Verily!  Those who believe and those who are Jews, Christians and Sabians, whoever believes in God and the Last Day and do righteous good deeds shall have their reward . . . .”    Then there is Surra 5:82 “. . . you will find the nearest in friendship to be those who say ‘we are Christians.’  This is because there are priests and monks among them and they do not behave proudly.” 

I am not sure where today’s lack of tolerance comes from other than man’s selective (sometimes fallible) interpretation of text (much like the Old and New Testaments have been selectively interpreted over the centuries to justify this or that).  It would be nice if we could put aside perceived differences and recognize the shared heritage of our respective Faiths so as to make headway into some of the world’s most pressing, agonizing – and dangerous – problems.      

It’s Never “Just a Ride”

I take taxis several times a week.  And I have concluded that most Chicago taxi drivers are from Pakistan, India, Nigeria and Ghana. A smaller number are from Somalia and Ethiopia. And there is a new crop of young drivers who are from the Transylvania region of Romania. It is my custom whenever I get in a taxi to never allow it to be “just a ride.”  I turn my cab ride into a tutorial.  After all . . . . . why not?   

Upon closing the door, I may ask “how’s business“? That always prompts a response.   If I can identify the name or accent, I chat with the driver in his language (I get by in Urdu, Hindi and Yoruba – long story). With the Pakistanis and Indians (who are nearly all Muslim), I start talking religion. When I quote the Quran (I have a copy – with the Bible – by the bed) and the Pillars of Islam in Arabic – I have gotten long looks in the rear view mirror and an occasional free ride (“please good Sir – this ride is on me“).  Maybe they’re not quite sure. . . . 

I share my belief in the similarities of Islam, Judaism and Christianity. We all come from Abraham and after all Jews and Christians are Ahl al-Kitab (“People of the Book”) to whom Mohammed instructs tolerance (yes, tolerance). Then there is the Quran’s acknowledgment that we are all children of God. This preamble usually opens the floodgates for response. And I sit back and listen. And learn. I will venture that it is politicians and fundamentalists who cause all the trouble in the world. This brings vigorous agreement on “politicians” and  occasional hesitation on the “fundamentalist” component. When I observe that each of Islam’s 72 different sects believe that they alone have the ear of God (and often hate each other) — this usually results in cautious acknowledgment on that point as well. Upon leaving the cab, I will offer salaam alaikum (“peace be unto you“) and inevitably receive back wa-alaikum as-salaam (“and peace unto you“). Sometimes we shake hands.

From the Horn of Africa people, I learn of the sectarian strife and territorial conflicts in Eritrea, Somalia, Ethipia and Somaliland.   From the Nigerians it is fascinating to hear of the tribal tensions among Yoruba, Hausa and Igbo (Ibo).  And from the Romanians, I learn of struggles with school and advancing careers.  I like to think that the ride benefits everyone.  Sitting in a taxi is never “just a ride.”    

First Recollection

My granddaughter is ever so special. I sing to her, read to her, feed her, hold her, talk to her and occasionally change a diaper.  She is 7 months old.  And I sometimes wonder — will she remember anything of these times as she grows older?  When does recall begin to kick in? 

I have occasionally posed this question among friends when conversation stalls – “What is your very first memory when you were a child? What is the very first spark of cognizance that you remember?”  The answers are very personal.  And the question does prompt some interesting – and varied – responses.

My first 3 years were spent in a 1 bedroom attic at 6036 W. Byron Street in Chicago.  I remember the place.  With clarity.  And I remember – vividly – sitting by the lone street-side window looking out. And waving at a little boy (“Georgey”) across the street.  This was in the days before “play groups” so I never saw him up close (or anyone else for that matter).  We never played together.  We would just wave.   Across the street.  I wonder if he remembers me. . . .  

What’s your first memory? What were the first memories of your parents?  Children? Grandchildren? To me, this is a truly poignant question that could make an interesting teaching tool or conversation starter. . . . 

The Barefoot Contessa

I enjoy cooking and I periodically post recipes, thoughts and ideas on my blog. While I consider myself to be a creative – and fiercely independent – thinker when it comes to food, I am partial to the creations of the Barefoot Contessa — Ina Garten (born February 2, 1948). Ina Garten debuted her cooking show on the Food Network in 2002 and it’s been all uphill since then. Her ideas and recipes are acknowledged by many as among the best.

At a recent dinner, Kathleen made Ina’s “Fresh Pea Soup.”  Cold.  She knocked it out of the park. I have the recipe and may make a meal of this someday.

Fresh Pea Soup:  2 tblsp unsalted butter; 2 cups chopped leeks (white & light green parts); 1 cup chopped yellow onion; 4 cups chicken stock (homemade if possible); 5 cups fresh peas (or 20 ounces of frozen peas); 2/3 cup chopped mint leaves; 2 tsp kosher salt; 1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper; 1/2 cup creme fraiche; 1/2 cup fresh chopped chives; and garlic croutons (homemade are best).

Heat butter in saucepan, add leaks & onion and cook 5-10 min. medium heat (you want the onion tender).  Add chicken stock and turn heat to a boil.  Add peas and cook 3-5 min.  You want peas to be tender (frozen peas take 3 min.).  Take off heat and add mint, salt & pepper.  Puree the mix in batches.  Whisk in creme fraiche and chives and add croutons.  Can be served hot or cold.     

This soup is a perfect accompaniment for whatever you might serve.  I’d probably opt for a 2-legged or no-legged main course (perhaps a tilapia – see 6/14/12 or walleye – see 6/28/12).   A light pasta or risotto side.  Add a little Bacio Divino (yes, I prefer red) and you have heaven sitting on the table . . . that is unless my granddaughter is sitting there. . . . .  🙂

The Sikhs

The terrible shooting last weekend at the Sikh Temple in Milwaukee prompts me to offer a few words on the Sikh religion.  First of all — Sikhs are not Muslim . . . . .  

The Sikh religion began in the early 1600’s  and today is found mainly in the Punjab area of India.  The three tenets of the religion are:  equality of humankind; universal brotherhood of man; and one supreme God (though there is belief in the teachings of 10 gurus or teachers).   All Sikh men have the name “Singh” and all Sikh women are named “Kaur.”   There is a belief in reincarnation and there is an emphasis on ethics, morality and values.  Sikhs abstain from alcohol, drugs and tobacco and they do not believe in “miracles.”   During WWI and WWII, Sikh regiments served bravely in the British Army – suffering more than 200,000 casualties.   

Generally, Sikhism has had cordial relations with other religions though there has been strife in India with Muslims (after the partition of India in 1947) and Hindus (over possible creation of a Punjabi state).   There are 5 exemplars of faith which all begin with the letter “K”:  Kesh – uncut hair that is wrapped in a turban; Kanga – a wooden comb; Katchera –  cotton underwear worn to remind one of purity; Kara – an iron bracelet symbolizing eternity; and Kirpan – a curved sword of varying lengths.   It’s the Kesh (and turban) that gets Sikhs confused with Muslims among the uneducated.  

The Hindu greeting in Hindi is namaste (one recognizes divinity in the other person).  In the Punjabi language – and among Sikhs – one says sat sri akal (“God is the ultimate Truth“).   Both phrases (offered with hands together) sound pretty ecumenical to me . . . .     

Cutting down on Waste

My posts occasionally reference the environment — and conservation.  Here’s another. . . .

Every day I go out for lunch. Sometimes I go to a restaurant but most days I go to a sandwich or salad shop and bring something back to my office.

Everywhere I go, a carefully-wrapped sandwich is placed into a larger bag.  A salad is placed in a large bag.  And a small container of pasta or tuna salad is placed into a large bag. Bags bags bags bags. As soon as I get to my office I crumple the “bag” and toss it out.   A brand new and perfectly serviceable bag goes deep sixing into the garbage within minutes.

Many customers in the restaurants I visit take their sandwich “bag” from the counter, walk 10 feet, take out their wrapped sandwich and sit down in the seating area.  And the bag goes into the garbage. 

I started thinking about the waste incurred in this avalanche of paper that — usually within minutes (often seconds) — gets tossed out.   I would wager that most people are smart enough – and dextrous enough – to carry a wrapped 10 ounce sandwich a few feet.  How about suggesting to food purveyors to offer a bag if needed?   I would wager that in one day of saved bags, a lot of trees would be much happier . . . . and the environment just a wee bit cleaner.    Or – you can do this on your own.   Like I do.  You may want to pass this one along.   Every little bit helps.  Or hurts. 

The Man Who Picks up Pennies

When I was very young, I remember with clarity that my family didn’t have much money.   I decided to do something about it.  At the age of 4, I sold water in front of my house for a penny.   The water came from a garden hose and was dispensed in small colorful hard plastic cups.  And my father seriously advised that I should pick up any stray pennies (or nickels or dimes) that I might happen across.  My big score was finding a crisply-folded dollar bill lodged under a counter at Sears Roebuck at 6 Corners in Chicago.   I gave it to my mother and she called me her “hero.” 

To this day, I keep my eyes glued to the ground.   I still pick up pennies and dimes and wallets and watches and cell phones and rings and other jewelry and even (once) a one hundred dollar bill that I find laying in public places.  I always repatriate the personal (identifiable) items.  But the few which have no claimants, I keep.  Some items are quite nice. . . . . 

My habit is to put “found” money in my left pocket (my change is in my right) and toss it in a bowl when I get home.   And each year, I donate the proceeds to a charity.  Most recently I gave a whopping $54.00 in change to Feed the Dream – – an organization that works with the desperately poor in Guatemala.  I can’t wait to take my granddaughter out – looking for coins by parking meters.  I will make sure she finds them in abundance . . . .