Thursday Nov. 17, 2016

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Excerpt from “As You Like It”

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms.
And then the whining school-boy, with his satchel,
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woful ballad
Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths, and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon’s mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lin’d,
With eyes severe, and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slipper’d pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side,
His youthful hose well sav’d, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

Excerpt from “As You Like It” by William Shakespeare. Public Domain.  (buy now)

On this date in 1970Douglas Engelbart received a patent for the first computer mouse. He was working at the Stanford Research Institute when he first conceived the idea in the 1960s. Ever on the lookout for ways to benefit humanity, his research focus was on augmenting human intelligence through computers, and he wanted to develop easy, intuitive ways for people to interact with technology. "We had a big heavy tracking ball, it was like a cannonball," he told the BBC in 2001. "We had several gadgets that ended up with pivots you could move around. We had a light panel you had to hold up right next to the screen so the computer could see it. And a joystick that you wiggle around to try to steer things." He first demonstrated his "X-Y Position Indicator for a Display System" in 1968. It was a wooden shell over two metal wheels, and his team had been informally calling the small, boxy device a "mouse" in the lab, because the cord resembled a mouse's tail.

Englebart never received any royalties, and SRI ended up licensing the mouse to Apple for a mere $40,000. He was disappointed, but not because he lost out on the money. "It's strange because I've had my eye set on something way beyond that. It's sort of a disappointment that the world and I haven't yet got further," he said in 2001.

It was on this day in 1558 that the Elizabethan era began with the ascension of Queen Elizabeth I to the English throne. She was 25 years old. She took power at a time when England was a debt-ridden, divided country, and she set out to stabilize and restore England's status. She was a Protestant, but she gave Catholics the freedom to worship, which eased the tensions between Protestants and Catholics. But she also knew that her subjects wanted a monarch they could worship, and so she often went on walking tours in public so the ordinary people could see her dressed in the most elaborate of gowns and jewels. She commissioned portraits of herself, which would be widely distributed, and she hired balladeers to write songs about her.

She was wary of getting into wars, but in the 1580s it was clear that Spain planned to invade. When she got word that the Spanish Armada was sailing toward England, she rode out to rally the troops in a white gown and silver breastplate. Her advisors were terrified that she would expose herself to armed subjects, some of whom might not be loyal, but she refused to doubt her subjects' loyalty, and those troops went on to defeat the Spanish Armada in one of the most famous naval battles in history.

She began building up England's empire by chartering seven companies, including the East India Company, to begin colonizing areas around the world. She also presided over an English renaissance in art and especially literature. Itinerant actors had been banned under previous monarchs, but Elizabeth allowed the legal operation of theaters, and the result was a new career for writers such as Christopher Marlowe, Ben Jonson, and William Shakespeare.

She reigned for 45 years, one of the great eras in English history. Near the end of her reign, she said to her subjects: "Though God hath raised me high, yet this I count the glory of my crown: that I have reigned with your loves. And though you have had, and may have, many mightier and wiser princes sitting in this seat; yet you never had, nor shall have any that will love you better."

It's the birthday of American novelist and historian Shelby Foote (books by this author), born in Greenville, Mississippi (1916). He was a successful novelist when, in 1952, he accepted the suggestion of his publisher to write a short history of the Civil War to complement his novel Shiloh (1952). Foote is best known for his trilogy, The Civil War: A Narrative.

He grew up on the Mississippi-Yazoo Delta, once a great swamp filled with alligators and water moccasin snakes. As a teenager, Foote sold poems to magazines for 50 cents apiece. He was editor of the high school paper and liked to give the principal a hard time. When Foote applied to attend college at Chapel Hill, the principal wrote a letter saying not to let Foote into their school under any circumstances. Foote got in his car and drove to North Carolina to register anyway and they let him in. He was a literary prodigy there along with his classmate Walker Percy, who was his best friend for 60 years.

When Foote was 19 years old, he and Walker Percy were planning to drive from Foote's hometown, Greenville, Mississippi, through William Faulkner's hometown of Oxford, Mississippi. Foote suggested they stop in Oxford and try to meet him. Percy waited in the car while Foote went up the cedar tree-lined walkway to Faulkner's house. He was greeted in the yard by three hounds, two fox terriers, and a Dalmatian. Soon, a small man, barefoot and wearing just a pair of shorts, appeared and asked Foote what he wanted. "Could you tell me where to find a copy of Marble Faun, Mr. Faulkner?" Foote asked. Faulkner was gruff and told him to contact his agent. Faulkner later befriended Foote, who walked Faulkner around the Civil War battlefields of Shiloh.

Foote once told Faulkner on one of their outings: "You know, I have every right to be a better writer than you. Your literary idols were Joseph Conrad and Sherwood Anderson. Mine are Marcel Proust and you. My writers are better than yours."

Foote spent the last 25 years of his life working on an epic novel about Mississippi called Two Gates to the City. It remained unfinished when he died in 2006.

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