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October 17, 2011

Such stuff as dreams are made on

Filed under: Dartmouth College — Peter Arnold

SHAKESPEAREThe great Shakespearean scholar James Shapiro has this wonderful oped in today’s New York Times.  Writing about the latest  conspiracy du jour involving authorship of Shakespeare’s plays, Shapiro delightfully picks apart the thesis that Edward de Vere was the Bard’s ghostwriter:

“[P]romoters of de Vere’s cause have a lot of evidence to explain away, including testimony of contemporary writers, court records and much else that confirms that Shakespeare wrote the works attributed to him. Meanwhile, not a shred of documentary evidence has ever been found that connects de Vere to any of [Shakespeare’s] plays or poems….  Perhaps the greatest obstacle facing de Vere’s supporters is that he died in 1604, before 10 or so of Shakespeare’s plays were written.”

Shapiro is one of the nation’s leading Shakespearean scholars and this author was lucky enough to participate in a semester-long seminar with him in the 1980s.  At that time, the ripe theory was that Christopher Marlowe was Shakespeare’s true author, a concept Shapiro effectively derided at length.  Marlowe was no doubt a wonderful writer but this theory seems to have withered in recent years, only to be replaced by the de Vere conspiracy.

If only this conspiracy could be put to rest as easily as, say, a birth certificate controversy.  Or as Paulina pleaded in The Winter’s Tale, “What’s gone and what’s past help, should be past grief.”

October 5, 2011

R.I.P., Steve

Filed under: Apple,Dartmouth College,Music Industry — Peter Arnold

Steve JobsDuring the coming days, there will be testimonials to Steve Jobs that border on hagiography. (Erica Ogg at GigaOm is already out with a good one.) He might not have changed “the world” but he certainly did change large parts of it. More than anyone else, Jobs convinced the music industry to stop the circular firing squad mentality that resulted in the perverse concept of engaging the next generation of buyers by suing or threatening to sue them.

But twenty years earlier, he also foresaw the role of the graphic interface in personal computing while most of the industry was fixated on hardware. Think back to 1980: IBM not only rebuffed Bill Gates’ proposal to sell the concept behind Windows’ forerunner, it told Gates that its OS/1 would push Microsoft out of business. That was the climate into which Jobs pushed Apple barely a few years later.

This author remembers it well. In 1984, I purchased my first computer. It was a 128 kb Mac preloaded with basic software (anyone remember MacWrite?) that Dartmouth made available for about $1,000. The word processing was definitely preferable to typing on a Smith-Corona but had its limitations. The maximum size of a text document was about 6-7 pages which meant that my senior thesis on Jean-Paul Sartre and European totalitarianism actually comprised three separate documents.

Apple would founder without Jobs. It suffered terribly under Gil Amelio, whose lack of foresight can be summed up by his brusque dismissal of the Internet in his biography, On the Firing Line.

Finally, it’s worth noting that in addition to the iPod, iPhone, Mac and everything else, Jobs had a hand in the greatest commercial in TV history. According to Apple lore, the Board was appalled when Jobs previewed the commercial in late 1983 but Jobs persisted. Nearly 30 years later, no other commercial has come close.

R.I.P, Steve Jobs.