If Charles Dickens Was Alive He’d Be 200 Today-And The Oldest Human on the Planet

Safe to say Dickens wouldn’t be very good company if he was alive today, but I bet he’d be Tweeting his brains out and figuring out a way to make a pound or two from it. #dickensbirthday #paidperword #showmethemoney

I’ve acted in two plays that were adapted from Dickens’ novels. And, I’m just realizing this right now, they were the first two productions that I actually got paid to act in (if you don’t count my stint as the sheriff’s son at a local Renaissance Faire). Turns out the producers made a very big mistake hiring me, because I wasn’t terribly adept at the craft of acting.

In the first production, I was totally miscast as Uriah Heep in some kind of interactive Dickens-themed Christmas show. The show took place at a poorly heated Victorian mansion in Pennsylvania. I was terrible and my characterization (if you can call it that) basically involved me slinking around the airy rooms ringing my hands and sneaking up on unsuspecting geriatrics and scaring them so much that extra defibrillators had to be installed in the parlor room. On the plus side it gave me the chance to dye my hair red. Incidentally, nothing I did as the humble Mr. Heep had anything to do with to the heavy metal band, Uriah Heep.

In my second paid debacle, I played Pip in Great Expectations at the now defunct Pennsylvania Stage Company. How bad was I? I just found a review. It’s from the newspaper, The Morning Call, and I’ve never seen it until now. “Charlie Schroeder overplays naivete to the near exclusion of richer emotions: shock, weariness, righteous indignation.” I’d like to think that my bad performance had something to do with the theater shutting down shortly after G.E. closed. May it, and Charles Dickens rest in peace.



Eating in China Teaser

In the coming days I plan to blog about some of my culinary adventures in Hong Kong and China. To whet your appetite, here’s a very short video I shot in Guangzhou Province in southern China. To give you some perspective, I was standing just outside the restaurant opposite the “menu.” This video captures a small portion of said menu.

In China, menus aren’t always the paper kind that one peruses while seated at a table. They’re three-dimensional-and alive.

A Pox on You Charles of Super English Force

Who says you can’t make any money teaching kids? According to a 2010 article in the Christian Science Monitor, a top “Star Tutor” in Hong Kong can make up to $1.5 million annually. One got so rich by helping children in the education-crazed city state that he has his own fleet of Ferraris. That’s a lot of coin for an educator. And awfully Magnum-like of him.

Star Tutors aren’t your typical after-school help. They command large audiences and market themselves as if they were pop-stars. According to friends of mine in Hong Kong, however, a Star Tutor’s special skill doesn’t really involve learning as much as “telling” kids what, in all likelihood, the questions will be on their tests. Cough up the cash for a Star Tutor and your chances of earning an “A” on your next exam skyrocket. When I was in school, we called that cheating. And we didn’t have to pay for it.

I’ve often (half) joked to my wife that if we ever move to Hong Kong I’d like to become a Star Tutor. Either that or the next drunken master. So you can imagine my horror when I discovered there was already a white dude named Charles banking lots of HKD. That’s right, Charles is part of K. Oten’s “Super English Force.” Super English Force you ask? I’ll let the photo speak for itself. Yes, this ad is on the side of a bus.


Me Like History Books

Since the middle of last year I’ve been digitally archiving the books I read on the website Goodreads. Why? I read so many books while writing Man of War that I had a hard time keeping track of them all. A virtual bookshelf not only helps me remember what books I’ve read, but what’s inside them. I think 85% of our learning is visual (don’t quote me on that), so I guess the “memory spark” I get from seeing a cover works.

In all, I read sixty-two books while writing Man of War, in between jetting off to reenactments and holding down a full-time job. I nearly lost my mind, and yes, my wife is the most patient person on the planet. I often make reference to this within its pages.

Here are my three favorite books from the sixty-two I mentioned before…in no particular order.

A Little History of the World, by E.H. Gombrich. Gombrich is a master storyteller and he’s at his finest in this charming book. Wisely titled A Little History of the World, it often feels as though you’re reading something he’s recited dozens of times to a child.  He devotes most of his time to Western history, which is fine, and don’t expect anything too in-depth. In fact, he pretty much ignores the American Revolution, which I’d argue deserves more than the line or so he dedicates to it. Still, it’s a great introduction to history.

Founding Brothers, by Joseph J. Ellis. Far more in-depth than Gombrich’s tale, Founding Brothers takes a look at a number of key events that helped shape our early republic. Often a challenging read, it’s nonetheless a fascinating exploration into our Founding Fathers’ deft political jockeying. The portrait he paints of the men is, not surprisingly, a heck of a lot more complex than your typical high school history class.

April, 1865, by Jay Winik. I defy any American to read this book and not become completely obsessed with The Civil War. While the raw material of this tumultuous month (the fall of Richmond, Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, Lincoln’s assassination and the subsequent manhunt for Booth) is already pretty captivating stuff, it took a diligent researcher and storyteller like Winik to put it all together in an engrossing package.



I’m an Anglophile. Guilty.

I’ve loved most things British since I was a kid (with the exception of hooligans, binge drinking and saying that one goes “to hospital.” Don’t they know you go to the hospital?). At first it was new wave music: Echo and the Bunnymen, New Order, even Depeche Mode. Then in 92-93 I studied acting at this place, and fell for Shakespeare. After I returned I liked to use the word “whilst” in sentences.

Mostly though, I love British comedy. The Goons, Peter Cook and Dudley Moore, Blackadder, The Mighty Boosh and especially Alan Partridge. (Strange thing though. Never got into Python. Hard to believe, I know.)

On a recent flight to Hong Kong I watched all six of Partridge’s latest Mid-Morning Matters videos on Cathay Pacific’s wonderfully plentiful in-flight entertainment system. What’s particularly amazing about Steve Coogan and his team of writers is that they can hold your attention with only three cameras and one setting. Hats off to them for making me chortle and annoy my fellow Cathay Pacific passengers.

The episodes used to be on YouTube, but were recently removed. What remains are a few outtakes from the series.

Looking for British comedy online? Click here. An Anglophile yourself? Try this.

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