Tube Drivers Reciting Shakespeare

A new initiative will see tube drivers reading out classical quotes with their announcements. The drivers are to be given a book of quotations that will include Shakespeare, Goethe and Friedrich Engels and are expected to read out quotes with their daily announcements to passengers.

I like it.  The closest I ever saw to this in Boston was the overhead speaker guy in South Station who’d actually say “Good morning everyone … and have a nice day.”  Hey, it’s Boston, sometimes it’s harder than Shakespaere to get good manners out of people! 🙂 [ I particularly like this story because I can post it on my other blog, too. ]

Lighting Up Shakespeare All right, purists, you’re gonna love this one.  Just how close to “original” Shakespeare performance can you get?  Scene breaks? Stage directions?  Accent? How about lighting? The linked project attempts to mimic tallow candles using modern LED technology.

The project is broken down in to a few sub-projects:

  • The colour temperature of the candle-light.  Tallow candles were used which produce a difference colour flame to modern day paraffin candles.
  • Making this colour using LED colour mixing. My next project will be to create the colour of candle light that is not necessarily metameric but that looks the same to the eye when in a black space.  This can be used for basic shows and practical lanterns where the reflection of light is very minimal.  Next I will try to match the colour metamerically using a range of colours to mach the spectral diagram of the candle.  This will be more difficult and less cost effective but will provide a more accurate result.
  • The amount of light available.  How bright was the stage?
  • The flicker of the candles.  Incorporating this into the recreation.
  • The spread of light.  LEDs are quite directional so making the light spread as much as a candle would.
  • Adding all of this in to chandeliers and footlights that seem realistic yet have no naked flames.

Sounds very cool, and makes me wish I’d taken more of an interest in theatre while I was still in engineering school!

1 Thing I’ll Hate About 10 Things I Hate About You’-coming-to-a-small-screen-near-you-july-7/ We’ve covered this before, but “10 Things I Hate About You”, the series, starts next week. I was interested, or at least curious, until I got to this quote from executive producer Cameron Covington:

“I decided in the beginning that there’s enough distance between Shakespeare and us that we can free ourselves of some of the things Shakespeare dictated to the movie.”

Apparently this guy things that 10 Things was a more-popular-than-average teen comedy because of some other reason?  If you take out the Shakespeare, then it is exactly the same as every other teen comedy ever made. Does anybody remember the movie Peggy Sue Got Married, with Kathleen Turner and Nicholas Cage?  She goes back in time and decides to do her wannabe rockstar boyfriend (Cage) a favor by writing him a song that’s sure to be a hit.  Then he comes back to her with it:
”I made a few changes, I changed the yeah’s to ooo’s, and now I think it’s a lot better. Listen.  She loves you, ooo, ooo, ooo!  She loves you ooo, ooo, ooo…with a love like that….”

“That was the Beatles, you idiot!”

More Adored Than Shakespeare? Over the last couple days I’ve heard my fair share of “Michael Jackson was the Shakespeare of our generation” comparisons on Twitter, trust me.  But I found this article particularly moronic in its adulation. I hate the opening premise – that while Dickens and Mozart and others may have been stars in their time, it wasn’t until modern technology arrived that we could have had the “superstar” like we know it today.  That’s the “what if” game and all its variants –what if Shakespeare had access to the net, what if Shakespeare had to deal with today’s copyright law, etc etc etc.  It is an unfair and pointless comparison.  Imagine you have two paintings, A and B.  You show A to 10 people, and they all like it.  Now, show B to 100 people, and they all like it.  Obviously, B is 10x better than A, right?  More people liked it. But it is the closing bit of the article that puts me over the edge:

Sure, you may love Shakespeare or Hemingway, and you may appreciate your elected officials. But it is highly unlikely that your favorite author or elected official will occupy the same space in your sentimental bank of memories as the folks who provided the score for those special times in your childhood, adolescence, youth, etc. Naturally, love is a sentimental affair.

Do you really want to go here? Don’t get me wrong, I can tell you vivid memories about being a teenager when the Thriller video came out, how it was a special event when MTV would play the full length version and we’d all schedule the time to sit in front of the tv.  The stories we told about the girl in the video, whose name I never forgot – Ola Ray.  And, and, and….well, and nothing.  That’s about it.  I remember the moonwalk and the up on the toes thing, and I’m sure at one point or another we all tried to do it.  But honestly I think that breakdancing and “parachute pants” were more of an influence on my particular corner of the world than Mr. Jackson and his one sequined glove. You want to compare that to Shakespeare?  Really?  You want to talk about 9th grade English class where we read Julius Caesar at the same time as we were studying Ancient Rome in social studies, and I once put “Ab Urbe Condite” into an English paper because I thought it was cool?  Nobody knew what it meant.  Or how the teacher handed our papers back once and told Matt White, the cool preppie kid, that his paper was excellent…only to then tell me that mine was outstanding?  (That did NOT make me friends with the cool preppie kids.)  How about when there were only 8 of us in class, 4 boys and 4 girls, the year we had to memorize and recite the balcony scene from R&J?  And how Leah Dinapoli and I were the only ones to actually memorize the thing properly, and she even said to me “You and I should have done it together”?  Mrs. McCormick’s 10th grade class with Macbeth, or Mr. Corey’s 12grade showing of Olivier’s Hamlet, and how he dashed to hit Pause on the VCR when it came time to explain to us what “Oedipus Complex” meant?  (Let’s not forget back in Ms. Cunningham’s Romeo and Juliet class where she showed the Zeffirelli, topless scene and all.  Exciting times for a 15yr old Shakespeare geek, let me tell you). Or should we go on to college, where I got a job working on a Shakespeare video game and read every play multiple times, developing a database of 1000 questions about the works?  My humanities minor on the role of insanity as a defense mechanism in the tragic hero, comparing Hamlet, Long Day’s Journey into Night, and Death of a Salesman?  How about going on a date to see Mel Gibson’s Hamlet, 9:55 show on a Sunday night and being the only ones there?  Having the manager tell us that they wouldn’t run the movie without at least 6 couples, and then hanging out in front of the theatre hoping that five others would show up? (They did!) How about when our college theatre group did a 3 day performance of The Tempest, and my girlfriend at the time played one of the fairies?  I sat enraptured in as close to the front row as I could, for every performance, watching the magic (and never forgetting it).  I even remember the pose she struck over the sleeping king, growling at Sebastian and Antonio during that big scene.  And we partied with the cast later, and helped strike the set when they were done.  Jeff Waldin played Prospero.  Should I go on?  Because I can.  Let’s be real.  Michael Jackson was a fine entertainer.  Made lots of music, broke new ground in many ways.  But when you start making comparisons like these, putting him up against somebody that’s already stood the test of 400 years, and then having the gall to say things like “never been anyone like him…and probably never will” then you’re just asking for an argument.  I’ve listened to Michael Jackson music.  But I’ve sat in the grass of Boston Common and watched them build the stage for a Shakespeare play, and the very sound of the tools they used would give me goosebumps in anticipation of what was to come.  Who knows, maybe some folks can say the same about a Michael Jackson concert.  Let’s talk about it again in 400 years.  I’ll bring my guy, and you see if you can still find anybody performing yours.

Google Lit Trips I don’t have Google Earth installed, but I can see where this would be a very creative addition to the study of classic literature.  How does geography play out in Macbeth?  When Macduff says “I’ll to Fife” where is that?  Where exactly is Birnam Wood? You get the idea.  You have to dig a little bit for the Shakespeare, but I found a Macbeth in the 9-12 section. Somebody with Google Earth download one of these and see what it’s about, if it’s just a map or something more animated.

King Lear and Copyright Any story that opens up with “So I was goofing off….” will either be interesting or really pointless.  This one is somewhere in between, and argues that well known point that since Shakespeare borrowed liberally from existing known works, that under current copyright law he would have been sued out of existence. First and foremost it’s worth noting that this argument is about as valuable as saying that he’s a bad speller according to today’s dictionary.  He had no spelling rules to work with, so you can’t go applying rules that didn’t exist for him. With that in mind, it presumes a world in which, even with all this copyright law, Shakespeare still would have gone ahead and stolen the works, which is ridiculous.  There is one sentence that addresses the point:

If Shakespeare had plenty of money, he could have contacted all the copyright owners and paid them whatever they asked, but if he didn’t have enough money, the result would have been he would have been unable to afford to write King Lear.

which goes back to my first argument – you’re setting up a completely hypothetical situation.  Everything I’ve read tells us that Shakespeare was indeed a very shrewd (some would say penny-pinching) businessman who knew the rules of his own game well enough to garner multiple revenue streams through his writing as well as his ownership stake. Let’s think about *that* Shakespeare in this modern world.  First of all he’d get a piece of the action everytime somebody wanted to print his work, so right there’s a nice piece of change to work with.  When somebody like Thorpe comes along and tries to publish the Sonnets without permission?  Then he’s the one getting smacked down, and Shakespeare reaps the profits.  We’re not even getting into extended media rights for movies, cable tv and so on.  I think that the best assumption is Shakespeare would have been a very rich man indeed. Having said that, I feel pretty confident in saying that he’d be the type to not only get all his paperwork in order and purchase the existing rights, but to invent new forms of contract that would allow him maximum return on his investment.

The Monty Python of His Day? I’m obligated to click on any link that promises a list of stuff we may or may not have known about Shakespeare.  Typically I either knew it already, or it’s a list that just spouts out some typical urban legends that nobody really knows for sure about. So I’m happy with this list that starts out with Venus and Adonis and then moves right on the Love’s Labour’s Won (pointing out that it is probably another name for Shrew) and Cardenio, adding that it might have been written by Humphrey Moseley?  There you go, I learned something. The middle – about the shotgun wedding, and all the words and cliches added to the English language – are pretty standard stuff.  Then it ends again with more detail than you usually find, including credit to David Garrick for bringing Shakespeare out of obscurity 150 years after his death.