New Video: All 38 of Shakespeare’s Plays Ranked

Since putting it up here over two years ago, my post grading and ranking the plays of Shakespeare has become by far the most popular thing I’ve ever written. It’s been the #1 post here almost every day since then.

Last week, I got an email from a guy who said that he’d recently turned 60 and set a goal of reading all of Shakespeare’s plays. He looked online for guidance, found my post, and wanted to tell me that following it was genuinely helpful.

So, making a video version is overdue.

A lot of people have told me that I’m too fast and hyper when I narrate videos, so I purposely made this one slow and mellow. I’m not super happy with the result, but let’s see what the world thinks.

Enjoy!

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Student Notes, part 2

My junior classes are finishing Huckleberry Finn soon, and last week one student showed me something she found in the copy of the book that I’d checked out to her.

There were a series of notes sprinkled throughout–little motivational conversations left by a former student, intended to cheer up whatever random readers might come across it in the future.

It took me a bit, but I now remember the girl who put those notes in there a few years ago. Her plan to spread some joy worked–at least one student has appreciated her efforts.

Here is the note she left at the end of the book. It says, “It’s been an incredible journey and I’m glad I was able to share it with you! I hope my little notes of encouragement helped you finish the book by making the task a little more fun! All I ask in return is that you keep this note and all of the others in place so future readers can have the same experience you did! Have a wonderful rest of your high school career and remember to follow your dreams and make an adventure, like our friend Huck, here did. [heart] Alexis, 2014”

Further proof that I work at the coolest school in the world!

alexis

Vote in ROUND 2 of the LDS “Best Books” Tournament

Congratulations to all the survivors of round 1. Special distinction goes to the James E. Talmage classic Jesus the Christ, which was the only book to win in a unanimous decision.

Round 2–the Sweet Sixteen–is now open for this week’s voting. Let the spiritual combat continue.

LDS “Best Books” Tournament: Round 2

So You Think 1984 Is For Liberals? Let’s Ask Instapundit.

Orwell-c-cIn January, the New York Times gleefully reported, “George Orwell’s ‘1984’ Is Suddenly a Best-Seller.” Their angle was clear: the URL for the story includes “george-orwell-donald-trump.”

Don’t get me wrong: I’m always happy when liberals start reading classics. But as usual, the “progressive” interpretation of things is completely devoid of historical context.

I’m not just talking about the anti-communist criticism underlying the book’s commentary. Of course we can’t expect American SJWs to catch on to that.

I simply mean their tacit assumption that this text is uniquely tailored to their snowflake-friendly conception of the world, tunnel-visioned as it is.

Just ain’t so, I tells ya.

For every clever parallel some 2017 progressive draws between Orwell’s masterpiece and their jaundiced vision of the contemporary political landscape, conservatives have drawn dozens of far more meaningful comparisons over the years.

Consider this: the excellent, conservative news aggregator Instapundit got tons of mileage out of 1984 references all throughout the previous administration. Searching for 13 salient terms there produces these results:

memory hole” : Number of uses during Obama administration–84

always been at war” : Number of uses during Obama administration–13

doublethink” : Number of uses during Obama administration–12

thought police” : Number of uses during Obama administration–25

Newspeak” : Number of uses during Obama administration–51

Anti-sex League” : Number of uses during Obama administration–10

thought crime” : Number of uses during Obama administration–13

doubleplusungood” : Number of uses during Obama administration–9

Ministry of Truth” : Number of uses during Obama administration–24

Two Minutes Hate” : Number of uses during Obama administration–4

war is peace” : Number of uses during Obama administration–13

prole” : Number of uses during Obama administration–39

Big Brother” : Number of uses during Obama administration–90

Can liberal news commenters equal this litany of allusions during the Trump years?

 

 

Jogging Again

Three weeks ago, I started running again, after about three or four months of inactivity. I’d wanted to get back in the habit for a while, but hesitated because I didn’t want to go through the pain.

Indeed, the first few runs were miserable, just huffing and puffing and hurting. But that awkward adjustment was necessary, and worth it. You have to power through the pain of building up rewards before you can enjoy them. Exercise yields yet another life lesson.

The best thing I’ve gotten out of this is remembering just how therapeutic jogging is, especially at night–the evenings this time of year are simply gorgeous around here; everything’s perfect for an end-of-night run. A couple of times in the last couple of weeks, I’ve come home from a long day of work, so achy and exhausted that I just had to go out running for a while. After a half hour around the streets and trails by Sandstone Ridge Park, I felt much better.

Even when it doesn’t feel good to be running again, it feels great to be running again.

 

Two Nice Student Notes

One class recently finished a unit on Romanticism. After a couple of days on Transcendentalism, I sent them out into our quad to take notes on as much “nature” as they could find there, with directions to imitate the style of Thoreau. The last section of the notes focused on drawing life lessons from these observations, like Thoreau did in Walden.

One girl turned in her notes with this awesome little addendum at the end. Clearly, she got the point. I drew the smiley face.

note1

Another girl turned hers in with this attachment:

note2

Vote in the LDS “Best Books” Bracket!

It’s tournament season, and here’s one for nerdy Mormons. The top 32 LDS books of all time have been set head-to-head in a fight to the finish.

Here it is: The LDS “Best Books” Bracket

Whichever titles win in their pairings will advance to next week’s sweet 16 round. Voting will be open through the end of the night on Saturday, March 25.

No fiction was considered for this bracket. Official church publications were avoided–obviously, the scriptures were not included.

Consider making your votes along this rubric: 25% writing quality, 25% original content, 25% doctrinal/theological/historical importance, 25% legacy or influence among the Latter-day Saints.

Here is my complete bracket–not who I think will win, but who I think should win. But your voting will determine the ultimate victor here. Make your choice: what is the most important Mormon book ever?

Best Books Bracket

 

Reviewed: Risen

5759_RISEN_dvd_lgI recently saw last year’s film, Risen, about a Roman officer tasked with finding the “stolen” dead body of Jesus Christ.

It was good, but not great. Here’s why:

I liked the unique take on a familiar story–turning the Resurrection into a detective case–and I loved the great production values.

But…but…but…

The macguffin here is always referred to as “Yeshua,” which is historically accurate (a plus), but which is clearly used here so the film can avoid saying “Jesus” all the time, so it won’t appear to be one of those movies–the kind that always get hammered on Rotten Tomatoes (a minus).

Such a love/hate relationship with its subject is typical of Hollywood’s approach to the Bible in the 21st century.

Still, the content of the film is strong enough to warrant giving it a try, I suppose. I especially appreciated the very realistic depiction of the Crucifixion (not nearly as romanticized as in The Passion of the Christ), and the fact that the film starts with that. Bold.

But Joseph Fiennes’ protagonist is too flat to care about–another sadly typical trait of such films, be they faith-promoting or secular. In the first half, he’s a grim stoic. In the second, he’s a wide-eyed convert, like the other hippie-apostles around him.

Finally, about an hour after watching it, I realized why I ultimately didn’t care about the film: it didn’t make me feel anything. This is a movie for the head, not for the heart. Maybe for some, that’s a feature, not a bug.

But for me, in a movie about the Savior’s greatest miracle, it’s an unforgivable sin.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two Examples of the Value of Reading the Bible Chronologically

  1. 1 Samuel 21 tells of the young fugitive David–the future king–as he desperately seeks asylum. Psalm 34 is a poem about that specific experience–the same people and places are mentioned. Go ahead and read them together–the connection is clear, and illuminates both. But in the edition of the Bible I use, they’re separated by 321 pages.
  2. 2 Samuel 7 and 1 Chronicles 17 not only tell the same story, they use nearly identical language to do so. Clearly, the Chronicles version was written later and used the Samuel text as a basic source. Reading them together makes that obvious, but it might be harder to spot if you go in the standard order, which puts 136 pages between them.

The New York Times Crossword

One of the little perks of my job is having access to free copies of the New York Times, because I love the crossword. This is from Monday of this week–Monday puzzles are easy, but still fun. I admit, I love the puns in the theme answers (23 Across: “Article of outerwear for a champagne drinker? Bubblewrap” 53 Across: “Article of outerwear for a General Motors employee? Chevy Blazer”).

crossword

 

Cabin in the Walden Woods

Meta mash-up idea: Henry David Thoreau’s 19th century classic of transcendentalist philosophy, Walden, BUT one random day while he’s meditating in his peaceful forest cabin, he finds an elevator that goes past a bunch of monster cages, and sees a control room with a red button…

thoreau

Who is the Book of Genesis Really About?

Bring up the book of Genesis and you’ll likely end up in a discussion about the Creation and the Fall, and maybe Noah’s ark. This must reflect the memories of readers who started the book and didn’t get far. Consider who the star actually is in each of its 50 chapters:

genesis

Obviously, the hero of Genesis is Abraham, whose tale is the focus of wholly 15 chapters. Second place is his great grandson Joseph, who dominates 13 chapters. Jacob is next, getting nine chapters. Noah–he of the ark–is in a distant fourth place, with only five chapters (and the last of those is really just a genealogy of his descendants).

To put it another way, the super-famous legend stories, those about Adam and Eve and about Noah, roughly comprise just 1/5 of the whole book. The other 4/5–everything from chapter 11 onward–focus on four generations of the patriarchal family: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph.

It’s almost like those famous early chapters, like most origin stories, are mostly obligatory background to lay a foundation for the more important material about the covenant stories that really shaped God’s people.