11 June 2010


COUSTEAU. Today marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Jacques-Yves Cousteau, the French explorer, ecologist, and videographer who invented the progenitor of SCUBA gear, and who did more than anyone else to popularize interest in the beauty, diversity and health of life in the world ocean. Cousteau's passion for the sea is carried on not only by his children, but also by entire generations of oceanographers and marine biologists who were inspired by his work. Here's a verbal tribute to JYC, and a musical tribute to his research ship Calypso.

SHAKESPEARE. Yesterday I watched the first installment of a British series from the early 1980s called "Playing Shakespeare." The series is a master class for both actors and audiences, conducted by members of the Royal Shakespeare Company. The discussion centered on how to interpret Shakespeare for contemporary audiences, while remaining true to the text and intent of the playwright. RSC actors (much younger in the series) who remain familiar names include Patrick Steward, Ian McKellan, Judi Dench, Ben Kingsley, and Peggy Ashcroft. The program is nuanced and delightful, rewarding undivided attention with insight into the plays and the man.

An example of illuminating information from the program -- in the decades before and after 1600 AD, most of Europe did not know how to read or write. Hence Shakespeare had to discover ways to convey to his actors and his audience not only the verbal content of his plays, but also the emotional thrust of every line of speech. He succeeded in doing so by brilliantly constructing dialogue with accents highlighting key words. While iambic pentameter was used extensively toward this end, it was only one of an array of creative tools at his disposal. It could fairly be said that Elizabethan audiences were much more finely attuned to verbal nuance than audiences of today, for the simple reason that they had no reading skills upon which to rely. Further, Shakespeare during the course of his career made up out of thin air over 2000 words which are still in common English usage.

ABW. As in, the Angry Black Woman, one of my absolute favorite blogs. The mayor of London recently made the news by whining to the American public in general, and President Obama in particular, over our outrage toward BP for its criminal negligence and malfeasance in causing the ongoing Gulf oil disaster. The mayor took exception to what he saw as Americans adopting an anti-British stance, while he minimized BP's responsibility. It did my heart good to read ABW's pull-no-punches response. You can check out her post here.

By the way, on the web I've come across certain misleading statements to the effect that BP is an American company. Not true. BP is based in London, and trades on the London and New York stock exchanges. It is the United Kingdom's largest corporation. It has a US subsidiary, BP America, with offices in Houston, TX. (Most Americans know BP as "British Petroleum," because that was the company's name for most of its existence. However, as part of its rebranding-greenwashing campaign, BP officially changed its name to "BP plc." plc stands for public limited company. The name's tagline is "Beyond Petrolem.")

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