Kage Baker has become my perennial leader on this blog. She’s the starting point and primary reference to wherever my mind is wandering on any given day. Sometimes I can’t even tell where I’m going, unless I consult the iron needle of her memory in my mind.
I sure as hell barely know where I’ve been.
But it’s cool, Dear Readers; utterly fine with me. Kage was pretty much the center of my life since we both left home; packs on our backs, a dozen eggs and a $10.00 bill as a stirrup gift, walking away down Highland Avenue toward Hollywood Boulevard and the Uttermost West. We were a binary system, two diverse stars whirling round one another and creating a perfect mare’s nest of madly wound electromagnetic fields.
You know how some nebulae look like eggs scrambled with a Glow-stick? By a blind monkey? With bad muscle cramps? That would be a pretty accurate map of our lives.
Anyway, today has brought me both news about Kage, and what Sir Terry Pratchett calls “olds”. “Olds” are news that are so familiar you already know them. You just have to be reminded of them to take in the entire sensorium of the story being told – they’re known and safe and comforting, and (according to the wise Sir Terry) all that most folks really want to read in their daily news. You can get the whole theory from his novel, The Truth.
First, the news, because it’s pretty keen. Today, The Hotel Under the Sand is featured as a Kindle Daily Special, for only $1.99! The publicist for Tachyon Books just advised me (thank you, Rick Klaw!) as did the ever-watchful Neassa; Neassa actually took time out of dashing for the door on her way to a choral group competition in Reno to tell me. So if you have Kindles, Dear Readers, you might want to check it out. THUTS is her only children’s book, was written for a beloved niece, and is a wonderful story. It was very well received – except by Publishers Weekly, sigh – and Diana Wynne Jones called it an instant classic.
Second, the olds. During a pleasant discussion of Shakespeare with several old Faire friends – which activity is always a lot like watching home videos and laughing hysterically at our prom dresses – I was reminded that Sir Patrick Stewart did a filmed version of Macbeth. Now, I am very fond of Sir Patrick, and I love Shakespeare movies. But I missed this one completely.
(Brief digressive rant, here: Shakespeare, both Kage and I felt, is extraordinarily well served by being filmed. He wrote for a visual medium. His plays are meant to be experienced as primary visual and auditory input, not just read. This is why it’s usually a disaster to teach things like Julius Caesar as just a libretto to high school students.
If you must force them to listen to Shakespeare, and I really think we do need to do that, give them a movie to watch. And pick a more accessible play, too. West Side Story is not really Romeo and Juliet; give the kids the Zeffirelli version and I guarantee they will understand and remember it. The brief shot of Leonard Whiting’s arse did not destroy my classmates in 1968, and 21st Century kids see more than that on cable TV. For that matter, Zeffirelli’s Taming of the Shrew is fine, too – it’s rude, funny, vulgar and a visual delight; teenagers love it.
Okay, Shakespeare rant done. It’s like the shark in Jaws, Dear Readers; it crops up all the time when you least expect, rising from the depths of my personal obsessions to snap wildly in all directions … anyway, the point of this particular movie was that it is an olds.)
So: this Macbeth went right over my head. It came out in 2010 and I missed it. I never miss Shakespeare movies. But the year 2010 was pretty much a sucking chest wound for me. I might have missed the Yellowstone super volcano going off, until I stepped out into the garden and was incinerated by the pyroclastic cloud … and I’d only have been grateful for it, then.
But now I know about it. And you know what? It matters to me. I want to see it. And I am astounded that I want to see it, because there is very little I have actually wanted in the last 4 years.
I’ve already found it on Amazon Prime, and will probably stay up tonight to see it, happily solitary in the light of my computer. Perhaps the little black cat will join me, or the Maine Coon kitten will decide to chase poor Macbeth across the screen.Maybe I’ll hear Kage commenting in my back row of my mind.
And while hunting for it, I found that there also exists a version of The Scottish Play from 1961 with a young Sean Connery in the title role. SEAN CONNERY!!! If I survive Sir Patrick at all without Kage, I will try Sir Sean – Kage would have pawned her hair to see him as Macbeth, and unless I take the chance, she will never, ever haunt me.
So between news and the olds, I feel as though I am getting better. I’ve turned a corner, or reached a plateau, or at least formed a scab. Something healing, anyway.
Which is good news all on its own.
I quite agree with you about West Side Story. It’s fine in its own way, but it’s not just like Romeo and Juliet, as misguided junior high school teachers have been insisting for decades. To today’s kids, West Side Story must seem laughably antique. If the Sharks and the Jets are supposed to be in gangs, how come the homeboys and girls aren’t dressed fresh to death, yo? And what’s up with all that old-timey singing and dancing on fire escapes?
It would be far better for the youth of today to watch Hamlet being performed on stage or on film, or whetever they’re calling it these days (I hear the moving pictures have sound now, and some are even in color!)
It wouldn’t hurt them to hear Elizabethan English being spoken, and learn to appreciate the beauty of the language. They might even pick up some keen new insults, like “rump-fed runyon” and “puddock-faced drab.”
In the days when Kage and I team-taught Elizabethan as a theatrical accent, we had a section devoted to epithets. People loved it. We stuck it in about half-way through, to wake the class up, and it worked like a cup of hot coffee. It always warmed my heart with maternal pride to hear one of our performers in the street, roaring at some companion: “Why, thout globe of sinful continents! Thou ale-knight, thou pox-plough, thou son of a mongrel hound – when thee gets home to thy kennel tonight, I home thy mother bites thee!”
Sigh. Children can make one so very proud.
I hope you didn’t miss Sir Ian McKellan’s “Richard III” film in the mid 1990s. I invited a pseudo-boyfriend to see it with me, and he – being more inclined to Die Hard style action flicks – demurred that it would be too formal for him. HAH! I told him. Starts with a tank battle, ends with an airstrike, and in between there’s sex, stabbings, drownings, drug addiction, enough intrigue to school John le Carre – what’s too formal, here?!
Shayne – people not yet familiar with Shakespeare usually think he is a boring bit of tat for pseudo-intellectuals. All you need to do is watch a play actually performed. Mr. S. was a popular artist, like Speilberg or Lucas or Sondheim: only with more command of the English language than any of them. Or all of them put together. Wonderful stuff.