Fictionista, Foodie, Feline-lover

Monday, July 30, 2012

Swordplay in Shakespeare

Courtesy:  Long Beach Shakespeare Company
Since fencing is the sport of the day at the Olympics, I was reminded of the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984 when, as part of an accompanying cultural festival that included lots of Shakespeare plays (Derek Jacobi in Much Ado About Nothing, a French version of Henry V, an Italian version of The Tempest), actor Anthony De Longis and a group of actors provided a fabulous performance of swordsmanship that was like a bladed weapon version of Cirque du Soleil.  I can't remember what it was called--I want to say "Circle of Steel" but if you Google that, all that comes up is a Gordon Lightfoot song.
One of Shakespeare's contemporaries in London was a sword master named George Silver.  Silver was noted as a master teacher but in addition to the sword, he was also fond of the quarterstaff. By Shakespeare's time, fencing was a sport and no longer the deadly martial art it had been in previous centuries when it was used to settle judicial quarrels and all the fights were to the death.
There are a lot of places that teach fencing and stage combat but it's harder to find schools that specialize in historical western martial arts. In the Los Angeles area, there's the Academy of Arms. 

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Second photograph of the day--flamingo mother and child

So, yes, I am someone who writes stories in which animals die and yet, I am a sucker for cute animal pictures.  (That's why we have Pinterest.) I don't usually tweet or email or post cute animal pictures because if everyone did that, there'd be no room for news about Kim Kardashian.
This beautiful picture grabbed my attention though. I saw it on FB and had to share.
Maybe I'm a sap.
Maybe I just like pink birds.

Photograph of the Day-Michael Rosenbaum

There's a wonderful exhibit at the Museum of Natural History, the winning images from their annual "Nature's Best Photography" contest. A lot of the winning images are of family groups of wild animals. My favorite photo was an artfully composed shot of two roseate spoonbills on a tree. It looks like a Japanese scroll. The photograph was taken by Michael Rosenbaum. You can find out more about him and the photo here.
You can read more about this year's contest here.

Shakespeare in DC--the Folger Library

The Folger Shakespeare Library is located in Washington, on Capitol Hill, not far from the multiple museums that make up the Smithsonian. It is a wonderful place, homethe world’s largest and finest collection of Shakespeare materials and to major collections of other rare Renaissance books, manuscripts, and works of art.  There is an Elizabethan garden on the grounds, and the actual building is so lovely you can rent it for events.
Photo by Julie Ainsworth
Imagine mounting a play in this jewelbox of a theater.
For people who can't visit in person, they have a lively Digital Folger program that includes podcasts (Shakespeare in American life), lectures, audio tours of the grounds and exhibitions, poetry readings, acting tutorials, play deconstruction, and recordings from the Folger Consort.  They also have a variety of newsletters to serve a variety of interests, particularly teachers and academics. You can find the catalogue for the library here.
They also have a great gift store with t-shirts and posters and prints and all the other stuff you expect from a museum gift shop. There are some lovely posters, including a map of Shakespeare's Britain, nesting dolls of Henry VIII and his wives and the t-shirt I got my brother as a present when he graduated from law school--decorated with the quotation, "The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers."
In September it will be the first stop in the US tour of a new Shakespeare's Globe production of Hamlet, starringMichael Benz and directed by Dominic Dromgoole and Bill Buckhurst. 

Here's a little teaser for the production, which is touring the UK now.

Friday, July 27, 2012

I'm baaaack.

I'd forgotten how really beautiful DC and the surrounding 'burbs are.
I am so envious of the Metro system, which goes everywhere. In LA, you can get downtown on the metro and that's about it.
The Smithsonian Institution's museums are FREE.
Will be back to posting tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Shakespeare Geek for the Shakespeare Geek.

"You had me at forsooth!"  Shakespeare Geek is a fun little site with jokes and news (release date for Joss Whedon's Much Ado About Nothing), random Shakespeare posts (a gift guide for the Shakespeare Geek) and resources. You can buy message t-shirts ("Mercutio drew first") and Shakespeare-imaged iPad covers. Check it out.

Ms. Tomlinson is going to Washington

Photo by Mihal Tamasila
I have been in an eye study for the past three and a half years. My doctors are testing the use of a drug called Lucentis (already approved for age-related macular degeneration) on diabetes-rekated retinal bleeding. (Judi Dench has the age-related kind and she's going blind, so it's a serious condition.) I was an undiagnosed diabetic (none of the symptoms) for several years (no medical insurance) and damaged my eyes significantly before a routine eye exam discovered  my retinas were in bad shape.
Lucentis is a miracle drug.  When I started the study I was losing my color vision, which meant I really wasn't comfortable driving. I had a lot of trouble seeing gray cars if the morning was cloudy. Reading was a challenge. And I read for a living. Enter Lucentis...and three years later, I'm driving again. I'm reading books again.
So I've been asked to come to DC and talk to the Feds about the drug as part of the approval process. I am happy to do this for all the right reasons but also happy because my brother lives and works in the area and I'll be able to see him for the first time in a couple of years.
I've served on a jury. I vote. And now I'm testifying to a committee.  That about ticks off the list of participatory Democracy actions.  (I guess I could run for office.)  I have to say, I think it's kind of cool.
I'll be back on Friday. Stay cool.

Monday, July 23, 2012

R.I.P. Sally Ride

First American woman in space.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Shakespeare and Chocolate

Chocolate had been imported to Spain early in the 16th century and chocolate beans were given as part of royal dowries all over Europe by the 17th century, so of course Shakespeare knew about it, and had probably partaken of the hot beverage that would later become an addiction alongside tea and coffee. He would not, however, ever tasted a Cadbury bar or a silky Godiva truffle.
Shakespeare's Chocolate in Davenport, Iowa, sells chocolate, pretzels, do-it-your-self s'mores kits (although that sounds kind of redundant) and more. One of their best sellers is a trio of "ice cream cones" crafted out of white and dark chocolate, tagged "Candy Crunch."  Definitely a company to check out if you buy mail order sweets for Christmas (or other holidays).

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Even the greatest writer ever can have an off day!

Like any writer, Shakespeare had his ups and downs. He is generally  believed to have written 37 plays (in only 20 years) but if you look at the plays that show up in rep year after year after year, you start to see the same 15 or so plays over and over. Someone's always reviving Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, Othello, the Tempest and Much Ado About Nothing. You can take your pick of Macbeths and Henry Vs and any number of Two Gentlemen of Verona.
Just try, though, to find a production of Pericles.  According to some sources, Shakespeare was just a co-writer on this play, responsible for roughly half the lines. (The other writer is supposed to be a man named George Wilkins. Not much is known about Wilkins. He was apparently an inn-keeper who was into some dodgy activities.
The basic plot is that a man offers his daughter's hand in marriage to anyone who can solve a riddle but those who fail to solve the riddle will die. Pericles, Prince of Tyre, understands the riddle but ... well, it's not that simple is it?
Welsh actor Mike Gwilym, who played Dick Francis' jockey hero Sid Halley in some early adaptations of the novel The Racing Game, played the prince in the BBC adaptation of the play. Welsh-Canadian actor Geraint Wyn Davies, now a mainstay at the annual Stratford Shakespeare Festival (he's in Cymbeline this year), played the part for them at least two decades ago. (My friend Susan Garrett, who did a lot of fan fiction based on his cult series Forever Knight, had a photo of herself taken with a standup of the actor in his Pericles armor. It's a great picture but I can't find it.)
I've never seen this play performed live. I did see the TV adaptation with Gwilym but remember almost nothing about it except that Gwilym had the most intense eyes.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Enough is Enough--It's time for gun control

"Blood will have blood." --William Shakespeare, Macbeth

I grew up in a house with a gun in it. When I was younger, I went target shooting with a .22. I have fired large caliber handguns at a shooting range.  I am, in fact, a decent shot, more than good enough to pass LAPD standards.
 I am not categorically opposed to private ownership of handguns. I am not a knee-jerk liberal on the subject.I am not advocating mass confiscation of projectile weapons.
But for the love of God, we have to stop mail order gun sales, particularly of automatic rifles, and we need to close the loopholes on sales at gun shows. "Guns don't kill people," gun rights advocates are fond of saying, "people kill people." This is an argument that has been going on since 1963 when a mail-order rifle in the hands of Lee Harvey Oswald killed John F. Kennedy.  Fifty years people.
Police in Aurora are now trying to trace the weapons used by a man to kill and wound dozens of people. (As I write this the death toll at the Dark Knight Rises screening is being variously reported as 12 and 13, with the number of wounded between 38 and 50.)  I'd be willing to bet the suspect picked up at least some of his arsenal either through mail order or from a gun show, where sales protocols are riddled with loopholes.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Feminist Fiction Friday--the founding feminist edition

Ti-Grace Atkinson
Best in-your-face feminist quote ever:  "If men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament."--Ti-Grace Atkinson. I haven't read a lot of Atkinson. At some point in college I read her pamphlet "Vaginal Orgasm as a Mass Hysterical Survival Response" at some point, probably at the urging of my gay roommate (Atkinson was a member of "Daughters of Bilitis," and advocated specifically political lesbiansim.) Atkinson was exactly the sort of feminist that sexists have in mind when they say feminists have no sense of humor.

Atkinson was influenced by Simone de Beauvoir, whose book The Second Sex is at the top of the list of any woman's studies curriculum.  Simone, the life-long companion of Jean Paul Sartre, is one of the most interesting of the early founding feminists. She's been quoted on everything from retail therapy ("Buying is a profound pleasure") to love and attraction ("Why one man rather than another? ...

Turning Shakespeare Inside Out--Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead

I first saw Rosencrantz and Guildenstern on stage in the 80s, but Tom Stoppard wrote it in 1966. I loved it.  I loved it not just for the clever way that the playwright inserted his characters' point of view into the story, using a sort of theatrical kaleidoscope that showed something completely different (a technique used in later plays like Wicked) when the view shifted, but also for the language.  R&G is very much a play about language. The play is full of quotable lines--"Who is the English king?" Rosencrantz asks. "That depends on when we get there," Guildenstern responds. The Player has a great speech about the kind of entertainment he and his players provide, offering up love, blood and rhetoric in various combinatins, but always with blood. ("The blood is compulsory," he says.)
In 1990, Stoppard directed a film version of his play starring Tim Roth and Gary Oldman (Commissioner Gordon himself). Both men look impossibly young (Roth was 29, Oldman was 32) and Oldman actually has a scruffy Heath Ledger-in-the-Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus-thing going on.   Oldman plays Rosencrantz as an innocent fool,  with Roth playing the only slightly more savvy Guildenstern. The two play off each other really well, especially in an early scene when they're trying to remember what they're doing riding toward Elsinore and when they're trying to figure out exactly what's going on with Hamlet. 
The movie is currently streaming live on Netflix, or you can buy it used from Amazon for less than $5.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Drink like Shakespeare

The Beer Connoisseur Online has an interesting post about what Shakespeare drank. (The conclusion is that he was a fan of ale but not of beer.) I remember a line in one of the Henry plays where the bard is dismissive of people who have "a taste for small beer,' which I assumed was something like Miller Lite.Shakespeare Online goes beyond beer and ale into the wine that would have been available to Shakespeare and his characters. (Falstaff was very fond of sack.) The article is sprinkled with quotes from the plays. The blog Not PC has a "Beer O'Clock" entry from 2008 about shakespere and beer.
Beer Advocate has rated Shakespeare Oatmeal Stout a 94 (exceptional), while their colleagues have given it a 97, making it a world class beverage.
The United Nations of Beer offers a Shakespeare t-shirt with a beer quote on it.

You have been warned!!!

Sometimes apartment living gets me down.
My apartment building isn't that large--30 units--and I know people on all three floors. The landlady really tries to foster a community feeling by decorating for any and all holidays and by doing things like putting out candy for Halloween. People are generally cordial when passing in the hallway or sharing an elevator. The dogs who live here are social ice breakers. And yet doesn't feel like a community.
Someone on my floor is UNCLEAR on the concept of what a trash room is for and assumes it's fine to leave smelly food trash on the floor rather than dump it in the chute. Someone in the apartment thinks that defacing the elevator door with obscene graffiti is an expression of creativity. Someone thinks that it's okay to let their dog piddle in the stairwell (because you know, it's just too far to walk that extra FIVE steps to the outside door). And then there are the people who prop the outside door open, thus negating the purpose of the locked garage. Three different cars have been stolen from that garage and the security tapes (yes, there is a security camera) who that all three of the thieves entered through an unlocked door.
I could make myself nuts complaining bout this stuff but instead, I use it in stories.
Yes, I will turn you into a hateful character that readers will mock!
I will expose and exploit your classless behavior.  I might even use your first name.
You'll likely never know.
You certainly won't change your behavior.
But I will feel a LOT better.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Shakespeare by the Sea

I had no idea when I began the Summer of Shakespeare that there was so much Shakespeare in the Southland or that so much of it was free. A company called Shakespeare by the Sea is celebrating its 15th season of Shakespeare this summer, touring Los Angeles and Orange Counties with Two Gentlemen of Verona and Romeo & Juliet. The performances are free and take place at parks throughout the area (most of which are not actually by the ocean).
Here's a list of the venues, along with donation thermometers to let you know if a performance is fully funded or not (in case you have a little extra cash).
For me, the nearest performance will be August 2nd in Glendale; the play will be R&J.
timeless Tales. Ticketless Admission.

Monday, July 16, 2012

All things Elizabethan

When you start thinking about Shakespeare, you inevitably start thinking about the Elizabethan era. I was looking for information on Elizabethan-era music, and ran across this site, which is simple but chock full of information about everything from Elizabethan cuisine to Elizabethan sports. I knew that they played tennis in Shakespeare's time (remember in Henry V when the French ambassador sends Henry a gift of tennis balls?) but I had no idea that they also bowled. They also enjoyed dog and cock fighting, as well as bull and bear-baiting. (Again, I knew about the bear-baiting but not about the bull-baiting.) Anyway, the site is a great way to while away a few minutes if you're taking a break from doing the things that pay your rent.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Smother Mother--New NoHo Noir

The heat is on over at NoHo Noir. We haven't heard from Shannon Garrick and her son Liam since he testified against the gang shot-caller who killed the motel owner. Shannon's mother Maeve McConnaughey is still here and let's just say, she's overstayed her welcome. Check out the latest installment here. As always, illustrated by Mark Satchwill.

No Shakespeare for me this Sunday

There's probably a quote from the bard about "best-laid plans" and so forth, but none comes readily to mind. I was supposed to go see A Midsummer Night's Dream tonight at Griffith Park in Los Angeles. (Free!!) Instead, I will be going next week. Stay tuned.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Review of Rome & Jewel (2008)

This hip-hop musical version of Romeo &Juliet has some great moments. John Rubinstein plays Mayor Capps (Jewel's father) as the whitest white man in Beverly Hills--all capped teeth and spray tan. Cleavant Derricks plays Rev. Q (Rome's father), who opens and closes the film with his sermons from the little South Central church where he's the pastor. These veteran actors anchor a surprisingly effective modern urban take on the story that would have worked a lot better if the young actress playing Jewel had had a better voice.  Everyone else handles the songs (which are fine) but her voice is so reedy and thin (especially in an awkward "Sweet Sixteen" rap where she's grinding all over Rome), that the energy of the movie just deflates every time she opens her mouth.
As the movie opens, Rome is at odds with his minister father, who is furious he's blown off an important church meeting to dog a girl named Roz. Rome admits "the bitch messed me up" and his friend DJ Mercury (Allen Maldonado, who's great) invites him to a sweet sixteen party where he's performing to take his mind off the girl.
The movie was only out for a week in what was probably extremely limited release and made less than half a million. That's a shame because it eally was a smart transposition of the timeless story of star-crossed lovers.

More free books!

I'm serious about cleaning out. Any books I don't give away here are going to the Prison Library Project as donations for their used book store. They sell paperbacks and hardbacks to raise money for their work. If you'd like to know more about them, here's a link.

All you have to do to claim the books is leave a comment on this post and I'll contact you and arrange for shipping (within the United States.)  See here for other packages on offer.

The Laura Joh Rowland package--Five novels in her fantastic Sano Ichiro novels about the Shogun's Most Honorable investigator. The titles are: Dragon King's Palace, Perfumed Sleeve, The Way of the Traitor, Concubine's Tattoo, and Black Lotus.

The Grab Bag Package--a little bit of everything. James Rollins The Doomsday Key,  Michael Gruber's Tropic of Night, Dorothy Miles Disney's Dark Lady (a Crime Club paperback from 1964), Carl Hiaasen's Star Island, Janet Evanovich, Sizzling Sixteen, Janet Evqanovich Smokin' Seventeen,

The Eclectic package--Elmore Leonard's Tishomingo Blues, A. Lee Martinez' The Automatic Detective, She Nailed a Stake Through His Head (an anthology of Biblical Tales of Terror), Precinct 19 (true accounts of NYPD's 19th Precinct), David Manual, A Matter of Roses (first in the Faith Abbey Mysteries), C. S. Graham, The Archangel Project (political thriller set in New Orleans), Mafia Chic by Erica Orloff (a chick lit mystery), Winter Moon (fantasy novella collection with Mercedes Lackey, Tanith Lee and C.E. Murphy).

And more to come.  Ask and ye shall receive...

Happy Bastille Day!!

I intend to celebrate with a baguette and some imported raspberry jam. Vive la France.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Shakespeare, the brand

As I've been wandering about the web in search of interesting Shakespeare stuff, I've noticed that there are more than a few items with "Shakespeare" as a brand name. I started Googling a bit for more information and ran into some interesting articles on just that subject.  This article on Shakespeare in Advertising appeared on Transmedia Shakespeare (studying Shakespeare beyond the text).  It begins:  Shakespeare. One word, a name, that represents so much more than a man. Shakespeare is an industry, a language, a symbol of literature and art, and an era in time. The advertising world has used this to their advantage, and Shakespeare’s influence can be recognized in almost every branch of pop culture.
The No-Sweat Shakespeare blog has an intriguing article called "The Shakespeare Brand in the World of Commerce." Starting with the example of the Learjet, the article discusses what the writer calles "Shakesploitation."
Shakespeare author Ben Alexander has some interesting figures here, showing where the search term "Shakespeare" rates in the Google-verse.

The Feminist Fiction Give-Away

There comes a time in every reader's life when she looks at the sagging weight of the six bookcases in her six-room apartment and says--time to clean house.
For me, that time is this weekend.
In the spirit of Feminist Fiction Friday, I am going to start with the ladies.
I'm divvying up the books into various packages.
And all you have to do is let me know you want one of the packages.
That's it.
Yes, it would be nice if you decided to follow the blog.
I'd love it if you followed the NoHo Noir twitter account (@nohonoir) or my own (@storyauthority) but seriously, All you have to do is leave a comment on this post calling dibs and I'll get in touch with you and arrange to ship you the books.
Please just claim the books if you're in the US--I'm also footing the media mail postage.
So check out the books:

Package #1--Carol O'Connell's Kathleen Mallory books. If you don't know the books, here's the Wikipedia article.

If you liked Steig Larssen's Millennium trilogy, you will love these books. I have nine of the paperbacks and possibly one hardback (not shelved with the others.) The titles include:  Winter House, Find Me, Mallory's Oracle, the Man Who Cast Two Shadows, Crime School, Stone angel, Shell Game, Killing Critics, and Dead Famous.

Feminist Fiction Friday: Liza Cody

I am going to Bouchercon 2012 this year and am very excited. But I wish I'd been there last year when Liza Cody was there and taking part in panels like "Telling Women's Stories." (She refers to it as "the inevitable feminist panel.")
I love Liza Cody's series protagonist Anna Lee and her novel Dupe (which, according to Wikipedia introduced the professional female private detective to British Mystery fiction) was the first I ever read. Cody also has a series about professional female wrestler, Eva Wylie. I've not read any of those books because the backdrop doesn't interest me, but I'll get around to them at some  point.
I love that Anna Lee is smart and savvy and totally real. It's an ongoing complaint that there aren't enough female protagonists in crime fiction, and I always point people toward Liza Cody in response.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Smell Like Shakespeare--Black Phoenix Alchemy scents

I have loved perfume ever since I was a little girl playing with my grandmother's perfume bottles. (She had all those old lady scents of gardenia and musk rose and cut-glass atomizers for spritzing them on.)
I used to wear perfume to work every day, light citrusy scents like Chanel's Cristalle and Hermes Green Oranges. At night I favored darker, more Oriental scents like Halston's Night (now discontinued). Sadly, I now live with someone who is allergic to perfume, so I mostly smell like Dr. Bronner's Peppermint soap these days.
But I still like reading about perfume, and a few months ago I stumbled across the Black Phoenix Alchemical Lab's scents.''The company specalzes in formulating body and household blends with a dark, romantic tone.
Turns out their Illyria collection was inspired by Shakespeare's characters. Reading the descriptions of the various scents is in itself a sensual experience.The one that sounds most appealing o me is "Katharina," a blend of white musk, orange blossom and peach. Like the other scents in the collection--the masculine Iago and Antony, the severe Lady Macbeth (sweet Bordeaux wine, currants and wild berries), the perfume comes in an amber vial priced at $17.50 per 5 mil bottle.
If you want to indulge your senses, spend a few minutes on their site. And remember, "that which we call a rose would smell as sweet" if we called it something else...

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Review of Romeo & Juliet Sealed With a Kiss

I grew up on classic, Disney-style animation but I'm not really a fan of the genre, despite really loving Monsters, Inc. and the Toy Story series from Pixar. (I was put off by the character design in Brave, for instance, because I thought the princess looked like a red-headed troll doll.)
I'm not someone who ever sat around in my jammies on Saturday, eating cold cereal and watching cartoons. And so I find it hard to get past ugly animation and enjoy the story. (An exception was for the first season of the Ghostbusters animated series, which I found myself addicted to.)
My expectations for Romeo & Juliet: Sealed with a Kiss (2006) were pretty low.
the movie was clearly a labor of love and done on a budget. Phil Nibbelink was director, writer, animator and voice talent and a comic relief character called Kissing Fish was voiced by Chanelle Nibbelink (wife, daughter, sister?). The actors voicing Romeo and Juliet (who are, in this family-friendly re-imagining, seals) have the same surname, but whether they're related by affinity or consanguinity, I don't know.
Nibbelink has a lot of good ideas here--and his instincts for what will make good musical interludes are sharp--but the constraints of his budget are everywhere. The quality of the animation is so poor that at times, in the long shots, the seals look like cavorting brown and white sperm.
Romeo and Juliet are as big-eyed as Keane portraits, and drawn very small in relationship to the other seals (except for fat Benvolio, a sweet comic relief character who is genuinely amusing at times). The problem is that there's a kind of disconnect between the way the young seals look and the intensity of their love. That's of course the point of the story--the passion of the young lovers--but transposed to animation and it feels a little off-kilter.
Mercutio, Romeo's best friend, is a here a fun-loving seal with musical talent and a lot of chutzpah. Nibbelink salts his dialogue with tons of Shakespeare quotes, repurposed to fit his story. "All the world's a stage," he muses as Benvolio enthusiastically adds, "Let's act!" (Mercutio looks distractingly like Scooby Doo at times.)
I'm all for introducing kids to Shakespeare but am not sure that Romeo & Juliet is the play to start with.  This one has some scary stuff--when Friar Lawrence shows up with Juliet's body, she looks dead--but all it takes is the touch of a golden/rosy dawn and everything is all right.
When the movie came out, 54 percent of critics liked it but it made less than $500 thousand domestically.  (According to IMDB, the budget was around $2 million.)
You can get a pretty good idea of the movie from the trailer, which is here.
The movie didn't do much for me, but then, I'm not the target audience.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Kill Shakespeare

Kill Shakespeare is a 12-issue comic book that's a mash up of ideas and characters from the canon. for more info, check out the Wiki listing.

Dating's a problem

I'm not talking about having a close personal relationship with your hand here but writing in a way that makes your writing seem old-fashioned. Most writers are savvy enough not to use transient slang in their stories, but there are other, more subtle ways in which writers betray their age. For example, I have a friend whose "tell" is that she knows Yale University didn't start admitting women until 1970 because she entered college in 1969 and wanted to go to Yale. But if she mentions that, it immediately tells everyone that she's 61.
I have another friend who frequently makes reference to obscure movies that came out decades ago, and also makes extremely subtle jokes referencing vintage.  That would simply mark him as eccentric but then he attempts to explain the jokes while laughing heartily and it's just truly painful.
So there are ways to avoid the obvious things. But ... sometimes even when you're careful, you're blindsided.
I have a client who wanted his script read by one of my subcontractors, a smart guy in his early 20s.  The reader liked the script a lot but was puzzled by one thing. The main character's backstory included a reference to the "Oklahoma City Bombing" with no other explanation.
"The writer does not explain what happened to the protagonist's family," the reader wrote in his report.
He'd never heard of the Oklahoma City Bombing.
He was six years old when it happened.
The writer--like myself--just assumed that everyone would understand his reference.
It's easy to say -- "but everyone knows about the Oklahoma City Bombng," but my smart, young sub-contractor did not.
My client rewrote the script.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Review of Macbeth starring Sam Worthington

There are more than 60 different versions of Macbeth listed on IMDB, which is kind of amazing. This film, a modern-day adaptation set in Australia, is ... intriguing. It opens with three red-headed schoolgirls defacing the gravestones in a cemetery, a sequence that is disturbing and creepy, especially since the colors are so subdued that their red hair and the red paint they're using just pops out like ... blood.
The scene soon shifts to a neon-soaked waterfront meeting place where a drug deal goes sideways in an operatic, balletic orgy of violence that is equal parts Quentin Tarantino and Baz Luhrman.
Director Geoffrey Wright filmed the movie with more Dutch angles than an Amsterdam neighborhood, but the overall effect is incredibly stylish. There's real carnality in the scene where Macbeth is confronted by the Weird Sisters who hail him as the Thane of Cawdor and he who shall be king thereafter.
He has never really considered the idea--we get the impression he's really sort of a drone--but once he's considered the possibility of being the king, the idea will not leave him alone.
The adaptation maintains Shakespeare's dialogue but strips it down to the bare minimum. (That's good because sometimes the actors' Aussie accents get in the way, as in the line, "Takes the reason prisoner," which comes out "Take the raisin prisoner.")  A lot of dialogue is delivered as voiceover, which keeps it from sounding too melodramatic in the context.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Summer of Shakespeare continues!

From Star Trek: The Next Generation to Shakespeare. Michael Dorn is appearing in a production of As You Like It this summer in Los Angeles. (This month in fact.) It's a modern-dress version (it's often performed in modern dress) and directed by an associate of the Royal Shakespeare Company. Goldstar has cheap tickets, so I hope to go.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Buy Shakespeare

Shakespeare iPhone cover
Show your love for the Bard by wearing Shakespeare-themed stuff!  And purchasing quote mugs, posters, and prints.  Available at this Zazzle store.

Pulp Ink 2 is here!!

Huzzah--thanks to editors Chris Rhatigan and Nigel Bird!! These stories have a horror and a fantastical edge. Buy it here for kindle for just $2.99.  Buy the print version here.
Here's what you need to know about it:  Pulp Ink 2’s got beautiful killers, visions of the apocalypse, blood-thirsty rats, and one severed arm on a quest for revenge. No half-assed reboots here, just some of the finest writing in crime and horror today.

Featuring stories by Kevin Brown, Mike Miner, Eric Beetner, Heath Lowrance, Matthew C. Funk, Richard Godwin, Cindy Rosmus, Christopher Black, Andrez Bergen, James Everington, W. D. County, Julia Madeleine, Kieran Shea, Joe Clifford, Katherine Tomlinson, R. Thomas Brown, Court Merrigan, BV Lawson, and Patti Abbott.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Win the Ultimate Shakespeare getaway!

Airfare to Stratford, Ontario, accommodations and two tickets to three of the Shakespeare Festival's offerings. Details here.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Feminist Fiction Friday--CJ Cherryh

I started reading CJ Cherryh's books in the mid-70s but somehow (denial is a powerful drug), it never occurred to me that she would now be ... coming up on 70.  (September 1, as a matter of fact.) I always figured that she used her initials instead of her full name (Carolyn Janice) because most science fiction writers at the time were men. It never occurred to me that "Cherryh" was not her real last name. According to Wikipedia, she added the silent H at the end of Cherry because her then-editor (Donald A. Wolheim) thought "Cherry" sounded too much like a romance novelist.
Well, nobody mistakes her for a romance novelist now--not after 60 science fiction and fantasy novels, a clutch of Awards (including the John W. Campbell award and a couple of Hugos).
And did you know she taught Latin and Greek after graduating Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Oklahoma and recieving a Master's Degree from Johns Hopkins where she was a Woodrow Wilson fellow.
Cherryh has never pigeon-holed her writing into any specific genre or sub-genre. (In fact, she's gone on record as being very much against that kind of categorizing.) She has written books from alien points of view. She has written books in shared worlds. I am a huge fan of Cherryh's fantasy and the first book of hers I read was the first of the books about time-traveling Morgaine, The Gate of Ivrel. I always thought the time-gates of her Morgaine books were much more interesting than any of the Stargates. I also loved Cyteen, which was a genre mash-up on a grand scale, featuring a cloned scientist trying to avoid the fate of her original.

Shakespeare's Top Ten--According to Listverse

Twelfth Night
A contributor named Herojax put together this list which has Othello at number 10 and Hamlet at number one. It's worth looking at because the list-maker found a lot of cool old illustrations to accompany the text. Here's the list.

Review of GreenMourning by G. Wells Taylor

A serial killer called “Pinocchio” is stalking Metro, collecting perfect body parts so he (or she) can construct a perfect body and be a “real boy.” Pinocchio is hiding inside the ranks of the “Variant Squad,” an elite group tasked with protecting the city against a new outbreak of Variant, which in its most virulent form turns ordinary citizens into skin-eating zombie-type monsters.
And meanwhile, a billionaire whose personal agenda involves evolving to a new, Variant-enhanced human 2.0 is manipulating everyone around him to force that outcome sooner rather than later.
It’s enough to make anyone go crazy and the people who make up the Variant Squad aren’t the most solid citizens around. There’s alcoholic Borland who forges a bond with a troubled orphan who gets under his skin in spite of himself. There’s Beachboy who numbs himself with sex and drugs and alcohol—“cranking” in Squad parlance. There’s Hyde, who literally has skin in the game, having lost his epidermis in the last Variant outbreak. And then there’s Marisol, whose own presentation of Variant Effect caused her to literally eat part of herself. Singly and together, these characters are original and memorable, and their interaction is intense, sometimes hilarious and often truly scary.
As any good horror novel should be.
GreenMourning is a sequel to G. Wells Taylor’s novel The Variant Effect, and while that book was good, this one is great, with every aspect of the story and characters amped up a notch. The relationship between Hyde and Marisol plays out in a way that’s breath-taking in its honesty and her “tough love” stance in the face of his reticence is impressive and admirable. Their interaction alone is worth the price of the book.
The various officials who are manipulating events are all very plausible character constructs, and the goings on at the GreenMourning company are convincingly conveyed. Taylor knows a little bit about manipulation himself, and he knows how to whip up his readers with anticipation and mysteries (who IS Pinocchio, for example) while taking them deep into a story that turns the zombie mythos on its head.
The novel ends on a cliff-hanger that will leave readers panting for more. People we like will die. People we thought we knew will surprise us.
No one is safe in the world of this book.
And the Variant Effect is back, and worse than ever.
If you like your horror cinematic and character-driven, you need to check out GreenMourning.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy Birthday America

AdAbraham Ortelius. Theatrum Orbis Terrarum. Antwerp, 1595. Shelfmark G1015 O6 1595 Cage. Folger Shakespeare Libraryd caption
The Folger Shakespeare Library has a page devoted to "Shakespeare in American Life." There are some interesting factoids there--did you know Thomas Edison almost became a Shakespearean actor?--and some general trivia connecting Shakespeare to America. (Remember, he knew about America and referenced it in The Tempest when Miranda says, "O brave new world..." Check out the site here.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Just Passing Through Shakespeare

Shakespeare, New Mexico is a ghost town. Here's more information about it.

Andy Griffith and Me...

I was once in an elevator with Andy Griffith. He smiled at me and asked which floor I needed. I told him and he pushed the button for the floor. I said thank you and he smiled again.
Andy Griffith punched my elevator button!!!
I once interviewed actor Joel Higgins, who costarred with Andy Griffith on a television show called Salvage-1. Higgins told me that of all the people he'd met in show business, Andy Griffith was the person who was most--"what you see is what you get." He admired him.
I watched The Andy Griffith Show and wanted to live in Mayberry.(Years later, while going to college in North Carolina, I used to pass by Mt. Airy, Griffith's hometown and the basis for Mayberry. It's still a small town, with a population of around 10,000 people.)
\I later learned that Andy Griffith could do a lot more than the folksy stuff he did in the Andy Griffith Show and later, in Matlock. (A big fave with my father, who was not unlike Matlock himself.)
He was terrific in a television movie called Savages, which was a riff on The Most Dangerous Game.
And he was outstanding in A Face in the Crowd.  Made in 1957, A Face in the Crowd is about a hobo who becomes an overnight media sensation and then begins to act like a monster. It's scarily relevant to today's celebrity culture. If you've never seen it, you should. It costars Patricia Neal, Lee Remick, Walter Matthau, Tony Franciosa and a slew of character actors you'd recognize.
Goodbye Andy...

Monday, July 2, 2012

There's an app for that!

Of course there's a Shakespeare app.  Designed for both the iPhone and the Ipad, Shakespeare is a free app with the complete works of Shakespeare (41 plays, 154 sonnets and 6 poems, including doubtful works) and a searchable concordance to find the exact word or phrase you’re looking for (with “relaxed” searching to find words close to your search).  Get more information and download the app here.  The app is a collaboration between Readdle and Shakespeare.com

Hank Williams was the original redneck noir hero

I just got back from seeing The Last Ride, a story about Hank Williams' last days. The movie stars Henry Thomas as Hank Williams, and though he's a decade and a half older than Williams was when he died (29), the hard-living singer/songwriter looked even older.
I'm not a fan of what the movie calls "hillbilly music," but Hank Williams transcended categories. You know all the songs that form the soundtrack of this movie, and there were so many, many more--three of which hit the top 10 after he died.
If you took Hank Williams' life and turned it into a crime drama, you wouldn't have to change much of anything to make him a classic noir character.
His mother ran a whorehouse ("Beat that," he says to the young man driving him around, played--and played well--by newcomer Jesse James.) He was baffled and bedazzled by women and it got him into trouble. He drank and smoked and drugged. He raised hell. And he died after a bar fight. he had a double dipping of talent and he threw it away with both hands.
The movie is leisurely--at two hours, it's about 30 minutes too long--but it's worth catching, if for nothing  more than Henry Thomas' performance as Hank. You can see his charm. You can see his bitterness. You can see his world-weariness. It's a good performance in a movie that's not so good. (Although I will say this for the writers--they know their southern phrases and they're pitch perfect, which you don't often see.  When a girl named Wanda--played by Big Bang Theory's Kaley Cuoco--tells James' character how her father died, she says "he died of the black lung." The "the" is important there--nobody from that part of the country ever just says "of black lung.")
If you're in the mood for a bio-pic with a noir-ish edge and a fair amount of heart, check out The Last Ride.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Shakespeare and the Jersey Shore

Yo Willie!
That's right, Shakespeare is not just for wordsnoots any more.  Here's Vinny Guadagnino talking about why he started acting Shakespeare.

The Return of NoHo Noir

Illustration by Mark Satchwill
Esme Morales and her partner Edgar are back in this tale of zombies, skanky badge bunnies and more. Read it here.

Shakespeare Fan Fic

Who knew? You can find the archives here.