Friday, April 29, 2011

Shakespeare shout-out



Yay! Got my Shakespeare project shout-out!

The Happy Birthday Shakespeare project isn't just any old Shakespeare-flavored joint, it is administered by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust - their domain name is shakespeare.org.uk. You cannot get more authentically big bad Billish than that.

To quote Wiki:
The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust (SBT) is an independent registered educational charity[1] based in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, England, that came into existence in 1847 following the purchase of William Shakespeare's birthplace for preservation as a national memorial.[2] It can also lay claim to be the oldest conservation society in Britain.[3] Receiving no government funding or public subsidies, it is totally dependent upon the public for support, and relies on donations and the income generated from visitors.[2]

The SBT is considered the most significant Shakespeare charity in the world, and endeavours to internationally promote the appreciation and study of the plays and other works of William Shakespeare, and general advancements of Shakespearian knowledge. The Trust maintains and preserves the Shakespeare Birthplace properties, a museum, library of books, manuscripts, records of historic interest, pictures, photographs and objects of antiquity with particular reference to the life and times of William Shakespeare,[4] and is also home to the headquarters of the International Shakespeare Association.


And I'm up there with those other select bloggers - we few, we happy few - that's right suckahs, I'm quoting that crispy Crispian speech!

Although I wrote a blog post just for the Shakespeare Birthday Project, this is certainly not the first time I've done some bard-blogging. Observe:

Shakespeare under the picnic table - on December 31, 2005 I discuss my A.L. Rowse annotated Shakespeare (3-volume set) which I was forced to leave under a picnic table in Philadelphia January 1, 1981. I got it back.

A Sonnet - April 10, 2008 I posted the first sonnet - first poem, actually - I ever wrote, inspired by Shakespeare's sonnet 151.

My summer of Elizabethan playwrights - July 13, 2008 I mention that my actor friend Bruce Barton played Shakespeare in a production that summer. Another actor I knew played Christopher Marlowe in another play - which had someone else portraying Shakespeare. I discuss briefly why Shakespeare will steal any scene that he is in, whatever the play.

OUR TOWN/HAMLET - November 22, 2010, I come down pretty hard on HAMLET actually, especially Act V Scene 1.

So I'm no Janey-come-lately to this whole Shakespeare blogging thing. But this is the real deal.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Blogging Shakespeare - AS YOU LIKE IT

NOTE: this post is written in response to the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust's Happy Birthday Shakespeare project.



Look, I'm not knocking JULIUS CAESAR.

But JULIUS CAESAR may well be the play by William Shakespeare that least appeals to teenagers: a bunch of old guys in togas, dealing with affairs of state.

Sure, there are impressive speeches - that Brutus is a tricky one; and some spooky prophesying - beware the ides of March - but no humor, no romance, no sex. It was probably the no sex that recommended it to whomever decided it would be the right play with which to introduce a high school English class to the works of Shakespeare.

My response at the end of the semester was, "so, that's Shakespeare. Huh. Big deal."

But when I was nineteen I happened to switch the television to the local public broadcasting station and AS YOU LIKE IT was on. Oh, Shakespeare - and I almost switched to another station but I noticed something - this play was very different from JULIUS CAESAR. Here were two women bantering and joking around with each other just as I did with my friends. And lusting after cute guys like me and my friends. And then after some family drama the women run away together (taking along the droll court clown.) They disguise themselves and meet interesting people and have witty conversations and adventures and fall in love with cute guys.

Rosalind and Celia seemed implausibly, miraculously modern to me in spite of their language - which to my surprise I was able to understand with little trouble.

I didn't read this quote from Robert Graves (author of "I, Claudius") until years later but at that moment I would have agreed with him that "Shakespeare really is very good, in spite of all the people who say he is good."

I was now a complete Shakespeare fanatic and on the road to eventually becoming a playwright. Immediately after the show I tried to read every play by Shakespeare. And in those days you couldn't just go online and read them all any time of the night or day, you had to go to the library, and my small town library did not have every play written by Shakespeare. But my boyfriend gave me A.L. Rowse's "The Annotated Shakespeare" for a Christmas present.

There's nothing quite like AS YOU LIKE IT in Shakespeare, but really, is there anything like AS YOU LIKE IT on the stage ever - even now? Only television shows like I Love Lucy or The Mary Tyler Moore Show had anything close to AS YOU LIKE IT in terms of fun, high-spirited female camaraderie.

The television production of AS YOU LIKE IT that I happened to see starred Helen Mirren as Rosalind, and it was part of the BBC's The Shakespeare Plays series. In the 1970s the BBC decided to do every single play by Shakespeare and I say bless the BBC! I saw my first performances of so many of Shakespeare's plays during this series, at a time when I could not afford to go to the theatre much - although I did see a wonderful free performance of A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM on the Philadelphia waterfront.

Helen Mirren was 33 when she did the BBC production in 1978, a bit old for the role, but who ever could do it better? She will always be Rosalind to me. Watch and enjoy:

Mighty Krgthulu article in New York Magazine



For the first two years of the Obama administration, Krugman has been building, in his columns and on his blog, not just a critique of this presidency but something grander and more expansively detailed, something closer to an alternate architecture for what Obamaism might be. The project has remade Krugman’s public image, as if he had spent years becoming a chemically isolate form of himself—first a moderate, then an anti-Bush partisan, and now the leading exponent of a kind of liberal purism against which the compromises of the White House might be judged. Krugman’s counterfactual Obama would have provided far more stimulus money and would have nationalized Citigroup and Bank of America. He would have written off Republicans and worked only with Democrats to fashion a health-care reform bill that included a so-called public option. The president of Krugman’s dreams would have made his singular long-term goal the preservation of the welfare state and the middle-class society it was designed to create.

more...

Monday, April 25, 2011

guys I have loved



I have an essay devoted to dear Earl Rich, who died in 1997, but while I was spring cleaning today I found this photo of him. I actually scanned it before - it's on his essay page, but I figured I would take a photo too.

I took a whole bunch of pictures of him during our lunch break from work one day in Valley Forge park, which was nearby where we worked in King of Prussia. Photos never did Earl justice - his charm was ineffable. It wasn't just that he was beautiful, he was sweet too, and a bit of a flirt. Almost everybody who knew him was crazy about him. If he had lived to see Facebook I'm sure he'd have many thousand friends.

(And yet, as I mentioned in the essay, he still wasn't the sexiest man I've ever known - that distinction goes to another guy I worked with a couple of years before I met Earl, named Christopher. When I knew him, when he was in his mid-20s, he looked like a cross between a young Harrison Ford and Michaelangelo's David and had a John Goodman-esque personality. Chris is on Facebook and has exactly 9 friends. Well, maybe his wife is paranoid and won't let him be friends with too many women, who have a habit of jumping on him. I once was at a party thrown by his company and while his wife (fiancee at the time) was standing nearby one of the guests on greeting him grabbed him by the face and gave him an on-the-mouth kiss like she was trying to resuscitate him.)

Earl was apparently quite well endowed, as if he wasn't a big enough sex bomb. I know this because his wife told me - we had a brief email correspondence a few years after he died. And actually, he told me himself one day at work. But I was already as attracted to him as I could possibly be, so this news actually had no effect on me. Looking back now it is pretty surprising how casually he told me and how casually I received the information, considering we were coworkers and in the office. Those were strange times.

My ex-boyfriend John had a different kind of charm - nobody would say he was beautiful but he was incredibly sharp and funny - he was the funniest person I have ever personally known. His wit was lighting-fast, which is a big reason I stayed with him in spite of many other things. And when we were solidly together, for a period of eleven years or so (we were on and off for another six years after that) I absolutely worshipped him.

This drawing was done during that time - April 1985 according to the signature, so he would have been 25 at the time. I feel bad I haven't taken better care of the drawing, it's quite good and I let it get stained and frayed around the edges.

John was a good model - he could hold still for hours - and except for my daughter he was my most frequent model. I have dozens of drawings and several paintings of him.

In spite of his intelligence he was a total Luddite, so I doubt he'll ever find out I posted this drawing.


You can see the nice pencil work, if I do say so myself, in this enlarged version.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

like scissors and thumbscrews



Willie's first sentence in this ad from July 22, 1950 appears to come directly from "Two Years Before the Mast" - originally a memoir in book form but now in handy blog format. And the entry I link to, appropriately, has a post on whaling along with an illustration.

"Deckie" is short for deck hand, and according to the 1919 edition of Notes & Queries (still being published to this day, since 1849) :
"DRINK BY WORD OF MOUTH" - This saying was in common use here some sixty years ago. Often a bottle of beer came into a hayfield unexpectedly. A search would be made under every coat and shawl lying on the ground for a glass or mug to drink from. Should this search prove unsuccessful and no small receptacle be found to pour the beverage into, then it was said "We must drink by word of mouth." This meant to drink from the bottle by turns, which naturally gave a great advantage to the old toper accustomed to absorb his liquor from the bottle.
The origin of the saying was probably the Fleet prison, about 9 miles west of our town; this this notorious locality would make it of Cockney derivation.
It has some authority as used by Thos. Shadwell (who succeeded Dryden as Poety Laureat) in his comedy "The Squire of Alsatia." His characters in Act V. sc. i. speak thus: -

Hackum
But I'll go fetch some Cherry Brandy, and that will comfort us. Here's the bottle, let's drink by Word of Mouth.

Cheatly
Your Cherry Brandy is most sovereign and edifying.

Shamsell
Most exceedingly comfortable after our Temple picking.

My copy of the play was printed for James Knapton at the Crown in St. Paul's Church-yard, 1699. Shadwell died in 1692.
W.W. GLENNY.
Barking.


Barking, as anybody who has read the Heavens to Mergatroyd blog entry from July 2007 will know, is " a suburban town in east London, England and the main district of the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham."

But being the wry sophisticate I am, the name "Barking" cracks me up every time.

After 1950 the variety of Willie ads falls off precipitously. Throughout the 40s there were several new Willie ads every year, but after 1950 only two or three ads are used again and again. I have nine more unique Willie ads after this one, but I hope I find at least a few new ones before the end of the Willie run.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

more on the work of Tolkien

Here is my Treebeard bong. It's never actually been used as a bong - only a theatre prop. My ex-boyfriend and I bought the bong in Greenwich Village and then applied no-fire clay to it. The original Treebeard bong which I mentioned recently on this blog, was a solid piece made of fired ceramic, not clay on top of an existing glass & plastic bong. The no-fire clay is crumbling about the edges now - especially at the bottom which you can see in the photo - which is very annoying.

The bong was for another play of mine, I SEE LONDON, produced in 1998 at the Brick Playhouse in Philadelphia. So considering it's 13 years old I guess it's holding up OK. Not all my non-adaptation plays have scenes of bong-smoking. So far only just LONDON and PALMYRA, NJ.

So I've been slogging through The Hobbit and I do mean slog. I forgot how much of this story involves:
  1. Bilbo and the dwarves walking for days and days through dark forests, described in detail page after page.
  2. Bilbo and the dwarves and sometimes Gandalf running around trying to find each other
  3. Bilbo and/or the dwarves and/or Gandalf waiting around to be rescued
The fifth chapter "Riddles in the Dark" is by far the highlight of the book (I'm up to page 200) since it's got plenty of drama and excitement - Gollum wants to kill and eat Bilbo, but Bilbo has a sword (Sting, which he later gives to Frodo) and so they have a battle of riddles - if Bilbo loses, Gollum eats him, if Bilbo wins Gollum shows him how to get out of the cave. And Gollum is quite the character, as anybody who has seen the LOTR movies knows. Finally, Bilbo runs away from Gollum and the One Ring, Gollum's precious, which was in Bilbo's pocket makes its way onto Bilbo's finger and he discovers its power of invisibility. Altogether a very satisfactory chapter.

Towards the end of the book they meet up with Smaug the dragon, which should be exciting - I find I don't actually remember the end of the book.

Elves are kind of bad guys in The Hobbit - or at least nothing like the wingless angels they appear to be in the LOTR. Granted the wood-elves Bilbo & company meet haven't been to "Faerie in the West" the elven equivalent of finishing school, but these elves are big on acquiring treasure, and in one scene a couple of them get drunk. You wouldn't catch Galadriel getting drunk - she gets high on immortality.

Friday, April 22, 2011

random thoughts on re-reading The Hobbit

It's been years and years since I read The Hobbit. I'd forgotten how cutesy some of the narrative is.
"This is a story of how a Baggins had an adventure, and found himself doing and saying things altogether unexpected. He may have lost the neighbors' respect, but he gained - well, you will see whether he gained anything in the end."

Of course it is meant to be a children's book, but it's hard not to compare it to the adult style of The Lord of the Rings.

I'm reminded a bit of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, which make a narrative whole - but Tom Sawyer is really a kid's book and Huck Finn is not.

According to Wiki, after writing Lord of the Rings, Tolkien re-wrote parts of The Hobbit for later editions to make its story fit better with LOTR. However, quite a few things are still dissonant, but I didn't notice them the first time around:

  • Orcs are mentioned once in The Hobbit, but mostly as a variation of goblin.

  • In the first chapter Gandalf says "It is not like you, Bilbo, to keep friends waiting on a mat and then open the door like a pop-gun!" But I don't think there are any guns in Middle-Earth, since everybody fights with swords (and magic stuff) - why would there be "pop-guns" if there are no regular guns?

  • I had assumed that "oliphant" was just a quaint Middle-Earth way of saying "elephant" but in the second chapter of The Hobbit, Gandalf says "Great elephants... you are not at all yourself this morning!" So what's the deal? When an oliphant is mentioned in the LOTR they describe what sounds like an extra-large elephant, but they could have just said "it's like an elephant, but bigger."

  • Trolls speak in Cockney in The Hobbit, and are named Tom, Bert and William. I don't think anybody but Tom Bombadil and Bill the Pony in the LOTR have such common English names. Sam doesn't really count because his actual name is Samwise, not Samuel.

  • The elves sound pretty gay in The Hobbit. When Bilbo and the dwarves show up on the edge of Rivendell, one of the elves says: "Just look! Bilbo the hobbit on a pony, my dear! Isn't it delicious!" And they sing bitchy songs about them:

    O! Where are you going
    With beards all a-wagging?
    No knowing, no knowing
    What brings Mr. Baggins
    And Balin and Dwalin
    down into the valley
    in June
    ha! hah!

    I will check this when I re-read LOTR, but I don't believe Tolkien translates Elven songs there - he just has people paraphrase them, or maybe prints them in Elvish in the text. Which is a good choice, since if this is an example, the Elves aren't actually very good lyrcists. Although maybe it does sound better in Sindarin.

    And really the Elves are no better lyrcists than the goblins - here's a goblin lyric:

    Swish, smack, Whip crack!
    Batter and beat! Yammer and bleat!
    Work, work! Nor dare to shirk,
    While Goblins quaff, and Goblins laugh,
    Round and round far underground
    Below, my lad!

  • OK, this is something I found really annoying. Tolkien starts out decribing a perfectly natural, albeit unusually violent thunderstorm, but then:
    When (Bilbo) peeped out in the lighting-flashes, he saw that across the valley the stone-giants were out, and were hurling rocks at one-another for a game, and catching them, and tossing them down into the darkness where they smashed among the trees far below, or splintered into little bits with a bang... they could hear the giants guffawing and shouting all over the mountainside.
    This isn't some literary personification of a thunderstorm - these stone giants are actual entities because Thornin Oakenshield says "we shall be picked up by some giant and kicked sky-high for a football!"

    Putting aside the reference to football, which to my knowledge is unique in all of Tolkien's work (and I guess actually refers to soccer) - who ARE these stone giants? I mean with every other entity in Middle-Earth you know all about them - their names, what they look like, how they talk, where they came from, whether they are on the side of good or evil and the names of all their ancestors. I mean, stone giants might as well be just poetic license because this is all we learn about them: they are big and they throw rocks at each other.


More after I have read more...

Thursday, April 21, 2011

turn on your lovelight


Janis Joplin and Ron "Pigpen" McKernan

One of the more amazing things available on the Internet for free is the Grateful Dead concert collection on Archive.org.

There are two types of Dead concert recordings - downloadable recordings made by fans, and streaming recordings taken directly from the soundboard.

Of the soundboard recordings there are a few made by the late, legendary Owsley "Bear" Stanley, but to me the two most interesting recordings are two appearances that Janis Joplin made singing on the Dead's "Turn On Your Lovelight" with one-time lover Ron "Pigpen" McKernan.

As Wiki says Turn On Your Lovelight was a staple of Dead live performances. Bobby Bland's original version here.

Joplin appeared with the Dead twice:

the Fillmore West performance on June 7, 1969

the Euphoria Ballroom performance on July 16, 1970.

Joplin would die three months later of a heroin overdose. McKernan died in 1973.

The 1969 performance - Joplin comes in about 4 minutes into the Lovelight recording - is more disciplined than the 1970 version although slightly longer at 20:57 versus 18:04.

According to the Wiki entry on McKernan, Joplin didn't like the Grateful Dead's "jamming" style, and you can sure tell on the 1970 recording - after an extended jam at 13:41, she cracks "it ain't music, but it's alot of fun."

In Janis's defense, you can understand how her singing style wouldn't work well with the Dead's endless jams. Joplin threw everything she had into her performances, and so from the point of view of sheer human endurance, it's better for her songs to be short and tight as possible. A quick survey of Joplins' live recordings available on Youtube indicates that seven minutes was the upper length limit of her songs.

Finally she decides to take control of the proceedings so she can give herself something of a dramatic closure, rather than just allowing the song to trail off into a jam cloud. At 16:21 she goes:
Hold it! Sustain, sustain, sustain!


The music stops. Then she does her big trademark lo-lo-lo-love finish.

Fun fact - that's 5-year-old Courtney Love sitting next to Pigpen on the back cover of the Dead's Aoxamaxoa.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Treebeard


A bong in the shape of Treebeard from Lord of the Rings figures prominently in my play PALMYRA, NJ. A girl I knew in high school (she's now an anthropology professor) made one in art class.

I was inspired to re-read LOTR - this time starting with The Hobbit and reading it all in order, and not skipping the boring parts in the middle of The Two Towers.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Happy 4-20



I just realized a funny coincidence - my marijuana-infused, semi-autobiographical play PALMYRA NJ will have a reading this Wednesday, which happens to be 4-20. Considering the important part marijuana played in my life at one time, it's truly amazing that I did not even know what "4-20" meant until a few years ago. Duh!

The term has a fascinating provenance, if true:
The term was allegedly coined by a group of teenagers in San Rafael, California in 1971. Calling themselves the Waldos, because "their chosen hang-out spot was a wall outside the school," the group first used the term in connection to a fall 1971 plan to search for an abandoned cannabis crop that they had learned about. The Waldos designated the Louis Pasteur statue on the grounds of San Rafael High School as their meeting place, and 4:20 p.m. as their meeting time. The Waldos referred to this plan with the phrase "4:20 Louis". Multiple failed attempts to find the crop eventually shortened their phrase to simply "4:20", which ultimately evolved into a codeword the teens used to mean pot-smoking in general.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Car Talk - reason to live

I love love love the Car Talk guys, Tom and Ray Magliozzi. And really their show is quite miraculous - I just don't know how they are able to be very funny, virtually every show. Not just funny, but lovable too. And not only THAT - they provide practical advice to people on their cars.

If there is any reason to continue funding public broadcasting it would be the show Car Talk.

Which Anthony Weiner very sagely understands - hence this speech:



And really, he has a point - Car Talk would never have existed without public radio.

This caller is Leonard Bernstein's son and the Magliozzi brothers are true to form.




Here they are on 60 Minutes.

Transcript of their 1999 MIT commencement address.

And AMAZING - they can play musical instruments very well too!



You can also listen to this week's episode and many other episodes for free. You can buy other episodes going all the way back to 1987.

I am completely sincere when I say that Car Talk is one of the things that makes life worth living.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Willie & friends



Here's Willie and some buddies standing around drinking - look how happy ole Willie is.

But what's Willie saying this time...?

boots - a recruit, according to the Pacific War Naval Terms and Slang page.

brass bounders - according to the ever-handy Routledge Dictionary of Historical Slang means "a midshipman; a premium apprentice"

bricklayers' clerks - Routledge again: A lubberly sailor. "Lubberly" meaning "a clumsy seaman" according to Merriam-Websters.

splicing the mainbrace - for some reason the ad separates main and brace - means according to Wikipedia: an order given aboard naval vessels to issue the crew with a drink. Originally an order for one of the most difficult emergency repair jobs aboard a sailing ship, it became a euphemism for authorized celebratory drinking afterward, and then the name of an order to grant the crew an extra ration of rum or grog."

They have a whole entry for this in Wiki including several photos.



The photo shows VJ Day celebrations aboard the Canadian ship HMCS Price Robert.

Since this Willie ad is from July 7, 1945, I expect it commemorates VE Day.

And this time around while researching Willie slang I discovered what promises to be extremely useful - the Drunktionary.

Favorite drunk terms so far:

Got one's snowsuit on and heading north

Has seen the French king

Nimptopsical - Noted by Benjamin Franklin.



There are aLOT of entries on this thing that say "noted by Benjamin Franklin"


Oxycrocium - Pronounced ox-ee-CROCK-ee-um. Possibly from "oxycroceum," a plaster containing vinegar and saffron. If so, it may be an elaboration of "Plastered." Noted by Benjamin Franklin.


What'd I tell yah?


Queer in the attic – Refers to the bizarre behavior caused by drinking. "Attic" is British slang for the mind.

Screwed, blued and tattooed – Very drunk. From term for "badly cheated." Because targets for forcible enlistment in the navy were gotten drunk and carried off, and woke up in Shanghai (hence the verb "shanghai").

Sucked the monkey – In the lingo of sailors, the "monkey" was the cask that contained their liquor. To "suck the monkey" was to drink from this cask clandestinely with a straw through a small hole. Another method of sneaking a drink was to empty a coconut of its milk and refill it with booze. Today one can "suck the monkey" from any container. Dates from the 1800s. Cf. "Tapped the Admiral."


We've already seen a variation on this term ("bleed the monkey") used by Willie. The nautical world is second only to Benjamin Franklin as a source for drunk slang.

...speaking of which, the ever-popular...


Three sheets to the wind – Totally drunk. A "sheet" is a rope holding a sail in place. A "sheet in (or to) the wind" is such a rope that has come loose. To "have a sheet in the wind" is common nautical slang for to be drunk, so "three sheets in the wind" means very drunk indeed. Originally British, since the 1820s.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Quote of the day

Go Nancy!

- Katha Pollitt


Katha is my FB friend and yes, I was at her house. Yes I know you are jealous!

And if you don't know who she is - well she's only one of the greatest writers of our time - google her. And I am waiting for the NYTimes to give her a regular op-ed column. I should put a petition together.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Love, Death & Christmas logo take 2



Another look at the logo.

We did a reading of the LDC plays on Wednesday night - I think I have to write a few more plays for the mix that have more love and/or death and/or Christmas...

Nenya, the Ring of Water or the Ring of Adamant

You have to hand it to Stephen Colbert, he knows his Lord of the Rings. He has a mini trivia contest with James Franco in the clip below and while Franco does better than the average person, Colbert clearly was about to crush him.

Towards the end of this segment there is this exchange:

COLBERT

Why did Galadriel come over to Middle Earth from Valinor?

FRANCO

She, I think, was one of the people chosen to watch over Middle Earth along with Gandalf and Elrond.

COLBERT

That's an excellent answer, I hate to say it's not true.

FRANCO

Why?

COLBERT

She is one of the family of Feanor who crafted the three Silmarils and when the elves took the blood oath to get the Silmarils back from Morgoth, she came to take the Sil- you got it partially right - she came to fight Morgoth.

FRANCO

She was one of the ring bearers -

COLBERT

She was one of the ring bearers - which ring?

FRANCO

Made for the elven kings!

COLBERT

Exactly.

(They shake hands.)


Of course Colbert knew the exact answer - Galandriel's ring was Nenya, the Ring of Water or the Ring of Adamant.

It makes me a little nostalgic for my ex-boyfriend John, whose knowledge of The Lord of the Rings was exceeded only by his knowledge of every single thing that ever happened during World War II.

We worked together briefly and one of our co-workers (this was before the Ring movies came out) wanted to know how tall hobbits were - John responded: "which breed - Harfoot, Stoor or Fallohides?"

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
James Franco Pt. 2
www.colbertnation.com
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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

How not to bug out

A Camera in Some Hands, which is on my blogroll, has its own eclectic blogroll. I found one especially interesting today, Terrible Minds, the blog of Chuck Wendig, and the most recent post "How Not To Bug The Fuck Out When Writing a Novel." I'm not sure how successful Wendig is as a novelist, and I don't know how successful his tips are for other people besides himself, but he sure writes entertainingly on the subject:
Writing a novel is just freaking weird, man. Feels like you’re wandering through a dark forest with a lantern whose meager light is cast by a flock of disgruntled and unpredictable fireflies. It’s like a Miyazaki film up in this bitch. It’s hazy and dizzy and dreary and giddy and did I mention weird? Weird. Weird, weird, weird. It is exodus, epiphany, and egress all rolled into one.

So, it helps to have a plan. Further, it helps to track your plan as you go. Now, that doesn’t mean having an outline if you don’t want it — though, an outline is certainly one way to do this. But even if you just figure out how much you need to write per day to get the novel done by so-and-so deadline, you’re already a little bit ahead. Word count matters. Your schedule matters. Track that shit on a spreadsheet — no, no, I hear you, a spreadsheet will burn the tender fingertips of the creative writer the way an angel’s lusty secretions will blind a demon by cooking his eyeballs in his fool demon head. Still, I’ve learned to love the spreadsheet, just so I know where I’m at on my word journey.

You have all manner of plan at your disposal: spreadsheets, mind-maps, outlines, treatments, beat sheets, notebooks filled with your lunatic scrawls and inked in your own tears and urine, etc.

Use them. It’ll help put a boot on the neck of your sanity as it squirms and screams and tries to escape your house through the cat door. Anything to keep yourself on target and not ape-bat insane.


I have no plans to write a novel, currently, but I'll keep this handy, just in case.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

NOVEL READING, A CAUSE OF FEMALE DEPRAVITY

From the Monthly Mirror for November 1797.

"The traveller, if he chance to stray,
May turn uncensur'd to his way;
Polluted streams again are pure,
And deepest wounds admit a cure;
But woman no redemption knows —
The wounds of honour never close!
Pity may mourn, but not restore —
And woman falls to rise no more."

Mr. Editor,

I NOW begin to hope I shall see good old days come round again — that moderately stiff stays, covered elbows, and concealed bosoms, will soon be prevailing fashions; and, what is of far greater importance, that chastity — pure and spotless CHASTITY! — will once more be the darling attribute of women. Had fashionable depravity been confined to the higher circles of life, I think I should hardly have troubled you with these my sentiments; I should have concluded it the offspring of idleness and voluptuousness, and have despaired of effectually deprecating a vice which not the happy example of conjugal virtue held forth from the throne could discountenance. But, like every other fashion, a little day hands it down to the million, and woman is now but another name for infamy.

I have been at some trouble to trace to its source this great calamity, in the middling orders of society — for fashion of itself, even as it was introduced by a prince, and his dulcinea's trains were held up by every peeress at court, could never have so unhappily corrupted the female world — and I find those who first made novel-reading an indispensible branch in forming the minds of young women, have a great deal to answer for. Without this poison instilled, as it were, into the blood, females in ordinary life would never have been so much the slaves of vice. The plain food, wholesome air, and exercise they enjoy, would have exempted them from the tyranny of lawless passions, and, like their virtuous grandmothers, they would have pointed the finger of shame at the impure and licentious. But those generous sentiments, those liberal opinions, those tender tales abounding with fine feeling, soft ideas, fascinating gentleness, and warm descriptions, have been the ruin of us. A girl with her intellectual powers enervated by such a course of reading, falls an easy prey to the first boy who assumes the languishing lover. He has only to stuff a piece of dirty paper into the crevice of her window, full of thous and thees and thys and mellifluous compounds, hyeroglyphically spelled, perhaps, and Miss is not long in finding out that "many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it so as Master is yet in his apprenticeship, and friends would disapprove of an early marriage, they agree to dispense with the ceremony. Nay, even when brooding over a helpless base-born infant, and surrounded by a once respectable and happy family, now dejected and dishonoured, too often does the infatuated fair one takes pleasure in the misery she has created, and fancy floods of sorrow sweetly graceful, because, forsooth, she is just in the same point of view as the hapless, the distressed, the love-lorn Sappho of some novel or other.

And yet this, bad as it is, is not the worst result of such pernicious reading. It is no uncommon thing for a young lady who has attended her dearest friend to the altar, a few months after a marriage which, perhaps, but for her, had been a happy one, to fix her affections on her friend's husband, and by artful blandishments allure him to herself. Be not staggered, moral reader, at the recital! such serpents are really in existence; such dæmons in the form of women are now too often to be found! Three instances, in as many years, have occurred in the little circle I move in. I have seen two poor disconsolate parents drop into premature graves, miserable victims to their daughter's dishonour, and the peace of several relative families wounded, never to be healed again in this world.

"And was novel-reading the cause of this?" inquires some gentle fair one, who, deprived of such an amusement, could hardly exist; "was novel-reading the foundation of such frail conduct?" I answer yes! It is in that school the poor deluded female imbibes erroneous principles, and from thence pursues a flagrantly vicious line of conduct; it is there she is told that love is involuntary, and that attachments of the heart are decreed by fate. Impious reasoning! As a Power infinitely wise and beneficent would ordain atrocity! The first idle prepossession, therefore, such a person feels, if it happens to be for the husband of her most intimate friend, in. stead of calling herself to a severe account for the illegal preference, she sets to work to reconcile it to nature—" There is a fatality in it," argues she ; " it is the will of Heaven our souls should be united in in the silken bonds of reciprocal love, and there is no striving against fate." This once settled, criminality soon follows; the gentle, the sympathizing, the faithful friend, undauntedly - plants a dagger in the bosom of the mother, and ruthlessly tears from the innocent children the parent stem on which their support and comfort depends. And yet this very female has cried, oh how she has cried! over relations of fictitious distress— has railed at hard-hearted fathers, cruel mothers, barbarous uncles, and treacherous friends, till her tongue denied its office, and she sunk beneath the weight of sympathy, for misery far short of that she herself is creating.

If good spirits in the other world are sensible of what is done in this, how will the Spartan and Roman dames of antiquity bless themselves that they were not doomed to breathe on earth in the eighteenth century; how will the cheeks of many a British matron be suffused with shame for her polluted descendants! You may think me warm, Mr. Editor, and your readers may think me illiberal; but let me beg of the female part of them to cast their eye into the world for a moment — let them count the disgraceful, and number the dishonoured, and if they do not find reason to blush for expiring virtue, I am content to be reckoned a peevish old maid, or a disappointed old bachelor, as long as I live. Generosity, liberal judgment, and a refined way of thinking, have done enough for us; for after ages will read in our annals, that when philosophy and humanity were objects of every one's pretension, from the night-man to the minister of state, the rights of nature were never more violated, nor the rights of religion more trampled on. What is refined sophistication; what is lenity, when they tend to corrupt our nature? Surely reprehensible! and as such let them give way to the more severe, but infinitely more beneficial, dictates of truth. Why are we endowed with so noble a power as reason? Why do we boast of a will to control our passions? if we suffer the one to be degraded by a vicious course of life, and the other to abet lascivious enormity.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Jesus Christ, Bruce

I finally got to see Bruce Barton do his Pontius Pilate in the Union City Passion Play. The play itself - actually a musical - is pure crap. And I'm not saying that as an atheist, I'm saying that as someone with good taste. Of course it doesn't help that most of the cast are non-professional actors. The conceit is that this is a community theatre sort of show but that's not true. The community of Union City is like 90% Latino, but the cast was 90% non-Latino. When this passion play was first put on 97 years ago, it was probably an actual community affair. But now - I'm guessing the cast was mostly friends and family of the director.

The show does very well though - they bus church groups in from all over and the very large theatre was about 70% full, thanks to all the busloads of people. And it's an Equity contract so at least it pays. But still, why would Bruce schlepp to Union City for this crap year after year?

But after seeing the show, I understand - Bruce has the best part in the show. The scenes with Pontius Pilate actually have conflict, and Pilate acts like a normal human being that the audience can relate to, unlike Jesus Christ Superstar or his zombie-like followers. And Pilate has a wife who persuades him to go easy on Jesus, which makes him more like a harried public servant than a bad guy - he even gets some pretty big laughs.

The audience loved him - at curtain call, his ovation was equal to Jesus's ovation - maybe bigger. Bruce Barton might be bigger than Jesus.

Also, he looked awesome in the white, scarlet and gold toga.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Sonnet Roundup 2011



April 10 is the traditional date of my annual sonnet round-up. My online sonnet production has certainly fallen off for year three.

Total sonnets year 1
(2008-2009) - 50

Total sonnets year 2
(2009-2010) - 45

Total sonnets year 3
(2010-2011) - 12

Grand total: 107

Of the twelve, I think three are pretty good. I do think my sonnet-writing has improved in three years, which is a nice thing. My three faves since April 2010 are:

  • Mate - written in honor of The Poetess, a woman I've never met, but who decided to make herself my enemy (on behalf of a friend of hers with whom I had a falling out) by posting poetry online written specifically to mock and insult me. I call her poetess instead of poet since she likes to use the female form of occupations to describe herself, because, I guess she's just so utterly feminine: she calls herself a comedienne, instead of a comedian. So between that and the fact that she's not a real poet, I call her The Poetess.

    She's also not a real comedian - I've seen her work on Youtube.

    "Mate" borrows a line from AS YOU LIKE IT.

  • Amoureuse - it's just pretty damn sexy in my opinion. I especially like
    The luscious swollen token of no-doubt -
    His approval manifest unspoken.

  • Transport me darling - started out as a challenge to myself - Willie the Whaler uses the term "All-a-taunt-o" in one of his ads for the Whaler Bar and I thought it sounded like a euphemism for an erection, and wanted to include it in a poem. The first four lines are a series of double-entendres, starting with the word "transport" which can mean both to move from one location to another and also ecstasy.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

subway story

The NY subway system can be a real pain in the ass, especially on weekends, when they are perpetually doing maintenance, repairs, etc.

Today was no different - I was almost late for my first racquetball lesson because the R train was going express between Canal and Brooklyn and my stop was in-between, and I had to take a 4 local. So I was cranky to begin with and the psycho-drama between a middle-aged couple across the aisle was not making me any happier. The man was really obnoxious, talking to the woman in this bossy, insistent, repetitive way, but I ignored them the best I could. Then the man hit the woman. I didn't see it because my back was to them as I looked at the subway map. But I knew he did because right after a wonderful thing happened.

The man sitting next to me said to the man: "hey! don't do that!" and the two women nearby who saw what happened both chimed in. "What do you think you're doing?" and "that's not right!" and various things like that. The creepy man looked stunned. The two women then proceeded to psychoanalyze the guy, speculating on what was wrong with him in a 5-minute running commentary. The couple got off at the next stop, as did one of the good women. The other good woman, a Jamaican from her accent, got into a discussion with the good man about how the woman probably doesn't even mind being hit, she's probably used to it. And the guy said "that don't matter, he got to know it's not right. It's not approved of by the rest of us."

I was so filled with love for my fellow passengers. As I got up for my stop, I said to them "thank you so much for saying something. You did the right thing." Then I got off before they had a chance to reply. I was in such a great mood after that, and I don't know if it helped but I had a great time learning racquetball - it's quite exhilarating once you manage to hit the ball - which I eventually did. Still in a good mood after my lesson, I walked up Broadway from Battery Park to Union Square.

What a nice day.

here come the hippies!



Wow, hippie humor. This cartoon comes from a February 1961 issue of the New Yorker. I didn't think hippies were a known quantity until at least the mid-1960s. I guess they're technically beatnicks during this period.

Tomorrow: the annual poetry roundup.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Sexy Willie



Usually I think of Willie the Whaler as a little old man, not a sex symbol, but I have to say, this image is kind of sexy... I'm not sure if it's because he looks like he's doing crunches or if it's the boots. Probably the boots.

I don't know why he's decided the only way to use a "bring 'em near" (is that really easier to say than "telescope?") is to set his knees up like a tripod. It's a mystery. The "green pennant" is not a mystery, but "straighten the Monongahela with our addlings" is the most obscure thing Willie has said yet.

Of all the Wiki definitions for Monongahela only these might possibly fit:

Monongahela (lungfish), a genus of fish
Monongahela River, a waterway
USS Monongahela, one of various ships of the United States Navy

It's a pretty safe bet Willie is not referring to an album by the Oak Ridge Boys.

But I can't say for sure if it's a river, a fish or a ship that Willie proposes to straighten with "our addlings." Fortunately the indispensable Routledge Dictionary of Historical Slang has a definition for addlings:
Pay accumulated on a voyage or during a commission’: nautical, esp. naval: late C.19–20. Bowen.


I will hazard a guess that "straighten the Monongahela" is an expression derived from the second Monongahela, a tanker during WWII that limped home during the war which means - what else - to get drunk, and Willie is proposing - highly uncharacteristically - to actually pay his way.

Jane Eyre - one more thing...

One more thing I wanted to discuss about the latest movie incarnation of "Jane Eyre" - unlike every other version - including the original story by Charlotte Bronte - only the Cary Fukunaga version and my version have Rochester pointing out to Jane that there are not many options for a crazy wife in Regency England.

This is of interest to me because thanks to so many critics being familiar with the Polly Teale Jane Eyre adaptation, there's this feeling that Rochester is doing Bertha wrong. On top of that, Teale portrays Bertha as Jane Eyre's sexual alter-ego. So basically it looks like Rochester's role in Jane's story is to suppress her sexuality. I blogged about this in May 2008.

Amy Freeman's review of my adaptation complained that I was unsympathetic to Bertha:
Is she really insane or is her insanity a result of being used as a pawn and her resulting loveless marriage? The production does not portray Antoinette sympathetically. She draws blood after biting her brother's neck, sets fire to Rochester's bed curtains, and tears Jane's wedding veil. The portrayal of Antoinette, a character who should be pitied, seems at odds with the portrayal of Jane, another strong woman, who has been allowed her independence, and therefore will avoid the fate of Antoinette.


This is why it's a problem when critics (if you can use that term for non-professional web-based off-off Broadway review authors who often as not review friends' shows without bothering to disclose the relationship) base their understanding of an adaptation of a work on other adaptations, not the original work. Both the novel and my play clearly establish that Bertha/Antoinette's insanity is hereditary, not the result of a loveless marriage. If loveless marriages caused insanity, most of the women in Regency England would have been crazy as loons.

Freeman's understanding of the story was based on Polly Teale's "English-department notions" as Michael Feingold, (a professional theatre critic who writes for the Village Voice) described it.

I don't have the movie script so I will have to paraphrase - but in the movie Rochester points out to Jane that there is nowhere for Bertha to go but in the attic - he explains to her that in insane asylums the inmates are caged and beaten.

The Rochester in my play does the same thing:

ROCHESTER

Only after the marriage did I discover the lunacy which runs in her family. Her mother was already in an asylum. Once I began to know my wife, I began to perceive signs that she would carry on the family tradition. But not before she dragged me through the mud. She had no appetite for quiet conversation or intellectual accomplishment, but she had a massive craving for the pleasures of the flesh, and she betrayed me with a half dozen men at least. Don’t you pity me and my youthful stupidity Jane?

JANE

I do pity you.

ROCHESTER

And so what was I to do Jane? Should I have sent her to Bedlam with the other lunatics, to be gawked at, and tormented and perhaps die? As much as I wished to be rid of her, yet I do have a conscience, whatever else you may believe about me. I pity her Jane. I can’t love her, or bear to spend time in her company, but I do pity her. But by the laws of our society she is mine, forever, for better or for worse.


In the book, Rochester only points out that he didn't try to passively kill Bertha/Antoinette off:
I was wrong ever to bring you to Thornfield Hall, knowing as I did how it was haunted. I charged them to conceal from you, before I ever saw you, all knowledge of the curse of the place; merely because I feared Adèle never would have a governess to stay if she knew with what inmate she was housed, and my plans would not permit me to remove the maniac elsewhere—though I possess an old house, Ferndean Manor, even more retired and hidden than this, where I could have lodged her safely enough, had not a scruple about the unhealthiness of the situation, in the heart of a wood, made my conscience recoil from the arrangement. Probably those damp walls would soon have eased me of her charge: but to each villain his own vice; and mine is not a tendency to indirect assassination, even of what I most hate.

But then Rochester doesn't need to spell out the horrors of insane asylums of the time for Jane or the novel's original readers. Those horrors were well-known.

But you can't expect all of your audience to have enough historical awareness of this fact, and so it's important, I think, to spell out the horrors of those establishments. Although really, no matter what you do, you can't protect yourself with 100% efficacy from clueless, obtuse, careless theatre "critics."

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Racquetball Jones



I will have my first racquetball lesson this Saturday. I wasn't sure if I should learn squash or racquetball - they seem so similar - but one of the NYHRC trainers said racquetball was easier because it has larger balls.

Cheech and Chong's "Basketball Jones" features George Harrison on guitar.

AND Klaus Voorman on bass - yes, the same Klaus Voorman who created the greatest album cover ever created:

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Tori Amos: Smells Like Teen Spirit



I always thought this song was about depressives.

Load up on guns and bring your friends
It's fun to lose and to pretend
She's over bored and self assured
Oh no, I know a dirty word

Hello, hello, hello, how low?
Hello, hello, hello!

With the lights out, it's less dangerous
Here we are now, entertain us
I feel stupid and contagious
Here we are now, entertain us
A mulatto
An albino
A mosquito
My libido
Yay!

I'm worse at what I do best
And for this gift I feel blessed
Our little group has always been
And always will until the end

Hello, hello, hello, how low?
Hello, hello, hello!

With the lights out, it's less dangerous
Here we are now, entertain us
I feel stupid and contagious
Here we are now, entertain us
A mulatto
An albino
A mosquito
My libido
Yay!

And I forget just why I taste
Oh yeah, I guess it makes me smile
I found it hard, it's hard to find
Oh well, whatever, nevermind

Hello, hello, hello, how low?
Hello, hello, hello!

With the lights out, it's less dangerous
Here we are now, entertain us
I feel stupid and contagious
Here we are now, entertain us
A mulatto
An albino
A mosquito
My libido

A denial!

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

The St. John factor

Well gentle readers, as promised, my thoughts on the St. John issue in adaptations of Jane Eyre.

One of the reviews for the 2008 production of my adaption of "Jane Eyre" said:
Unlike the novel, the production spends a great deal of time on Jane's experience with St. John Rivers, her cousin and potential mate. As Rivers, Nat Cassidy is much harsher and religious law-abiding than his character is in the novel..."
First, I did not let on that St. John was Jane's cousin. But also, the reviewer is wrong - my St. John was just as harsh and religious as the one in the novel. I blogged about that back in June 2008 in my post St. John Rivers - religious zealot or not? and I think I made a very good case for myself.

Every adapter of "Jane Eyre" chooses what aspects of the story they wish to emphasize - I'm not saying mine is the only way, but the reviewer is claiming something that is not the case - I did not change St. John from the book. In fact, mine is one of the few versions that adheres pretty closely to the book version.

I strongly suspect that the reviewer was very influenced by the BBC's 2006 Jane Eyre 4-part series, which was the most recent big-media version at the time my production went up. In that version the cousin issue is mentioned.

The BBC version has been posted to Youtube, and you can see at the end of episode 4 part 4 and the beginning of episode 4 part 5 that unlike in the book, the St. John issue is seriously weak. I mean it's basically:

ST. JOHN

Jane, I've decided to let you marry me and come a-missionarying with me.

JANE

I'll think about it.

VOICE OF ROCHESTER

Jane Jane Jane!

JANE

Adios, San Juan Rios!

A big issue, not surprisingly, is that St. John is almost never as hot as Bronte describes him:
He was young - perhaps from twenty-eight to thirty - tall, slender; his face riveted the eye; it was like a Greek face, very pure in outline: quite a straight, classic nose; quite an Athenian mouth and chin. It is seldom, indeed, an English face comes so near the antique models as did his. He might well be a little shocked at the irregularity of my lineaments, his own being so harmonious. His eyes were large and blue, with brown lashes; his high forehead, colourless as ivory, was partially streaked over by careless locks of fair hair.


The only version I've found that gets St. John right (besides, ahem, my own) is the BBC's 1983 version with Zelah Clark and Timothy Dalton. Not only is St. John played by a very attractive man who resembles the St. John of the book, but they left in all the passive-aggressive guilt-tripping mindfuck that St. John lays on Jane. It's quite good:



As in the book, St. John is very seductive in his own way and he almost gets Jane - only Jane hearing Rochester's voice foils his dastardly scheme. Also Zelah Clark's Jane plays it right - she's clearly vulnerable to St. John. But damn, he's good here.

My version of St. John is similar - and interestingly, the St. John for my production fairly resembles the 1983 St. John.



I thought that the St. John vs. Rochester issue was important not only as a dramatic device, but thematically too. Jane is free to go and live with Rochester in France, but for ethical/moral reasons rejects that plan.

So what happens? She ends up being offered what she presumably truly wants - perfectly lawful marriage (never mind the ick-factor of cousins marrying) and she would not be supported by St. John but paying her way by working as a missionary (plus now she has that inheritance.) And he's closer in age to Jane than Rochester. And on top of that, he's hot! Jane won't even have to close her eyes and think of England.

But for Jane it comes down to love, and that's what made this book so controversial to the early Victorians - a woman rejecting a respectable proposal of marriage for the sake of love. Women making decisions about their lives on the basis of romantic love was very inconvenient for a society in which marriage was primarily a financial transaction.

I wanted to make sure the audience was aware of what was at stake for Jane: if it turned out that Rochester is dead, or has gone off to Europe to drown his sorrows in continental quim, Jane would truly be screwed - or perhaps unscrewed is the better choice by letting St. John get away.

As far as I am aware, no other adaptation uses this passage from the book (except the notoriously faithful - to a fault - 1973 adaptation with Sorcha Cusack and Michael Jayston):
Meantime, let me ask myself one question — Which is better?—To have surrendered to temptation; listened to passion; made no painful effort — no struggle;—but to have sunk down in the silken snare; fallen asleep on the flowers covering it; wakened in a southern clime, amongst the luxuries of a pleasure villa: to have been now living in France, Mr. Rochester’s mistress; delirious with his love half my time—for he would—oh, yes, he would have loved me well for a while. He did love me—no one will ever love me so again. I shall never more know the sweet homage given to beauty, youth, and grace—for never to any one else shall I seem to possess these charms. He was fond and proud of me—it is what no man besides will ever be.—But where am I wandering, and what am I saying, and above all, feeling? Whether is it better, I ask, to be a slave in a fool’s paradise at Marseilles—fevered with delusive bliss one hour—suffocating with the bitterest tears of remorse and shame the next—or to be a village-schoolmistress, free and honest, in a breezy mountain nook in the healthy heart of England?
I had Jane say some of this in a monologue.

The book also mentions that Jane has dreams about Rochester, but it doesn't say anything specific about the content of the dreams. So I took the liberty of using a dream sequence to portray Jane's worst fears:

(Late May. Jane is in bed dreaming. Rochester enters.)

ROCHESTER

My dear Jane, give yourself to me.

(They embrace and kiss passionately.)

JANE

Yes, my darling Edward.

ROCHESTER

Nobody will ever love you as I do.

JANE

No - it seems I am made for labor, not for love.

(In a moment, a young woman enters. It is Rochester’s FRENCH MISTRESS. She is dressed in an absurdly frou- frou pink dress, bedecked with lace and ribbons and flowers. She holds a mask on a stick in front of her face.)

FRENCH MISTRESS

Ou es-tu Edward? Est maintenant l’heur pour nous de flaner sur Le Grande Avenue des Champs-Elysees.

JANE

Who is that?

ROCHESTER

You surely did not expect me to live the remainder of my days in celibacy, did you?

JANE

It hasn’t even been a year.

ROCHESTER

Almost a year. And I am a passionate man.

JANE

No, you could not have found a mistress so quickly!

FRENCH MISTRESS

Come to me Edward.

(Rochester goes to the French Mistress and kisses her hand.)

ROCHESTER

Je t’aime, ma joli fille.

JANE

Edward, please, come to your senses!

FRENCH MISTRESS

He cannot see you no more, English lady. Au revoir – my darling Edward and I go to dancing the waltz and drinking la fee vert in the café.

(Rochester and the French Mistress waltz away. Jane lies down in her bed. There is a knock on the door and she awakens.)

This dream sequence worked really well for many reasons:

  1. The audience gets to see Rochester again - important since they want Jane and him to get back together.

  2. It is a nice change of pace - the Morton section of the story can be a bit drab, with St. John trying to shove the Bible down Jane's throat for much of the time, and the issue of the inheritance - important, but hardly romantic. Rochester and the French Mistress is colorful and lively and unexpected.

  3. It echoes the rivalry with Blanche from the first half of the play - Jane's insecurity about Rochester was an important driver of the story up until the marriage.

  4. It reminds the audience of the stakes involved for Jane, especially since I did NOT leave out Rochester's horndawging habits, as so many versions do. And for my own satisfaction I got in a reference to absinth, which is not in the original Bronte, but my own addition. It works as an intensifier of the situation - not only is the French Mistress taking Rochester away, but she's going to drink absinth - la fee vert - with him, which Rochester has said is Jane's drink.

So I think I successfully portrayed the St. John situation in a dramatically viable way. And since most of the audience was new to the story (even to other adaptations, which is where the critics got their information) they didn't know whether or not Jane was going to go with St. John, so it was a live question to them, not a foregone conclusion.

However - I might have overstated the case and made St. John a little too appealing - my mother wanted Jane to go with him. Then again, my mother has some alarmingly Victorian attitudes about sex. And she thought the actor who played St. John was hot. So did my gay friend Mike who said he'd like to "convert" St. John.

Monday, April 04, 2011

sometimes I just don't understand that Willie



Willie, WTF?

The "green pennant" is also known as the gin pennant and means "the wardroom is inviting officers from ships in company to drinks" - that was entirely predictable.

A marlinspike is "...a polished cone tapered to a rounded or flattened point, usually 6 to 12 inches long, although sometimes 26 inches or longer, depending on what ply and size of rope they are intended for. The marlinspike is a tool made from metal, usually iron or steel, differentiating it from the fid which is similar in shape and function but made from wood or bone."

And a fisherman's walk means "three steps and overboard."

OK, so he sees the green pennant and he wants to get really wasted... but he has to jump overboard? Don't they have gangplanks or rowboats, or in a pinch, a mollymauk? Or is swimming to the bark Wanderer just the quickest distance between Willie and booze?

WILLIE STATS UPDATE - I've posted 34 Willies to this blog so far, and have about 12 more distinct ads waiting in the wings - and I'm only up to the 1951 issues of the New Yorker, which means there could be many new Willie ads before I get to 1965, which I believe is the last year in which Willie ads appeared in the New Yorker.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Jane Eyre throwdown

As long-time readers of this blog may know, I wrote a play script adaptation of the novel "Jane Eyre" by Charlotte Bronte and did a production in 2008.

Overall the production was a success - one of the cast members whose opinion I respect said he thought I had taken my work to a higher level. Many audience members were very enthusiastic about the show, including my family - and my family members are not generally circumspect in their opinions. If they don't like something they don't bother to pretend otherwise. They were also very excited to meet Bruce Barton, who played the Reverend Brocklehurst, at my birthday party recently.

The reviews were decent, especially when you consider that it was a very girly show - original work by a woman, a story about a woman, adapted and directed by a woman. These were all strikes against the production in a theatre environment which worships manliness, as I have blogged about pertaining to the career of Adam Rapp.

I should mention that in spite of the fact that "Jane Eyre" is now considered an early example of "chick lit", when it was published many reviewers suggested that only a man could have written such strong and passionate prose, and young ladies were often told not to read the novel on the grounds that it was too intense.

And the theatre world's anti-female prejudice is no paranoia on my part. The author of the study Opening the Curtain on Playwright Gender: An Integrated Economic Analysis of Discrimination in American Theater...
Ms. Sands also found plays that feature women — which are more commonly written by women — are also less likely to be produced. Kathryn Walat, a playwright who attended, said, “Most startling was the reaction to women writing — and I think of my own work — about female protagonists and the unlikability of those characters.”
And the innate anti-female prejudice is reflected in theatre criticism as much as anywhere else in the theater. The fact that so many top-level professional theatre critics are male, for one thing. I don't know what the gender breakdown is for off-off Broadway shows, but I do think it's more than a coincidence that all three of the reviewers of my JANE EYRE are women. And I don't doubt that these women critics resented the fact that they were given a girly show - and therefore an automatically less prestigious show - to review, because they are girls.

So the production was overall a success, but that doesn't mean there were no problems with the production. Some of the problems were my mistakes, some were deliberate ill-will on the part of some people associated with the production, and some was just standard diva bullshit. And I won't even go into the astronomical cost of the show. There are many things that I wish I would have done differently.

But the script still holds up very well I think. There's very little there that I would do differently. And I like my version of the story better than any other adaptation I've seen, including the currently playing version, directed by Cary Fukunaga.

But my version and the Fukanaga version do have something in common - neither starts the story with Jane's childhood. And as far as I am aware, every other adaption does start there.

Obviously I can't be objective, but I think my version succeeds better than any other version I have seen for three reasons:

  1. The telepathy framing device - I open the play with Rochester believing he is hearing a response when he calls Jane's name. And near the end of the play, Jane does hear Rochester calling and responds. And as in the novel, Rochester confirms that he thought he heard words in response to his call that in fact Jane does say.

  2. The inheritance story line - unlike every other version I have seen, I hit on that several times in the script - not only when Aunt Reed reveals to Jane that she has an uncle; and when Jane finally learns of her inheritance; but also when Jane tries to write to her uncle. This is important - it makes the inheritance less abrupt and sudden - in every other version, Jane is told about her uncle, and then she completely forgets about him until his money shows up. In spite of all her talk about being alone in the world and wishing for family, she just drops him.

    And the Polly Teal stage play even denies her an inheritance entirely, so obsessed is that interpretation with this whole Jane/Bertha psycho-drama bullshit that I loathe so much.

  3. My Rochester - in every version that I've seen besides mine, Rochester is a self-serious drag. To be sure, Rochester is supposed to be moody and can be short-tempered and insolent - but that isn't ALL he is about. Rochester is sardonic and witty and can tease Jane as well as respond in a variety of ways to being teased by Jane. But you'd never know that by other adaptations of the story - it's always so deadly earnest and serious. That's why, I believe, one critic of my 2008 production said that my Rochester was behaving in a "post-modern" way - because like all critics she couldn't be bothered to read or remember the original source material and instead her understanding of the story came from other adaptations. Which is why she thought Rochester should be a boring, portentous wet blanket.

    In every other version, they're in such a hurry to jump from the proposal to the wedding that they leave out a very important and interesting development in the Jane Rochester relationship. Here's what Bronte wrote:

    He rose and came towards me, and I saw his face all kindled, and his full falcon-eye flashing, and tenderness and passion in every lineament. I quailed momentarily—then I rallied. Soft scene, daring demonstration, I would not have; and I stood in peril of both: a weapon of defence must be prepared—I whetted my tongue: as he reached me, I asked with asperity, “whom he was going to marry now?”

    “That was a strange question to be put by his darling Jane.”

    “Indeed! I considered it a very natural and necessary one: he had talked of his future wife dying with him. What did he mean by such a pagan idea? I had no intention of dying with him—he might depend on that.”

    “Oh, all he longed, all he prayed for, was that I might live with him! Death was not for such as I.”

    “Indeed it was: I had as good a right to die when my time came as he had: but I should bide that time, and not be hurried away in a suttee.”

    “Would I forgive him for the selfish idea, and prove my pardon by a reconciling kiss?”

    “No: I would rather be excused.”

    Here I heard myself apostrophised as a “hard little thing;” and it was added, “any other woman would have been melted to marrow at hearing such stanzas crooned in her praise.”

    I assured him I was naturally hard—very flinty, and that he would often find me so; and that, moreover, I was determined to show him divers rugged points in my character before the ensuing four weeks elapsed: he should know fully what sort of a bargain he had made, while there was yet time to rescind it.

    “Would I be quiet and talk rationally?”

    “I would be quiet if he liked, and as to talking rationally, I flattered myself I was doing that now.”

    He fretted, pished, and pshawed. “Very good,” I thought; “you may fume and fidget as you please: but this is the best plan to pursue with you, I am certain. I like you more than I can say; but I’ll not sink into a bathos of sentiment: and with this needle of repartee I’ll keep you from the edge of the gulf too; and, moreover, maintain by its pungent aid that distance between you and myself most conducive to our real mutual advantage.”

    From less to more, I worked him up to considerable irritation; then, after he had retired, in dudgeon, quite to the other end of the room, I got up, and saying, “I wish you good-night, sir,” in my natural and wonted respectful manner, I slipped out by the side-door and got away.

    The system thus entered on, I pursued during the whole season of probation; and with the best success. He was kept, to be sure, rather cross and crusty; but on the whole I could see he was excellently entertained, and that a lamb-like submission and turtle-dove sensibility, while fostering his despotism more, would have pleased his judgment, satisfied his common-sense, and even suited his taste less.

    In other people’s presence I was, as formerly, deferential and quiet; any other line of conduct being uncalled for: it was only in the evening conferences I thus thwarted and afflicted him. He continued to send for me punctually the moment the clock struck seven; though when I appeared before him now, he had no such honeyed terms as “love” and “darling” on his lips: the best words at my service were “provoking puppet,” “malicious elf,” “sprite,” “changeling,” &c. For caresses, too, I now got grimaces; for a pressure of the hand, a pinch on the arm; for a kiss on the cheek, a severe tweak of the ear. It was all right: at present I decidedly preferred these fierce favours to anything more tender. Mrs. Fairfax, I saw, approved me: her anxiety on my account vanished; therefore I was certain I did well. Meantime, Mr. Rochester affirmed I was wearing him to skin and bone, and threatened awful vengeance for my present conduct at some period fast coming. I laughed in my sleeve at his menaces. “I can keep you in reasonable check now,” I reflected; “and I don’t doubt to be able to do it hereafter: if one expedient loses its virtue, another must be devised.”

    This self-possession on Jane's part, which is so much a part of the charm of the story, is always left out. But I did not leave it out. Here is from my script:

    ROCHESTER

    Your station? Your station is in my heart. Don’t let Fairfax upset you Jane. You and I are beyond the power of the Fairfaxes. And today I will take you into town and we will have you fitted for the wardrobe of a fairy queen. You will quit your governessing slavery in order to spend every moment with me.

    JANE

    I beg your pardon sir, I will continue to act as Adele’s governess. I will continue to earn my salary. I will not be your English Celine Varens, content to be dressed and coddled like a helpless doll.

    ROCHESTER

    Well for cool native impudence and innate pride you haven’t your equal.

    JANE

    We will continue on as we have – I will stay out of your way during the day, and you may call for me in the evening for quiet conversation.

    ROCHESTER

    You hard little thing!

    JANE

    I’d rather be a thing than a fairy princess.

    ROCHESTER

    But you are a fairy princess – you are my angel.

    JANE

    I am hardly an angel – you must not expect anything celestial from me – I don’t
    expect it of you.

    ROCHESTER

    And what do you expect of me?

    JANE

    For a little while you will be as you are now. And then you will turn cool, and then capricious, and then stern, and I will have much to do to please you. But when you get used to me you will perhaps like me again – I said like, not love. I have read, in books written by men, that the period of a husband’s ardor lasts six months at most. But I hope that at least as a friend and companion, I will never become distasteful to you.

    ROCHESTER

    Distasteful! I think I shall like you again and again. And I will make you admit that I do in fact love you, constantly. Deeply. Incessantly.

    JANE

    And yet – are you not capricious?

    ROCHESTER

    To women who only charm by their appearance, I am the very devil when I discover they are shallow, and silly and vain. But you – I have never met your like Jane. You seem to submit, and yet while I am winding you around my finger, you conquer me – and the sensation is inexpressibly sweet. Oh my darling.

    (He holds her and caresses her – she responds for a moment, but then rallies and wriggles away.)

    JANE

    It is still the day, sir. Call for me tonight.

    ROCHESTER

    You are made of stone, woman!

    JANE

    I am flinty indeed. You may as well get used to it if I am going to be your wife.

    ROCHESTER

    My wife. My darling little angel wife.

    (He tries to hold her again, but she puts him off again.)

    ROCHESTER

    You teasing, vexatious creature! Very well, have it your way. When I am your
    husband I will have my revenge for this mistreatment, you witch. Will you be dining with me this evening, Miss Eyre?

    JANE

    I have never dined with you before sir. I see no reason now why I should until –

    ROCHESTER

    Until what? Until I can’t help it. Do you think I’m an slobbering animal at the table?

    JANE

    I said no such thing. I merely wish to keep things as they are until the wedding.

    ROCHESTER

    But Jane – my carriage is ready to take you to town.

    JANE

    That will do very well, I want to borrow it. I wish to post a letter.

    ROCHESTER

    To whom, you exasperating minx?

    JANE

    My uncle. Perhaps he has returned from his travels, and will be able to attend
    the wedding. I want to tell him my happy news.

    ROCHESTER

    There now! The happy news! You malicious creature you truly can’t live without me, can you?

    JANE

    Good day sir. I will see you when I return.

    ROCHESTER

    You are beside yourself with love for me, admit it!

    (They exit. End of scene.)
    Even though the scene is primarily about Jane's head games with Rochester, I did get in the bit about Jane trying to contact her uncle too. But the interplay between the two characters is essential - this isn't "just" a gothic story of crazies in the attic and telepathy - it's about two people with distinct personalities. That's why the story itself works so well, these very clearly-drawn and likeable characters.

    This scene worked like a charm in my production. Of course I need to give the actors credit - you have to have a certain amount of charisma to pull this off. And the actor playing Rochester brought something quite surprising and wonderful to the scene: when Jane says "I have read, in books written by men, that the period of a husband's ardor lasts six months at most. But I hope that at least as a friend and companion, I will never become distasteful to you." The Rochester actor had this look of affection and amusement on his face that was absolutely adorable, and he did it, the same way, each performance. It was a supreme example of talent and professionalism, and I was quite impressed. I knew he would be good in the role, and to be honest I wrote the role with him in mind, but this was something I really did not expect.


And then there are the many ways that St. John Rivers character is done wrong - but I will save that for another post...

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Willie's girlfriend



I think Willie's been spending a little too much time alone with seamen, he seems to be chatting up the figurehead.

Friday, April 01, 2011

random thoughts on the new Jane Eyre movie which I have just seen

No time to write a more comprehensive view of the movie, it's a work night. I will do that later, loyal readers and fanemies.

Harry Lloyd, who played Richard Mason



Edward Rochester - too cute (although they did give him bad hair for much of the time which helped)

St. John Rivers - not cute enough - and why does Jane refer to him as "Mr. St. John" on several occasions???

Richard Mason - helloooooo sailor!

Rochester's injuries - WHAT? He has full use of BOTH HANDS after the fire?!?

It's automaton!!!! DO YOU THINK I AM AN AUTOMATON! You don't need to replace the word with "machine" - modern audiences will get the gist of the word in context!

They de-related Jane and the Rivers family. I did that too - in the book it turns out that not only does Jane have an inheritence, but St. John, Mary and Diane are all her cousins. That's just too much - and it's extra-skeevy when St. John proposes to Jane. In the movie, Jane says to St. John that she feels like they are her family, since they saved her life. In my version I left out Mary and Diane altogether, as well as the cousin angle.

At least they kept some of the laughs:

~ When Jane is asked what she should do to keep from going to hell she says she must keep in good health and not die. That is a classic bit and the movie audience laughed.

~ Adele is ridiculous and therefore funny - although she was more ridiculous and funny in the book - but they gave Mrs. Fairfax a good laugh-line at Adele's song - "how French"

AND there was a funny bit with St. John and his sisters, that was not in the book.

But they lost some good funny bits:

~ Jane doesn't accidentally douse Rochester while trying to put out the fire in his bed curtains, so he doesn't get to say "Hello? Is there a flood?"

~ The teasing scene. And no lap-sitting. That's just wrong. The scene where Jane teases Rochester - blind and one-handed Rochester is a masterpiece of timing and character. I used that scene in my adaptation of Jane and the audience at the 2008 production loved it. What's not to love? It's poignant, sexy and funny. And Jane's getting back at Rochester for his little game of trying to make her jealous. Payback's a bitch and so is Jane Eyre when she wanna be!

"You are altogether a human being, Jane? You are certain of that?"

"I conscientiously believe so, Mr. Rochester."

"Yet how, on this dark and doleful evening, could you so suddenly rise on my lone hearth? I stretched my hand to take a glass of water from a hireling, and it was given me by you: I asked a question, expecting John's wife to answer me, and your voice spoke at my ear."

"Because I had come in, in Mary's stead, with the tray."

"And there is enchantment in the very hour I am now spending with you. Who can tell what a dark, dreary, hopeless life I have dragged on for months past? Doing nothing, expecting nothing; merging night in day; feeling but the sensation of cold when I let the fire go out, of hunger when I forgot to eat: and then a ceaseless sorrow, and, at times, a very delirium of desire to behold my Jane again. Yes: for her restoration I longed, far more than for that of my lost sight. How can it be that Jane is with me, and says she loves me? Will she not depart as suddenly as she came? To-morrow, I fear I shall find her no more."

A commonplace, practical reply, out of the train of his own disturbed ideas, was, I was sure, the best and most reassuring for him in this frame of mind. I passed my finger over his eyebrows, and remarked that they were scorched, and that I would apply something which would make them grow as broad and black as ever.

"Where is the use of doing me good in any way, beneficent spirit, when, at some fatal moment, you will again desert me--passing like a shadow, whither and how to me unknown, and for me remaining afterwards undiscoverable?

"Have you a pocket-comb about you, sir?"

"What for, Jane?"

"Just to comb out this shaggy black mane. I find you rather alarming, when I examine you close at hand: you talk of my being a fairy, but I am sure, you are more like a brownie."

"Am I hideous, Jane?"

"Very, sir: you always were, you know."

"Humph! The wickedness has not been taken out of you, wherever you have sojourned."

"Yet I have been with good people; far better than you: a hundred times better people; possessed of ideas and views you never entertained in your life: quite more refined and exalted."

"Who the deuce have you been with?"

"If you twist in that way you will make me pull the hair out of your head; and then I think you will cease to entertain doubts of my substantiality."

"Who have you been with, Jane?"

"You shall not get it out of me to-night, sir; you must wait till to-morrow; to leave my tale half told, will, you know, be a sort of security that I shall appear at your breakfast table to finish it. By the bye, I must mind not to rise on your hearth with only a glass of water then: I must bring an egg at the least, to say nothing of fried ham."

"You mocking changeling--fairy-born and human-bred! You make me feel as I have not felt these twelve months. If Saul could have had you for his David, the evil spirit would have been exorcised without the aid of the harp."

"There, sir, you are redd up and made decent. Now I'll leave you: I have been travelling these last three days, and I believe I am tired. Good night."

"Just one word, Jane: were there only ladies in the house where you have been?"

I laughed and made my escape, still laughing as I ran upstairs. "A good idea!" I thought with glee. "I see I have the means of fretting him out of his melancholy for some time to come."

Very early the next morning I heard him up and astir, wandering from one room to another. As soon as Mary came down I heard the question: "Is Miss Eyre here?" Then: "Which room did you put her into? Was it dry? Is she up? Go and ask if she wants anything; and when she will come down."

I came down as soon as I thought there was a prospect of breakfast. Entering the room very softly, I had a view of him before he discovered my presence. It was mournful, indeed, to witness the subjugation of that vigorous spirit to a corporeal infirmity. He sat in his chair--still, but not at rest: expectant evidently; the lines of now habitual sadness marking his strong features. His countenance reminded one of a lamp quenched, waiting to be re-lit-- and alas! it was not himself that could now kindle the lustre of animated expression: he was dependent on another for that office! I had meant to be gay and careless, but the powerlessness of the strong man touched my heart to the quick: still I accosted him with what vivacity I could.

"It is a bright, sunny morning, sir," I said. "The rain is over and gone, and there is a tender shining after it: you shall have a walk soon."

I had wakened the glow: his features beamed.

"Oh, you are indeed there, my skylark! Come to me. You are not gone: not vanished? I heard one of your kind an hour ago, singing high over the wood: but its song had no music for me, any more than the rising sun had rays. All the melody on earth is concentrated in my Jane's tongue to my ear (I am glad it is not naturally a silent one): all the sunshine I can feel is in her presence."

The water stood in my eyes to hear this avowal of his dependence; just as if a royal eagle, chained to a perch, should be forced to entreat a sparrow to become its purveyor. But I would not be lachrymose: I dashed off the salt drops, and busied myself with preparing breakfast.

Most of the morning was spent in the open air. I led him out of the wet and wild wood into some cheerful fields: I described to him how brilliantly green they were; how the flowers and hedges looked refreshed; how sparklingly blue was the sky. I sought a seat for him in a hidden and lovely spot, a dry stump of a tree; nor did I refuse to let him, when seated, place me on his knee. Why should I, when both he and I were happier near than apart? Pilot lay beside us: all was quiet. He broke out suddenly while clasping me in his arms -

"Cruel, cruel deserter! Oh, Jane, what did I feel when I discovered you had fled from Thornfield, and when I could nowhere find you; and, after examining your apartment, ascertained that you had taken no money, nor anything which could serve as an equivalent! A pearl necklace I had given you lay untouched in its little casket; your trunks were left corded and locked as they had been prepared for the bridal tour. What could my darling do, I asked, left destitute and penniless? And what did she do? Let me hear now."

Thus urged, I began the narrative of my experience for the last year. I softened considerably what related to the three days of wandering and starvation, because to have told him all would have been to inflict unnecessary pain: the little I did say lacerated his faithful heart deeper than I wished.

I should not have left him thus, he said, without any means of making my way: I should have told him my intention. I should have confided in him: he would never have forced me to be his mistress. Violent as he had seemed in his despair, he, in truth, loved me far too well and too tenderly to constitute himself my tyrant: he would have given me half his fortune, without demanding so much as a kiss in return, rather than I should have flung myself friendless on the wide world. I had endured, he was certain, more than I had confessed to him.

"Well, whatever my sufferings had been, they were very short," I answered: and then I proceeded to tell him how I had been received at Moor House; how I had obtained the office of schoolmistress, &c. The accession of fortune, the discovery of my relations, followed in due order. Of course, St. John Rivers' name came in frequently in the progress of my tale. When I had done, that name was immediately taken up.

"This St. John, then, is your cousin?"

"Yes."

"You have spoken of him often: do you like him?"

"He was a very good man, sir; I could not help liking him."

"A good man. Does that mean a respectable well-conducted man of fifty? Or what does it mean?"

"St John was only twenty-nine, sir."

"'Jeune encore,' as the French say. Is he a person of low stature, phlegmatic, and plain. A person whose goodness consists rather in his guiltlessness of vice, than in his prowess in virtue."

"He is untiringly active. Great and exalted deeds are what he lives to perform."

"But his brain? That is probably rather soft? He means well: but you shrug your shoulders to hear him talk?"

"He talks little, sir: what he does say is ever to the point. His brain is first-rate, I should think not impressible, but vigorous."

"Is he an able man, then?"

"Truly able."

"A thoroughly educated man?"

"St. John is an accomplished and profound scholar."

"His manners, I think, you said are not to your taste?--priggish and parsonic?"

"I never mentioned his manners; but, unless I had a very bad taste, they must suit it; they are polished, calm, and gentlemanlike."

"His appearance,--I forget what description you gave of his appearance;--a sort of raw curate, half strangled with his white neckcloth, and stilted up on his thick-soled high-lows, eh?"

"St. John dresses well. He is a handsome man: tall, fair, with blue eyes, and a Grecian profile."

(Aside.) "Damn him!"--(To me.) "Did you like him, Jane?"

"Yes, Mr. Rochester, I liked him: but you asked me that before."

I perceived, of course, the drift of my interlocutor. Jealousy had got hold of him: she stung him; but the sting was salutary: it gave him respite from the gnawing fang of melancholy. I would not, therefore, immediately charm the snake.

"Perhaps you would rather not sit any longer on my knee, Miss Eyre?" was the next somewhat unexpected observation.

"Why not, Mr. Rochester?"

"The picture you have just drawn is suggestive of a rather too overwhelming contrast. Your words have delineated very prettily a graceful Apollo: he is present to your imagination,--tall, fair, blue-eyed, and with a Grecian profile. Your eyes dwell on a Vulcan,--a real blacksmith, brown, broad-shouldered: and blind and lame into the bargain."

"I never thought of it, before; but you certainly are rather like Vulcan, sir."

"Well, you can leave me, ma'am: but before you go" (and he retained me by a firmer grasp than ever), "you will be pleased just to answer me a question or two." He paused.

"What questions, Mr. Rochester?"

Then followed this cross-examination.

"St. John made you schoolmistress of Morton before he knew you were his cousin?"

"Yes."

"You would often see him? He would visit the school sometimes?"

"Daily."

"He would approve of your plans, Jane? I know they would be clever, for you are a talented creature!"

"He approved of them--yes."

"He would discover many things in you he could not have expected to find? Some of your accomplishments are not ordinary."

"I don't know about that."

"You had a little cottage near the school, you say: did he ever come there to see you?"

"Now and then?"

"Of an evening?"

"Once or twice."

A pause.

"How long did you reside with him and his sisters after the cousinship was discovered?"

"Five months."

"Did Rivers spend much time with the ladies of his family?"

"Yes; the back parlour was both his study and ours: he sat near the window, and we by the table."

"Did he study much?"

"A good deal."

"What?"

"Hindostanee."

"And what did you do meantime?"

"I learnt German, at first."

"Did he teach you?"

"He did not understand German."

"Did he teach you nothing?"

"A little Hindostanee."

"Rivers taught you Hindostanee?"

"Yes, sir."

"And his sisters also?"

"No."

"Only you?"

"Only me."

"Did you ask to learn?"

"No."

"He wished to teach you?"

"Yes."

A second pause.

"Why did he wish it? Of what use could Hindostanee be to you?"

"He intended me to go with him to India."

"Ah! here I reach the root of the matter. He wanted you to marry him?"

"He asked me to marry him."

"That is a fiction--an impudent invention to vex me."

"I beg your pardon, it is the literal truth: he asked me more than once, and was as stiff about urging his point as ever you could be."

"Miss Eyre, I repeat it, you can leave me. How often am I to say the same thing? Why do you remain pertinaciously perched on my knee, when I have given you notice to quit?"

"Because I am comfortable there."

"No, Jane, you are not comfortable there, because your heart is not with me: it is with this cousin--this St. John. Oh, till this moment, I thought my little Jane was all mine! I had a belief she loved me even when she left me: that was an atom of sweet in much bitter. Long as we have been parted, hot tears as I have wept over our separation, I never thought that while I was mourning her, she was loving another! But it is useless grieving. Jane, leave me: go and marry Rivers."

"Shake me off, then, sir,--push me away, for I'll not leave you of my own accord."

"Jane, I ever like your tone of voice: it still renews hope, it sounds so truthful. When I hear it, it carries me back a year. I forget that you have formed a new tie. But I am not a fool--go--"

"Where must I go, sir?"

"Your own way--with the husband you have chosen."

"Who is that?"

"You know--this St. John Rivers."

"He is not my husband, nor ever will be. He does not love me: I do not love him. He loves (as he CAN love, and that is not as you love) a beautiful young lady called Rosamond. He wanted to marry me only because he thought I should make a suitable missionary's wife, which she would not have done. He is good and great, but severe; and, for me, cold as an iceberg. He is not like you, sir: I am not happy at his side, nor near him, nor with him. He has no indulgence for me--no fondness. He sees nothing attractive in me; not even youth--only a few useful mental points.--Then I must leave you, sir, to go to him?"

I shuddered involuntarily, and clung instinctively closer to my blind but beloved master. He smiled.

"What, Jane! Is this true? Is such really the state of matters between you and Rivers?"

"Absolutely, sir! Oh, you need not be jealous! I wanted to tease you a little to make you less sad: I thought anger would be better than grief. But if you wish me to love you, could you but see how much I DO love you, you would be proud and content. All my heart is yours, sir: it belongs to you; and with you it would remain, were fate to exile the rest of me from your presence for ever."


Oh, and something that probably bothers nobody but me - in the movie, in the scene where Jane returns to Rochester after seeing her mean old aunt, she strolls up to him hands-free- no sign of a suitcase anywhere. And I bet nobody cares. For the 2008 production I had to buy an old-tyme looking piece of luggage (which I still have and haven't found a use for it in three years) and then make sure that the actor playing Jane remembered to carry it on with her (and the scene change was very quick and had lots of issues to worry about) when I probably could have saved the trouble.

The movie looked very good in general - that's your high-quality Hollywood production values for you - although what was with all the plaid skirts? - but it suffers from what all adaptations of the book suffer from - not enough of Jane's voice. I'm not sure how they would handle it in a movie except for voice-over. I used monologues, among other things - one of the better notices my 2008 production got said:
"McClernan uses an array of clever devices to visualize the introverted narrative from the novel, and injects a few interesting twists toward the end. She also attempts humor and levity, something rarely done in the adaptation of Jane Eyre.


It's true, it is rarely done - but that isn't the fault of Charlotte Bronte.

And even though cinema is a visual medium and blah blah blah, would it have killed them to let Rochester tell Jane the tale of his horndawgging around Europe? You'd think the only affair he'd ever had was with Adele's mother. And it's an important psychological moment - not only is Rochester opening up to Jane, but it was considered highly inappropriate to start telling your young governess about your sexual adventures. Maybe modern audiences wouldn't get that Rochester was crossing a line here, but Jane's response certainly could have given a hint.

Granted there were only two others but still... actually I had some fun with this idea by asking the guy who played Rochester in the 2008 production where else in the world Rochester got it on, while interviewing the cast for video material to promote the show. You can watch his response here. I have to say "the fertile crescent" slayed me - you can hear me chortling in the background.